Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tizz the Season

So much for finding hours and hours at my disposal to explore blogdom. So far my break has been consumed by preparations for the Big Day and trying not to be the victim of parking lot rage at the mall. I am always saddened by the commercialisation of Christmas and how easily we forget what we are really celebrating.
Living in Cape Town with its large Malay community the contrast with the recent celebration of Ramadan and Eid is unavoidable. I was so touched by the Muslims around me who took such joy in the fasting and frequent visits to mosque in the month preceding Eid, culminating in the similar celebration with family and friends that we are approaching. There were no glittering lights, or jolly fat men. No excessive maxing out of credit cards. Just a period of intense prayer and connection with God and a celebration of community. On the day of Eid I was amazed at the number of Muslim families on the road and the fact that I did not have to worry at all about drunk drivers!
Here in suburbia the madness is in full swing. Lights are up, the malls are jam packed and everyone seems to be in such a frantic rush that this Babyjesus chap is all but forgotten. I have tried to counter this with taking the girls to church as much as possible and recounting the story as many times as they will listen. This evening we all went carol singing in our neighbourhood and dropped off invitations to the Christmas service wrapped around a piece of Christmas cake. It was very sweet and I enjoyed the time with my family wandering the neighbourhood. Being in South Africa we had to try get it done before dark and my sister insisted we be in the group with the stun gun wielding granny... apparently even suburbia over Christmas holds its dangers.
Although I still have too many unanswered questions to honestly consider myself a Christian (whatever that means) I do appreciate this time of being able to at least try and focus on God (whatever that means) and the good we are all capable of manifesting in the world.
Of course that being said I am a sucker for Christmas eve and love the excitement that the children seem ready to explode with. I have indoctrinated the girls with my version of the St Nicholas story - I'm not sure how accurate it is but it seems to have gone down well. And it has given them a slightly less commercialised view of Father Christmas.
Christmas presents were a challenge this year, especially seeing as all that T1 wanted for Christmas was real fairy wings that can make her fly... FC and Queen Maeve had to write her a letter explaining how it is simply not possible to share fairy magic with mortals which she accepted with good grace. She then informed me that she didn't want to tell me what she had asked for as she had spoken her wish out loud, in secret and Father Christmas is sure to have heard! I have come to accept that chances of me getting this one right are slim. T2 is still young enough to just enjoy opening any gift at all, which leaves the range of choices too wide for someone with my decision making problem. I have done what I can and hope I've pulled this responsibility off well enough...
I am happy to abide by the local traditions of Christmas as long as they seem to need it, but when they are older would like to spend our Christmases focusing on those less fortunate as I think this Jesus chap would have liked us to do.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Holidays

Three more days of school!
I am so looking forward to the long lazy days of summer!
We will make St James beach our second home and explore all the forest walks in our neighbourhood.
At last the big pay off of working in a school!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sex!

I knew it was coming (No pun intended). This year has brought the big question of sex to our home. I have a few good books on the subject and have informed myself adequately - I hope! A bit belatedly however; as when T1 first asked "What is sex" a year or so ago I automatically responded: "I don't know"... According to the parenting gurus the worst thing one could do. (Oh well, I'll give her an extra couple of hours out of the cellar to make up for it.)
But on a more serious note this has opened up yet another area of self discovery for me as a mother. Looking at how we carry the messages we received as children, and making a conscious decision about what messages we want to give our own children.

A couple of weeks ago T1 brought home a notebook in which a classmate had written the words
I LOEV U
BOYS
SXE

Needless to say, I panicked. I knew that this time I couldn't just let it slide. If it was being discussed outside our home I was obliged to make sure that my voice was also heard. So, out came all the books and notes from workshops and reviewing my personal views on sex.
It took a few days for her to feel comfortable with sharing the notebook with me. Of course being a Good Mother I had sneaked a peak at the book as soon as she got home, so I had a few days to prepare.
And so the day arrived when T1 drew me aside and showed me what K had written. I followed my gut and asked her if she knew what the words said. Then I asked her if she knew what they meant, and was quite satisfied with her understanding of sex; which agreed with what the books said a six year old should be told.
And then being myself I couldn't resist the urge to teach her the correct way to spell SEX.

Yesterday T1 came home asking if I knew what "mating" was. Apparently they had discovered two butterflies in the act in the school garden. I think I handled the situation a lot better this time round. Somehow butterflies are a lot easier than boys.
I am sufficiently deviant however to have taken great pleasure from explaining to T1 how female praying mantises eat their mates after intercourse...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cupcake Kit

I just had a brilliant idea!!!
I get excited because they are infrequent these days!

T1 was invited to a friend's sister's birthday party - she is turning 8. A realm of big-girlness that I have not yet had to deal with. I was trying and trying to think of something to give as a gift that would be suitably creative - but still fit in my gifting budget and not be a felt gnome or fairy or my usual 2-6 year old selections.
And thanks to a friend's inspirational cupcakes posted on her FaceBook profile I came up with Jo-Jo's cupcake Kit. I still need to package it (aaargh by 2 this afternoon) but the idea is a box containing a variety of cupcake decorating materials like edible glitter, hundreds and thousands etc. Do those of you who have, or have had, eight year old girls in da house have any comments or suggestions?

Now just to navigate the socially accepted etiquette around allowing T2 to gatecrash the event and we should be good to go. I have just taken her with me to all T1's social engagements since she was a wee baba, but I'm sure she is approaching the age where she counts as an extra child rather than a cute little baby...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Remnants of racism

I have been enjoying my forays into the blogging realm. But as usual get so into reading that I forget to write. There are some really amazing ideas and thoughts to connect with every day.
Recently, (perhaps due to the historical outcome of the US elections?) the issue of racism has come up. This word fascinates me. It is wielded with the power the word "witch" once held in contemporary South Africa. and yet each person has their own, usually deeply personal, interpretation of the word.
I'm sure there must be an easier way to do that - but didn't want to just cut and paste. Too close to plagiarism?
That definition allows for quite a broad range of experiencing The Other in a negative manner.
In my reality I have met people who react with anything from a benign sense of inherent superiority to a blind hatred that enables them to bludgeon and burn young children to death, zen-uh-foh-bee-uh.
The term racism however; seems to usually be used in a 'black' and 'white' relationship. Bearing in mind that in the current affirmative action criteria of most institutions in South Africa, black includes most of our rainbow nation.
I have lived through a struggle of liberation in a country governed by racist laws and propaganda. It was horrific. I struggle daily with the fact that by default I happen to have been born onto to 'baddies' team (as I perceive good and bad which I appreciate is highly subjective) although the game's not over yet.
I have been indoctrinated into accepting that it is only white people who hold racist beliefs, no matter the magnitude of their transgression.
I had a wonderfully refreshing experiencing the other day. A young girl at school and I were chatting and she looked up at me with her big eyes and said "All white people do such and such, hey?" I can't remember the specific generalisation, but I suddenly realised that she was getting to experience the other in a familiar and nonthreatening environment. That we had a couple of minutes of openly exploring the unfamiliarities of the other was a blessing I have carried with me for weeks.
It was aslo a relief to discover that other races have some completely barmy interpretations of whities.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cartwheels and Blogging

To my more experienced blogging friends I pose this question:
Is it preferable to wait for the unlikely convergence of free time, inspiration and sleeping toddlers to create The Perfect Post, or does one just dash off a bit of news?
I wonder.
I ask because I am sitting up in the study clutching a sleeping T2 in my right arm while I try to make contact with the world out there. I could take her down to her bed, but then might never make it back. And yet I feel my shoulder pulling slowly out of its socket as I type...

I really wanted to write something deep and meaningful about the lessons I am learning from my daughters (T1 did her first cartwheel and handstand this weekend). About how perseverance really does pay off - I have never seen someone who was not put off by doing a bazillion terrible non-handstands! And how our acceptance of failure is often all that stands between us and success.

Oh, and I also wanted to write about our visit to Kirstenbosch Gardens (imagine I was advanced enough to insert a link here) where said cartwheel was performed and how it is one of the best places in the world for children of all ages. There is grass, there is shade, there is a stream... It really is heaven (imagine I have downloaded photos from our camera in six months...). And next month the Sunset concerts begin.

But that will all have to wait until... Well, as Mr Roberts would say: "The cows come home".

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Mania

I am notorious for avoiding anything political (well, except for my fervent support for Hellen Zille), especially when all the information we get is filtered through The Media who have an agenda of their own, mostly to do with their turnover I'm sure.

But it has been impossible not to notice this weeks election in the US. Last night there was a show on television comparing Obama and Palin - the bias was so obvious as to be amusing. I'm not really that clued up, but I thought she was the vice presidential candidate, so I'm not sure why it wasn't McCain up on the screen. Oh well bear of little brain that I am I wouldn't dream of questioning the PR geniuses that must be masterminding these campaigns.
I found it quite entertaining and there was actually some very interesting information on the beauty queen and the professor and I'll be curious to see who the "American" public vote for.

The line that caught my attention was a quote of Obama; whether accurate, true etc or not I wont even speculate. But it went something like this: "Of course I inhaled, frequently - that was the point."

My vote, if I had one, would go to Mr O.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Foot in mouth disease

Sticks and stones can break my bones,
but words can never harm me.

I have never felt comfortable with this one. I wonder if I am overly sensitive, but I have been hurt by the words of others and I have seen my words hurt people. In South Africa we have words that are illegal. Words that are seen as so hurtful that legislation prohibits their use. And yet we throw words around with very little regard for where they may land or the effects they may have.
When I was a young girl growing up in a segregated South African suburbia the sight of a black child was a rarity. The opportunity to interact, not to mention play, was virtually non-existent. Burned forever in my memory is my one occasion as a child to play with someone my age of colour. It did not go well. For some reason there was a black family living next door to my aunt and uncle for a while. Their daughter was a great novelty for me and I was allowed to play with her whenever we visited (which was considered quite liberal for a Transvaal suburb in the 80s). For a while.
I have been referred to as a 'terror' most of my life, as a child I thought it was an affectionate term similar to tyke (another frequently used label). One afternoon while running around the garden playing some raucous game I yelled out "Stop you little terrorist!" The reaction was immediate, parents descended from all sides. We were immediately separated. I was in no doubt that I had done something terrible and was forbidden to play with my friend from that day on.
It was only years later when I was old enough to be aware of apartheid, bomb threats and The Struggle that I realised where my transgression lay.
Having a love affair with words and literature I have always been very conscious of the language and words I use. But even so, occasionally an unintentional nasty will slip in. A byproduct, I think, of being raised in a society where bigotry and racism were condoned and even encouraged and interracial socialising was discouraged and at some levels illegal. Now that we are all free, although some more equal than others, I find myself having to unlearn a number of expressions from my childhood that I never suspected could be offensive.
This week it was the phrase "God bless your cotton picking socks"
It was used in all innocence as an honest blessing on someone who had gone above and beyond to help me. Only once the words had crystallised in the air and I sensed a similar unspoken response to that of my terrorist comment did I examine this expression more closely. The origins of this phrase and their implications only dawned on me as I did the intellectual equivalent of exploring a sore tooth with one's tongue. In South Africa we don't have cotton plantations, that fortunately is the guilt trip of another nation, so the dots took a while to join. But who were the cotton pickers? African slaves no? Therefore surely referring to an educated, empowered woman-of-colour's cotton picking socks could be hugely offensive?
As nothing was said at the time I am still debating whether an apology is called for. Was I the only person who noticed the faux pas? Will I just create further embarrassment by raising the issue? Or is openness, honesty and a good sense of humour the only way we will heal the social chasms in South Africa?
And so I once again pull my foot out of my mouth, wipe it off and continue to try to integrate myself in a society that, thank goodness, is so very different to the one in which I was raised.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Learning to upload photos



I blog - therefore I am.

I have just worked out how to add photos, and see to my great relief that there is a spell check function.

Life is looking good here in blogdom.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Perfect Days

Today was a perfect spring day that made me believe in the... blah blah blah, (have you ever heard of Marco Everestti ?) I dunno hey. Suddenly I understood the appeal of Suburbia as I stood on the lawn in the sunshine and celebrated my beautiful daughter's birthday. But a word of advice to the brave - pass the parcel just doesn't work with more than 10 kids :) I feel blessed to be able to enjoy the luxury.
I wish you a golden day.