Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 in Review

For me December is always a time of contemplative reflection. I'm not one to get too caught up in all the Christmas decorations or the hype of the pending new year. In an exercise of gratitude, I've decided to reminisce on the year past, and recall all the things I'm so very grateful for.

January: I'm grateful that Andel and I have employment
This was a good month for us. We celebrated Andel's birthday, and I started my new job as a lecturer at eta. I remember being very nervous, and feeling much like a 6 year old on her first day at big school. I was welcomed with open arms though: me and my preggie belly. And only once did I overhear a student ask "is that lecturer a bit fat, or is she maybe pregnant?".

A low key celebration, and a home-made birthday cake

February: I'm grateful that I was not full term during the hot summer!
It was really hot. I remember wondering how Ash was coping with Ethan still in her belly, and a sweltering average of 30 degree heat. Andel was on leave for this entire month. He spent most days cycling around the peninsula (on his then 1 month new bike), or hitting some balls at the driving range. I on the other hand, started my 2nd semester of education studies. It was during this monthly checkup that we found out that our little Peanut was a boy.

At Ash and Ethan's baby shower

March: I'm grateful for the those who became parents before us, who help, advise and support us.
After waiting what felt like an eternity, Ethan Izak du Plessis finally arrived. Andel and I got a quick dose of instant parenthood while babysitting Jorja, and frantically took notes as Ashleigh and PJ looked after their newborn. Andel also got a big promotion, and started in his new position at his own club.

Ethan Izak du Plessis, just one day new

April: I'm grateful for the luxuries I've been afforded this year.
Andel and I went on our babymoon. We stayed in a luxury tree house in the winelands, and enjoyed a pampering of note. It was my one and only massage of the year - how sad!

A well deserved pampering, I think

May: I'm grateful to have finished my studies, and done well in them.
Over the course of this month, I had numerous appointments I kept praying I would make before Peanut arrived. I was blessed to have 2 babyshowers, and finish all my exams with any major incident.

How cute are these yummy baby-inspired treats?

June: I'm grateful for our little boy, and all the joy he brings us.
Despite being relieved of my teaching duties, I worked up until the last Friday of the term, and on the following Monday morning our beautiful boy, Zac James Klaasen, exchanged womb for world amidst much excitement and drama. He missed the opportunity to be his dad's father's day gift, but gave us plenty other reasons to celebrate.

A little after 08h13 on Monday 18th June 2012

July: I'm grateful for the ways in which God has provided finances, in even the tightest situation - we have never been without.
After some very last minute arrangements and miracles, Annie was on the flight to Las Vegas. Despite some horrendous travel experiences, including being stranded at Heathrow Airport for 2 days, she had a once-in-a-lifetime dance experience, and a really wonderful time.

Annie: a little jet lagged but still smiling

August: I'm grateful for family, and the unconditional love that accompanies them.
Zac had his first sleepover when he went on his first annual Hendricks Weekend Away. Despite being ill, he loved having the whole family around, and we enjoyed the break. Zac also became a big cousin when we welcomed Gabriella Ava Klaasen into the world.

Six week old Gabbi with aunty Shantel

September: I'm grateful for my life and my salvation.
This month I celebrated my last twenty-something birthday, and tried to savour the last of my maternity leave, and enjoy the spring sunshine. We also dedicated Zac to the Lord, and celebrated his life with our friends and family.

The dedication cake I made for Zac

October: I'm grateful for the flexibility at work that allows me to maximise my time with Zac.
This month was bitter sweet as I returned to work full time. I was excited to get back into some kind of human routine, but found myself really sad at having to leave Zac to go back to work. Zac took to daycare like a duck to water, and while I missed him terribly, I had - and still have - the best reunion with him in the afternoon.

At Hillcrest Berry Farm in Stellenbosch

November: I'm grateful for my marriage, and for the husband and father that Andel is.
On the 21st Andel and I celebrated 3 years of marriage. In some ways it feels as though we've been married longer; we've been through that much together. I'd like to think though that we're only at the beginning of an adventure that'll only get better. We don't get much alone time these days (I doubt we will have for a good number of years yet), but we did manage a dinner at a local restaurant, and a toast to the future.

At a function earlier in the year

December: I'm grateful to have seen another year: to have experienced and learnt all that I have, and to be given the opportunity to see in 2013...
We've just celebrated our first Christmas as a family (see previous post), and I'm currently enjoying 2 weeks' leave with Zac. Even though Andel is working through the season, we've managed to have some good family time in between, and are looking forward to seeing in the new year together.

Zac's first Christmas

A Family Christmas

This Christmas had some extra special cheer and excitement as we looked forward to spending the first of many with our little Zac. Of course it was also Ethan and Gabbi's first Christmas, and in a little twist no one expected, we had another first time Christmaser with us for the holiday: little Matthew, 3 weeks old, and waiting for a foster family.

Starting on Christmas Eve: we started a new family tradition when we had our first Klaasen family Christmas Eve dinner. This seemed to be the perfect prelude to the usual midnight gift exchange, and helped to pass the time for the kiddies who were anxious to see what Santa had brought them.

Christmas Eve Dinner in Grabouw
Gabbi (4 months old), Santa's youngest little helper
Opening Christmas gifts at midnight

One happy and tired family

This was also Zac's first sleepover in Grabouw, and he behaved so well: not only did he smile and play without any performance, he also slept well, and didn't disturb anyone! By the time we left late Christmas morning, Zac was in full Christmas cheer!

For the first time in five years, the full Hendricks family had lunch together. It was a nice change, and was filled with the usual excitement and drama that accompanies the Secret Santa exchange.

Andel bought for Ashleigh, and cashed in on his adidas connections to get her a pair of trainers and a SA T20 cricket top.

adidas ambassador

Ash bought for Yaya, and got her a leather handbag and a pedicure voucher.

Yaya showing off her multi-tasking skills

Yaya bought for PJ - arguably one of the most difficult to buy for - and thankfully, all went well. PJ got a the carving knife he wanted!

The only time that I am able to take pics of PJ

PJ, who had to buy for Dom, stepped out of the Secret Santa guidelines this year, and got Dom what she needed, rather than what she wanted: a new phone. We're all really happy about this as we are now all able to contact Dom when necessary!

Back into the world of connectivity

Dom drew Kim's name, and bought her a docking station for her ipod. I have never seen anyone quite so grateful for a gift.

The epitomy of excitement

Kim bought Andel a pair of jeans he wanted - and there's a really funny story attached to this. On Andel's list he always puts down all the information you need: the sizes, the store you can buy it from, even the price. This year he had a few things from the adidas original store on his list, as well as a George Foreman original. Kim, thinking that the original stood for original adidas store, spent the better part of a shopping outing arguing with a number of adidas staff members insisting that they show her a George Foreman. Eventually a soft spoken manager suggested that she go to Game, and look for the George Foreman grill there. It was hilarious!

Andel laughing at Kim's story

Speaking of George Foreman. Papu drew my name, and got me a George Foreman Grill and Griddle. Not before a dose of drama though: insisting that he'd forgotten who to buy for, I first received a letter of apology, and a couple R100 notes - monopoly notes, that is! It was worth it in the end though. And I suppose you could say that Andel scored on this one. We didn't even know we had the same thing on our list!

Note how many layers of paper Papu used here, ai!

Finally, I had to buy for Papu, who has threatened to resign from this exercise, and submitted a list with absolutely nothing on it - no pressure! I considered a number of things, and watched as week after week Papu proceeded to buy these things for himself. So in the end, I got him an external hard drive for the entertainment system he's setting up at home. I've also hooked him up with old favourites like Police Academy and Vetkoek Paleis, that he can watch until his heart is content!

Me anxiously waiting to see Papu's response

Annie, Natasha, Jorja, Ethan and Zac are still very much with their bottoms in the butter: still scoring gifts from everyone, and by the end of the gift exchange, the living room in Newmans Avenue looked like a paper bomb had gone off in it.

Little Matthew who's with us for the holiday

Annie very happy with her stocking

Eagerly awaiting the opening of the gifts

Quality control

My very own little Santa

The afternoon and evening were quiet. Having babies around certainly does change things. And by 22h00 we were at home getting ready for bed. Not that a (marginally) shorter day dampers any of the Christmas spirit, I was glad for us to have the chance to focus on the real meaning of Christmas, and remember the ultimate gift of the life of Jesus.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Photo Update

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the last few weeks Andel, Zac and I managed to make some time to have our very first family photoshoot.

The last time we had one of these was when Andel and I got engaged, so we thought it was high time we had some more recent pics displayed in our home - and Zac was at the perfect stage: still cute, cuddly and all things baby-like, and old enough to sit and smile on demand!

For those of you in the Cape Town area who are looking for a photographer - for any occasion - consider using Taryn B Photography. We think Taryn did a great job: she was so comfortable and accomodating - with Zac especially - and we love how natural her pics look.

To view more pics from the shoot, please follow this link:

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Let Go and Let God

How many times haven't I heard people say this: often in the midst of some or other stress or strain under which people seem to not really be coping. I can't say that I've used this phrase often, or that I've paid too much attention to it when I've heard it. Mostly it has gently tickled over my one ear before leaving straight out the other. Until today.

This morning I learnt a hard lesson about letting go. And then about letting God.
This morning Zac rolled out of the bed: tumbling to the floor with a thud that startled me, and a scream that sent me into a massive panic. I wish I could say that I was busy, that I just turned away for a moment, and wiggly little Zac shot off the bed before I had a chance to do anything. The truth is though, we were both asleep after a pre-sunrise feed. I was so fast asleep that I didn't even feel him move out of my usually secure hold of him. I think he was asleep too, actually. And immediately when we woke we were equally shocked and frightened.

Zac cried for a few seconds, had no visible indication of any injury or discomfort, and was soon happily feeding and laughing at me. My recovery was not as fast. I too cried (for half an hour straight, and then some), and immediately I was condemning myself; questioning my abilities and sense of responsibility. How could I have left him on the open side of the bed? How could I not have woken through his movements? How could I let go?

And through the lambasting I was giving myself, I almost heard God lovingly ask, "and since when have you been perfect? Don't you know you are never going to be able to protect Zac from everything that could, possibly, maybe happen to him? You don't control things, I do. And what's more: you need me too. You cannot possibly even begin to 'excel' as a parent without my help..."

Such a meaningful lesson, and so difficult to apply some times.

Sometimes we let go because we choose to. Other times we let go because we're made to, or something cuts the rope that's holding us, or like this morning, we are just so tired we just stop holding on. In each case though, the question is not about why we are holding on, but rather what we are holding on to.

Regardless of which area of our lives this may apply to, we all need to remember: (as Jorja says) "God is with you". I imagine Him hovering below where we're hanging, daring us to just let go so that He can catch us and sweep us up in His arms, and take us higher and further, opening our clenched shut eyes to all we were missing in our fear, exhaustion and pride.

Thank God Zac is fine. Thank God I will be fine too. Perhaps now that I know I am no longer in the running for the world's most perfect parent, I can stop beating myself up trying to be that. Perhaps now I will really let go, and let God.

Little Gangster Zac

Friday, 9 November 2012

Bed Battling

This past weekend we went away to Port Owen with the du Plessis. While we were all pretty excited to get away, we were equally nervous by the fact that it was our first weekend away with the boys, without any additional babysitters!

After unsuccessfully trying to persuade aunty Dominique to assist in this department (unfortunately for us, we just could not match the offer of yet another 21st birthday party), off we went - 4 adults, 3 children and around 200 bags all packed tetris-style into Papu's green bus.

Port Owen is a lovely little marina along the West Coast, about 90 minutes outside of  Cape Town. We didn't arrive there until 19h00 on Friday evening, but we still managed to see the sunset on our way. We were greeted with drinks and canapes, and were pleasantly surprised by how well kitted out our waterfront duplex was (you know that you're married with kids when you see a washing machine and tumble-dryer, and immediately regret not packing in your washing!).

Our home on the water's edge

The biggest attraction, for sure, was the king-sized bed in the main bedroom (when you're married with children, any amount of extra space is a major plus!). Situated on the second floor with a balcony and waterfront view, we were all hoping that someone would want the other room downstairs. That said, it made sense that the du Plessis settle into the big room - after all, how many times in your life do you get to fit your whole family onto one bed, and still each have enough room?

There were four in the bed, and the little one said...

The room downstairs was equipped with single beds - not that Andel minded at all. He has waited patiently for an opportunity to have his own space. Unfortunately for him, it didn't come this weekend, because Zac, who has recently given up his crib (well, actually, we had to take it back as our rental had expired) and no longer really fits into his carrycot, decided that he was going to sleep, starfish-style, on the one single bed, leaving Andel and me to share the other!

Sleeping arrangements aside, we had a lovely time. We enjoyed mornings on the patio, hearty (and healthy) meals, home-baked treats, and satellite tv. We also took to some activities on, and in, the water, and took a drive into the nearest dorp.

Brekkie tasters for Ethan
Only sight-seeing for Zac

Taking a much needed break from the babies

Jorja, our little mermaid

At the end of it all, I'd say it was a pretty successful weekend. I, for one, was proud of the fact that, for the most part, Zac behaved and we were all able to 'handle' our children without too much drama.

A daddy's work is never done! :)

The early morning roadtrip home on Monday was bitter sweet. While we thoroughly enjoyed  having a relaxing Sunday, no one really wants to go straight from holiday into the office!

But at least we get to all go back home, to our respective beds. I'm especially excited about this, as this will be the last week Zac is sleeping in his carrycot in our room. This weekend, he moves into his big bed, in the cot!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Working Nine-to-Five

When I rejoined the workforce 6 weeks ago, no one told me it was going to be quite this challenging. In the hustle and bustle, and frantic organising of husband, baby and self, I really have not even thought about the blog. Hell, most days, I'm lucky if I can think of anything at all!

On paper it seemed so simple: Andel would take Zac to daycare on his way to work every morning, and I, after finishing all my work at work, would fetch Zac at 16h00. Right. In reality, I take boxes and boxes of marking and lesson preparation home every day, only to return to work with them the next day, untouched.

Spending time with Zac is a priority, so between play-time and bath-time, not forgetting feeding-time, there is little rest-time. And more often than not, when Zac finally puts his sleepy head down by 21h00, mine goes down right along with his!

Working mothers - the real kind (not like me who can finish at 15h00) - you are my heroes! How you manage to work full days, and rear pretty awesome kids (without any issues of neglect or insecurity), and do it with smiles on your faces astounds me! One day when I'm big, I want to be just like you!

So my apologies for not blogging. So much has happened, and there's lots to fill you in on - which I resolve to do more timeously! Just as soon as I'm done with this term... kidding!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's back to work I go...

So 12 weeks and 3 days of my 13 week maternity leave period have passed, and on Monday morning I go back to work.

It may come as a surprise to most that I think I'm looking forward to going back. The last 3 months have really flown by, and, looking back, there are a lot of things that I wish I had done differently (including using a belly binder and starting some exercise), but then retrospect is always 20/20, isn't it?

Even before Zac was born I was feeling a little guilty about going back. I willingly worked until the Friday before the Sunday I went into labour. The truth is though, I miss being creative and productive. Sure, I have learned to be many other kinds of creative and productive at home, but for the first time in a long time, I actually enjoy my job - and honestly, as much as I love my son, and treasure every second we spend together, I'm just not very good at being home with him every day, all day, all alone. Something about the lack of company and poor weather (for the most part anyway) made it lose some of its initial (idyllic) appeal.

All that said, Zac is still very young. I'm reminded when I see the other kids at my Mom's daycare - Ethan included - sit up, hold their own bottles/utensils, and go to swimming lessons... my little boy will only be 3 months old next week - when I'm already back at work. And yet, he seems to fit right in at Bonny Babies. He loves the company (and conversation) of the other children there, and as soon as he sees Ethan, he wiggles in my arms, his little feet kicking furiously in excitement. I only hope that one day if he asks why I went back so soon, he won't feel that he was neglected.

Fortunately (I think) God has reassured me that (a) He knows exactly how I'm feeling (and how I'm wired), and (b) that it's ok to want the balance of work. On Sunday we heard a sermon on how we have been created by God with the privilege and blessing to create - to work. The preacher likened it to a small child being able to play in a sandpit: exploring and creating and imagining as much as they want. Work was never meant to be a negative, horrible experience. It was meant to bring us joy and God glory.

I realise it's a far cry from what most of us experience. Many of us feel bored, frustrated, overworked and underpaid. Not so long ago that was me, but I'm so grateful that I'm now in a (new) position to try to experience it the 'right' way. I challenge you to find something you love to do (most often it's the area in which God has gifted you) and make your work your worship. After all, if we're spending 45+ hours at work every week, we may as well be doing something that we enjoy!

Am I going to miss being home with Zac? Absolutely. Am I going to replace him with my work? Absolutely not. From Monday, both Zac and I will have the pleasure of a few hours with our peers, being creative and having our minds stimulated, and then the unrivalled joy of being reunited and (undoubtedly) smothered in hugs and kisses. I can't actually wait...

Friday, 7 September 2012

Happy Birthday to Me

So yesterday I turned 29, a far less scary and emotional experience than turning 28 (if you remember last year's birthday post). I think the fact that my birthday fell inside my maternity leave also contributed to the fact that it felt very much like just another ordinary day.

Zac spent the morning at Bonny Babies - his second day this week. According to the principal, he is getting better: while he still screams the school down, apparently, it's not as bad or as long as before. And miraculously, the limited expressed milk I've had to send with him has lasted his stay! Instead of rushing for a swim (which by the way, is not the best thing to do before a feed...) or sitting in front of the pile of marking I still have to do, I went to the hairdresser. Evidently, grooming is a universal pick-me-up for mommies, because when I mentioned that I was feeling frumpy, no mommy in the salon could resist the urge to laugh out loud and then 'amen' in agreement! So for 3 peaceful hours, while my hair was being done, I had my feet up, sipped on my tea and paged through a series of magazines (and only occasionally messaged my mom for an update on Zac).

Later Zac, Andel and I went for a late lunch of miso soup, chicken chow mein, spring rolls and sushi. After a year of no sushi, I really thought I'd be knocking them back. However, it seems for all the room in my belly, it can't hold as much sushi as it used to... Nevertheless it meant I had sushi for dinner.

I guess the biggest change in this year's celebrations was that we were not out with our friends socialising at some trendy restaurant/bar or painting the town red. This year, we were at home for 'tea'. As I rearranged the living room to accommodate everyone Andel piped up "hey, are we having a prayer meeting?", and just like that, with savoury biscuits in one hand, and milktart in the other, I crossed the threshold into the years of the 'mommy-party'.

Not that anyone complained, mind you. Yaya made a caramel and cream red velvet cake, and PJ made a white-chocolate mousse cake (well worth the 4 year wait!), as well as dessert. Everyone left with full (albeit turning) bellies, and sugar-rush-induced happy faces.

But, by far, the happiest faces were in my home this morning: Zac, who is happiest after a good sleep, woke with a wide gummy smile, only marginally bigger than his parents' who enjoyed their second night of uninterrupted sleep in one week! Yaya, watch this space! ;)

Friday, 31 August 2012

Small Victories

Today's post is to celebrate just a few of Zac's small stuff: the day-to-day things that are often overlooked or taken for granted, but which count for so, so much.

1. Zac's Growth & Development
This week Zac graduated to size 2 nappies, meaning he's becoming a big(ger) boy. He also went for his 10 week vaccinations on Monday, and demonstrated his remarkable strength, constantly kicking his leg free from the knee-lock position I was holding it in. He is healthy, and weighs 5.4kg and is 58cm long. While Andel's still hoping for a rugby player, Zac is currently in the backline.

As I write this, Zac is displaying another talent: he is watching Adele Live in Concert, and is singing along - no jokes!

2. Mommy's Naptime Methodology
It seems my middle-of-the-night reading is paying off. This week, I discovered (and it seems so obvious now) that if I catch Zac's sleep signals before he actually starts screaming, I can put him down to nap more easily. And what do you know: it works. Zac has had a morning nap every day this week. I simply swaddle him, give his dummy and hold him close, and as soon as he's asleep, set him in his crib.

3. Bedtime
Just when I was getting used to my unpredictable child, he (and I) set into a routine of a 21h00 bedtime, followed by 6 hours of sleep, a quick feed and then another good 4 hours sleep. Until last night. Last night Zac went to bed, and after 6 hours, stirred but didn't wake. I woke. Then. And 2 hours after that. And again at 06h00 when Zac finally opened his eyes. My boy slept right through the night, yay!

Now Yaya says it doesn't really count until he sleeps through twice more, and his 'routine' lasts 2 weeks. But for us, for now, we're just celebrating small victories.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Photo Update: Bellana

Bright and early on Thursday 9th August we left on what is now an annual family holiday. Usually we rough it out in a mountain cottage on the Bainskloof Pass. This year, however, with two new(ish) babies, we thought it best to go somewhere a little more kitted out, so to speak - and what a good spot Papu found: a beautiful house in Betty's Bay, warm, cosy and overlooking the ocean. Even though it was still pretty cold, we all had a pretty good time - as I'm sure you'll be able to see in the pics below.

(these are only some of the 200+ photographs that were taken!)

Packed and ready to go
No chance of us fitting in one car anymore!

Jorja doing the rounds, all cosy and warm

Ethan decided to nap while waiting for Yaya

Bellana: the beautiful view on the balcony

Zac loves his Daddy's singing
Jorja trying out any and every hiding spot
An added service: the babysitters club
Jorja's precious playtime with her Mama

One half of the breakfast table

No outing with Papu would be complete without a braai!

Natasha in babysitting training
I'm not sure there are many tables we can all fit comfortably around anymore

Can you imagine what each grandchild must be thinking?

Papu and Yaya couldn't have known what they were starting when they first sang 'Jersulam' to Zac - he loves it so much, they now constantly have to sing it to him! :)