Monday, 30 June 2014

A Time for Change

"There is an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate
A right time to wage war and another to make peace..."
Ecclesiastes 3: 1 - 8 (MSG)

I woke this morning with my emotions completely split in two. Today is my last day at my current job. Tomorrow I start a whole new path, in a new place, with new people. I have been wanting - needing - this change for so long, when the opportunity first came up I was desperate with excitement. Now that it's here, the fear of the unknown, the inadequate, and the lonely is very real - and I don't remember it being quite as scary last time...

For the past while I have had the privilege of working with the most amazing team. This post won't do them justice, but if you want to know how I managed to get up and come to work every morning, you can look right at them. They made the tough days better, and the good days the best. They're so uniquely different as individuals, but together they're a formidable force of family. How do I say goodbye to these people without falling apart a little bit?

'The Office' - as we fondly named ourselves
(back L-R) Dee, Ric, Dave, Habib, Robyn & Riyaad
(seated front L-R) Edwin & Alison

And yet I know - I believe - that there is a time and season for everything. I trust that what must be, will be. And each of these people have had a hand in shaping me into what I am today. So, as M (we all have nicknames/alter-egos in here, and for some reason, along the way, I got christened "M" - as in the head of M16 secret service, and conveniently shortened for "mum") I think it's only right, and probably expected, that I share a few parting 'words of wisdom' on what I've learnt from The Office:

This Too Shall Pass. 
If I have learnt anything, I have learnt that nothing lasts forever - no mood, no great desire, no painful situation. Don't hold too tight onto whatever you have going on right now (good or bad) because change is inevitable and has no respect for whether or not you want it or are ready for it. So it's best you realise that it's coming, and learn to accept it graciously.

You Cannot Rush a Life Lesson You Are Learning.
Of course it helps if you learn it first time, but most of us don't. If you're anything like me you'll require two, three, even ten attempts at the same test before getting it right - and that's ok too. The benefit is often in learning the lesson itself, not the result.

Love Liberally and Honestly. 
Yes, wearing your heart on your sleeve brings vulnerability, but to choose to keep your distance out of fear of being hurt, judged or abandoned can rob you of wonderful experiences and precious relationships. When people genuinely connect, you never really say goodbye. You carry something of each other with you forever.

And of course, Wear Sunscreen.
Enough said, right Dave and Ric? :)

So to my awesome office family - here's to you: to the memories we share, to the relationships we have, and to the new beginnings we enter into! Three cheers to you all - you're brilliant, absolutely brilliant! wink wink

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Zac's Birthday Photo Update

This year, Zac's birthday was a bit of a non-event for two reasons. First off, we'd decided pretty early on that we were not going to give him a party this year (he still doesn't really even understand what a birthday is, never mind that he should be insanely excited about his). And then his birthday also happened to fall in the week when our entire family was in quarantine thanks to a rather resistant strain of flu - and there is nothing fun about being around two sick men!

So we bravely sent Zac to school on Wednesday, even though he was not 100%. In retrospect that was probably not the best idea, but with daycare kids, having a birthday without having a person (or a party of sorts) is just not acceptable, so we were a little pressured. Later that afternoon, I left work early while Andel went to the doctor, and I arrived at Bonny Babies to find my baby rather flushed and pap. But with the rest of the brood having woken from their naps, ready for snack time, we had to deliver - and so we did.

Jorja, Madison, Cleo and Olivia waiting for their snacks

Snack time, birthday edition

Nemo birthday cupcakes. Take two.

A smile from an otherwise reluctant birthday boy

Blowing out his candles like a boss!

This cutie makes it all worth while!

While Zac slept through most of the afternoon (and evening) the rest of us had a good time. We had a bit of an extended family reunion when my Gran arrived with two of her sisters - one of them all the way from France, and who desperately wanted to meet the boys - so we decided to do dinner together courtesy of the local fish and chips shop (for old times' sake) and followed it up with hot sago pudding and custard.

Cape Town style fish and chips

I must admit, following on from Jorja's, I quite enjoyed this rather low-key way of celebrating birthdays. I do hope though that next year, Zac is able to enjoy it tons more!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

For Zac: Two Already?!

It's amazing how two years can seem so long and so short at the same time When I think of your two-year-long life, it's highlighted as this short, intense burst of activity in mine, and yet when I try to think of the way things were before you, it feels so long ago, I can hardly even remember it.

I guess it's natural for me to be nostalgic, thinking back on this day two years ago, when I held this little bundle in my arms, and marveled for the first time at the miracle that is motherhood. I really want to write you something meaningful on your birthday each year, so I thought it would be fun for me to take this opportunity to update you on you.

This morning when you woke up... you were more birthday than happy. You have not been feeling well, and you decided to sleep late (like 15 minutes before I had to be at work late). You still have no idea it's your birthday, and I'm not sure if I'm meant to be proud or embarrassed about that (for my part).

If I had to describe your personality in three words, I would use... Independent. Steadfast. Energetic. When I consider how two years ago I begged you to just come, and how you resisted until the end, I can see beginnings of my little rosebush then already: I have to navigate a few thorns, here and there, but I get beautiful, beautiful flowers.

This birthday is significant to me because... you're a big boy now, and big boys seem to like a bit of distance. I recall so vividly and fondly how we lay one night at the hospital when you were born: you nestled snug against my chest, with your little hand pressed against my heart. As you've grown we have had fewer of these occasions (you are hardly ever still, even when you sleep), and yet, these last few days as I've started saying goodbye to my baby, you've welcomed this closeness, and we've come full circle.

You've developed so much over the last year... All of a sudden I see how grown up you are. You speak to us in coherent sentences, and I'm still surprised by how you can give me a logical answer when I ask you something. You're still quite small for your age, but what you lack in brawn you make up in brain. You have a very good memory for rhymes and songs, which makes you look very smart. Last year this time I remember writing about how full of energy and adventure you were. I had no idea how this reserve would increase with age. You never sleep (well, you do, but not a lot), and you're never grumpy or disadvantaged by it. It's not uncommon to find you riding your motorbike back and forth across the living room when you should be going to bed! I love the way you confidently say your name, "Zat".

I would describe your personal style as... a little preppy (I hope you don't hate me for this later). It wasn't intentional, you're just like this little man in skinny jeans and golf shirts. It may also have to do with the fact that often your curly locks are found lying dead straight on your head, resembling a little choir boy.

Your favourite activities include... anything music related. You sing - in tune! - and love to play music, be it on my phone, on the tv or any one of the musical instruments you like to play at church. You're equally happy doing puzzles, reading a story, or throwing balls around the house. You think every sport on tv is 'cicket', and can form a proper scrum (but then you have had years of practice). You love brushing your teeth and playing in the bath (you have a helluva meltdown when the water is let out), and boy, are you obsessed with the beach (on more than one occasion you've ended up swimming in a diaper and being dried off with a receiving blanket).

If I could predict a future career based only on what I know about you right now, it would be... engineer or IT specialist. For a kid your age you have an abnormal attraction to all things electrical and mechanical. You love to break things apart and put them back together, and you are techno savvy like nobody's business. You take photos, select songs and watch videos on any smartphone, laptop or tv with amazing ease. When Papu got his new S4 last week, you showed him how to use it!

You like to eat... porridge and bread (not together) at the moment. You're not a fussy foodie at all, and you have a very good appetite. You readily eat vegetables (yay!), and have been known to request (and scoff down) a good sushi now and then.

You spend most of your spare time... watching, reading or asking for Finding Nemo. We've recently got you into Planes as well, but you are still pretty set on the fish. It's for this reason that, once again, your birthday cupcakes have fish on them.

Your worst habits right now are... throwing tantrums - but I'm told that comes with your age. You used to bang your head out of frustration, but I see that's become a less and less frequent occurrence, thankfully.

Your best friends are... your cousins and Lily. Before you think that we don't allow you to mingle with anyone else, let me explain: you happen to go to the same school, and these are the people you see most consistently. When you're together you and Ethan are a force to be reckoned with, and you and Jorja become more alike every day. I also think you may have a little crush on Isla...

My favourite thing about you right now... is the way you pray (you repeat everything we say in this adorable baby accent, phonetic errors and all, entirely in a whisper! No matter what we try, you cannot seem to pray out loud, and it's flippen cute!), and the way your wrap your arms tightly around my neck and say "huv hoo mama" (that makes my day, every day).

If money were no object, for your birthday I would have bought you... a drum kit, for sure. Since before you were born, you've been fascinated with rhythm. I recall many a band practice (you in utero) where you'd dance around to the music, and kick in protest when it ended. When I watch how skillfully and sensitively you play you fill my ears with sweet sounds and my musical heart with so much hope. You may be strong and sporty like your daddy, but you're also mommy's little rock star!

The one thing I really want you to know today... is just how much we love you. We aren't perfect parents (or anything else, for that matter), and we're going to mess up plenty still along the way, but we know that as we seek God's guidance and trust in His perfect plan for your life, you will grow into the young man He's purposed you to be. You make us so happy and so very proud, and we are eternally grateful for the gift that you are to us.

Happy 2nd birthday my sweet, precious, beautiful boy!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Thing About Fathers' (and Mothers') Day...

This Sunday is Fathers' Day, and like every other wife-and-mother, I am wondering how to balance downplaying the expense and stress of this occasion while still making it special and meaningful for all the dads in our lives.

For me, both Mothers' Day and Fathers' Day conjure up images of reluctant, tight-lipped children who have spent days fighting over the menu and venue, stressfully preparing copious amounts of food between piles and piles of dirty dishes that nobody wants to wash. I can't recall a single year that wasn't anxiety-inducing both in preparation for, and execution of, the day (except maybe for 2012, but that was a very special exception, and came with an anxiety all its own!).

Maybe it's the fact that it was just (still is) the done-thing in our family for everyone to come to our (family) house. Lunch is followed by tea, and sometimes by dinner, and there is an endless wave of exhausting social activity that usually doesn't involve much meaningful time with either parent. Maybe it's the fact that these days are a month apart, and trying to find a suitable gift (that's not the same as last year's) is a bit of a schlep. Maybe it's just the fact that we didn't (still don't) have a dishwasher.

Still, in a recent conversation with a colleague I learnt that not all households make quite as big a deal about these 'family holidays' as ours do. In fact, this particular colleague remembers many a time when he only remembered Mothers' Day at the prompting of his Sunday School teacher, and would sheepishly turn back to his mom in the pew a few rows behind him to mouth the words "happy Mothers' Day Mom" with a smile. They'd maybe treat themselves to lunch out, but other than that, there was no major fanfare, and no extravagant gift exchange.

It's such a delicate balance. How do you express enough gratitude to the people who gave you life (and then later to that special someone who, with you, brought your own little life/lives into the world) without it turning into a seemingly insincere circus?

I don't have the answers but clearly, what I've been doing so far hasn't worked, for anyone involved. I'm blessed with an amazing mother whose day job is looking after other people's kids (mine and my sister's included), who I think would much prefer and benefit from a good rest for Mothers' Day (and all the mamas said 'amen'). I also have a wonderful father who happens to love a good ol' home-cooked Sunday lunch, but who I've noticed is just as happy taking an afternoon drive somewhere pretty (with all his children and grandchildren in tow!). So perhaps it's time to try something new - something simple and meaningful?

Now if someone could just help me do this without breaking the bank or the heart of my gift-obsessed husband, I'd be so very grateful...

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Indulge Me: This Little Piggie...

I really try to avoid turning this blog into a baby brag board, but sometimes, there are things so share-worthy, I ignore my own advice. This post is one such time. Following the sudden passing of an aunt in my extended family, there's been a lot of sadness around, and I thought, considering so many of my family read this blog, this is something in the everyday that can help bring some cheer.

If any of you grew up around my family, you will have at some stage or another, heard the story of the five little pigs. Yes, five - not three (same cast, different story). The story revolves around the shopping and eating habits of these pigs, and they are usually represented by the toes on someone's foot.

Take a listen to the story as told by Jorja (Dec 2011) and Zac (June 2014) and have a good chuckle!


In our house, "no" means "no". Unless, of course, you're Zac. Then "no" means "no". And "yes". As well as "maybe", "I don't know", "wait" and just about any other possible answer to every conceivable question.

For a while already Andel and I have considered that Zac's brain may be developing a lot faster than his speech, meaning he's really good at understanding and remembering things (how else is it possible for him to put on the tv, change the source to the hard drive, select the folder called "Zac's Songs" and play the song he wants to hear?), and less good at expressing himself with words (as opposed to loud shrieks and physical outbursts). So when Zac started using "yesh" and "no" in the correct places, we got really excited. Except now, it's more "no" than "yesh" - or any other word, for that matter.

Me: Do you need some help with your sago?
Zac: No!

Zac turns two in a week, and I honestly don't know what to expect. People have been telling me about the "most-times-terrible-sometimes-terrific twos" for almost a year - mostly because Zac has been acting like he's already in his terrible twos. I've seen (so many) throw-yourself-on-the-floor-tantrums, watched people beg their ears not to bleed as Zac screams (happy or sad) at the top of his voice, and even seen some thin days as I run around after a toddler who just doesn't.slow.down. Can there really be more than this?

On the up side: we have the most loving, charming, intellectual little boy. This same wild-child can sit cross-legged on the floor and read me an imaginary story from a sudoku book. When he quietly climbs to the drums at church and begins beating out a recognisable rhythm, his face is a picture of serious concentration that may only secretly be captured on film. And when we've got him ready for bed (after successfully flooding the bathroom with water and belly-aching laughter as Zac tries to dive into the bath), this boy snuggles into my neck and softly whispers "night Anno, night Mama, night Jeshus".

My little book worm

A rare 'action' shot of Zac behind the drums

You thought I was kidding, didn't you?

Some nights he passes out even before he's dressed

Since I'm being truthful: I have to admit that there was a time I was dreading this next phase; wondering what the heck I keep doing wrong, and how on earth I'm going to contain this bundle of energy. However, since identifying and learning about Zac's personality (using tools like Tall Trees) I've experienced a marked reduction in frustration and an exponential increase in genuine enjoyment of motherhood - even during the difficult times.

I have a feeling I'm going to be hearing "no" for a while still. It's likely I'll get a few more not-so-playful bites and smacks, and there're probably still a good couple tantrums for my viewing pleasure. So far though, each new stage with Zac is better than the one before - so bring on those terrific twos!

My almost-two-year-old

Friday, 6 June 2014

My Favourite Four-Year Old Just Turned Five!

There's something so beautifully liberating and, dare I say, healthy, in the way children experience birthdays. There's no petty anxiety about aging yet another year (on the contrary: the fuss is all about aging another year), no gloom about all the things not yet ticked off our lifetime to-do list, and no panic-inducing social obligations. There's just a mounting excitement that begins weeks before the fact, and culminates in an awesome, unashamed celebration 'of me, for me' however it happens, whenever it happens (usually all day), and with whomever is near enough to be caught up in the festivities.

I got to see this first hand recently as our not-so-little Jorja prepared for her fifth birthday. We could hardly believe this was the same child who last year, while on holiday in the UK with her family, nearly had her birthday come and go without even noticing! In true Jorja fashion, we were told at least three weeks ago already "it's my birthday soon - 5th June", and so the story continued "one more week... three more sleeps...tomorrow!" until it erupted in full force yesterday when we arrived at the du Plessis' home and Jorja yelled to me from the bath "aunty Robyn, come in here, it's my birthday today!".

This girl. She's a volcano of love and energy, with a brain that works overtime, and a mouth to match! She's crawled into the deepest place of our hearts, and could singlehandedly hold our extended family together (or hostage!) if she had to. She an affectionate daughter, protective sister and doting cousin. She's everyone's favourite (not-so) little girl.

Sweet Jorja, we wish you a year full of love, happiness and many blessings. We love you so very much!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Growing in Grace

The penny dropped rather unexpectedly, right in the middle of my tea-and-lemon-poppy-seed-muffin-breakfast: I do not yet really understand or live by the principles of Grace.

This particular morning I found myself at a ladies' breakfast at a local church. It was my first breakfast, accompanying my sister (because sitting in a room full of spirit-filled warrior women so much better than me was not really something I would voluntarily subject myself to, especially not alone), and I honestly think I was just expecting a feel-good experience. What should have been a 'generic' edification for all the women in the room, turned out to be a direct message from God, to me.

As I listened to this speaker, I saw her words form a picture of a woman that upon closer inspection I recognised to be me. She spoke about the pursuit of perfection, wanting to do everything excellently - even heartily as unto the Lord - and in that, leaving no room for grace. No room for grace for others, and even more significantly, no room for grace for me.

I realised I have spent the majority of my life doing just that - relentlessly chasing excellence for a sense of self-worth and acceptance, trying to 'please' God, and then feeling so short-changed when others who had done seemingly less or in the 'wrong' way received a reward exactly like mine (or worse - even better than mine!). It became clear to me that I had not yet really understood or accepted the principles of grace:

While the law pushes us to achieve, arrive and accomplish, grace talks about humbly serving everyone else. While law disqualifies those who don't 'make it', grace invites everyone in, mess and all. While law brings justice, grace brings healing. Grace eradicates both justice and self-sufficiency. It is not forceful - we must ask for it. It does not make logical sense or demand a set criteria be met. It meets us where you are, without expectation. Grace is not interested in us meeting the standard. Grace is all about us meeting Christ.

It's taken me 30 years to figure this out, and I know this is a lesson I'll have to continuously learn throughout my life, but oh what a relief it is to have the load of the law lifted from my shoulders.

"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see."