Thursday, 30 March 2017

For Sam: Two Already?!

In keeping with my theme of trying to do a creative birthday post while not having to think of too many new ideas for it each year, here is my birthday post to Sam - based on the post I did for Zac on his second birthday.

Sam. You've been telling people you're two years old for such a long time already, I almost find the fact that you're only two years old today hard to believe myself! It has been both quick and long at the same time. You fit as though we were never anything but a family of four, and yet I can remember, in vivid detail, every moment of your entry into the world. And to help you remember, I decided, on this birthday, to take the opportunity to update you on you.

This morning when you woke up... I would already have been at school if we did not prompt you along by turning on the bedroom lights. And then you were in full birthday mode! I've never seen anyone more excited about a candle and a chocolate bunny. And you made us sing (and relight that candle) a couple of times, including one time to sing to Zac. You have definitely grasped more of the birthday concept than Zac could at this age - second child benefits, I suppose.

If I had to describe your personality in three words, I would use... Feisty. Loving. Fun. You are mischievous and adventurous, and you don't back down for anything or anyone. You know what you want, and aren't afraid to fight for it. But you have the biggest heart. You don't like people to be sad, and readily flash that killer smile and pucker up for kisses to make people feel better. You love to laugh, and constantly have dancing eyes. You're so much like your dad like that: super chilled to just take each day as it comes.

This birthday is significant to me because...  you're becoming a big boy, and come your next birthday you will be a big brother as well. You have never been overly affectionate, and in some ways are far more independent than Zac was at this age. However, I love how you snuggle up to me when you go to bed at night, and whisper a quick "love you" before nodding off to sleep. Long may these moments last!

You've developed so much over the last year... For a while there we were concerned that you didn't speak much. Little did we know about the verbal onslaught we were about to get. You have the cutest little lisp, and the attempt the most complicated sentences. You're big and strong - a total boys' boy - and you love playing with cars (or in cars). Even before you spoke, you would regularly be 'vroom-vroom-ing' your cars around the house. You love your brother, and are often found getting up to mischief with him.

I would describe your personal style as... a little farm-inspired. Forgive my description, it's just that you are practically always barefoot and walking around in shorts (even in the cold), and if you add to that a floppy hat over your dusty blond curls, I could easily imagine you working the farm somewhere. You are crazy about caps (you made such a fuss Aunty Dom and Garth once had to buy you the adult sized one you wanted instead of the kids one they were looking at), and love wearing sunglasses and other people's shoes.

Your favourite activities include... gallivanting with Papu in the bus, helping your dad clean or fix his bike, dancing to really loud music, and reading. You love books. Even when you were much younger you would bring them for me to read to you (these days you ask Zac, or make up your own story as you read them yourself). You enjoy brushing your teeth and swimming in the bath, and have joined Zac in (still) running fully clothed into the sea whenever we're all the beach.

If I could predict a future career based only on what I know about you right now, it would be...  professional cyclist or tour guide. You are obsessed with your dad's bike, and with Papu's bus. Without fail, when your dad arrives home from a ride, you hop on the bike and ride it through the house. You love wearing the helmet and playing with the pedals and chain (much to your father's horror, particularly when you do this the night before a race). If those don't work out, you could also model - you know just have to turn it on for the camera (when you feel like it).

You like to eat...  anything and everything. You are a human food vacuum with a bottomless pit for a belly. After being really great with veggies and healthy food, you've recently (I blame Papu's retirement) taken to luxuries and takeout. And you have this thing about eating Peanut Butter with a spoon...

You spend most of your spare time... (at the moment, anyway) scratching in the fridge. Just the other night you stood on a chair to get into the vegetable drawer, swiped the Steri-Stumpie your dad was hiding there, and finished half of it! And when you're not looking for food, you are getting ice-blocks to play hockey with. You also love Paw Patrol and Trolls - both your go-to options when you have tv time.

Your worst habits right now are...  throwing down your food (or whatever else you have in your hand) when you're unhappy about something, or hitting out when someone has upset you. I believe we have well and truly entered the 'terror-ific twos'.

Your best friends are... Adrienne, Papu and Garth - even though Papu and Garth are not actually your peers. I love watching you engage with Adrienne; how gentle you are with her when she sleeps or is trying to balance on her feet. And of course, you love your brother Zac. When you can't see him, you look for him, and never want to go anywhere without him. The bond you two have is something very special to see.

My favourite thing about you right now...  is how you still smell like baby. There's nothing better than cuddling close to you before you wake in the morning, and taking in a long, slow breath of your sweet, baby scent.

If money were no object, for your birthday I would have bought you...  a real bicycle! It doesn't bother you that your feet don't reach the peddles on a proper sized one; I know you would be perfectly happy pedaling back-and-forth repeatedly to make your way around.

The one thing I really want you to know today... is just how incredibly special you are. All of us - Zac, Dad and I - love you so much, and couldn't imagine this family without you. You add so much fun and laughter to our lives, and we love spending time with you. Things can be crazy and chaotic at times - whose life isn't - but we know that God has such plans for you, and we are trusting Him; that He will guide and direct us as we raise you to be all that He would have you be.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Take Three: The Responses

For me, the third time round really has been very different. And here I'm not just referring to the overwhelming, never-ending illness, and other physical challenges I never had the first two times. It's like everything  has been different. Most interesting of which has been people's reactions.

Now, in case you aren't aware, by the time you'll be reading this, this post - like the other pregnancy ones - will be a couple weeks old already. At present, we have yet to make that public announcement. In fact, we have only personally told our families, some friends and employers so far.

Here are the three top responses we have witnessed:

Juvenile Joy
I call it this because the level and intensity of the excitement is almost naive. There is this unbridled euphoria about a new baby, without any consideration to the number of ways in which this will turn our personal and larger worlds upside down, for a while anyway.
Advocated by: the grandparents who have not had 8 grand-kids in 8 years

There is simply no nice way to state - or hide - this one. It usually appears in the form of an emoji-inspired facial expression of big, wide eyes and an open, o-shaped mouth, followed by deathly silence and shaking of the head lasting a good number of minutes. The brain seems to shut down entirely, except to fulfill essential functions like breathing.
Advocated by: the unsuspecting parents

Sympathy & Concern
I wanted to say Disappointment but perhaps that is a little harsh. In this instance, there is an immediate look of pain sometimes accompanies by "oh" or "sorry" (I kid you not) because more than anything else, these people understand that kids cost time, money, promotions and various other sacrifices. Sometimes, you can feel the lingering question of "how did you let this happen" hanging over the conversation too. To be fair, this is usually sometimes also accompanied by some happier emotions as well, as people weigh up the pros and cons of the situation. Generally though, the resultant response is a reality check that life is going to get tough, for a while, anyway.
Advocated by: my gynae - and the realists who know what our life is really like

*Disclaimer: the sympathy and concern of those close to us, is very different, and much more loving than the sympathy and concern of less intimate acquaintances and almost-strangers who stumble upon the information, and feel the need to give their opinion.

Now this post is not to bash anyone for the way in which they have processed (or not) this news. For most - myself included - it was totally involuntary. And honest. What it has done though, is simply reminded me that our ways, as people, can be weird, and that in everything, I need to have a bit more of an eternal perspective.

Things are going to be different. And more difficult. It was the same when Sam was born. But then, as I recently told a friend who just had her second baby, everyone adapts to the new life, and families establish their new normal. And before we know it, we'll in our own routine again that just gets easier as kids get older and parents get wiser.

At its most fundamental point, we still serve the same God whose promise to provide doesn't have a clause on the number of children He is able to provide for. Here's praying for grace as we navigate these waters once again.

"Children are a heritage from the Lord; offspring a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." ~ Psalm 127:3-5a

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Oops, We Did It Again

Image result for quotes repeating mistakes

Based on this definition, you could say that after being a 'Jack of all Trades' all of my life I'm now officially branching out into a specialisation. And my field of expertise: Parenting.

Yes, you guessed it. We are pregnant again. Not that pregnancy can be a mistake as such. Children aren't ever a mistake. They are ordained and purposed. This one is certainly a surprise though! In fact, despite always wanting four children (don't ask me why; I don't know, and it has never been a conclusion I came to rationally) I recently realised that, as far as my family is concerned, I was content. I further explained this to myself as being in a position where I finally did not feel like I needed more kids for it to feel complete; rather, I was ok with having or not having any more kids, ever. Until this, of course.

It's crazy how my perception of things has made the world of difference here. With Zac we were just out of that newly-wed phase and ready to begin a family, so the news was super-exciting and even trendy, as everyone else in our circle was sort of in the same space. With Sam it was a little different but equally exciting as, against some pretty impressive odds, we had been eagerly waiting the fulfillment of a promise of another child. This one has been more like winning the lottery: feeling amazingly blessed and utterly overwhelmed at the same time.

To say that we are shocked and unprepared is an understatement. And even though the anticipated gap between Sam and this one will be only 3 months less than Zac and Sam, I feel like I'm going to have two babies (three kids in 5 years will do that to you), and I struggle to visualise how the heck we're going to cope physically, financially and psychologically. But (and this part is so important) we 100% believe that conception is divine, and children are blessings that come exactly when and how they're meant to. We believe that this child's life is God's plan, and that He will provide for him/her as he has done for us and our other kids. And so, this has become an extension of faith for us all.

"Don't panic; I am with you. There is no need to fear for I am your God. I'll give you strength. I'll help you. I, your God, have a firm grip on you, and I'm not letting go" Isaiah 41:10, 13

Share in our joy and wonder as we experience yet another miracle, and welcome another precious gift into our lives.

Monday, 13 March 2017

2017 CT Cycle Tour: My Thoughts

Sunday 12th March should have been the 40th edition of the Cape Town Cycle Tour, the biggest open, timed cycle race in the world. There were over 35 000 local and international cyclists waiting to test their mettle in what is one of those bucket-list events of physical and mental strength and endurance.

But then, during the night before, in the wake of SASSA (social grant) problems nationally, protesters had taken to the streets in an attempt probably to have themselves heard, burnt tyres and other objects, thereby completely damaging the road on the picturesque route, and in doing so, potentially endangering the life of every cyclist riding there later that day. So before the race had even begun, there had been a change to the race, reducing it from 109km to 78km, thanks to a detour away from the affected areas.

Then there was a second fire that broke out in Hout Bay, after a massive and devastating fire basically flattened over 650 homes and left thousands destitute in an informal settlement there only a day earlier. Emergency services needed to be deployed, and the roads in and out of Hout Bay needed to be clear for them.
And then there was that weather forecast that was rapidly changing from difficult to impossible conditions, with wind speeds reported to have reached nearly 100km/h in areas. Cyclists were unable to ride their bikes through the start without being blown off them.

So at 06h35, less than 20 minutes into the event, and with only three groups having left the starting blocks, the unprecedented decision to cancel the event was made.

These were my immediate thoughts:
Of course it's most definitely regrettable that the CT Cycle Tour has been cancelled:

As a Cycle WAG I know firsthand the time, money and effort that goes into entering and preparing for this race.

As a South African I know the benefits the city and country gain from hosting a successful event of this scale.

As a spectator I pray fervently for the safety of each rider doing the route, and want to see them overcome the physical challenge of completing the race.

I also, as someone with intel to the working behind the scenes, know that not one of the organizers or race sponsors would ever want to cancel. They are the ones who are going to bear the burden of this and be inundated with angry mails and social media complaints.


While I am bitterly disappointed for the racers and fans (we were fortunate to see Andel ride up Edinburgh Drive while he was unaware it was cancelled), between new fires flaring up, roads damaged (due to), live protest action, and really wild wind, we have to trust that the difficult decision to cancel was made in the interests of the riders and their safety. And for that, I am so grateful!

Friday, 10 March 2017

How To: Prepare a Low Carb Party Spread

With Sam's second birthday coming up this month, I've been thinking about whether or not we should have a party (I'm swayed towards doing one because he's old enough to enjoy it, but Andel is not keen), and thinking back to what we did last year.

The plan for Sam's first birthday was actually to picnic with some friends with kids of similar age. Then it rained the week of his birthday, and even though it didn't rain on the actual day, it was so overcast and still wet everywhere, we took the picnic into our house - which truthfully, became a bit chaotic when the wider family also simply turned up.

It happened, too, that at the time we were full on Banting (Andel in an attempt to lose more weight for his cycling; me to shed the Sam-pregnancy weight that had refused to leave). So we did a low carb finger-food spread, and it was really fun and tasty - and the kids loved it.

Here's what we served:

Meat Balls - these homemade protein balls were prepared in coconut oil and seasoned with finely chopped onions, parsley and a bit of grated cheese to help them stick. We made smaller-than-usual sized balls, perfect for little hands.

Yogurt - for all the older kids, we prepared small cups of double cream, plain yogurt, and had some berries, honey and cinnamon on hand to add some flavour (not that it's really needed as the double cream is pretty rich and yummy already).

Crudites - we sliced up some veggies and fruit (the lesser sweet options) for the kids to grab and munch on while they played. These were a hit with the adults as well, and were served with low carb mayo as a dipping sauce.

Egg-Based Muffins - these savoury treats were stuffed with delicious bacon bits, onions, peppers, tomatoes and cheese, and seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika and herbs. It's basically an omelette served in a muffin tray, and is surprisingly filling.

Cheese Board - while mostly for the adults, we also cut up some blocks of cheddar cheese for the kids. These can be served with banting seed crackers or on slices of cucumber instead of breads.

As drinks we had refreshing infused still and sparkling water (cucumber, lemon, mint, berries), as well as full cream milk (which was actually the preferred option for them anyway).

Of course, what's a first birthday without a cake - to smash if not to eat - so of course, the cake was not of the carb and icing free variety. However, if you do want a banting friendly cake recipe, this brownie one is a favourite in our house.

Basically, banting does not have to suck dry the enjoyment of food and dining from your life - and not even from a party. There are loads of delicious recipes that give great low carb and low sugar options which, once you get the hand of preparing, make great alternatives.