Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Around the World in 80 Clicks

Is it possible to traverse the world finding mothers who blog in 80 clicks? Do mothers raising children in different places have different perspectives? Catherine at Her Bad Mother teamed up with her friend David to find out. She listed 5 things she enjoys about motherhood, linked to 5 other mom-blogs, and threw out the challenge...I copied this paragraph from Poppy Fields who tagged me and had copied it herself from Planet Nomad's post about this meme.

Five things I enjoy about motherhood:

1. Having children brings the wonder back into your life – they are there to share the joys of rainbows, sunsets, moonrises and funny looking bits of wood that may or may not resemble a penguin.

2. They are a reason to decorate at Christmas, invent festivals, make a fuss of birthdays and have a Sunday lunch at every opportunity, even on a Monday.

3. Children are the fast track to personal development. Until I had kids I thought I was a calm, organized, logical person. Now I know that was just an illusion and am coming to terms with being a flawed human being.

4. Children anchor you and connect you to a place. Without children you can easily drift in and out of places without putting down roots. Children make a shy person brave. When you move to a new place you’ll introduce yourself to any likely looking mother with kids the same age on the slightest pretext and wangle a play-date, just to get your kids into the social fray.

5. I love having a house full of bright sunny drawings with I Love You Mum or I Love You Dad on the back.

That’s five things already and I didn’t even get round to kids giving you an excuse to bake cakes and re-read favourite children’s stories and have loads of hugs and all the rest. And when I started this post I also meant to include that I love hearing almost the entire lyrics to Jesus Christ Superstar being bawled out dissonantly from the shower by Son and Middle Daughter in chorus.

To help send this around the world I’m now tagging two bloggers at home and three overseas: Homemade Heaven (SA), Charlotte’s Web (Germany), Diary of Domestic Hiss (UK), Twaddle and Twak (SA), Comfort Food (Australia)

If you then comment back at the original post you will be included in the round-up here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tortoise Requiem

The girls came back up the hill from planting bulbs under the pine trees with their aunt, full of the tiny tortoise they had found. He was smaller than their hands, so tiny he must have been a baby. Unfortunately he was also rather dead.

So small and so perfectly formed in every detail, his shell still soft, he must have been quite newly hatched when he came a cropper and perhaps got stranded on his back. We’ll never know.

There are lots of wild tortoises here. After summer rain our journeys along the 3km dirt road are punctuated by halts to avoid tortoises crossing. Sometimes we’re impelled to stop and help them across the road, so they don’t get squashed by a truck. Occasionally we’ll come face to face with one on a stroll through the bushes on our farm. The local variety of tortoise is small and quite fast and they vanish under cover in no time, well camouflaged in the dry restios and scrub. They love strawberries and tend to seem much less cute, when you find all the best berries have had a tortoise sized bite taken out of them. Occasionally we rescue a small torty from the dogs who view the bite-sized ones as an interestingly exotic antipasto.

At the opposite end of the tortoise spectrum, we also have some rescued Cape Mountain tortoises on the farm, which are huge and very old. They are kept in a large enclosure and are hand fed delicacies such as lettuce and grapes daily. We used to allow them to roam freely, but then they wandered much too freely and we had to raise a ransom to buy them back from the local community on the other side of our back fence – apparently tortoises are a traditional bush meat delicacy…

This little one is the smallest we’ve ever seen – the matchbox is a standard small one – the matches are longer than the tortoise. My sister-in-law is going to take him to a resting place in our circle, once we have all duly admired his minuteness and perfection of shell.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Autumn Flowers

Flowers in soft-focus and now I know why – my whole world has been in soft focus for a while now and the optician has told me I need to start wearing glasses all the time, not just when my arms aren’t long enough. The silver lining is that maybe I’ll be able to see the details sharply once again: that sparkle in the children’s eyes, the sheen on a rose petal, the texture in a stone. The colours will look brighter through the right lenses... and my husband assures me that the frames I've chosen are sexy!

Flowers on our table all week long – a bouquet of golden roses that over a few days opened fully from bud to scented full-blown flower: a gift from Charlotte when she brought her children to lunch here and our blogs finally met in person. Thanks Charlotte for the gorgeous flowers – they have inspired both of us to a frenzy of flower photography and have smelt wonderful all week!

Flowers in waiting: my sister-in-law ordered a load of bulbs this year and surprised me with a present of some bags of daffodil and snowdrop bulbs, remembering my nostalgia for those English spring flowers. I spent this afternoon planting them, tucking them carefully into flower beds among other plants that I hope will shelter them and encourage them to flower. There’s something very therapeutic on a damp autumn day in planting bulbs for spring – you leapfrog over winter and are envisaging bright blooms and fresh sunshine, even as the days are closing in and the evening chill sends you hurrying indoors at sunset.

Flower therapy: despite my stiff back (because once outside you can’t just plant a few bulbs, and end up pruning back lavender and rose geranium until a couple of hours have fragrantly passed and you find that you can no longer stand up straight…) despite the aching muscles, I feel revived by the time spent outside with growing things. I can still smell the rose geranium on my skin and in my hair and there is a buzz of energy and a lightness that wasn’t there yesterday after a day lolling inside over a book.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The threads of a day

At breakfast my mind wandered away from the cereal packets: the day seemed to me like a loom with a variegated pattern growing into a chaotic and bright cloth. A background of deep green grass with white bobbles of ducks preening. Bright threads of children’s voices in azure and pink making a continuous stream of chatter, zigzagging and flowing through the duller muted greys and blues of a soft autumn morning of mist. Soft, warm brown, in fluffy patches denoting purring cat on lap.

We talked of flotation tanks, fantasising about a tucked away place to escape the noise of the dogs that drives my husband demented at night with their restlessness. A flotation tank would be a smooth silk in a uniform charcoal, soothing to the senses, but dull and monotonous after a while.

Driving into town, to fetch newspapers and ingredients for tomorrow's lunch, the fabric was rough cotton with a graphic print of bold blocks of red and yellow on a tarmac-grey background.


A sense of something profound but elusive teased at me all day – it had something to do with this passage from the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander:

Taran (a boy on the threshold of manhood, eager to prove himself, says of another would-be young warrior, who is proud and ill-tempered):
‘I think he’ll feel better once we find the cauldron. There will be glory enough for all to share”
Adaon (older and more experienced) smiled gravely. ‘Is there not glory enough in living the days given to us? You should know there is adventure in simply being among those we love and the things we love, and beauty too.


These posts grabbed me today too: Mary Alice on raising your children to be people you’ll like and this post by Jennifer Howze on skewed perceptions of happiness.


Today felt like a gentle lesson on living in the now – a lesson that sometimes I think I have mastered, then I generally slip backwards and niggle at myself and the universe, impatient to make progress, tread new ground, achieve things, when sometimes I’m just supposed to be taking stock, looking at the individual threads and appreciating them, no more no less.

So instead of grasping after the elusive profundity, I played chess with our son, both of us beginners, he a quicker learner than me. And this post instead of being coherent and deeply insightful is imperfect and scattered, but with a hint of the colours of my day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Eggs Excess

Bright early morning sunshine blinds the egg-hunters, as they line up on the stoep, armed with empty baskets to collect the Easter bunny's bounty. We managed to hold them off till 8 o'clock by letting them watch The Knight's Tale, which was enthralling enough to allow the Easter Bunny to hop around outside undetected.

We egg-celled ourselves this year with an over abundance of eggs. The Easter Bunny must have been staggering under the load of chocolate he brought to our farm. I don’t know how he made it up our drive, I really don’t.

We had friends staying so for the first time it wasn’t just our three kids hunting for eggs early on Easter morning, but a posse of five children armed with baskets. Living on a farm with two doting aunts, the kids know that after they’ve checked round our house for eggs they need to pay a visit , more like a mine-sweeping mission, to the other three houses, where the Easter Bunny will have hopped with a lavish generosity of egg distribution.

The addition of two more children proved too much for the bunny deputies who, fearful of a shortage, had more than doubled the egg provisions. So baskets had to be supplemented by plastic bags, as they were full to overflowing. The hunt lasted a full hour, by which time the adult camp followers were gasping for a cup of tea and some breakfast and the sun was getting warm! We now have enough chocolate to last till Christmas!

Back at the house our son initiated an egg audit, to make sure that everyone had fair shares. His remarkable grip of numbers had lasted until halfway through the hunt but then he lost count of who had what, so a check ensued, with everyone declaring their goods and divvying up any extras.

Beware - this is what happens if you have four Easter Bunnies providing the chocolate ... one child's haul!

Friday, April 03, 2009


It’s the end of term today! Hurray! It has drawn out long because of Easter being late and had started to feel like it would never end. In celebration summer has decided to make yet another come back and we have a suffocating day of 38C, all the more fierce for the cool weather we've enjoyed lately.

Back from school with two of the girls’ friends in tow, we went straight down to the pool in an attempt to let off the end of term steam in cooler surroundings. Four girls and one boy clashed against each other repeatedly, girls’ games thwarted by boyish attempts at improving them by running a bit of interference.

The girls got out protesting, leaving him alone in the pool and started another game by the side of the pool. His fun curtailed he also got out and came over to me, where I was reading in the shade and trying to be deaf to all the shrieks.

“I don’t think they’ll ever get husbands” he announced in a matter of fact tone, sounding rather like a dowager duchess despairing of the younger generation.

“Why’s that?” I enquired trying to disguise my laughter.

“They don’t seem to like boys very much.”

It’s tough being the only boy, but I’m sure it will improve when they’re all teenagers!