Sunday, July 28, 2013

Growing up

Tomorrow I'm headed on a sponsored PhD writing retreat with a group of women in our mentorship program. 3 days, food provided, a warm bed, and the promise that we get as much writing done as humanly possible in the time.

This is the first time I'm leaving the kids. So part of me is super excited and the other part utterly terrified. Fortunately or unfortunately, in my circle there are both those who are horrified I'm leaving my children and those who are horrified I haven't ever done so before. Of course, Eug is equally (more) capable, so that is not the issue. But we are used to being a team. This is the first time it's felt sortof maybe ok to go. Eli is still breastfeeding, but apart from that he is a pretty grown up boy. So with this trip, I am grieving the end of the stage that Eli is passing through- where he needs me less.

Today I took Noah and Eli to Canal Walk, the mall that pretty much epitomises everything I dislike about capitalism. Noah has been wanting a bubble thingy (see how I don't call it a gun?) since forever and I figure there are worse evils in the world (particularly if they make the next few days easier for Eug and my parents). For the first time, Noah and Eli were both walking around the mall independently, and I realized that this phase in my life- the one completely dominated by bodily fluids and constantly washing and cleaning- is quickly passing. I hope the extravagant and exuberant love that Noah and Eli share with us won't pass as quickly. In the meantime, I'll be trying to make the time here in Greyton count.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


We aren't good at getting our children to sleep through the night. Eli routinely woke to breastfeed on a newborn schedule. Things got particularly bad when he was teething, so bad that my sister-in-law (totally-into-natural-stuff-and-also-with-two-small-kids) said "do yourself a favour!" and sent me to her local pharmacist to request a "teething medicine". Now this teething medicine is not natural. I will not tell you the ingredients. But it is legal. At least here. I did some research to see if it was safe, and suddenly, we started sleeping, even after we stopped giving him the "teething medicine". We're still up a couple of times a night, but nothing like before. So there you have it, my sleep recommendation: drug your child.

There is a supernatural strength that comes on women who are sleep deprived. Think of it: at least 3.5 years of terribly interrupted sleep. Enough to make me look older. I suppose 3.5 years and two kids might have done that, too.

It helped that I could look to the future, when, with the hours I gained I planned to:
  • Wake up before my kids.
  • Read the Bible first thing in the morning.
  • Shower regularly.
  • Make a super schedule for the kids- maybe on a big piece of paper or something
  • Not say "I'm so tired! Stop it!" to the kids all the time.
  • Write my dissertation.
It's been about a week, and this is what I've done with the extra time:
  • Watched old episodes of Justified on Eug's computer
  • Drunk hot chocolate
And it seems ok that all that supernatural strength dissipated without any fanfare. Maybe, someday soon, I'll wake up before the kids start poking me.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Ramadan Moon

Tonight Noah's bedtime coincided with Mosque prayers, and the prayers are long in the month of Ramadan.

Tonight, I apologized for being mean to him, for getting impatient and telling him he wasn't fit for human company and to please leave me alone until he was. I know how that sounds. It made sense at the time.

I've come to embrace that my older child will not simply lie down and go to sleep (though my younger one does), and that my lazy solution to this (an old ipod touch) wasn't doing us any favors. So bedtime is a time to catch up, read a lot of books, pray, and recently, for me to apologize to Noah. Not in a "I suck as a mother" way, but in a "sorry, I didn't treat you as I should have at this specific time". The guilt and self-deprecation I can save for Eug, later on. Lucky Eug.

The mosque prayers are our reminder to pray. Tonight, Noah asked why they sang as they prayed, and I said I wasn't sure but I thought it was to help remember the words to the prayers and make them more beautiful for God. I explained that Muslims pray specific prayers, even as their hearts lift up the same feelings ours do with extemporaneous prayer. Deciding what to say to Noah was hard for me: having been brought up as an evangelical Christian my default is to try to assert that we have answers that others don't. But I have to trust that Jesus is big enough, interesting enough, and loving enough to be compelling to my children, if I only pray and introduce them to Him as best I can.

I suppose it should be said that he's also three, and three is a time of passion and certainty, not mysticism, so there's also something to be said for simplicity. So when Noah asked why we don't pray like Muslims and I said that we pray as though we're talking to a friend, who can talk back, but we can also try praying from memory or reading sometimes, if he likes. There are weeks we start the day with this version of book of common prayer, and Noah follows along. I want Noah to know God as someone who takes the burdens of "getting it all right" away, of doing the right thing or knowing the right answers. But I also want him to know God as a provider of really good things- concrete, physical things- a God that makes the seasons and the tides. In the rhythm of our day, I'm so grateful for the prayers that ring out from the mosque this Ramadan.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Imaginary Friends and Real Conversations

In the spirit of not forgetting later on, Noah's imaginary friend Humar has become a real threat. He gives Noah whatever he wants, particularly lots and lots of straws and juice boxes. He also gives Noah Breast milk. "In a bottle", Noah says. Awesome.

At the park today, the following conversation:

Me: It's really cold and windy! Should we get out of the wind? I'm afraid that you guys are going to get really sick!
Noah: Don't worry! Don't worry! It's ok. I'll save you!
Me: Oh... uhh..
Noah: The monsters are coming! They're coming into the park!
Me: They have a key to the park? (Obs parks have a key)
Noah: Yes! They have a key!!
Me: Oh. What will they do in the park?
Noah: They're going to take the carseats out of the car!!!
Noah: And put them in the house!!!!!
Me: So are they doing something bad or just kindof doing us a service?
Noah: They're doing us a service. Nice monsters.
Me: Oh! Cool?
Noah: Yeah, very cool. I haven't seen nice monsters in a long time! I want one monster for my birthday. One nice monster.

Then we finally went home and Eli walked the whole way- it took forever. He kept wanting to walk in the road and when I tried to explain traffic he either got mad or laughed at me. He also went into three people's houses and got angry when I tried to say that we can't do that. On the positive side, I learned that the lady on my street I'm terrified of is actually just old and diabetic, and she was super happy that Eli broke in so she could talk to us.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Month without work and the World is Still Spinning

I unexpectedly haven't worked for a month. It wouldn't be that big of a deal, except that it's felt different in a substantial way- I usually find it hard to enter into rest of any kind. I've been with the kids almost all the time, but unlike the negotiation Eug and I usually do over who spends time with the kids when, we decided to set aside work and our own agenda(s) and goals for a little while.

Eug has taken the time to work on the bathroom (yes, the same one) as we adjust back to this time zone and whatever schedule might work for us. We've been taking more time to sleep and rest, and marvel at the fact that we can- that no-one will come after us, no bills will be unpaid. This week I'm easing back into studying.

The trip to Korea was hard on Noah, who notices everything but can't express what he's feeling in a way that feels satisfying to him. Have you noticed I don't post my views on parenting that much anymore? I've recently felt like we just don't have a clue, and that our two children respond to quite different parenting. We did listen to a talk by Alfie Kohn on Unconditional Parenting, which I found really helpful in fleshing out why rewards and punishments aren't necessarily the best thing for building a great relationship with your children. The past few months we've started very brief family meetings (which mainly have 2 participants at the moment), to try to help us acknowledge and balance (and sometimes pray through) our needs and the needs of the household.

On the subject of good things that have happened recently in our lives:

The first hail storm of my life- the kids and Eug were caught a block away and I actually went to pick them up in the car, the hailstones were so large, big, and painful. Apart from this freak storm, winter is actually proving pretty mild.
This is the only picture I had of my new set of strawberries, set up in tires in the corner here. I also dug up a naartjie tree that was dying in my parent's garden- I'm hoping it might survive and come back to life! Can you spot the treetrunk I found and picked up?
Eug and I both recently read Michael Pollan's new book, "Cooked", and together with Eug cooking his way through Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything", our food possibilities have broadened and cooking has become really fun and exciting for us. Here's Eug's first batch of Kimchi. 
Our store of beer is growing. Come on over and we'll share! 
We found a source of good, grass-fed free-range beef at the Old Biscuit Mill, and Eug prepared Bulgogi. With a steak that would just be a single serving at a restaurant, we're able to get two meals for the whole family by slicing the meat thinly and preparing a Korean marinade. Eli helps.
Eli always helps

Even with the bathroom
This might not like seem like much, but having the bathroom finished - or adequately finished for us not to think about it every time we pee or shower- feels wonderful. 
The space below our stairs is the only potential storage in our house- Eug made this peg board from an off-cut piece of peg board at the local timber store, and improvised hooks and cable ties to organize all our tools.

This is a persimmon seedling, and it makes me incredibly happy to look at it. It's impossible to find persimmon trees in nurseries around Cape Town, and of the many persimmons we eat only a couple have actually had seeds in them. I religiously plant the seeds, but I never actually expected to see one germinate! Now, to keep trying until I have a few (they need a male and a female tree to produce fruit).
Good paints and paper have been a really good investment, as Noah really likes it when Eli is asleep and one of us pulls out the paints and hang out with him. 
Last but not least, we have a new bike! After our bikes were stolen last year, we were a little depressed and have waited a while before buying a new one. Eug has always dreamed of having a folding bike- this is the Tern Link d8- which can stay in our living room without being too obtrusive. And it's very, very fun to ride. We're hoping the Euro-Rand exchange rate will improve, because we're waiting on another, even more exciting bike purchase that's been made difficult by the recent drop in the value of the rand.