The Sound of Music, or how to reach a comfortable compromise

9 Mar

After much discussion, where my husband and I disagreed on whether we should go or not, we compromised and decided not to go to the theatre to watch the Sound of Music. I was the one rooting for ‘not going’. It wasn’t that I did not want to go – I love the theatre, any kind of show: ballet, opera, plays, musical, one-man show – but rather, it was the financial exercise that was more of a stumbling block. My husband calls me stingy. I like to think of myself more as a ‘conservative spender’.

Killian, baffled.

Killian, baffled.

My daughter and I have been to the theatre together before. We used to take her to the ballet every December, we went to Potted Potter last year (which we absolutely loved loved loved!!) and recently we went to Sleeping Beauty on Ice (freebie tickets, mind you) What a thrill!! But my boys have never experienced the theatre yet, except for children’s theatre. My reasoning for not taking them to Sound of Music was that I was not convinced I wanted to pay R300 for a ticket to take them to a two and a half hour play, and have them moan half way through the show because they are bored, tired or both. Call me stingy, I don’t really care!

Then, a friend gifted us with two tickets to go and watch the Sound of Music. What is that? Didn’t my friend know that we had found a comfortable compromise already? My husband and I had reached a decision to ‘not go’, but now the discussion was back on the table. “You go with one of the boys” I said, being totally selfless and loving and kind. No, the husband said. I really think we must take all the kids. ALL the kids? ALL the kids.

Matt, all dressed up.

Matt, all dressed up.

So reaching a new settlement in deciding to ‘ALL go’, we booked three extra tickets. Given that we couldn’t book the three extra tickets next to the gifted two, I nagged enough and we chose seats that were slightly more towards the back and therefore cheaper. I also convinced Phillip that the three boys should sit together while the two civilised girls will watch the show peacefully (thank you selfless husband).

I was so sure that this theatre experience would backfire on us him, that I even agreed to forfeit a previous bet prize if I was proven wrong in thinking that the boys would not cope. That’s right, my husband owed me – or so I thought.

Thursday 8pm came and excitement rose. Many questions were asked (what, where, when, how long, who and why), they were asked more than once (thank you ADHD child for testing my patience at every corner). And finally Artscape, here we came.

The show was amazing. The singing is breath-taking (the main nun… what a voice!), the acting is of a very high-standard, the decor is very well done and the story is beautifully arranged. We laughed, we cried, we clapped, we stood up and clapped some more. The boys’ first experience to the theatre could not have been better selected. I’m so glad my husband knows better than me, sometimes. Words can not do justice to the show and, if you can afford it, and if it won’t create discord within your family, spoil yourself, go and enjoy this show. You won’t regret it!!

Léa. Waiting in anticipation

Léa, waiting in anticipation and reading from the other spectators’ program.

Did I mention that I forfeited a bet?? Well for this time, I didn’t mind being proven wrong.

Just this time.

Holiday beaches

7 Jan ... I'm not sure what they're doing, but it looks pretty cool

I choose this rainy day to start a few quick posts about the December holidays. They were just here, I swear I smelled them. They are now finished. Swoosh, just like that! Anticipation of Ouma and Oupa arriving, excitement at seeing cousin Cleoné and a few weeks later, those are already memories.

This year we actually managed a few outings to the beach (It is hard to get to the beach when you have a solar-heated pool at home ok!)

We (re)discovered Noordhoek beach (Phillip and I go there every 14 years).

Building sandmen

Building sandmen

African dancing

African dancing

Chased by the sea

Chased by the sea

Captivated by sand

Captivated by sand

A warm pool of cousins

A warm pool of cousins

Taming the untameable calm  lagoon

Taming the untameable calm lagoon

A mother in the making

A mother in the making

Irresistible grin

Irresistible grin

Deciding on the target

Deciding on the target

My favourite mopkop

My favourite mopkop

We also visited Hout Bay beach. Kids love the dunes there.

National sport: dune-climbing

National sport: dune-climbing

... I'm not sure what they're doing, but it looks pretty cool

… I’m not sure what they’re doing, but it looks pretty cool

Life support. Holding hands.

Life support. Holding hands.

Joyful

Joyful

Ecstatic (Léa's favourite word at the moment)

Ecstatic (Léa’s favourite word at the moment)

Joyful. 2

Joyful. 2

Proof: Killian and I were there. Love the background.

Proof: Killian and I were there.
Love the background.

 

Finding the right builder

5 Dec

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It is said that getting married, moving house and starting a new job are some of the most stressful phases of life. Some people would add doing renovations as number 4 on their list. Given our previous experiences, I would probably agree.

In our previous house, we extended our lounge by claiming the patio space. It was stressful. Mostly because I gave birth to my second child while they were finishing later than expected and Phillip was frantically cleaning the house so that my newborn son would not die of fine-dust-overdose.

In our new house, we moved our kitchen to the central area of our house. I don’t even want to talk about that experience. While I wasn’t giving birth to any child at the time, I certainly wished I could have. Sadly the builder was a bit of a nightmare. Besides being disorganised, he had no idea of the concept of budgeting, and we ended that project with the builder owing us money. The work was of a good enough quality in spite of little mess-ups, but I felt more like a counsellor to the builder whose life was as messy as my son’s cupboard and needed a debrief when it was all over!

Needless to say that when I told Phillip that we should do the renovations we had been talking about for a couple of years, he looked at me strangely. And after persuading him that it was the right time, after many many many hours (on his side) spent on the excel spreadsheet budgeting to a T, we decided that this would be my project to manage. Yikes!!! It would be a steep curve for me as Phillip is the one usually taking charge. 

My first step was to find the right builder, and that would not be from the yellow pages – like the previous one. A reference from friends, in my opinion, is the way to go. My friend Renette had just redone her kitchen and was really happy with her builder, who happened to be in her Bible study group: a friend reference AND a Christian? That’s a good start. Jeremy came to give us a quote and his prices were more than reasonable.

Now without boring everyone to death with details of what, when and where, for the next four weeks our house was transformed into, well, a building site.

Léa’s bedroom, before and after: The wall where the door is, in the first picture, has been moved by about 1 meter, claiming the space of the passage that ran behind. It made the bedroom more spacious. The floors were redone and there are still shelves yet to be done on the small orange piece of wall.

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The boys’ bedroom, before and after: The little piece of wall on the right hand side next to the door was removed. The door was moved by a meter to the left, again claiming the space of the passage running behind. The second window that is now part of the boys’ room used to be part of the entrance. My highlight is that my boys can now have single beds, as opposed to bunk beds. They can make their own bed and have taken complete ownership of what their bedroom looks like. It’s the tidiest they have ever been. For some reasons, it also meant that Killian, who was always freaked out at the idea of going to his room on his own, is somehow not scared anymore. Big big step for him! He can now relax on his bed, reading his books ON HIS OWN!!!

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Bathroom, before and after: this was difficult as this bathroom is tiny. We wanted to get rid of the bath and install a shower so that the kids can use this bathroom instead of ours (messing our bedroom up, having pillow fights while waiting for their turn). Countless measurements later, we could only just fit toilet-basin-shower all in a row. Plumbing was a bit tricky but that was the builder’s problem! Pfew!

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Those are only pictures of the finished work and yes it goes without saying that we are absolutely thrilled with the results. The job has been done beautifully and I would choose Jeremy over any other builders without hesitation. These are some of the other reasons why I would completely and utterly recommend Jeremy Louw (because being a friend of a friend and a Christian doesn’t make you a good builder!):

* Jeremy is extremely well organised. When he said “Monday this happens”, lo and behold, it happened. He knew in advance what part of the job had to be done and it was planned and executed on time.

* The first part of the job was carried out by Jeremy’s foreman. A man named Tony, taking pride in his work, with 30 years of experience behind him, very friendly and considerate, speaking kindly to his 2 workers. One of the workers, Lange, had the most amusing laugh, a bit like a cartoon character. I loved hearing him joke around and laugh with the other worker. (The point here is that because the workers are well treated, they are happy workers!). One day, Tony and the 2 guys had to stay much later because Phillip and I changed our mind on something. They stayed until they finish their work properly, still chatting to us with a smile on their lips.

* The same workers came for the whole length of the project. That might sound insignificant but it meant that the workers were trustworthy and I could leave my house while they were still working and not fear that things would go missing. It also meant that the workers are skilled workers, they know what they’re doing and they’re doing it well. 

* Even though Jeremy was dealing with other projects at the same time, he still came around several times a day to make sure that everything was going according to plan, bringing and removing stuff as needed, even checking that I was not going bananas with noise, dust and disruptions while trying to school my kids. It does install an atmosphere of confidence that I don’t have to worry about the work because Jeremy is in charge.

So, good price, excellent service, reliable timing and great quality of work… If you’re looking for a builder, feel free to contact Jeremy Louw at jeremylouw@gmail.com

And just for a disclaimer, I don’t get any discount for bragging about Jeremy unashamedly🙂

 

 

Full of grace, seasoned with salt.

7 Oct

A couple of weeks ago, a blog post was written about the attitude of young girls on Facebook. The writer described how teenage girls’ selfies are a stumbling block to her growing sons and that sadly, (girl)friends on Facebook who will display inappropriate photos will have to be unfriended. Her blog post went viral and created mixed emotions around the world. It certainly generated discussions in my neighborhood and was a main topic at my daughter’s birthday party (among the parents, not the children!)

The writer’s intention was not to hurt anyone’s feelings nor to be judgemental. Her intention was not – but the impact was unfortunately not what she intended. Her post was considered by some to be unkind and judgemental; for me, it made me reflect on whether it truly reflected who we want to be as Christians.

Part of our discussion here in my house was around the question: how would you have done it? Was it just a matter of tone? Should she have chosen different words?

My initial reaction when I read her post was to be angry and frustrated. I am a Christian woman and a mother and I have real concerns over what is accessible on the internet. I have two young boys and the idea of helping and teaching them to keep their mind pure is, at times, overwhelming. I have a daughter and the task of teaching and showing her to ground her identity in Christ and not in the fleeting values of this world is, at times, overwhelming. I too, feel my blood pressure rise when I see teenage kids doing the exact opposite of what I would want for, or what is helpful to my own children. I too, feel like walking up to them and say “really….???”.

But then I go back 20 years ago, and I remember that teenage girl that wore tight pants and low-cut tee-shirts. I remember that teenage girl that would have done anything to attract the boys attention, just because it felt good, just because she needed to be accepted and loved and she didn’t know any other way of doing it. She didn’t know that there was a God who loved her a thousand times more than any man looking at her with lustful eyes. If somebody had said to her “If you dress like that, you cannot be friends with my family”, she would have felt judged and misunderstood. She would have felt alone and angry. She certainly would not have tried to understand where that somebody was coming from. She would have been taken away from an opportunity to know Jesus – the one who accepts even the prostitute.

The day I gave my life to Jesus was the day I understood that He had always loved me unconditionally. And on that day, I was probably wearing inappropriate clothes.

So how would I have done it? Was it just a matter of tone and different words?

There are no words kind enough to reject the outsider based on his behaviour. There is no tone gentle enough to judge the outsider. 1 Corinthians 5 puts it so simply: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside”. The word of God has so many beautiful things to say to those who still try to find love, acceptance and purpose in the things of this world.  I have been given a precious gift to share with the girl who is selling herself so short on her public profile. Would not the knowledge that the Lord loves her as she is be more life-changing than the knowledge that her clothes are too skimpy? It is tempting to enforce our moral compass on the people outside our faith, but how disastrous an effect it has on them.

The Lord has not called me to control their behaviour. He asks me to control my own, and He has given me the responsibility to teach my boys how to control their own. I cannot blame the girls’ dressing code for my boys’ lustful thoughts.(Would that not be a lost battle anyway??) No, my boys need to learn to take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. They need to know deep in their heart that the lasting beauty of a woman does not only lie in her bosom (because let’s be honest, some of her beauty is in her bosom!) but more importantly in her heart where she nurtures Jesus.

I know that the responsibility is on my boys’ shoulders. However, I also know that, until my boys reach a certain level of discernment, I will monitor their online presence, unfriending people with questionable profiles if it helps them. I want my boys to grow to the point where they find the quiet confidence to detach themselves from the girls whose selfies make it too hard for them not to stumble in their thoughts. I want them to know in their hearts that the Lord values women so much that He would hate for them to have a distorted view of them by looking at their ‘sexy’ pictures and lust after them. Until they are mature enough, I have the responsibility to guide and encourage them.

If my responsibility to outsiders is to present to them how wonderful the Gospel is, a lot of thought is to be put into my online presence.The widespread online media makes it that much more difficult to act and react in a way that brings glory to the Lord’s name. Social networks are a knife with a very sharp blade. Sometimes we cut more than we intended. Most of us have good intentions for doing or writing the things we do. But sometimes, good motives aren’t enough. The only stumbling block to someone’s view of the Lord should be the Lord Himself, not our pet-peeves and rantings.

Let us be bold of the Gospel, of Jesus who forgives, of the Lord who loves, of the undeserved gift that He freely gives us.

His word will bring conviction and repentance.

Not ours.

Pets: when you can’t say no anymore

6 Oct

We are not a pet family. In almost 13 years of marriage, we barely had a forced cat-adoption, a mutant bunny and a hamster that mysteriously disappeared.

I feel that I need to insert a disclaimer at this point to make sure you don’t think that we hate or hurt animals. Our dear cat chose to come stay with us and abandoned her previous owners (surely that speaks well of us, right?) and puberty had the better of the bunny who nearly removed Phillip’s finger before escaping. As for the hamster, while we’re still wondering how he got out of his cage, his body was discovered floating in our pool.

With our kids growing up, we get the occasional “Can we please have – insert flavour of the month – for a pet?”, to which we obviously respond with a “Hmm, let’s think about that” (which means over-my-dead-body). It usually quickly gets forgotten. However, lately, Léanna has been persistent with her idea of having a dwarf rabbit (I guess all this talk about being perseverant did sink in. Darn it!) Fortunately, in spite of my recurrent bunny-from-hell nightmare, I’m not entirely against the idea of owning a Thumper. So we eventually agreed that she could have one for her birthday.

Some reeeeaaaaally cool people in our Bible Study (they’ll be so happy to be mentioned here, they’re my biggest only blog-fan!!!) love DIY jobs and are really good at it. In the same way that I take a book to relax, he builds things in his garage. Besides, they are also bunny-lovers (they don’t have kids, that’s why…) and lately he’s been building rabbit-hutches for Africa. So naturally, I’ve asked politely, in my very non-subtle French way if he would perhaps build a hutch for us; and because they are such great people, they freely gave away their entire Sunday afternoon to come and build with not only the most non-DIY people in the neighbourhood but also with our two boys “helping” – and by helping, I mean “hindering”.

Now by now, you should know that I sometimes exaggerate. So no, we are not completely hopeless, my boys are not so bad and they are not that cool!!

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Miko, a very patient (and a little cool) teacher

Miko, a very patient (and a little cool) teacher, with my 2 kids in front and a 3rd one hiding behind, all posing very proudly.

So here we are, with a rustic homemade hutch. I love the rugged look: planks are not completely straight, there is a gap at the back and the roof is not fixed but I would have it no other way. The boys were very proud of their work, Léa was very excited and I am very thankful to Miko and Mary for making this project happen.

All we need now is a bunny… but more of that in another post!

The door in the wall

4 Oct

The-door-in-the-wall

 “If thou followeth a wall far enough, there must be a door in it.”

A door in the wall.

Doors can be mystical, revealing a secret or keeping it safe. We have a new door, a door in our wall. I’m not talking about the book but of a literal door.

Recognise the door of the mathematician by the equation, of the French by the, hum, french writing,  and of the children by the half-erased markings.

Recognise the door of the mathematician by the equation, of the French by the, hum, french writing, and of the children by the half-erased markings.

Seven years of living in our house and we followed the wall far enough to put in a door leading from our bedroom to our bathroom. The irony is when we moved in, there was a door. Maybe the lock on the outside (!!!) felt so oppressing that we removed lock and door together.

It is nice to close it when I want privacy, even though it doesn’t stop my children in their footsteps. It is also another artefact on which my OCD husband can (hyper)focus on. “Did you close the door?”, “Why didn’t you close the door?” are his famous last words in the evening – but I love him so.

Our door is back, the true door of an applied-science-of-mathematical-statistician (Is that right honey?), a french chick and a few half-bred children!

Drama party

28 Sep

Léa has been doing drama for a few years and it has become one of her highlights in the week. Last month it was her birthday, and going from a superhero party (don’t ask me where it came from) to a hamper party (which excited her – and me – as much as going to the dentist) to no party at all, I finally had a lightbulb moment and thought of a drama party! It turned out to be the easiest party to organise and probably the one that she enjoyed the most.

The idea with our drama party was to put into practice everybody’s acting skills. Most children are drama queens anyway, so it was  a matter of putting structure around these theatrical little people.

We started with a few rounds of charade to get warmed up.

Stella acting ‘going to bed’,

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Léa acting ‘catching a big fish’,
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Rachel acting ‘a hook’,

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and Kiera wondering how to act something that seemed to scare her🙂

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Our second short game challenged them to line up first according to height, then in alphabetical order of their first name. All that without being allowed to speak! They struggled a bit with all the ‘Ks’: Killian, Kaira, Kiera, Katie!!

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They clearly needed some fresh air by then. We went outside where they had to act according to how they feel about words I told them.

Here they are expressing their feelings about ‘bananas’: one happy chap, others…not so much,

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their feelings about monsters (not sure about Léa here),

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and their feelings about birthdays.

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We then moved on to acting different emotions. Rachel and Kaira being sad,

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Kiera, Dayna and Léa being tired,

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Killian and Matt being angry (my boys are familiar with this feeling as you can see by their great acting face),

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Cass and Kaira being bored (to death for Kaira it seems),

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and Katie showing surprise.

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After some well-deserved refreshments, the part that Léa had been looking forward to for weeks and weeks was a showcase of a short scene. She wrote a script of an argument scene between four people (a convenient writing assignment for school taken care of). The kids were then split into 2 teams and each team had to prepare and perform their scene in a different style.

Here they are preparing their lines (so professional).

Team 1: Léa, Kiera, Kaira and Rachel

Team 2: Dayna, Stella, Katie and Cass

Team 1 was given the style Downton Abbey – british and aristocratic (Yes, Léa might have watched an episode or two…).

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Team 2 was given hip-hop style – the yoyo-dude and what’s up-sister style. They definitely looked the part!

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They really had a lot of fun all together, a real creative and teamwork outlet for a 10 year-old birthday party.

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