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A month full of Jion…

14 May

Three times a year, at Jion, the karate school that my kids attend, there is a grading. A grading allows a child to get his next karate belt if his Sensei (teacher) thinks that he is ready to grade.

Before sending your child off to grading though, they have to go through what is called a’ mock grading’ – which is almost like the idea of a ‘staged combat’. In the Middle Ages, the jousting games were also referred to as ‘mock fights’. So there you have it, a piece of not-so-useful information to drop at your next dinner party. A mock grading is therefore like a dress rehearsal before the premiere of a theatrical play. Stress levels are on a rise and performing at your best is important if you wish to prove to your Sensei that you are in fact ready to go to the real grading.

A few weeks before the mock grading, in our house, we live through a lot of karate moments. Over and above their twice a week karate lessons, there are moments of practicing their kata (organised moves that represent a fake fight), moments of staged fights with dad, teaching and teasing each other and of course a lot of hope and expectations to get the ‘Oss’ signal from their Sensei.

Between the mock grading and the actual grading, there are usually only 5 days (from the Saturday to the Thursday). However, the first grading for this year happened to be over some public holidays which meant that between mock and grading, we had almost 2 weeks. Two weeks over which a lot of bargaining and rewarding could – and did – happen.

‘Mmmh no, you can’t play on the iPad until you practised your karate.’

‘Ooh I don’t think you should behave like this. A genuine karate-kid should know better. Maybe you aren’t ready to grade to green belt… ‘

Aaaah, happy days these were…

These days of easy bargaining came to an end  beginning of May when the kids from Jion that were ready to grade, graded.

Léa and Killian graded to, respectively orange and green belt and Matty got 2 stripes on his white belt. Not yet ready to grade to yellow, his grading stopped at the mock grading. It’s always a positive life lesson when hard work is rewarded with the coveted result and for that day at least, their world remained a just, fair and fun world. Long may it last…

IMG_0502 IMG_0501


More than ever before I am convinced of the right choice of sport for all my children. Whether they are competitive, perfectionist, low-confident or just floppy, the values of discipline, respect for each other, hard work, healthy body development and a fun Sensei really build them up and make for a holistic approach to what is good for them.

And the best part is that they love it!!

If you’re interested in finding out more about karate in Cape Town, you can contact Sensei Dirk by going to the website

I promise I don’t have share in the business!! 🙂

The story of the Tetanus, the Whooping Cough and the Ritalin

25 Oct

No, this is not a medical journal – at least not one that will be worth referring to – this is the story of our last 2 days. Yes,in our modern days, we had to brave 2 almost-believed-to-be extinct diseases, mixed with the very much alive sickness-of-the-day (yes, ADHD is real and no, it’s not just a tale-tell made up by the teachers).

One of my friends’ son has been battling with a horrible cough for the past few weeks and upon her visit to the doctor, he was diagnosed with whooping cough. Naively I thought I would check with my friend Wiki what “whooping cough” is in French. It’s whaaat? La coqueluche??? Isn’t it something that my grandmother told me about, a weird disease that killed hundreds in those times??

Given that our kids are all friends, they happily and unselfishly shared the bacteria (maybe all these parenting speeches on ‘sharing is caring’ finally paid off) and on Monday evening, Matty started to cough. My panic button was immediately pressed and, with a faster reaction time than ADT (No record breaking here, though), I made an appointment to my faithful doctor for the next day. I have a 100% trust in my doctor and even though I read up on whooping cough, I knew he would be of much help on how to deal with it.

Next day, prepped up to face the world, one deadly disease at a time (or so I thought), we rocked up at the Medicross. I’m taking all the kids with me, I thought. Killian has a thorn in his foot. My dear doctor will surely help me to remove it as it looked slightly deeper than a Hollywood celebrity’s personality.

Matty was quickly taken care of. Whooping cough is highly contagious and the cough can last for months, unless it is detected at the beginning and treated with antibiotics, in which case the contagion is limited to only a few days. Good news for us, only a few days of quarantine. Tap, tap on my shoulder: Killian reminded me of the thorn in his foot. Ah yes, a simple formality. We need to go to the procedure room. Ah. He needs an injection to numb the area. Mmh. And he needs a booster for his tetanus vaccine. Oh boy. That’s way more that I bargained for.

I braced myself for what was to come. I lost some of my hearing on that injection. Some of my heart too. I truly wished I could switch places with him. It was painful. The doctor worked hard and long at removing the thorn that was 1 full centimetre deep. And every minute, Killian kept asking with tremor in his voice “Is he doing another injection?” No. “And now?” No. “And now?” No my love. Léa, crying next to me, sure did not wish to switch places with him but felt awfully sorry for her brother. Matty, on the other hand, said that he looked at everything the doctor did – unphased.

The tetanus shot was nothing compared to the first injection. By then, Killian was so hysterical that it wouldn’t have mattered anyway what kind of procedure they were doing on his arm, but I was amused by 2 reactions: the first was the nurse’s face when the doctor told him that the one brother had whooping cough and that the other one was at risk of getting tetanus with the infection in his foot and that he needed his booster shot. She might have thought we were some kind of amish or something…The second was Killian’s neurotic behaviour stopping in a split second when he realised that his second injection was already finished and exclaimed **bravely**, “Oh! That wasn’t even sore!”

Back home, things went back to normal. Until the next day. Wednesday. Killian had been on his absolute worst behaviour throughout the day. Starting from not wanting to sit for his reading, to lashing out at his brother, defiantly disobeying me, going from zero to 100 in a few minutes, speaking to me in a way that not even Jack Bauer would to his tortured enemies, ending up in clinging and begging me to forgive him.

I tried to understand what was the matter. Was it payback for allowing him to be hurt the day before? Had I not given him the right amount of Ritalin? (and believe me, I make sure of that!) I even considered an adverse reaction to his previous day vaccine – I could already see the headlines “Mother kills child after vaccine’s unfortunate side effects”. At 4 o’clock, I had the choice between death (I wasn’t sure whose yet) and a top-up of his medication to help the poor sod out of his misery (and mine). At the first signs of him becoming sane again, we talked. Somehow, in the morning, when given his pill, he hid it under his tongue and did not swallow it. Relief was my first reaction. Utter frustration was next. Frustration at Killian obviously. Mostly frustration at people thinking that Ritalin is unnecessary, that parents and teachers just need to try harder.

A few minutes into Ritalin, roller-costered-out and calmed down, looking at me with his big hazelnut eyes, he says “I feel better now”.

And here ends the story of the whooping cough, the tetanus and the ritalin. They had many children and lived happily ever after.

Matt’s Sixth Unbirthday

27 Sep

Two Wednesdays past, it was my little one’s unbirthday, his 6 years, 2 months and a few days birthday. The reason I think it’s important to mention it, is because I haven’t written anything about his real birthday – apart from the celebrations he had in France with the whole french side of his family. However, for my own sake, I like to write a few things that struck me during the year about my children. I like to reflect on the year past and see how much they have changed, grown, improved and acquired (even if only a little bit).

For example, Matt’s noise level. I can’t really say that he has toned it down. I don’t know if he feels that he has to speak over the noise to be noticed and heard, or if he has just been granted this low hoarse loud voice but he is noisy. Mind you, he’s mostly noisy when he plays playstation. One would think that parents tend to send their kids to play video games to have peace and tranquillity. Not so in my house. I worked hard at having a positive attitude towards playstation and the like (yes husband, I do acknowledge that there are some positive attributes to these mindless educative games) but it looks as though the moment the remote hits his hands, there’s an automatic switch to jumping up and down while shouting really loud at the screen too. Has he improved at his problem solving skills? Apparently so. (Is my skepticism too obvious?). Has his eye-hand coordination developed? **Confused silence**. Is he equipped to live in a technology-minded society? Absolutely! Has he learnt to control his enthusiasm with remote in hand? No he hasn’t!

Joke aside, Matty Matt has a solving problem kind of brain. I love to see the way he thinks and solves the confusing elements of his little world. Matt is never caught without a good reason for what he is doing. I often tend to think that there is no real thought-through reason for what he does (or does not do) but I am wrong more often than not.

He does not wear shoes is because the socks’ hems irritate his pinky toe.

He does not enjoy his oats in the morning because it makes him hot inside (mind you, he has no choice) but he’s not being picky about his food. His most used expression has to be “I’m boiling!”. Summer in Fréjus was tough on him!!

He does not remove his watch to take his shower is because he then forgets to put it back on and he then can’t read the time when he needs to.

When he’s a grown-up, he does not want to be married. Shyly, he confessed that he does not want to kiss the girl (sweet!)

He wants to be a builder when he is a grown-up because one day if his house burns down, he will be able to build it again.

One day to explain where his throat was sore, he described “At the back there, where the punching ball is!” .

I realised more and more this year how independent Matty is. I experienced his independance just a few nights ago when he wasn’t feeling very well. At bedtime, he told me that if he felt bad during the night, could I please give him the medication (aka Stopayne). Around 4am, I was gently woken up by a little boy tugging at my sleeve, soflty asking me to give him some medication. When asked if I should carry him back to his bed, he kindly replied that it wouldn’t be necessary and he walked himself back to his bed, down our long dark passage…

Because I was different when I was little, I like that he is not easily influenced by his peers. Matt won’t do something because everyone else is doing it. I think he’s very much like his dad in this regard. When I look at him and his friend Jethro, it makes me smile to see how well they get along for as long as they’ve been wearing nappies! They are both strong stubborn little boys but somehow their friendship works. They are both not particularly sporty so most of their time is spent talking, like 2 old grandpas, often arguing about what their respective mums have been telling them about life, God and dinosaurs.

And talking, Matty can do. He never stops. When he doesn’t talk, he sings. And when he doesn’t sing, he plays the piano.

Ah the piano story… When he started to take piano lessons this year, he worked at it for a few lessons and then started to act silly with the piano teacher, pretending that he was tired, or couldn’t hold his hands properly. I later realised that he found it boring as he had to repeat the same things over and over again. In Matty’s fashion, he taught himself to play the pieces that Léa, his sister, was playing. A bit more difficult. Repetitive tasks for Matty were not going to challenge him. Hmmm, do I sense some ADD there? But he took that challenge by the horns and played the more tricky pieces.

This year also has been a year where Winnie the Pooh and many of his family and friends have visited us – often. A visit for each lost tooth. It’s been 5 visits, to the despair of brother Killian who seems to be stuck at 3 (despite the 21 months difference). Matt is now left with that big love gap in the front. Isn’t it the cutest time? “I am sixth”, he says proudly with the most beautiful lisp. His “s” are still sounding like “sh” and, while I know that I will probably worry about it at some point, for the present, I am thoroughly enjoying his “How many shweeties can I have?”

Matt is definitely a thinker – as much as a 6 year old can think. Bedtimes are precious for all those thoughts that have been racing in his mind. Do you know why thumbs are important? he rhetorically  asked. Because without them, you can’t grab thing. Indeed. You know, he said another night, Mamie didn’t call you “Ingrid” (English accent), she called you “Ingrid” (French accent). Indeed again.

And that’s all the anecdotes I can remember for now… I wish I could remember much more. But at least I have pictures too 🙂

If I’m 6 in France, am I also 6 in SA?

22 Jul

Matty’s birthday was celebrated at my mum’s place, Fréjus, France.
I love those shots of these brief moments. Swift, stolen and special…






Karate is contagious!

18 May

Our house has become very safe over the last month or so, thanks to these 3 karate kids! Léa and Matty follow in the steps of Killian. Matty with his I-don’t-really-mind attitude is decidedly the most chilled out karate person I know. Léa listens attentively and tried her hardest to look the part. Mmmh, she makes me think of the prayer mantis character in Kung-Fu Panda, with her long dangling body.

But they are all super motivated (Matty in his own way), they love it, they sweat at it (Matt comes at the end of each lesson and tells me “Look Mama, I’m nearly sweating!’). Léa is practicing practicing practicing. She is in the same class as Killian (white, yellow and orange belts are together) and wants to feel that she is good enough.

I love the structure of karate, the discipline it requires, the respect of others and the way the gradings are organized. If you work hard, whether you look good or not, you will move on to the next belt (well, in the early stages at least) which is great for young kids. It helps them to stay motivated and to know that they can do it. No doubt, Killian looks much better than Léa, but to a certain extent, it’s irrelevant.

Here they are, taking their role very seriously! Killian not flinching (apart from the oh-look!-a-butterfly moment), Léa trying to look fierce, and Matt and his cooler-than-cool attitude. Aren’t they cute!!!

The only downside is the washing. Lots of white, white and white!!

The last of his kind

7 Sep

It is done. Matty lost his first tooth. It does feel like the little bit left of my baby is slowly falling away, one tooth at a time.

I had no warning, no time to get ready for it. Killian lost his first tooth months after being 6. Mattéas is only 5 and a few months…

Big hole!!

His cute little teeth, with extra special gaps in between, don’t look very sturdy anyway. So when he came up to me, eating his apple and saying “ma dent is baie sore” (meaning my tooth is very sore; ma dent me fait mal), I wasn’t too surprised to see his tooth dangling front and back and sideways at the slightest touch of his tongue. Moments later, coming back from his shower, proudly wet and naked, holding his tooth in his fingers, he shouted “I lost ma dent!!!” (meaning I lost my tooth).

Proud. Wet. Naked. And toothless.

Bramble Elfglow was Léa’s special fairy – she has now retired. The spirited swashbuckler tells Killian all about his adventures when he fetches his teeth. Matt hoped for Winnie the Pooh to come and deliver a message. But Winnie is far too busy finding Eyeore’s tail to come and collect a tooth. So Bernard the bear, who is a friend of Winnie the Pooh and lives in the same forest as him, came to take the tooth.

As I re-read my letter, I giggle at two things:

One, at my lack of inspiration at 10 in the evening. My kids have the habit of losing their teeth on a wednesday at 5 o’clock when we have Bible Study until late. Inevitably, it sends me into frantic panic to find the paper, print the picture and search my brain for something meaningful to write (such as ‘don’t fight with your brother!’).

Bernard the bear writes a letter.

Two, at the incredible things that children believe. That a baby bear would come to their bedroom, stick a letter and a photo of himself in their slipper and that noone would hear a thing? But no worries, we put the alarm on in case thieves want to open a window!

However the delight on their face the next morning is priceless for any mum. His best part of the letter is the fact that the paper is dirty because Bernard’s paws are full of honey! (Coincidentally, it is the same aged paper that was used by last year’s pirates that left a letter into one of Killian’s books!!).

So Matty is the last one of his kind. Grown-up teeth are leading the way into big-boy-hood. One tooth at a time.

Teaching opportunities – when to grab them, when not to…

12 Aug

Let's talk about circumcision!



It is 5 o’clock. Shower time for the kids.

The conversation goes like this.



Killian: Why does Jesse’s penis stay open like that (demonstration) and mine doesn’t?

Ahaaaaah. Teaching moment. I see circumcision explained. Sign of the old covenant. Sign of the new covenant. Baptism. Promises of the Lord. I see a great moment where we all gather on my bed and the kids listen to my words, nodding in agreement and wonder.

Instead, I get crazy Killian time (a bit like Pumpkin Patch time), laughing his head off and shouting “aaahaaahh, so Jesse is an Israelite!”. Matt is trying to have his penis to stay like that of an Israelite while jumping on my bed and Léa is catching Killian’s jokes, building on them. I catch myself keeping on explaining why we baptise today when I suddenly realize “why am I shouting as I’m talking about the wonderful promises of Jesus!!!!!”. So I kept quiet.

This is what I learnt from this experience.

Tip #1 – Don’t try to have a serious conversation with naked children at 5 o’clock.

Tip #2 – If you’re going to talk about penises, theirs should be covered.

Tip #3 – If you have to shout to cover the background noise, their attention level is not what it should be.

Take it or leave it! Happy teaching!


My little Eeyore…

22 Jun

5 years old and all his teeth!!! …well, in french it rhymes, “5 ans et toutes mes dents!”











My little boy says that when he grows up he wants to be a teenager. He thinks his daddy’s work is to learn to make more money (partly true!) and his mummy’s work is to learn kids stuff (he means I teach them some stuff, hopefully that is also partly true). Recently I threatened to call him Eeyore because he acts like his life is gloomy. The day was not good enough. The movie was not long enough. The doughnut was not chocolaty enough and the play date was not fun enough. Eeyore.

On his up-days though, he takes intense delight at being as tall as his older brother – not quite an achievement really – and at being heavier than that same brother. The dark side of Star Wars is still dominated by Dol Phyne (Darth Vader) and the best wizard’s name is Harry Patate (seeing that it means ‘potato’ in french, it gives Potter a certain comedy style!). He has a special gift at making jokes at a time when I have no patience for it, like hiding under the bed at (past) bedtime.

I think he finds it hard to be the baby of the family, especially if your brother is Killian, 6 going on 10. I’m sure they consider arguing and fighting as a hobby. They love to irritate each other and cause the other one to be in trouble. I’m convinced it has become a competition. (Please Lou keep on praying for them to be friends!!) But deep down, I know they really need each other.

Matty is my independent son. He’s not scared of the dark and will go to the dark dark daaark bathroom all on his own, Killian and Lea in his trail taking courage as he leads the way . If you want to see a beaming smile, you can give him time on the playstation or on the ipod. He might even be able to help you out if you get stuck. He absolutely hates tomatoe soup, and potatoes in ANY form make him gag. He loves sticker books (thank you Taryn for the gift, it is permanently attached to him!), listening to stories and ME 🙂

One of my favourite moments (probably because I am very much wanting another baby… Lou??) is watching him in the shower. He still looks so little with his fat little hands rubbing the water off his face. I enjoy his long love declarations as I put him to bed, his ‘don’t ever ever ever leave me’, ‘stay with me forever’, and his ‘I wish you could sleep here with me’.

Maybe my little 5 year old boy is not so big after all.

Happy Birthday Matty Matt!!!

Becoming a pirate

6 Jun

With this fancy new phone of mine, you can ‘easily’ play around with video footage. I say ‘easily’ in inverted comas  (entre guillemets) because it still takes quite a long time to reach the finished desire product… But worth the nap time wasted on a sunday afternoon!

These 2 videos are nothing in themselves, sibling playing their imaginary games but they are – will be – such treasured memories. How quickly they grow up… Sigh!

The preparation of the game – becoming a pirate – takes time!

Being a pirate and acting like it comes more naturally. Isn’t it about just shouting and kicking and…doing cartwheels and handstands of course!!

I’m glad to say that they returned to ‘normal’ at shower time. By normal I mean they stopped the acrobatics exercises 🙂

Matty’s busy schedule

16 May

*** Famille en France, c’est tout spécialement pour votre régal!***

In the past few weeks, we had a schedule filled with “Matt and his singing”.

The first video is Matt’s little concert from school for Mother’s Day. I apologise for the silly laugh in the background. It is mine. Matt looks very funny, like a dismembered puppet. He was unvoluntarily hilarious 🙂

Matt est celui avec les longues manches vertes sous le tee-shirt jaune.

This video is Matt’s Sunday School (leur programme de l’église), also for Mother’s Day. Less funny but still cute. His face when the little boy next to him spoke in the mic is priceless. You can almost hear him think  “Yes that voice was yours, scary huh!”


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