Saturday, May 13, 2017

right now

It's hard to blog when all the big things happening around me at present aren't my stories to tell.

Big things happening to people who are big in my life - filling me with sympathy, sadness, fear and fragile feelings of maternal tenderness.
There's a lot of them - people I love at whom life is throwing some big curve-balls.

WTF life??

The things I can write about are a mixed bag ...

... my Lego is failing fast. When the vet said 6 - 8 weeks, 6 weeks ago, I kind of scoffed. How could he be so sure when we've no idea how long she's had the cancer for? Turns out he knew (being a vet and all I guess). In 10 days time I go to Joburg for a week ...

... Joburg for a week to run logistics on a fab project. It'll be a week of hard work and hard play - my favourite kind. Johannesburg is interesting this time of year - icy cold nights (way colder than CT ever gets) and still, warm days. Good people, some of whom were with me in Durban last year, and interesting work. I'm looking forward to it, were it not for my ailing furbaby.

But in other news - we finished our bath renovation!


Well, besides for a small snag list ...

But it's lovely, very 'executive' as my brother called it (i.e. black and white and sleek), and now of course - totally different to the rest of our house.

It's been about 6 months in the making - the old bathroom was ripped out in November - and we've had the work done slowly as we've had the cash, or inspiration. We're 'hashtag blessed' to have had other loo's to use in this silly big house of ours. It's been fun, and we're hoping to keep up the momentum. We've been reminded that we love doing this, and I think we're quite good at it.
Photographing a bathroom is hard though - thank goodness for that massive reflective shower screen!

Life is hard, life is beautiful, life is relentless. What would we do without it?

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

in time of drought ...

... drinking ants in ones tea becomes less reprehensible than emptying and refilling the kettle before boiling it.

... the amount of ice blocks in ones drink becomes a question of conservation, not taste.

... the merits of paper towel versus water play through your head as you wonder whether to wipe or rinse a greasy pot. You can drive yourself mental playing this 'which is worse/better' game.

... your loo can look like the scene of a horror movie as you resolutely flush with bath water despite your daughters predilection for garishly coloured bath bombs.

... you add, to the other multiple lists in your head, a roster of which plant has received grey water when and which is more deserving.

... the sound of a sprinkler is arresting, and out of place. One instantly harshly judges the sprinkleree.

... a dirty car becomes a badge of honour.

... other people's hysteria about the water shortage weirdly makes one feel calmer?

... small people worry. She brushes her teeth with an inch of water in a cup and when she's finished, swills the last drops around in the bottom and asks, 'What shall I do with this Mum?'

... and when there is rain - it's only happened about twice this year - everyone stops what they're doing to watch it, and all the pot plants go out to play. And everything feels right with the world again, for just a minute.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

the hard stuff

A friend who is battling cancer did such a good Facebook post this week.
Couched in a wry, humourous story about her kids, she subtly updated her broader friends as to where she's at in her treatment.
For those who hadn't known she created a light space in which to reach out with their love and concern, for those that did, some light relief from the heartache of watching a good friend go through this.
There was no pity party, no drama, no big announcement - just a gentle 'this is my life now and it's hard but still full of love and laughs and we carry on'.


It's hard to tell other people when you're having a shit time. You feel self-conscious about ruining their day or happy mood, you feel like you're trying to illicit sympathy, but it's more about needing people to know - this is what's up with me, it's not that great.
Be gentle.

What's up with me is that my doggie is dying.
Lego has lymphoma and the prognosis, 4 weeks ago, was 6 - 8 weeks.
She will be 9 this year. She hates going to the vet. Her liver is affected, her lungs and possibly her heart. For these reasons, and others, we're not going to attempt chemo.
We're going to keep her comfortable for as long as we can and then one day, soon I fear, we're going to phone our lovely vet and ask him to come here and put her to sleep in her bed, in our arms.

She knows. She's slowing down for sure, still eating and being herself, but slowing down. Yesterday she didn't come outside when I was throwing bits of wood for Orca, usually a game she'd get involved in, just watched from the door with a waggy tail and a sad eye. She's always been good at the sad eye my Lego, there's a reason we sometimes call her Eeyore.

She sticks close, wandering in with her 'don't mind about me' demeanour, to plonk herself down with a grunt and a nudge, and sleep at my feet. In the evenings she comes to tell me it's couch time - time for TV and a cuddle. In the night she wakes me with an apologetic nose, to let her out or fill the water bowl which is no longer lasting 'til morning.

She knows and she's saying goodbye.
I know and every chance I get I'm saying, in the ways in which she understands, 'I love you Lego'.
This is what's up with me, it's not that great.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

easter happened



I was woken Easter Sunday morning by a small child shaking me.
'Pinkie-swear Mummy, pinkie-swear you're not the Easter Bunny.'
Hungover AF (we were in Hermanus, with friends, we'd celebrated a 50th the night before, there'd been a very excellent Taiwanese whiskey), I groped through my remaining brain cells.
'Pinkie-swear Mummy!' 
Little finger crooked in my face, big earnest eyes - this was serious.

I examined my conscious, and made a hasty decision. Actually yes, I could pinkie-swear I wasn't the Easter Bunny.
Was I fluffy? No. Did I zoom around the world planting chocolate eggs? No. Was I a fictional being? No. Although the whole experience did feel a little out of body tbh.

I wrapped my little finger around hers and shook it. 
'Pinkie-swear', I croaked.


The situation was nearly as awkward as a bell jar crammed with bunnies.


None-the-less, back home Easter happened in a far more adult and tasteful fashion.

Monday, April 24, 2017

ex-spike

For nearly 3 weeks I had a dead hamster in my freezer.

Spike, the innocuous grey and white dwarf hamster Frieda got for her 8th birthday, succumbed a few months short of the 2 years we were warned hamsters usually last.
I ... didn't really get the hamster thing. He was kinda cute, very soft, but more likely to bite one on the sensitive web of skin between your thumb and forefinger and leave a string of turds down the front of your shirt than anything else.
His cage ponged and his wheel squeaked all night.
We had to keep the girls bedroom door closed all the time for bull terrier and cat risk.
Except for the couple of times we didn't.

Spike's most noteworthy achievement, in his small life, was to not once but TWICE ward off attack by voracious bully. Orca just couldn't resist that little guy.

#hamsterwatch
Very possibly the stress contributed to his shortened life span. Spike got steadily more crabby and less lovable. His fur lost its lustre and that wheel didn't squeak as energetically at night. One morning I realised he was really not happy. I called the vet to warn him I'd be bringing in a hamster for euthanasia, I prepared the girls (home for the holidays and remarkably - worryingly? - unfazed), I kinda berated myself for not being butch enough to just hold a ball of socks over the little guy's face until it was over, but call me 21st century soft if you will, I just couldn't do it.
And by the time I got upstairs to fetch him it was basically all over. He was lying in the sawdust, in a coma I think, occasionally a limb twitched but he seemed peaceful and that to move him would be more traumatic than to just close the door, tip toe away and come back later.

No more caged pets please.

Husband felt we needed a proper burial and so, in a box and a bag, into the freezer went Spike.
And then we forgot to bury him.
And the next night we all got home too late.
And the next day is was raining, or something.
And then it was rubbish day and I informed the family I was going to send Spike off in that great wheelie-bin to the sky.
And then I forgot.
And then the next rubbish day was Easter Monday and we were away.
And then finally, today, after that box had been opened a couple of times by morbidly fascinated children, after I'd shuddered more than once getting ice for a drink or scratching around for supper makings, after we'd had a very naughty but delightfully squirmy imagining about a ... hamster smoothie ... I managed to get him out, in time for rubbish collection.

RIP Spike.
No more caged pets.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

lately

Our new (to us) Flying Dutchman sail boat is moored off the lawn, all the shiny bells and whistles clapping in the wind. Well done, well done.
Husband spent the WHOLE of Sunday rigging it and at 18:30, as the evening drew in, we set off on our maiden voyage - a fast clip around the lake. And this in just a light breeze! We LOVED it!
Nearly 5 yrs on and life at the lake still has adventures in store.


I could do without the tinkling though, we're going to have to do something about that ...

Our little dog Lego is in tatters ... she went under the knife yesterday to have two cancerous growths removed and she looks like she's been in a dog fight with a hatchet :-(
We've not had the pathology results yet but we're hoping the vet got it all and that we still have much more time with this sweet furkid.
She really looks like Frankenweenie now ...


Recovery includes treats with her meds, grated apple served to her in bed and lots and lots of snuggle time on the couch (which means I've been watching a lot of TV!).

There's another new baby!


He's not a blood relation this one, but as close as ... first son to some of our dearest friends.

We're coming to the end of the first school term of the year. It's been a long one and the girls are tired. So am I. Not that there's a holiday in the works for me, I'm got an event on in Joburg in two weeks time, but ... just the not having to wake early on these ever-darkening mornings will bring some relief.

But we did get out of town a couple of weekends back - a short mums and kids camping trip to one of our favourite places. It was hellishly hot and the time flew by in a haze of endlessly refilling juice bottles and reapplying sunscreen but we spent a lot of time in the softest, most delectably gentle and soothing mountain river water I've ever known, which made it all worthwhile.
I took no photos.
We've done this a few times before, no-husband camping trips, and I must say we love it. Not that we don't love camping with our partners, but there is something simpler about girl-camping - feed the kids, eat crackers and cheese, go to bed early with our books. OR feed the kids, eat crackers and cheese, sit up late 'round the fire drinking wine and cackling.
My favourite thing about it is showing my kids that we can. Pitch tents, light a fire, handle a massive thunderstorm and unexpected rain (that happened). That we can drive off-road and jump start a car and you know, be ballsy. Except is it not the most unfeminist thing ever to think you have to prove that you can? I'm so tempted always to tell the girls: Look, look what we're doing, aren't your mum's awesome? But I don't.
Far better to just do it right? To just let this be a normal thing for them.
I do hope they remember though, I hope taking their kids on road trips and camping without waiting for a man to be available to accompany them, I hope this will just be a normal thing for them too.

Oh and one last thing, a Pixies concert.


A throwback to our wild youth on a magnificent summers evening in the most beautiful garden in the world, surrounded by many friends - from then and now - listening to a bunch of aged rockers as tight and magnificent as they were then.


There was magnificent merch too.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

sim


My girls have only had one cousin. A great big man of a 21 yr old boy, son of my husband's sister.
He's very sweet, very fond of the girls, but he's also very shy and not a chatter at all. Clearly not from my side of the family.

I grew up with hosts of cousins. None of them lived close by but we would meet up on holidays and special occasions and run in a pack, always feeling that connection that we were related, always knowing that was special.
I've talked about them a little here.

I've always felt a bit sad that my girls haven't known that sense of tribe.

But we're working on it. Well, my youngest brother and wife - them of the magnificent wedding two years ago - are working on it.

On March 14th they gave us Sim. A little boy named for a Great-Grandfather he never met.
A nephew. A boy cousin. A new friend.

Thanks dear people, we love him.

Monday, March 13, 2017

7

By last Saturday evening the bags under my eyes were almost as deep as these panda's. We had a house FULL to the brim with friends, flowing freely with G&T's and laughter and wet swimwear and sticky floors and toys everywhere and not a crumb left to eat or a clean fork or glass or mug in the place.
PANDAmonium!


Black & white food (kinda - chocolate brownies are dark enough right?) and ice cream cake and a black rice salad (which I'm still craving every day since) and more and more and more.


MASSES of people (our guest list seems to keep getting longer - a nice kind of problem to have), most of them of the just-above-the-waist-height variety, and lots of love and the sweetest, dearest birthday girl.


She was such a star, this baby girl of mine. In the days after the party I got many messages remarking on how polite she was, how engaged and thoughtful, how considerate.
These make a mama's heart sing.

But that heart does feel a little sore too. I know from her older sister that this year, 7 to 8, is really the last of the little girl years. A lot changes in the next 18 months and very soon I'll be in this space lamenting my lack of smalls, and celebrating my two very big girls. One more year with a soft-cheeked cuddler, who still (just) fits on my lap and requests a 'bednight' story and can't quite reach the bowls on the top shelf.
I plan to make the most of it.

Friday, March 10, 2017

suspended

I stood on the stoep and watched a butterfly. One of those big orange and white faux-monarch ones, I could see his/er feelers twitching.
And then, a starling. Picked it out the air.
So quick, the insect had no more knowledge of it's end approaching than a pea suddenly speared with a fork on a plate.
The bird whipped away, and empty blueness remained.

The dabchicks are back. This is a sure sign that autumn is coming. They are the smallest, and the loudest, birds on the lake. They are very shy.
A family of them float in the water just off the shore. I stand from the table where I have been sitting and with an almost imperceptible plop, in one movement, they are gone.
The tiniest ripple remains.

The water weed sits dense and murky along the edges of the lake. This is the late summer bloom, close to the surface, rich and mysterious.
A huge fish hangs suspended in a grey-green clearing. I sit very still on the bank and watch him, faintly his tail sways, I think I see an eyeball swivel.
I blink, and he is gone.
A massive creature, he manipulates water to envelope and hide him.
The faintest wisp of stirred up silt remains for a second and then drifts away to belie his ever being there.

This week was heavy, and awkward and slow. I have this stage, paused between jobs, when I get crabby and frustrated and bleak. I have work (yes, I am grateful) but no pressure and the lack thereof retards me so I drift pendulous and heavy through my days, wanting to be productive but spending more time suspended. Thoughtful. Slow. Prone to existential examination which is neither healthy nor particularly interesting. I bore myself.
But unlike the butterfly, I know the jolt will come. I know if I hang out here too long I'll be in trouble. Like the fish I know this oasis of calm is encircled by the dark woods of the unknown and I shan't have too long to spend here. Like the dabchick I know I will soon be swimming fast to get my head back above water, back into safer territory.

And when that happens this week of disquiet will fade and disperse into my life and just be that one moment, when I was suspended, before action and movement and change.

Monday, March 06, 2017

mind the gap


See the child, hanging out with her best friend in the shade on a hot afternoon. The shade from the acacia tree we planted just 3 years ago - when it just reached the top of the fence.
See the exposed concrete banks and the weed in the lake - the mouth is open and the water is low. See the reflection though, it is summer but it is still - a rare gift.

Now see in the top right corner, that green grassy gap between the houses opposite. This post is about that gap.
They're all over the place here, little green spaces which allow access to the water - so that this is not just the privilege of us lucky few who live beside it. People launch canoes from them, feed ducks and dip toes, lovers canoodle and dogs tear around, and when you live opposite one as we do, you get to spy on them all.

It's a funny little blank space, always smaller when we've walked over there than we've imagined. It's a little stage if you will, and all the world are players on it.

Dog walkers appear stage left - and march across stopping, or not stopping, to pick up their dog's poo.
There are two cats who regularly frolic and hunt there. An enormous malevolent ginger (he hunts) and a slim Siamese who looks from here like she's wearing little white sneakers (she frolics).
We once watched a Jackal Buzzard alight there with its lunch, dismembering it elegantly until a postman on his bicycle disturbed it and it packed off elsewhere to finish the meal. We walked over later and found a neat pile of gizzards and some feathers.
Some naughty kids once appeared - throwing stones at the water birds and trying to scale a neighbouring wall - I yelled at them and their laughter carried across the water back at me.
We once saw a black fox. Or thought we did until binoculars revealed it was a well-known local dog, with a new and very distinctive haircut.
A few weeks back a pram was parked there, in the shade but seemingly alone. Unable to stifle their curiosity, Frieda and friends swam over to inspect. We watched them approach it with some caution, until they turned back to us and shrugged - it was empty. Later it was gone.
Sometimes at night a torch beam swings to and fro over there, shielding the carrier and revealing nothing but our deep-seated neurosis about mysteries in the night.
There are boys who play cricket. The thud of ball meets bat and accompanying cheers or groans float across to us.
There was an otter on a stormy winter afternoon. Right up out of the water, loping along the bank in the driving rain.
And on the weekend there was a puppy. And then another, and another, and another - a whole line of puppies, TEN puppies! Ten puppies gamboling and tumbling in the green gap across the lake.

Often times, most times, the gap is empty. Maybe a lone hadeda pecking at the ground. Maybe something unidentifiable which requires finding the binocs and confirming that it is, indeed, a felled branch or bit of litter. But mostly empty.
Until it isn't and some small tableau unfolds before us. It's always worth keeping an eye on that gap.