Is your kid ready for big school?

On Sunday we went to a birthday party for one of Liam’s school friends. More than anything, the reason I like to go to school parties is to interact with the other parents – to hear what their kids are up to, how they are liking the school programme, what big schools they have chosen and who else’s kid is giving them a hard time. Yes, I go to the parties for Liam and Hannah to have fun and get a sugar rush, but my main reason is definitely to catch up with the other parents.

The school principal has a little boy who is in the same class as Liam, so we are often at the same parties and it gives us a chance to chat in a less formal setting. As is the norm, the moms were sitting together while the dad’s were hovering over the slippery slide trying to maintain some sense of order as the 4 year olds (and their siblings) were going buck wild. We got chatting about big school – I usually let all the parents who are on lists or who have been accepted into private schools when Timmy was all of 4cm’s in utero, talk first. Then I let the shock and horror set in when I pipe up that Liam isn’t on a list and no, he isn’t going private. At this party there were at least 6 other kids who weren’t going private so my joke about not having to re-mortgage the house to afford school fees went down well.

Anyway, I’ve done my homework, I know that children are now allowed to enter Grade R in the year that they are turning 5, so essentially this means that a child CAN be 5 turning 6 in Grade 1 (turning 6 before 30 June in the year of admission.) The previous rule was that the child had to be turning 7 in the year they entered Grade 1. Also, government schools will first accept children who are 6 turning 7, thereafter if there is space, a younger child will be considered. I’ve spoken to the school I intend to send Liam to and they have advised that based on the pre-school he attends and the caliber of student they have received from this pre-school, they would gladly consider taking Liam – but would need a letter from his pre-school confirming that he is “emotionally ready” to enter the next school phase. The Grade R programme coordinator did imply that unless I think I have a genius on my hands, I should consider letting him start the following year because it just gives the child another to mature  – but it would be entirely my choice, and based on the letter of recommendation from the pre-school and the spacing issue, I wouldn’t have a problem enrolling him. Ok fine, I understand that and I respect her advice. My thing is that Liam has been in a class with these same children who will graduate to Grade R next year, since he was 18 months? He has taken part in the same curriculum, he has been taught the same life skills, he has been in the same environment and completed the same tasks as everyone else in the class – and he has excelled. Not once, has there ever been any concern about Liam’s develop – emotional, mental or otherwise, and in fact his teachers and principal alike, have told me on more than one occasion that he is the top boy in the class, bar for a very smart little girl who I have come to love who tops him in everything! He is well on par with (and sometimes above) the other children in the class – even though his birthday falls earlier in the year.

Right, so back to the party … in passing the principal announces that Liam and a few of the other younger children in the class (including her son), will have to do Grade R TWICE because they’d need to be a year older to get into Grade 1. So I immediately say no that rule has changed, Liam will be able to join Grade R next year and move straight into Grade 1 in 2015. She replies that yes maybe the rule has changed but schools are reluctant to accept younger children so she thinks everyone should just be 6 turning 7 the year they enter Grade 1. Right. I didn’t want to launch into a dictation about how I think Liam is ready and if the school I have chosen accept him, then I just need a letter of motivation from you, blah, blah. That was not the right forum for THAT discussion. Also, I didn’t want to come across as THAT mother who thinks their kid is a genius when really he is just a normal Joe Bloggs. So I just said ‘yes, we’ll need to discuss that one!”

So here’s my thing. If I had any doubt that Liam was not ready, I wouldn’t push him. If I felt that he wasn’t emotionally ready or that he would struggle to adjust, or that he needed another year repeating the same work to build him up – rather than make him bored – then I would gladly let him do Grade R twice. But WHY would I hold my kid back, IF he was capable? Also, I don’t like confrontation – I’m nervous about the conversation that I obviously need to have with the principal considering I will need a letter from her motivating why we want Liam to be considered for Grade R in the new school. And on TOP of that I want him to do Grade R in the “big”school I have chosen, rather than stay at his current school, because I’d prefer for him to move into Grade 1 with his new little friends who he would meet in Grade R, rather than starting him in Grade 1 and be the newbie without any friends while the rest of the class have all moved up together. So besides needing the motivation letter from Principal, I also need to hand in Liam’s resignation even though I know her school offers an excellent Grade R programme! Not sure she is going to like that very much!

Lastly at the back of my mind is the fact that if I held Liam back, then he and Hannah would be in the same grade and I can’t say that that bodes well with me. And I don’t want to hold HER back because of it. But even still, if I didn’t think Liam was ready, I wouldn’t insist EVEN if it meant they would be in the same grade. Just to be clear. My sister is a Grade 1 teacher, while she thinks that Liam, of course, is a genius because he is family, I actually want her to do a real assessment for me, an impartial assessment and that will be the deciding factor.

Anyway, what do you think? What’s your take on kids starting big school in the year they turn 6, versus the year they turn 7? Anyone have kids who started school earlier than 7 years of age?

Dear Big Liam and Big Hannah #6

Dear Big Liam and Big Hannah

We are living in tough times. While I want to protect and shield you from all that is evil, I can’t make like these atrocities are not taking place around us. I can’t lull you into a false sense of security when we are all susceptible… all potential victims. I need for you to be aware, alert to the evil dangers that will cross your path, vigilant and on your guard all the time. It’s a sad state of affairs when parents have to teach their children to be wary of everyone and everything.

Parents, these days, need to literally frighten their children, in an effort to ultimately protect them. It makes me feel sick.

So here it is.

Don’t trust everyone. Let very few people into your personal space, and even those people – you need to be wary of. If any person ever touches you in a way that you don’t like, talks to you in a way that makes you feel unsafe, even LOOKS at you in a way that gives you the creeps, get.out.of.there. I know, oh I know, that there will come a time when you won’t tell me everything, when you will freak out if I come into your room without knocking, or go through your stuff without asking, but I need you to feel like you can tell me anything. And as much as it’s up to me to foster that sort of relationship where we feel comfortable enough to talk about anything, I need for you to trust me, to believe that my paramount concern is your protection, your safety and your happiness. This overrides any other emotion – anger, disappointment or hurt that I may feel over something you may have done; I promise to work through all those reactions if you just talk to me and help me to keep you safe.

I wonder what the statistics will show by the time you are my age, my mind boggles at the idea that it can get ANY worse than it is right now? I wonder how many more terrifying headlines we will read, how many more families will suffer at the hands of evil? How much more blood will be shed, how many lives will still be lost, or left tainted? I don’t want you to be a statistic! I don’t want you to live in fear for your life! I don’t want you to be a victim! So I’m telling you the truth here. The world we live in is evil and it’s not going to get any better.

So I release you into the care of The Almighty. Believe that I will do everything in my power to protect you, but there are some things that not even I can shield you from. I pray that you walk with the Angels wherever you go. And I pray that I will raise you to be wise! Wisdom is a tricky thing, and common sense is not common at all. But I urge you to be wise in your choices and decisions – choose your friends carefully, be wise about the places you choose to hang out at, and if that little voice inside smells a rat, it most likely is a rat and you need to listen to it. Don’t do things to fit in; so many bad things happen to good people because they were trying to fit in with the cool crowd. Don’t let any person make you do something you don’t want to do, and don’t be fooled into believing the horrible lies some people will tell you to make you do something you don’t want to do, as convincing as they sound at the time. You do not need to learn from your mistakes – if you KNOW in your heart that what you are about to do is wrong, then don’t do it. The line between fun and stupid is so very thin, please tread lightly here.

And then some things may happen that you simply can’t help or avoid… these will be the hardest to deal with but again, trust me here and let me help you and be there for you. We need to stick together. With all the carnage out there in the real world, we have to do everything we can to maintain some semblance of “normal” in our own little world, if we want to survive these crazy times. So while the tone of this post may be scary, depressing and leave you feeling somewhat unsettled (that was my intention because I need you to know the truth) we will still live life to the fullest. We will do happy things, and go to happy places and try new things and enjoy everything that life has to offer. While I still know what makes you laugh and what makes you cry. While I can still make you feel safe with a cuddle and kiss. While I can still fix anything with a plaster. While I am still stronger and braver and better than the monsters under the bed. I vow to give you your best life. The rest is up to you and God.

Love you both,

Mom xxx

My son, today you are 4.

The first time ever I saw your face, I thought the sun rose in your eyes… 

Liam, my baby love, you are my heart. I look at you and I can’t believe that I had a hand in your creation. You are a beautiful boy, both inside and out. You have given me the best four years of my life. I can’t believe you are four already, I remember holding you for the first time like it was yesterday. You were the sweetest baby, I could stare at you for hours and hold you for as many, even though everyone said I was spoiling you by carrying you all the time. You kept me up at night, and drove me crazy during the day, but I wouldn’t change one thing about you. Maybe it’s because you were my first born, maybe it’s because I see so much of me in you, but you are my favourite and only son. You delight me in ways my heart didn’t register until I became a mother. You give me this deep satisfaction just by being. I want to protect you, fight your battles for you, keep you under my wing forever. But as you grow, it’s your independence that most takes my breath away. So I let you explore, I loosen the strings ever so slightly and let you be. I wish you would stay this age, this way, forever. Your infectious laughter, your crazy questions, your effervescent personality. I love how people love you. You are so smart and mature beyond your years that sometimes I forget you are only a little boy – believe it or not, you have solved many a problem of mine with your simple and plain answers and I think to myself, why didn’t I think of that? But you are also a mischievous, rough-and-tumble, farting-burping boy’s boy! Bringing worms from the garden into my clean kitchen and stealing your sister’s dolls and digging out their eyes. Pulling your bottom lip out, stomping across the wooden floors and banging your bedroom door when you don’t get what you want. Oh, you can be trouble!

I would move mountains for you, I would break my back for you, I would lay down my life for you … for you, I would “kill-a da bull.” Gladly. You are my son, an extension of me, my life’s work, a masterpiece, fearfully and wonderfully made under The Potter’s Hand. I am so proud of you, I am so proud of ME because of the person you make me. Not the screaming, yelling person you make me (because you do make my blood boil sometimes son)  – the other person you make me… you make me kind and gentle and loving even when I don’t particularly want to be. You calm my beating heart and make me laugh after a horrible day. You break the silent treatment I try to enforce when I’m being particularly awful and you’ll tell me that everything will be fine, even when you don’t know the source of my frustration or pain – and you are usually right.

This birthday, I am grateful that we have both made it through a whole ‘nother year! I am grateful that I get to spend this day with you, celebrating the wonderful person that you are. Thank you for being such a good boy, a good big brother and a source of light to everyone you encounter. My prayer for you is that you will continue to sparkle wherever you go and in whatever you do. That you will feel the love you so readily show to others. That no harm in any form will come upon you, that you will live long and healthy and be a blessing to others, just as you are a most incredible blessing to me.

Happy 4th birthday son.

Assuring you of my constant love and affection.



This slideshow of you made me cry! My perfect son! Thank you God for Liam John!

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Turning 4.

Liam turns 4 on Saturday. I can’t believe it. Where have the years gone? Feels like it was just yesterday when I held him for the first time. But we’ll leave all the sentimentalism for his annual birthday post later in the week. Today’s post is about the logistics related to celebrating a child’s birthday – well my child’s birthday at least.

We toyed a lot with the idea of giving Liam a party this year. I initially wanted him to have a great big party at home but then I realized that from a cost perspective, that I couldn’t justify spending thousands on a party (yes, add it all up, a kiddies party goes into the thousands) when there were many things around the house that needed fixing, when there were school fees to be paid and debt to be settled. I then decided that I’d have a smaller more intimate party so I started making a list of all the people I would like to invite. It was a very long list – clearly we know too many people and are way to popular for our own good. Ha. So then I scratched that list out completely, and made a list that I think Liam would have made himself. Bear in mind, all Liam wants is a Spiderman cake, that’s his only request for his entire birthday, a Spiderman cake. The Liam list comprised of two children. So I went back to the drawing board and gave this birthday celebration thing a whole new once-over. Before your kids get to the age where they start telling you what they want for their birthdays, who they want at their parties, what kind of party they want… who are we actually having this party for? Yes, I want everyone present to celebrate my child’s life, to make a big hoohaa over him and make him feel as special as he is, but what’ the use of a big party when your kid would be as happy with a Spiderman cake with 4 candles? I feel like I’ve done these birthday parties for ME, more than I have for THEM. They don’t care if Peter, Sally and Joe are there or not. All they want to do is eat cake, drink pop and open presents. Please understand I am in no way trying to console myself with the fact that Liam will be “just fine” with a cake versus a big bash. But the truth is, HE WILL. And I’ve made a decision to enjoy these years of anything goes, until he gets to an age where he starts making demands for his birthday (probably next year, I am not that naïve). Anita put it so nicely when she said to me that all small children want at a party are Flings, cake and juice.

So this year, he will have his school party where he will get to celebrate with the friends who he actually spends the majority of his little life with, and his teachers will make a huge fuss over him and he’ll get to wear the birthday hat and stand in the middle of the birthday ring. On his birthday which falls on Saturday, there will be cake, chips, sweets and presents and the people who are closest to him – us, and his best buddy will also come around because they are not in school together. He is a lovable so-and-so so I’m sure there will be the odd visitor who pops by to wish him and have a piece of cake.

 I am at peace with my decision to do things this way this year. And I am relieved that I’ve gotten out of serious party planning – at least for another year. Can’t wait for this kid to have his birthday though, I think I am more excited than he is. I do love making a big deal out of birthdays – party or not – because when you’re someone as special as my Liam is, you deserve a sugar rush and a Spiderman cake. And special it will be. Just like him.

Ps: he has also been promising from the time he turned 3, that he would stop sucking his thumb on his 4th birthday. Let’s see how that goes…

Midmar Mile 2013: I chewed you up and spat you out.

The lightening woke me up at 4h15am, before my alarm did. There was a serious storm brewing and this added to my already frayed nerves. We got into the cars – my fan base and I – and left for Midmar Dam at 5h30am. It stormed from Durban to Howick and then miraculously opened up as we approached Midmar. I was relieved; the fear of having done all the training and then not been given the chance to TRY and swim due to the weather, far superseded the fear of at least trying to swim it whether I made it or not. Besides my whole family came out to watch, there was no way I wasn’t getting wet.

We were early enough to get great parking and a good picnic spot and the Port-a-Loos were still in good shape at that time of the morning. I had my two bananas and this drink my husband brewed for me – honestly I think all these endurance and slow energy release sachets that you mix with water are a waste of money, but anyway I drank it, as I had while I was training and let me tell you it does nothing for me. I was a bit nervous, not the same nervous as getting your spinal block before you have a Caesar, I think I was more nervous of the embarrassment of being fished out and taken to the other side on a boat, rather than swimming there!

The part that made me giggle was having to waltz around in my swimming costume ONLY. I’m the kind of girl who likes the safety of my towel around my waist, until I am ready to actually swim or tan. But I was surrounded by costume-clad bodies – in ALL shapes, sizes and colours and when in Rome, you do as the Romans do of course, so I pranced around oblivious to my jelly thighs and cellulite.

So I caught a shuttle from the one side of the dam to the starting side and took my place in my holding pen and the atmosphere was great. All the ladies were chatting and laughing and the general air of excitement was tangible. There were some very little people, they could have been six or seven years old and there was some old people who looked way over 70! I was an unseeded swimmer so I was right at the back with the white caps. In a way this was good because this was the no-rush crowd, most of us were doing it for fun and not to win so everyone was easy going. However I know now that the secret is to get away from the crowd as fast as possible, once in the water.

The mile seems A LOT longer in the open water, than it does in the swimming pool. Firstly, there’s people kicking you in the face, grabbing your feet from behind and sometimes almost pushing you under. Secondly, the water is obviously more choppy due to the hordes of people kicking and splashing and this adversely affects your swim. Thirdly, there’s no wall to grab on to when you feel like you just need a minute to catch your breath and you can’t stop halfway to adjust your goggles or pull your swimming costume out of your bum. My first struggle was trying to find my own space – I mean you would think in a massive dam, it would be easy to find a spot and swim your heart out. Not. My second struggle was actually swimming straight, I swear I swam about 2kms with all the zigzagging and blind swimming I was doing. I don’t swim breaststroke and swimming freestyle with your head facing forward is difficult. So every time I did lift my head, I was off course and had to readjust. My third struggle was other swimmers – every time I found my groove and got into a nice breathing rhythm and found that my arms, legs and lungs were all cooperating, I’d swim into someone or someone would swim into me, and I’d have to stop, regroup, and start over. Lastly, my greatest struggle was in my mind. You KNOW your body can physically do it – I’ve been swimming a mile a day for two months – there’s no way I wasn’t physically ready. But boy I felt like giving up more than once. I kept looking back to see how far I had swum because it just didn’t look like I was getting any closer to the finish. And every time someone swam horizontally pass me to get to the lifeguard boat, I thought yes that’s all I have to do. But I kept thinking of all those people waiting for me at the finish, I kept thinking that I COULD NOT BLOG about how I was pulled out of the water! I’d have to say that embarrassment of failure kept me swimming. Ha. When I could finally see PEOPLE dotted on the horizon and smell the boerewors on the braai, I started to see the light again. I swam as far out to the sidelines as I could, and just swam like my life depended on it – which it did because I was exhausted! I finished my race in just under 45 minutes, but that was the last thing I was concerned about, I grabbed my medal and ran… ok, hobbled past the finish line.

I felt awesome at the finish, proud as punch. And it really did feel like it was all worth it. I’ll be doing the race every year for as long as I am able to. I think what I’ve learned from this experience is that I do limit myself in many areas of my life. I’ve always said I am a realist and try not to look at the world through rose tinted glasses, but what I’ve realized is that my realism often harbours my potential and subconsciously I’m always looking at the glass half empty and crediting it to “being realistic.” I’m going to start putting myself out there more often and see just how far I can go. My husband wants me to start jogging with him. I use the word jogging very loosely – I picture myself walking at snail’s pace (there I go again – forgive me). I said to him that if he kits me out with decent shoes and snazzy sweat bands for each of my wrists, I will consider his offer.

I must just make mention of what a well run event it was. From online registration, down to collecting your medal at the end, everything ran seamlessly and without drama. Just the way I like things done. The kids had an awesome day out, we picnicked on the banks of the dam afterwards and besides the race itself, it does make for a really good day out. The Midmar Mile will definitely  see me again next year! I did it! Yay me!

Me and Hannah Banana relaxing after the Mile
My cap and medal!

My name in the paper. Feels like matric all over again.

There I am at the finish!

midmar 2
No, it’s not made of gold. *sad face*

midmar 3
Well done kisses!

Proud as Punch!

I’m swimming the Midmar Mile. No seriously!

Now that you’ve picked your jaw off the floor.. remember this post? Yes, the one where I made all those wild and outrageous promises to myself on the eve of my 31st birthday. Well, turns out I’m actually following through: on Sunday, 10th February 2013, I will dive into the cold waters  of the Midmar Dam, along with about 14 000 other people and doggy paddle my way across the dam. I’m swimming the Midmar Mile. 

I must admit that I am feeling a teeny tiny bit nervous  – I haven’t swam in open water in over 9 years. But the fact that I am seeded with the under 13’s and over 31’s does make me feel slightly better – not sure why because looking at last year’s results, these gals can swim their Speedos off. Those under 13 nippers with their young over enthusiastic bendy bodies better not stampede me over, before I even get a chance at floundering in the shallow waters. My game plan is to let the crowd run and cannon ball into the water and then slowly edge myself towards the water once the dust and splashing has settled. But hey, I may be caught up in the euphoria and be the first to kamikaze myself into the bottomless pit of the Midmar dam.

A mile. That’s 1600 metres. That’s a kilometer and then some. It ain’t a frolick at Warm Baths Resort, ya know what I’m saying? I was not going to blog about this until after the event because my pride would take a serious dent if I didn’t make it after blabbing about it all over the internet. But bugger that, even if I don’t make it, the buildup has been great and the day will be great even if I have to be pulled out of the water (oh please Lord no). I’ve enjoyed swimming every night and the time it gives me to reflect on life. I think I’ve enjoyed that hour all to myself more than anything else. I’ve enjoyed watching my body break boundaries again. In my “youth” (because I am soooo old now) my cousin and I used to swim lap after lap, our young bodies slicing through the water and our lungs effortlessly expanding and contracting. NOW. Oh my word.. that first week back in the water was tough. I felt like I was going to combust, I felt like my lungs were going to explode all over the Planet Fitness pool, I was imagining the aqua aerobics girls in the last lane screaming and jumping off their pool noodles to get away from the bloody debris. But in these last few weeks, I’ve become quite comfortable with the swim. My body has proved to me that it still got it, don’t be fooled by this cellulite and these rolls and these stretchmarks and these varicose veins – THIS BODY CAN GO BABY. I’m not slicing through the water like a shark anymore, it’s more the gentle lull of a whale. But a killer whale ok. Yeh, that’s right.

Anyway friends, wish me well and tell me I’m going to be awesome. Pray that Monday’s post will have one with a photo of this ‘ol whale and her medal.

ps: if I don’t make it, I blame my husband who basically forced me into this, dragged me kicking and screaming to the car, put my gym back in the boot and waved me goodbye to go and train.

pss: if I DO make it, I want to thank my husband for his constant encouragement and arm twisting, and for believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.

Drum Roll.. photographic evidence that I sucked at ballet.

Ok, so the other day I got tagged in a friend’s photos on FB. When I receive a “you got tagged” notification, I’ll admit it makes me a bit nervous. Not in a Kim Kardashian kind of way because I definitely don’t have “those” kinds of photos or videos floating around in cyber space, just nervous because there’s only one kind of photo your childhood friends have of you… it’s called EMBARRASSING. Luckily, I’m not easily embarrassed, but still, I have a reputation to uphold, street cred. to show off, you know. I’m now cool mom, I can’t give my kids ANY ammunition to take me down – this means no mom-jeans, and definitely no photos of myself from the 80’s. Can’t have teenage Hannah and Liam roasting me for my fashion (and other)  faux pas.

But these photos I have to share. Perhaps my mother thought that ballet classes would help her pigeon toed, knock-kneed daughter – clearly NOT. The part that amuses me the most is that I actually thought I was good. Like really, I thought I could have made a career out of dance. I even danced for The Playhouse Company, took part in many festivals and productions. And when I look at these photos I have to ask myself one question… HOOOOOW? I danced until I was in Standard 9, and then I think my mother couldn’t hide it any longer, she had to break it to me that I sort of sucked. In my defence, I think I had “stage presence” – and that carried me for a while. But let’s be honest, it takes more than an animated face to join the Russian Kirov Ballet Company … you can join the Russian circus with an animated face maybe, but that’s about it. Anyhoo folks, today’s laugh is on me. For free, gratis and mahala! Enjoy!

ballet 1
There I am, second from the right, looking like a stiff robot.
ballet 6
None of that liquid fluid balletic movement here. It’s all stiff and angular – with red lipstick. There I am on my knee in the front.
ballet 4
Looking more like a gangster rap group, than a ballet class right here. I’m in the middle on the right.
ballet 3
Frank Sinatra would be ashamed of our New York, New York rendition. Third from the left.
ballet 2
Had to throw this one in… I should have just stuck to swimming. I like my angry swimmer look. And I think Liam looks so much like me in this photo!

A trip to the dentist

Liam has had this little hole in his back molar for the last month or so. He has never complained about pain, and I’ve just been waiting for the medical aid to tick over before taking him to the dentist. Anyway, yesterday my child was in pain and I quickly booked him in for a visit this morning. I KNOW how bad toothache can get, I am the queen of toothache after all. Remember this post? 

He wasn’t afraid at all, which I was grateful for, because I am terrified of the dentist and I’ve tried really hard not to transfer that anxiety over to him. He was the perfect gentleman, and the dentist really did a great job of making him feel comfortable in the chair. She filled his hole while telling him stories about Spiderman who came through that window over there (everyone had to stop to take a look at the window) when he came to get his teeth done.

She asked him questions about who brushes his teeth and how often. I felt the heat rise up my neck when he told her that mommy brushes his teeth everyday in the morning but not always in the night because mommy is always tired. Yup, he said that.

Anyway, we’ve managed to save his milk tooth until such time that it falls out naturally… hopefully. The dentist was giving me tips on preserving their milk teeth for as long as possible.. I sort of zoned out when she started talking about flossing… lady, I don’t even have time or energy to floss my own teeth, it’s just not going to happen. I’d rather cut back on the candy for the kids.

Check out my brave boy … nevermind he is groping his place of safety as my sister so aptly put it.. haha!