Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mellow Tuesday

Today King Arthur is at home - we arrived at school, and he burst into tears telling me he hadn't slept that well (for the record he slept VERY well!). My heart went out to him - it's not only us adults that find the pace of the end of a year exhausting, but they feel it too. So I gave him the option to come home with me, and we are having a wonderful day - relaxed, chilling and at peace. He's asked to do craft....

This was his idea can you believe it?
Knew exactly what he wanted to do and make...
I'm impressed - and they even fly quite well!

And of course Belle had to make one too!
King Arthur now wants me to bake a cake with him for Aragorn, who went to school....sweet man!

I am fully aware I need to prioritize some blogging time - we had a fantastic Thanksgiving with all our American friends - the house just absorbed 30 people - I am SO THANKFUL for this home!

And I am approaching this weekend with something akin to pure dread - I have entered a 98km race on Sunday...

  1. I have never done this race before and do not like riding an unknown route
  2. It is in Stellenbosch, and my start time is 0648, which means I am likely to have to wake up at 0430 to get there on time ( I am a morning person, but that my friends is pushing it)
  3. In training the most I have raced is 80km...(those extra 18km make all the difference)
  4. Which took me 5 hours with breaks - and now my cutoff time is 6 hours (i.e. no breaks...golly)
  5. My bike appears to be having problems with gear changes on ascents - which means on steep hills I have to stop, turn my bike over, re thread the change and continue racing....unknown hills people, unknown hills.
  6. And I am supposed to be doing this to better my seeding for the Argus, and my concern is that this race might DROP me a few groups :( boo hoo!
So ... wish me courage, and strong legs that won't cramp...and that we can find overnight babysitters and a place to stay that side of the world so my wake up time ( this is of course if I sleep) is somewhat more normal!

What was I thinking????!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Christmas Concert 2010

The three wise men, aka King Arthur and friends 

Belle was mesmerized the entire time -
just too sweet. And I sobbed the entire time!

The shepherds and angels  -
Aragorn is in the lighter colored outfit

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our Box Day

As we near the end of this year and look ahead to prepare for the new seasons in the year to come, I recognize what a privilege it is for us to be able to choose the curriculum we want King Arthur to follow. And I deeply appreciate that choice, and the circumstances that have allowed us to do that.

So it has been a week of great anticipation - we ordered Sonlight, and started tracking the movement of our order. What amazed me was a few things - first, how incredible the customer service was - literally - I had replies within 24 hours from knowledgeable people who could walk me through things step by step, and the boxes arrived before I had even finished plotting it on the map! King Arthur, Aragorn and Belle all dived into the boxes, and their joy and delight was just wonderful. 

The kids had fun with everything -
the boxes, the wrapping, the stuff!
(excuse the expressions, I think they were
singing a song whilst pretending to
be presents!)

I had this profound sense of peace, which I found so wodnerfully reassuring. Obviously with King Arthur being at a nursery school, and all his friends going into grade one, there's a lot of school talk: uniforms, new classes, teachers etc. And over the last few weeks as I've listened to this I have questioned - what is wrong with me that none of this excites me (mainstream school), non of it makes me want it for my children? So this Box Day, this great sense of peace, affirms for me that this, this path less traveled, this is the path for me to take. 

And we are all looking forward to it.

Thank you Lord. For the privilege and the opportunity.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Culture Chaos II

I feel like I don't have a culture.

Not a singular one anyway. Sure, I was born Zimbabwean. But what are Zimbabweans anyway?

I am a mixture of everything.

I am feeling somewhat amused by culture these days, and am amazed at how much it affects and influences who we are and the the decisions we make.

Perhaps I am able to see this more clearly because I have been ripped out of my culture and thrown into others a few times. Being in Korea was so freeing – there was nothing that made me feel compelled to wear frilly baby doll dresses like the Korean women, nor bows and ties etc ( I kid you not, stop laughing!)

Growing up as a kid, driving into South Africa on holiday every couple of years was a BIG deal. Ask any Zimbabwean. The first stop for us was always Messina, and without fail I would buy a cream soda can of soft drink, my brother a raspberry one, my mom a lemon twist and my dad a coke. And oh the chocolates! Do you know, we'd buy a couple of bars of different chocolates and then when back in Zim after our holiday, my mom would cut up one bar into four pieces and we'd each have some – that was SUCH a treat! Yip, fizzy drinks in cans and chocolates were a real treat, at least to us!

Moving here 5 years ago was funny. Although I went to university here, I never noticed a big culture difference until South Africa became my next home and returning home was not an option.

South Africa is a lot more materialistic than Zimbabwe - there is a larger disposable income and also just quite frankly more shops and things that are pleasing to the eye. Do you know, Harare, the capital city, had no malls until a few years ago – really. They built them all when I was a teenager I guess. And they're huge sprawling malls that are uncovered – the sky is the ceiling. So if it rains, you just have to run between the shops! If you drive down any street in Zim, especially now, you will see LOADS of people walking alongside the road (that's partly due to no petrol therefore no cars and high unemployment) – but what struck me on a recent return visit to Zim was how simply these people on the side of the road are dressed. Here, on the road past my house, the people that work along it to work pay way more attention to fashion than I do! (Not that it's hard mind you, it just isn't something that has played a large part in my life!)

Another thing that tickled me pink was the white crockery. We sold everything in Zimbabwe before we came down here as we couldn't afford to freight it here, and thought we'd just buy everything again here. I remember thinking how plain and boring all the white stuff was – there was so little colour, so few options if you didn't want WHITE!

But here's the thing...clearly this South African culture has worn off on me, because now – I own white plates! Groan!

But it got me thinking on a larger scale – how much the culture of where we live affects us. This South African culture has rubbed off on me. I feel the obsession with fashion rubbing off on me as well.

I know some Americans who have recently married South Africans, and the differences they face are huge – such vastly contrasting approaches to life. It also made me think though, about our culture as Christians and the world culture....how much have we allowed the world to erode who we really are? How different are we really to the world? Are we different at all?

food for thought.....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Half the Sky

Women hold up half the sky
Chinese proverb

I was chatting with a frind recently about the incongruous nature of what I am feeling with regard to education and the female gender (groan, I am NOT in any way a feminist!), but she pointed me to this article written by Nicholas D. Kristof (a New York Times Op-Ed columnist) and Sheryl WuDunn (a former Times correspondent), which was absolutley fascinating to me!

IN THE 19TH CENTURY, the paramount moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was totalitarianism. In this century, it is the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape....

... in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and it’s not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos. There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bankto the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women. The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution.

Food for thought huh?

This essay is adapted from their book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” which will be published next month by Alfred A. Knopf. You can learn more about “Half the Sky” at nytimes.com/ontheground.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The flip side of the coin

Our good friends, the Albertyn's are back in Zimbabwe, and making a difference. (read their full story here)

They are changing the future of school children in an epic way.

Life altering.


Each time I get an email from them it shifts my life into perspective: it helps me to see what really is important and what I think is important.

I was surprised by my reaction to one of their recent emails though, that included some photographs and information about some schools even more rural than the one in which they are working. Conditions which you and I would never consider schooling possible in.

Can you make out the writing above the door?
This is the headmaster's office.

One of the rural classrooms. This school was on a farm
the government bought back from white farmers
in the 1980's.

These kids just break my heart. The odds they
are facing....

Another classroom

One of these far out rural schools is next to a gold mine, and Mark commented that many of the girls do not complete their schooling as they are taken as wives for the mineworkers.

That simple fact has done me in. Here I sit, with an education that is probably worth hundreds of thousands of rand in today's economy, writing about how I think girls should be educated about how noble motherhood is, and how important it is. I'm not necessarily using that education to its full potential. I spend my time writing about how angry I am with Western society that it applauds academia at the expense of family....but at the same time, on the other hand, I am so saddened that these girls don't seem to have a choice, an opportunity, to 'do' something with their lives. Incongruous huh?

Where does that leave the argument? Or me? Is it the complete imbalance between the rich and poor societies? I'm trying to figure this one out.

Food for thought huh?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Busy, busy, busy!

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by.  How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?  For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone.  That is where the writer scores over his fellows:  he catches the changes of his mind on the hop. 
Vita Sackville-West

Funny which things we choose to sideline when our lives get busy - I've been reflecting on this the last little while, and just realising that I've been side lining relationships and existing in a purely functional zone. There's something about school, even nursery school, that makes the last few weeks of the last term somewhat ruthless in its pace. And I sense that my writing in this blog is an indicator of where I'm at with my head space and the balance in my life.

Writing clears my head. It's like breathing eucalyptus scent when you're all clogged up. I am lucid and with it and can think straight. You know the movie “Chariot's of Fire”? In a scene Eric Liddle says, “When I run I feel his [God] pleasure.” And I guess I can say that about writing and cycling – when I really secure my thoughts and pin them onto paper/screen, I feel alive. (I've written that before haven't I? :))

But clawing one's way back into a life of meaning, a life of relating to others is a challenge to say the least. I guess the key is not to lose the balance in the first place. People...relationships...these are the only things I believe we will carry with us into eternity.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sentimental Snapshot

Braveheart and Belle

Got to love moments like these...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Aragorn's Meal Of Blessing

I guess this idea came from my love of Jewish culture and tradition - I find it so rich with meaning, purpose and symbolism, something so missing in my own culture. With both my boys there has come a point where it feels they need to be released into something more, to be affirmed - and usually I have found this to be indicated by an outward display of shocking behavior that echoes an inner cry - one that says "Do you see me? Do you notice me? Am I important to you?" And our reply is  "YES! Let us show you how important you are to us."

 And so this is what has been established: we create a special meal, a meal that the child chooses. And I ask a dear graphic designer friend to put on paper all the things I feel in my spirit for the specific child. Then we sit around the table, eat, and speak those blessings over the child. King Arthur had one when he was about three and a half - and I'm sure there will be more!

It is our privilege as parents to speak blessings of identity and direction over our children - it is our duty, it is our job. It is up to us to bless them into their lives. I believe this with all my heart, and am passionate about ensuring it for my children:

Jonathan's face at coming to the table and seeing it laid and
made to look special

Aragorn chose yorkshire puddings and sausages!

he loves candles and thankfully i had some in the drawer
so whipped them out!

reading the blessing over him - and he spontaneously went around
the table hugging everyone!

this smile of pure delight made it so worth it -
i could swear he looked taller by the end of the blessing!

rainbow jelly for pudding!
 It pays to listen to the promptings we feel - I've been wanting to do this for over 6 months!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Up with the birds

Yes, I'm not kidding you - do you know the birds wake up at about 0430 in the fairest Cape? And as I am embarking on a ride to the Waterfront I am up....and very bleary eyed make no mistake! I am sure, once I am on my bike and I eventually see the sun I shall enjoy it, but right now, my bed lingers in my head!

The pace of the last week leaves me feeling breathless. How is it that very once in a while everything seems to culminate in one week? I started a quilting bee to help me make the Christmas stockings I've wanted to make for years, (let's see if we get them finished this Christmas!), there's King Arthur's gym competition, my NEW sewing machine broke, lifts to Christmas concert practices for both boys, making curtains and tutoring, favorite authors in town signing books, Braveheart damaged his neck etc etc. So as a result, this poor blog has been put on the back burner!

However I assure you, I will return!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Purposeful Parenting

Today I had a conversation with a good friend of mine that kind of stopped me in my tracks - you know the ones. Where you're just left thinking wow, that's an interesting concept.

She was speaking about her children (13, 10 and 7), and how one of her parenting philosophies is that busy kids are kids that don't have time to get into mischief. She keeps her kids busy with sports, ballet and horse-riding - every afternoon and it usually spills over into weekends. She had just been paid a compliment by her sister-in-law (a first!) as she too has a 13 year old, who is into *everything* already. My friends 13 year old is horse mad, not boy crazy at all.

Now whilst the pace of her life leaves me gasping and wondering if there is any downtime, I started wondering if there is merit to her philosophy. For sure, bored kids in a classroom means unruly behavior, so is it the same in parenting? Just got me thinking  - is the key to well-balanced kids helping them to find a passion that they can throw themselves at that which keeps them from looking in places where there is only the illusion of fulfillemt? Food for thought huh?

And then I stumbled upon this post over at Generation Cedar, by Kelly Crawford:

I heard the parents of an 8-year-old girl defending the question of “the appropriateness” of a top pop song.  The mother answered, “Well, I mean, unless you shelter your children from all music and T.V. you can’t keep them from singing to and dancing to (said inappropriate song).”
The implication?  Parents are helpless to exercise their wisdom and authority over the things they deem inappropriate or harmful for their children.  This is a frightening implication for any parent, but especially disturbing as a Christian parent commanded to guide and direct his children “in the way he should go”.
Why would a parent feel he can’t (or shouldn’t?) protect his 8-year-old from lyrics he deems harmful (music is a powerful influence according to studies)? 

You can read further here...I'm having a revelation about how deliberate our job is as mothers. How noble it is. We...with our husbands, are called to equip our children to cope, to live WELL in this life. We are responsible for their life skills. Folks, it's up to us. Best we do it hand in hand with God because I don't know about you, but my goodness this is a much bigger job than I bargained for!

ps I loved Kelly's post on large families here!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Whose fault is it?

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa

This quote is reverberating in my mind today....

It is sometimes said that the worst thing to happen to Africa was the arrival of the white man. And the second worst thing was his departure. Colonialism lasted just long enough to destroy much of Africa's indidgneous cultures and traditions, but not long enough to leave behind a durable replacement.
(When the Crocodile Eats the Sun, Peter Godwin, pg155)

And Braveheart reminded me that what I am feeling is probably how countless black people have felt at the hands of white people in times gone by....

food for thought....