Finding myself (again!)

It’s impossible to find anything when you’ve got small children – car keys end up in the toy box, remote controls under the couch, and shopping lists in chewed-up shreds in the sandpit at the bottom of the garden.


It’s hard enough to keep track of nappies and wipes, library books and playdates – let along work deadlines, dinner and getting that broken cupboard door fixed (I’m getting there, Mom, I promise). So really, it’s no wonder so many new moms lose themselves a bit along the way.


I “found myself” in high school. Then I found myself again while traveling on my gap year (this was a more thorough job, including a more defined identity based on piercings and hair dye). Then at varsity, I found myself all over again (at the bottom of a bottle, usually). After grad, I found a new self; then I found my soulmate and had to find myself all over again in the context of a life partnership. When I gave up waitressing and tutoring for the real world of working, I had to find myself all over again. And now here I am, lost again, and wondering why I didn’t just pull a Hansel and Gretel with the breadcrumbs and finished.


Nearly a year ago, when I realized that my office job was not making me happy, I took a big decision to change career paths. After much searching of soul and bank balances, and what must be the longest notice period in history (therein lies another tale…), I handed in my keys in June and stepped into the wonderful world of freelance writing.


It’s a little scary not having that reliable pay-cheque magically appearing each month, but it was a good choice. I’m happier, marginally less stressed, and I’m finding it easier to balance my work commitments with my commitment to my children.


But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.


I was supposed to take a couple of months off to recover from the severe physical and emotional burnout of the last year. Then I was supposed to create a strategy that would balance all the important aspects of my life: parenting, profession, and things that are valuable to me. By leaving the confines and demands of my job, I was supposed to create time in between the writing and the childrearing to blog more often, to read more, to cook nutritious meals for my family, to get the vegetable garden up and running again.


Then this morning I realized I’d completely wandered off that path. I looked in the mirror and saw a gaunt but not unattractive woman with a bit of marmite in her hair. But I didn’t really recognize her. She certainly did not look like she had the time to write a blog or tend a veggie garden.


And then, in a melodramatic fashion fit only for a soap opera, the inner monologue started: Who am I (now)? Who do I want to be? What are my priorities? My passions? If I died today, would I be happy with the way I’ve lived my life? (I told you it was melodramatic.)


So I took the morning off to think about it. A few hours later, instead of answers, all I have are tighter deadlines and longer to-do lists. But at least I’m asking the questions again. And I had the most amazing sourdough welsh rarebit at the Corner Café, which in itself probably makes the quest worthwhile :-)


Now I’m off to find those interview notes I thought I put in my bag this morning, then I’ll find the kids, find some clean nappies, and find the time to take them to the park.


And who knows? Maybe I’ll even find myself in the process.


Ever felt lost? I’d love to hear about it.

green lessons from the previous generation

Another chain-mail that’s really worth sharing. And after you’ve had a bit of a giggle, there are some really simple, easy lessons that we can take from this to improve our “green thing” in our own lives – today.

The Green Thing

In the line at the store, the cashier told an older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized to her and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”

The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today.  Your generation did not care enough to save our environment.”

He was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over.  So they really were recycled.

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw-away kind.  We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry the clothes.  Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana.

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us.

When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power.  We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water.

We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service.

We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances.  And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smartass young person.

(Wine)House of Mourning

British soul singer Amy Winehouse died yesterday afternoon.


In her short 27 years, she struggled with drug and alcohol addictions, a failed marriage, and a deteriorating career. She was stalked by the paparazzi and continuously criticized in the international media.


The world is abuzz with news, tweets, posts and messages from fans and critics alike, remembering the star and talking about her troubled life and unexpected death. But my thoughts this morning go out not to Amy, but to Mitch and Janis Winehouse, her parents.


The irony is that, although she was nearly my age, I am looking at her today not through the eyes of a contemporary, but through the eyes of a mother. I see a very unhappy little girl.


Whatever troubles and struggles Amy faced, I believe her parents faced with her. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to lose a child, even more so when the death was preventable. I cannot conceive of the pain these parents must be experiencing right now.


As parents we are supposed to protect our children. The questions rise up like angry waves: how could they let this happen to her? Why did they allow her to make the choices she did, to live the life she did? I’m sure Mitch and Janis themselves are asking the same questions.


But it does no good to judge. No-one will ever really know what happened to Amy Winehouse, or why.


You might be wondering why on earth the death of a rock star is this relevant to this blog. Because Amy Winehouse was a Veggie-tot. All children are born Veggie-tots, in touch with the earth and their place on the planet. Almost always, babies are born surrounded with love and support, and sources indicate Amy’s childhood was no different. Something changed, somewhere along the way.


I look at my own babies and I know the same can happen to them. Being a Veggietot Mom (or -Dad) means raising our children with awareness, with joy, with values. But it also means raising them with the confidence to be their own selves, and it means letting go at some point and allowing them live their own lives. Even if they’re not the lives we would have chosen for them.


Because every human being has the right to his or her choices. We face choices every day – in the supermarket, in the living room, on the streets and in the boardroom. Some may be life-and-death choices; others are more subtle but still have astounding repercussions.


Death is always tragic – even more so when the victim is so young. Youth and promise go hand-in-hand so a young life lost is like a promise broken.


Amy Winehouse was a gifted musician and performance artist. Her premature death leaves a gaping hole in the world, especially in the hearts of her parents.


So yes, a bit of a downbeat post this morning. But I felt anything else would be somewhat inappropriate.


I’ll be spending today with my family, with a special eye on my children.


Amy Winehouse, 1983-2011

fast cars and ice cream

Today was proof that you don’t need to expend large amounts money or carbon in order to have a good time.

I think it’s so fitting that on Youth Day my kids reminded me of this very humbling message.

How does your family have fun?

Life lessons from a two-point-five-year-old

Children live in the present. They give their full attention to whatever they are doing, and if they’re not getting pleasure out of the activity, they stop (even if the activity is tidying toys – I’m working on this!).


We adults can learn a lot from the way children approach life. Typically, they are happier and less stressed, and have more fun than we do. I have a wonderful teacher in my elder son, and I’d like to share a couple of my favourite lessons with you.


Lesson Number One


Two-point-five-year-old was sitting in his high chair, eating toast and playing with his plastic stethoscope. I was swelling with pride, convinced that this early interest in medicine would ensure his future as a successful doctor, perhaps a brain surgeon, helping millions of people around the world to live fulfilled, healthy lives. I reached for the camera, in case TIME would want historical footage when they ran the cover story on him in 20 years (of course he would graduate young, he’s a genius). As I snapped the picture, Two-point-five-year-old looked up at me quizzically.



Veggietot Mom: Are you going to medical school, my love?


2.5-year-old:    No, I’m eating my supper.


LESSON: Live in the moment. Don’t worry too much about the future and simply enjoy whatever it is you are doing right now.


Lesson Number Two


Cool Cape Town Aunty was in town for a visit and came with to fetch Two-point-five-year-old from playschool. She was so excited to see him, and was a bit disappointed when all her enthusiastic questions were met with simple, monosyllabic responses.


Cool CT Aunty: Did you have fun at school today, darling?


2.5-year-old:    Yes.


Cool CT Aunty: Tell me what you did at school?


2.5-year-old:    Play.


Cool CT Aunty: What was your favourite thing you did?


2.5-year-old:    Play.


Cool CT Aunty: What did you eat?


2.5-year-old:    Oaties. [A high-point in anyone’s day]


Cool CT Aunty: Do you like your teachers?


2.5-year-old:    Yes.


Cool CT Aunty: How are all your friends?


2.5-year-old:    Good.


Quiet pause.


Cool CT Aunty: Are you in a bad mood?


2.5-year-old:    No, I’m in my car seat.


LESSON: Don’t get bogged down by emotional baggage. Be where you are, literally and figuratively, and be content with the situation. If necessary, go home and have a nap.


I’d love to hear about the lessons you’ve learnt from children so please share your comments!

the link between cucumbers and violence?

On our rounds at the shops, two-and-a-bit-year-old Ariel asks if we can buy a cucumber. I put it in the trolly and he proceeds to play with it, telling me that it’s a pencil, and that he’s drawing a rainbow. A red rainbow. Okay, whatever keeps him happy – and quiet!

In the checkout line, a woman I’ve never met before glances knowingly at me and says, “Boys will be boys, hey? Even a cucumber’s got to be a gun!”

“Actually it’s a pencil,” I correct her.

She looks skeptical.

“He’s drawing a rainbow.”

Eyebrows raise.

“A red rainbow,” I try to explain, but I know I’ve lost her.

And I suddenly realize that my kid wouldn’t even know what a gun is yet, because he’s never seen one, not even a toy one. But he’s only two-and-a-bit. The time will soon come when he sees them – on TV, maybe in books, at friends’ houses, perhaps. I’d love to shield him from the violence so clearly prevalent in our society that perfect strangers assume he’s been affected with it too. But is that realistic?

How long until our kids are held at virtual gunpoint by society’s violent mores? Is there anything we can do to help? Or am I just being a big old sissy here?

Do your children have toy guns?

on the outdoors

I read recently in a brochure for a “baby and toddler stimulation programme” that “time spent outdoors where sights, sounds, smells and textures are rich and varied, can provide the best method for children to gain an understanding of their world.” It went on to explain that “Outdoor play can enhance a child’s intellectual and cognitive development”, and invited me to bring along my child for an afternoon of fun physical stimulation, for a nominal fee.

Ra ra for the initiator of the club for capitalizing on this whilst helping moms and kids benefit and have fun.

But I couldn’t stifle a smile as I thought about all the intellectual and cognitive developments I’ve been bestowing on my child by turning him out to play in the garden! And every time I take him to the park I’m apparently “developing gross-motor skills and enhancing both [his] physiological and emotional wellbeing”. Wonderful!

No matter how much it’s dressed up in fancy advertizing lingo, sometimes good old-fashioned wisdom really is best.

grubby kids are happy kids

Loving Kids in the Garden – a great summary of some of the benefits of getting our kids (and ourselves) up off the couch and into the ‘real’ world of dirt and nature.


Two-year-old Ariel is not quite ready to be let loose with a trowel, but just being there while Dear Old John (WHAT would we do without him??) plants has got to be educational. Ari likes to “help”, too. He digs little holes alongside, and sticks bits of twig and leaves into them. Hasn’t quite got the hang of filling in the holes yet, but what can you do. All in good time.


I get this quirky sense of pride when I see my child pottering in the dirt. Call me crazy (no, actually, don’t) but I think kids are meant to be dirty. I’m not talking smelly and covered with flies here, but good old grubby. Dirt under fingernails and mud on their shorts sort of grubby. Long day in the garden sort of grubby. Wipe-your-feet-before-you-come-in-the-house sort of grubby. They always seem happier that way, and mess is usually a sign that there’s learning going on. It means they’re exploring, experimenting, interacting.


And it makes their soft little cheeks, rosey from scrubbing at bedtime, even sweeter for kissing!

what kind of mom do i want to be?

Reading Unravelled by Maria Housden. In this memoir, she is struggling to live up to the expectations of wifedom and motherhood that she, her husband, and society impose on her. She is beginning to realize that maybe, just maybe, she isn’t capable of doing and being everything that is expected of her.


As she blows off housework to take her kids to the pond, she asks herself, “If you can only do some things well, why not start with what matters most?”


I think that line is worth repeating. “If you can only do some things well, why not start with what matters most?”


It’s a good question, and it’s made me think about the ways in which it applies to my own life.


Do I want my grown-up children to say: “My mom’s house was always spotless, and we never ran out of bread or milk.”


Or would I rather they said: “We seldom had clean socks and often had cereal for dinner. But Mom always had time for stories and airplane rides on her knees.”


A good question indeed.

What do you hope your grown-up kids will say about you?

veggietot dad’s stolen moment

17h00: * Veggietot Mom:   Meet @park on way home from work? :)

17h01: * Veggietot Dad:    Sure :-)

17h06: Ten minutes of pure pleasure with the boys in the park, stolen between workday pressures and Suicide Hour (double dinner, bath, bottle, bed. The name is warranted!)

Like the slide at the playground, daily life is full of ups and downs. Grab the moment. Sometimes ten minutes can make the whole day worthwhile.