On Khloe Kardashian, Self Esteem, Liz Hurley & White Jeans

Having a new baby means being awake at all sorts of ungodly hours. Thanks to The Husband’s generosity and pragmatism, we have a night nurse. I say “pragmatism” because he knows how grumpy I get when I am sleep deprived and he knows there is a practical – albeit costly – solution. Her name is Precious. She taps me gently while I am sound asleep and says with urgency:

“He’s awake!”

I fly out of bed in response to the urgency in Precious’ voice, dash to the nursery and then flop into the feeding chair and sometimes even fall asleep while Precious changes The Prince’s nappy and readies him for his feed. And then I generally sleep through the feed until she prods me and tells me it’s time to change sides. I can safely say that I would trade in my car if I had to, for the luxury of a night nurse. I feel human the day after Precious’ shift and like a dead woman walking the day after her night off.

Most nights I crawl back into bed and pass out after the feed, but some nights (and, fortunately, so far, not many) I simply can’t get back to sleep. This was the case a few nights ago. I was so wide awake that I eventually crawled out of bed at 4am and crept to the TV room.

I happened to turn on M-Net just as a show called The Talk started. It featured a bunch of women sitting around a table. Amongst the women, I recognised Sharon Osborne. As the introductory music ended and the audience applauded, one of the women introduced the first topic of the talk show with the solemnity one would expect were she reporting on a grave political crisis: Khloe Kardashian’s poor self esteem.

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The camera then cut to this round-table of female presenters looking traumatised by the news and brimming with empathy for the reality TV star. In order to give viewers a real taste of the emotional hardship endured daily by Khloe, the presenter quoted Khloe who had said that “being compared to somebody else every day does sort of beat up your spirit and soul.” Apparently Khloe reported that she had been called the “heavier” and “less attractive” of the sisters. Luckily for Khloe, Sharon Osborne was the first to comment with a statement that is bound to reverse all her psychological trauma:

“I just think she has the BEST personality out of everyone!” Sharon gushed, to rapturous applause from the in-studio audience.

Thanks, Sharon. You do know that you basically just called her ugly? When my dad was at university in the sixties, the prevailing catch phrase for an unattractive woman was: “She sure can cook!” With the emancipation of women and Woolworths microwave meals, the modern version of this maxim has morphed into: “She sure has a great personality”.

I konfess that I just kan’t watch Kris, Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall and Kylie Kardashian/ Jenner and their show at the best of times, although I can’t think of a better cure for insomnia than Khloe Kardashian’s complexes. If only I’d been able to keep the TV on for an extra minute or two, I would have been able to pass out from absolute apathy.

Aside from bad TV at 5am, the weeks following the birth of a child can be tough. Especially when they happen to be the very weeks when Hyde Park and Sandton City go on sale. About a week after The Prince was born, The Husband’s favourite Hyde Park store was offering 50% off all their merchandise and he was looking to spoil me. What could I do under the circumstances other than engage in aspirational acquisitions? I was immediately drawn to a gorgeous pair of white, skinny jeans with gold zips. Tres, tres St Tropez or tres, tres Sandton. But as I picked them up, I was reminded of something a friend told me last year. She told me that it had been said (by some famous and fabulous male stylist, I think) that if you’re a woman and your name is not Liz Hurley, you simply should not wear white jeans. Sorry, honey. Although I agree that I am not Liz Hurley and that I should not wear white jeans, I have always loved white pants and am delighted that white jeans have made a comeback. So I now have this pair – that cost 50% less than usual – hanging in my cupboard, staring at me and taunting me. I should somehow sticky-tape them to the fridge…

Liz Hurley Leaving Her Home London June 17, 2008

But since that’s not terribly practical, I decided to re-join Weight Watchers instead. I polished off a cupcake in the car on the way there and arrived ready to take a deep breath and step on the scale. The last time I attended Weight Watchers was before I found out that I was pregnant with The Prince – a time when I weighed a lot less than I do now. For this reason, I made a point of mentioning to the Group Leader that I had stopped Weight Watchers because I’d fallen pregnant (they don’t allow pregnant people to follow the programme) and that I was returning because I’d just had a baby. Clearly, however, I did not place enough emphasis on the word “just” because a few minutes later I climbed on the scale to hear the Group Leader say (raised eyebrow and all):

“I see… yes… well…your weight has gone up quite a bit.”

“I literally just had a baby eleven days ago!” I snapped.

To this, my fellow members responded as one would hope the Sisterhood would respond with remarks like:

“Oh my gosh, I’d still be in bed!” and

“You look amazing for someone who just had a baby!” (From my observations and my own behaviour, women say this to one another post babies, no matter what, but somehow it’s still nice to hear even if you know it’s a big, fat lie.)

I automatically felt better.

But sisterhood or no sisterhood, I still have to find a way into those designer white jeans before they go out of style again.

Preggie Exercise & The Chat Burning Zone

A while ago, The Sister asked me what blog name I was planning on giving my son. Since I called my daughter The Princess, it follows that I would call my son The Prince. But two days ago, an actual prince decided to make his appearance on exactly the date that I was due to give birth – Monday, 22 July 2013. And my son decided not to make an appearance on the day he was predicted to arrive.

“Stuff being born on the same day as the future king of England!”, he thought.

Like The Princess, who frolicked inside my belly for an extra week before I demanded to be induced, my son appears to be very comfortable in utero. Anyway, since he will not share a birthday with the most famous prince in the world, I think it’s okay to call him The Prince, alongside his sister, The Princess.

One of the reasons why an overdue baby can be bad for the self-esteem, is that the dreaded number depicting what one weighs on the scale has more time to climb. With The Princess, despite her above average birth weight of 3.66kg, I managed to contain my weight gain to a fairly respectable 12kg, which I understand is considered normal for someone who is not underweight – something I have never been accused of. On Tuesday I hopped on that hateful machine, just for a laugh, and my weight gain had gone from 12.8kg one week earlier, to a whopping 14.2kg. The Prince better justify this being one BIG baby!

One of the ways I have tried to (unsuccessfully) to contain my pregnancy weight gain, has been through exercise. Unfortunately, however, when I was five months pregnant, I started to feel a stabbing pain in my right side every time I did any cardio exercise. I couldn’t even walk around Sandton City at “speed”, so going for runs (which were becoming uncomfortable anyway with my growing belly) and even walks around the neighbourhood, became impossible.

I have never been very motivated to do my own workouts in a gym. I either need to be in a group training session or a I need a personal trainer to keep me in line. But being pregnant, super hormonal and having to entertain a busy toddler all day during school holidays, weekends and the many public holidays that surface in South Africa around April and May, changed my view of solo gym sessions. Suddenly, Virgin Active and its Club V for kids could offer me multiple solutions:

1) a way to burn off just a few bites of the truckloads of chocolate my hormonal self was insisting on consuming

2) a brief break from childcare and a change of scenery

3) a chance for The Husband and I to work out simultaneously over the weekend or on a public holiday if he wasn’t cycling

4) fun for The Princess in the form of a million toys and games that were new and novel

There was only one problem: despite having successfully started playschool in late January at 21 months, The Princess wasn’t interested in being left with childminders, despite the fact that she was in Toy Heaven. I knew this because she screamed the house down on more than one occasion when I tried to leave her at Club V.

I almost gave up, but on Easter Monday, I was determined to make Club V work for us. And somehow, it was suddenly like sleep training – a relatively small amount of pain for many years of gain. She screamed for a few minutes when I left the room and then fell silent as the childminder managed to distract her. I crept to the elliptical trainer, put one earphone in and waited for my name to be called over the intercom to come and placate my hysterical child – as had happened many times before.

But the announcement never came.

From then onwards, I struggled to get The Princess to leave Club V. I had to pretend that I was leaving her behind. Sometimes even that didn’t work.

So, since Easter, I’ve had no excuse not to frequent the gym. There was no way I could bounce around with my big belly in a group exercise class and so the elliptical trainer became my friend. Some days, the pain would surface during a workout and I would have to severely decrease my intensity. After my 20 minute time limit was up, I’d climb onto the treadmill. If I kept my speed down to embarrassingly low levels, I could walk without pain in my side.

Although I have never been the sportiest or fittest chick in town, my Type A personality means that if I motivate myself sufficiently to go to the gym, every second must count. I must achieve maximum efficiency – within my own (fairly great) physical limits. I must be – as a very wise late friend of The Husband’s used to say – “a legend in my own lunch box”.

Before I was heavily pregnant and before this stabbing pain from exercise began, I would look at women talking on the phone on the treadmill with internal disdain. If you were able to have a fat chat, you weren’t pushing yourself sufficiently, right? Or, if you were holding on to the bar you were wasting your time. If you were walking at a speed of 5 or less and no gradient – and God forbid you were talking on the phone, messaging, looking at Facebook or holding on – you may as well be lying on the couch since you certainly weren’t going to break a sweat.

When my neighbour was 38 weeks pregnant a few months ago, I asked her how she was feeling. She sighed, looked at me and said: “You know what, Natalie? I just don’t think our bodies were meant to be shared.”

There have been days during this pregnancy when my neighbour’s words have rung so true. Not least when I’ve been on the treadmill. On those days, I have smiled to myself, smiled at the women scrolling through Facebook on their phones next to me and I’ve been reminded of that classic scene from the movie “The Switch” with Jennifer Anniston and Jason Bateman. (The movie in which Jennifer Anniston’s character is the platonic BFF of Jason Bateman’s character and she decides to get pregnant via a sperm donor.) Jason Bateman’s character’s personality is definitely Type A and contrasts sharply with that of his colleague. The two men are at the gym, each side by side on a treadmill when Jason Bateman’s character looks over at his colleague and says with raised eyebrows:

“You’re eating a chocolate bar? On 4?”

To which his colleague replies indignantly: “I’m in the fat burning zone!”

I draw the line at consuming chocolate whilst actually on the treadmill, but for the last few months I have been exercising in what I term “the chat burning zone”. I catch up with my phone calls, I post status up-dates on Facebook, I tweet, I respond to sms’s.

But I don’t hold on to the bar. That would really be letting myself go 🙂

Mommy’s Big Night Out/ In

Ever since The Husband went on a five night cycling trip in mid-December, followed by a four night cycling trip in late January, I have been fantasising about going away… all by myself… just me and my beloved Macbook… relishing the quiet… not worrying about anyone but yours truly… sleeping… reading… maybe even going to gym… shopping… napping… writing… reading… sleeping… Sigh.

There were just a few snags with the fantasy. I am over aeroplanes (I’ve taken over 40 one-way flights since The Princess’ birth two years and three months ago) and I don’t like driving long distance. Oh, and I regard Sandton to Monte Casino as long distance. Naturally, this limited my options. Also, I genuinely like Joburg. I like the shops, I like the choice of gyms on my doorstep, I like the vibe, I love the winter sunshine… I actually really like my home too. But despite my love for The Husband and our beautiful, super intelligent and amusing daughter who adores me, sometimes I just feel like Zsa Zsa Gabor and I simply “vant to be alone.”  It doesn’t help that our house is very, very open plan, so sitting down to do something simple like write a blog while The Princess is awake is completely impossible. And so I fantasised about checking into a local Sandton hotel for a few nights and squeezing in all the abovementioned things…Sigh.

Well, after six months of vivid fantasies, yesterday, I finally took the plunge and booked myself into a hotel for Thursday night, 20 June. Okay, the hotel is 300m from my house and although check-in time was from 3pm, I felt too guilty to leave The Princess for the afternoon when she only woke up at 2pm after school… I vowed I would leave my house for the 30 second commute (quite literally) at 5pm when the supper/ bath/ witching hour began. But, having no deadline, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to leave this little angel who adores me and wants to be with me whenever she stops to think about it. And so I stayed to read her a story and put her to bed at 7pm. Then I left home with my suitcase full of one night supplies: my laptop, my book, my i-pad – all my little “me-time” indulgences – and promptly sms’ed my nanny with the hotel’s phone number and my room number – in case of emergencies. (The Husband was at a work function).

A word or two on present-day decor trends in hotels: since when did it go out of style to have actual lights fitted to the ceiling in hotel rooms? Somehow, it’s become de rigeur to simply bathe a hotel room in the gentle, romantic light of bedside lamps and perhaps a desk lamp or passage light. WTF? I happen to like light. So, in an effort to create some additional light in the room, I decided to turn on the desk lamp. I have to say that it was no small feat trying to locate the hidden switch on this baby:

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I eventually gave up and asked the Room Service waiter to turn it on for me. He fiddled around for the elusive on button and eventually confirmed that lamp wasn’t working. He’d call maintenance.

So much for “vanting” to be alone! I was now waiting for maintenance, as well as housekeeping because when I checked in, the very thoughtful lady at the front desk took one look at my enormous belly and said, “When I was in your condition, I found the type of hard pillows the hotel provides highly uncomfortable. May I offer you some feather pillows?” I had to smile at her pregnancy euphemism: being in a “condition”. In some ways it sounded so Victorian and, in some ways, with all the glorious ailments that have been plaguing me (heartburn, indigestion, bloating, weight gain, shortness of breath) I honestly did feel as though I were in a “condition”. And yes, I would need those feather pillows in my “condition”, please.

While I was waiting for maintenance and housekeeping, I decided to fire up my Mac and start this blog. I had been assured that getting connected was fast and free and did not require an impossible combination of illogical letters and numbers as a password – all I needed was my surname and my room number. Something I thought even my technologically-challenged self would be able to cope with. But apparently not. After several attempts to go on-line, I kept getting a “back-end error” message. I suspected that this was not good. I called the lovely lady, Jacky, at the front desk.

“Oh yes,” she confirmed, “we’re off-line at the moment because the IT department in London is in the process of up-grading our line from 4 megabits per second to 10 megabits per second.”

Was I meant to be excited for them? Here I was, paying a small fortune for solitude, 300m from my home with its very own 10 Mb per second, uncapped ADSL line… It felt as though, after six months of fantasies, the universe was truly conspiring against me…

Jacky called back shortly afterwards asking me to try to connect to the internet again. I tried and failed. She then wanted to know what computer I was using. The “Aaaah…. I SEE…” response I got did not sound good either. Basically, it was my fault I was having trouble connecting with a Mac? Jacky then explained that whilst she would ordinarily love to send the technical guy up to my room to assist, it was a really busy time of night and could I perhaps come down? I pictured the scene in the lobby that I’d witnessed when I entered the hotel to check in. Having only ever been to this particular hotel during the day, it had escaped me that the bar was more or less positioned smack in the middle of the entrance. It was pumping with British-accented flight attendants and crew whom I knew were a primary target market for the hotel. (I had seen and overheard this crowd around the corner at Tashas enough times while The Princess was a babe in the pram and we practically spent our lives escaping to Tashas). I looked down at my newly purchased, breastfeeding-friendly, spotty pink and black pyjamas from Woolies and declined coming down to the front desk for technical assistance.

Then Maintenance arrived. The representative was charmingly honest. After a quick once-over, he confirmed that he couldn’t change the bulb in my desk lamp because the particular globes that these funky desk lamps required, were not available in South Africa. A minor oversight during the furniture and decor installation! Oops!

In the hotel’s defence, the Maintenance man very quickly replaced my lamp with a similar looking device. Perhaps this globe was one of the original imports from when the hotel opened for the World Cup in 2010? Nonetheless, the funky lamp now worked. And then through some fiddling around on my Mac, in my spotty pink and black PJ’s, this technologically challenged Mommy managed to connect to the Internet. Yeeha!

All sorted! Except for the feather pillows which hadn’t yet arrived. The problem was that by this stage it was 9:30pm and I couldn’t have cared if the pillows were made out of sand and the Internet had never been invented. I was ready to pass out.

My bladder woke me up at 02:30am with the imported desk lamp still burning, clutching a rock hard pillow to try and support my oversized belly.

And that is the story of my big night of “me-time”. Of course my internal mommy alarm and my squished bladder woke me up at 5:55 am this morning but the good news is that check-out time is 12pm and I don’t plan on getting out of my spotty pyjamas until then. Mmmm.

The Red Bus Tour of Jozi

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In the inner city there is no excuse for loneliness and this is in welcome contrast to suburban life where so many live behind high walls and commute by car.” (Spaces & Places Johannesburg by Gerald Garner, by p. 75)

For Sandtonites who have never worked in Jozi’s CBD, the idea of venturing into “town” can be daunting, especially if one never has to. Back in the day, I recall trying to get from Parktown, through Braamfontein, to one of the Absa towers in the south east of town. I’d driven the route with my boss before and it seemed simple enough, yet I managed to get lost, driving up and down one-way streets, for up to an hour, every time I tried to go through town. Not even Africa’s tallest building, The Carlton Centre, helped as a landmark. I found it just blended into its surroundings, flanked by fellow tall buildings and shabby yet vibrant streets. After one or two experiences like that, I resorted to taking the freeway to my client, where I could more easily memorise the few one-way turns I had to make in order to locate the relevant Absa parkade.

I also found that even though I may have grown comfortable over the years with making my way from Jozi north to one particular pocket of town, I still had no idea how these pockets connected to others in the CBD. As a result, “town” simply remained a scary mystery.

Until last Sunday, that is.

I heard about City Sightseeing’s Red City Tour of Jozi a few weeks ago and had been keen to check it out as a weekend outing with The Husband and The Princess.

Our outing started off in “European Vacation”  style as a comedy of errors (less funny at the time). But instead of acting like ditsy Americans unable to find their way out of the Arc de Triomphe’s maze, we acted like ditsy middle class South Africans who go everywhere by car and who can’t navigate public transport for love or money. I had an old Gautrain timetable (back when they still printed them) for the Pretoria to Park Station line, but it dated back to the days before trains were even running to Park. At 10:43am, I realised that the next train from Sandton to Park Station was at 11am and that trains only ran every 30 minutes on weekends. With that realisation, we made a mad dash to drive the 1.1km to the Gautrain station, park the car, set up the pram, get The Princess in the pram, buy tickets and get the lifts to the platform. By some miracle, we actually made it onto the platform with a couple of minutes to spare. Just as I was thinking that it was odd that the train had not yet arrived, it dawned on me that I had led us to the northbound side of platform B8 where trains headed for Pretoria stopped, rather than the southbound side, to catch our train headed for town. And so we had 29 minutes to spare until the next train to Park Station at 11:30. A real rookie rail-user error. Grrr. Once we were on the correct platform and had caught the train, it was a mere 8 minute journey for the bargain price of 22 ZAR per adult (one way).

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When we arrived at the immaculate, brand new Park Station (I confess to being a HUGE Gautrain fan), a Gautrain employee told us to take the well-marked Wolmarans St exit (serviced by lifts and allowing us to avoid road crossings with The Princess in her pram) and to look out for a dude in a red jacket – a representative from City Sightseeing. Our lack of planning meant that we’d just missed the 11:38am bus and so had to wait for the next one at 12:20pm (they run every 40 minutes from 9am).

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Looking heavily laden with The Princess in her stroller, we were ushered onto the bus first and so got the best seats in the house – upstairs in the front row. We were able to leave her McLaren stroller downstairs in an open area with no seating (which I assume is intended for strollers and wheelchairs), secured by a special seat belt. Upstairs, The Princess insisted on having her own seat and the stewardess even brought her, her own pair of earphones so that she, too, could get connected for the tour’s commentary.

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With a toddler in tow, I wasn’t expecting to be able to take advantage of the individual plug-in earphones and audio guide but The Husband started listening right in the beginning and encouraged me to do the same. The Princess was naturally less fascinated by the commentary after a minute or two but she was excited by the prospect of being on a double decker bus and having a great view of the streets of Joburg. This meant that both The Husband and I were able to listen to most of the commentary.

I have to say, we were both absolutely fascinated.

My knowledge of the history of Joburg’s CBD before this tour was more or less limited to my memory of Eloff Street being prime real estate in Monopoly (and in real life before the mass business exodus and subsequent urban decay that set in, in the early nineties). So those who are more knowledgeable about the city’s history might already know all the basics the Red Bus tour has to offer, but for us it was the perfect amount of content to whet our appetite. Here’s a brief overview of the bus’ twelve stops, interspersed with some pictures:

1. GAUTRAIN PARK STATION

2. GANDHI SQUARE

Statue of Gandhi in the rejuvenated Gandhi Square
Statue of Gandhi in the rejuvenated Gandhi Square

3. CARLTON CENTRE

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4. SANTARAMA MINI-LAND

With a two year old, we decided that either Santarama or Gold Reef City would be our stop of choice, but we learnt that Santarama is currently undergoing refurbishment, so we decided to save it for next time. Not having grown up in Joburg, I had never heard of Santarama, but to The Husband, passing its entrance was like a blast from the past as he recalls going there as a young child.

5. JAMES HALL TRANSPORT MUSEUM

6. GOLD REEF CITY

Gold Reef City is exactly half way along the two hour round-trip bus tour and so it took us an hour to get there from the Gautrain Station at Park. En route, we entered Jozi’s southern suburbs and passed places I had only ever heard of by name like Turfontein Race Course and Wemmer Pan. The Husband has often spoken of his rowing training and racing at Wemmer Pan when he was a teen, so it was great to be able to place it geographically.

7. APARTHEID MUSEUM

Having visited the Apartheid Museum before, I personally wouldn’t choose to combine a visit there with the bus tour. The Apartheid Museum is brilliant but obviously harrowing given South Africa’s recent history. It is also very detailed and best absorbed if you do not have time constraints. In my view, if you have the option, rather go straight there by car or dedicate a few hours, or a morning, to the museum.

8. MINING DISTRICT WALK

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9. NEWTOWN PRECINT

Balconies of flats in Newtown, replete with the essential Saffer accessory - a Weber braai
Balconies of flats in Newtown, replete with the essential Saffer accessory – a Weber braai

10. ORIGINS CENTRE AT WITS

Sunday worshipers near the Origins Centre, Braamfontein
Sunday worshipers near the Origins Centre, Braamfontein

11. BRAAMFONTEIN (THE GROVE)

Graffiti in Braamies
Graffiti in Braamies

12. CONSTITUTION HILL

Passing the entrance to Constitution Hill
Passing the entrance to Constitution Hill

and back to the GAUTRAIN @ PARK STATION

Although we hadlofty plans to leave the house by 9:30am on the morning of our bus tour, we actually left much later and then proceeded to miss our train, so by the time we got to our chosen stop, Gold Reef City, it was already nearly 1:30pm and The Princess was very much ready for her day sleep by then. We popped her in the pram and, after fatigue overcame her curiosity with her surroundings, she dutifully fell asleep. We then decided it was pointless to go into the theme park with a sleeping child and went in search of lunch instead. I had heard of the restaurant Back of the Moon many years ago, so when we happened upon it inside the Gold Reef City hotel and casino complex (right where the red bus stops), we decided to try it. The Princess happily slept through the live band while we enjoyed a romantic lunch – our day was working out perfectly 🙂

We then checked the timetable and hopped back onto a bus at 14:45. Although The Princess woke up when we wheeled her on-board, she knows that she is no longer allowed to keep her dummy once awake and so she feigned sleep every time we looked her way for the rest of the tour! We decided to play along and left her in her pram, secured by the bus’ special seat belt situated near the front of the downstairs area and settled in to enjoy the rest of the commentary. The one down-side was that one doesn’t get nearly as good a view of the sites from downstairs as one does from upstairs. Yet another reason, why we are keen to take the tour again.

All in all, I would highly recommend the experience. We were fortunate in that The Princess really played along and so we were able to absorb the historic and cultural experience. But even if this hadn’t been the case, it would have been just as fun to experience The Princess’ excitement at going for a ride on top of a big red, double decker bus.

http://www.citysightseeing.co.za/joburg.php

Mr Fix It

When it comes to DIY, I have long lived by an insight gained from my university digsmate, Olivia, when I was twenty.

Olivia’s watch had stopped working. In light of this, she mentioned that she’d be seeing her high school sweetheart, Andrew, at a family function that weekend and that she thought she might take along her watch for him to look at. I was slightly surprised since I’d help to set her up with her current boyfriend, David, just a few months earlier. With the vague notion that her actions may leave her new beau feeling somewhat emasculated, I said:

“Um, why don’t you just ask David to look at it?”

When she responded, she looked at me with the full weight of the two years’ seniority she had over me. It was as though she was trying to say that some day, I, too, would understand:

“Natalie,” she said, “David is intelligent.” She paused to allow the statement to sink in and then continued. “Andrew is Mr Fix It.”

When The Husband and I moved into our home six years ago, I began building up a network of handymen. Our gardener, Dezmond, is a machine with a drill and I look forward to Thursdays when Dez is at work and can tackle my list of chores.

Unfortunately, not all things can wait for a Thursday. Last Saturday, our neighbour and her 23 month old (The Princess’ BFF) arrived with the very generous gift of this car for her second birthday:

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Only, it came flat-packed. The Husband rose to the occasion beautifully with an audience consisting of the following women:

1. His two-year old daughter
2. Her best friend of 23 months
3. Her best friend’s mommy
4. His mother
5. His mother-in-law
6. His wife

I suspect that The Husband was probably most concerned with trying to impress numbers 1 and 2 on the above list and so he set to work at once. Baby/ toddler paraphernalia is never that simple to assemble but what made The Husband’s task that much more challenging is the fact that The Princess insisted on sitting inside her half-built car during its construction. Nonetheless, The Husband managed to attach the roof and sides of the car.

The only snag was that the “door frames” – which were supposed to attach to the base of the car and which, in turn, were attached to the roof – kept popping out. The Husband declared that the car must have been poorly designed to begin with as there seemed absolutely no way that they would ever fit securely. Not one to disappoint his two-year old daughter, however, he came up with an ingenious plan: superglue.

I ventured that although I couldn’t do a better job at assembling a toy car, I was certain that superglue wasn’t the solution. This comment met with a black look from The Husband who proceeded to pour superglue down the plastic cavities on all four sides of the car, before shoving the door frames into these cavities. But the door frames refused to stick.

This gave rise to Ingenious Plan No. 2:

1). Balance a 5kg decor piece in the form of a wooden hippopotamus on top of the car’s roof, together with a large bag filled with cycling kit.

2). Lean on said hippo and bag with the full weight of a grown man.

3). Try to be patient whilst waiting for superglue to stick (all the while allowing one’s two year old daughter to remain seated in her semi-assembled car.)

Once again, I gently ventured that perhaps when Dezmond came,  he could start from scratch. The Husband looked insulted and insisted that despite my lack of faith in his DIY abilities, he hadn’t “made any mistakes.”

Twenty minutes in to Ingenious Plan No. 2, The Husband made an unexpected discovery: holes for bolts where the door frames could be screwed in.

Who would have thought? (Not me, to be fair…)

We now had a car with a roof which no longer popped off. But the front wheels were having trouble advancing. Th Husband’s mechanical analysis of the problem involved him turning the car upside down for inspection. This resulted in the excess superglue spilling out of the cavities onto our wooden floors. During this time The Princess was running around barefoot. Chasing after her to pick her up and get her away from the glue patches seemed like a most amusing game to her. (Much scrubbing of feet went on later in the bath).

Only Turpentine would get rid of the glue on the floor, leaving the living area awash with a distinct chemical smell.

With The Princess’ best friend’s father overseas on business for another week, The Husband had offered to assemble her car too. By now it was early evening and bath time for The Princess. While The Husband was upstairs with her, I quietly packed away her near-complete car together with her BFF’s unbuilt car. On Monday evening, I asked Dezmond to come past after his day job, while The Husband was still at work. A few days later, The Husband saw the girls tearing around the complex in their vehicles and I had to confess that I’d outsourced his job.

The Husband: “How long did it take Dezmond to assemble the second car?”

Me: “Um… just over an hour.”

The Husband: “But it was obviously much easier for him because he could use the car I’d assembled as an example?”

Me: “Of course, Sweetheart.”

Adieu Le Dummy

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I will freely admitted that I’ve always loathed the sight of talking toddlers trying to form words whilst sucking madly on their dummies. As a brand new mom, I had no idea that the way to get a newborn to take a dummy was to shove it in the minute the little mite pops out of your womb (or pretty soon afterwards). I can’t recall when I was first alerted to the fact that a dummy might be a good idea. I think it may have been at least a couple of weeks after The Princess was born. But by this stage she was NOT interested in having a piece of plastic shoved into her little mouth – even one dipped in sugary gripe water.

When we said that The Princess didn’t take a dummy at her six week check-up, our very direct, Eastern European paediatrician took one look at The Mother Figure and I, and stated emphatically:

Every baby takes a dummy.”

She proceeded to hoist The Princess over her one knee, performed some kind of magic, rhythmical foot tapping, shoved a dummy in The Princess’ mouth, held it there and had her in a trance after a couple of minutes. She then looked up at us pointedly as if to say:

“You see? This is how it’s done.”

Obviously, no amount of knee-tapping, chanting or dummy shoving ensured a successful repeat of the process at home and I accepted the fact that The Princess was one of those rare and exceptional babies who “don’t take a dummy”.

Despite this, over the first four months of her life, eight different caregivers tried their hand at getting her to take a dummy: myself, The Husband, her two grannies, her two nannies and two different night nurses working different shifts. Then, we hired Margie, whom I’ve written about before here. What Margie lacked in tact and social awareness around adults, she more than made up for in terms of her expertise with babies. She officially got The Princess to take a dummy at four months old.

From then on, The Princess was a fairly big fan of the wretched piece of plastic, but for the most part, when she was awake, if there was no dummy in sight, she would manage quite well.

Everything changed when she started to talk. At about 15 months she had a repertoire of about 20 words. By about 17 months, this repertoire included the word “gummy” for “dummy”. From then on it was tickets. This kid was well and truly hooked. Any vague experience of distress, fatigue, irritation, frustration and a very vocal demand for her “gummy” could be heard. It’s alot more difficult to ignore a toddler’s demands when they’re being so specific about what they want and I often found myself giving in.

Things went from bad to worse when we were out one afternoon and she had a small playground accident. Naturally, she was desperate for the dummy then but I hadn’t brought one along, in an attempt to reduce her dependence on the thing. A group of mothers at the next table kindly produced a sterilised one and donated it to us, but not before basically saying that going out without a dummy is a very, very stupid move.

“Keep one in your car next time,” they had instructed me. I had been useless in the moment of crisis, going into full panic mode when I saw a bit of blood and screaming that I thought The Princess had lost some teeth when nothing of the sort had occurred. So, from then on, I decided I had better heed the advice of these obviously more experienced women.

Everywhere we went, the dummy came along.

But the longer and more beautiful The Princess’ golden locks grew and the more she spoke, the more I grew to loathe the sight of the dummy obscuring her beautiful face.

I was toying with the idea of getting rid of it about a month ago when The Princess was about 22 months old, but then we were going away and then she wasn’t sleeping well and then… well, there always seemed to be a reason why the timing wasn’t right. The Husband also still recalls that fateful day when his security blanket was wrenched from him and deposited in the trash and he was loathe to put his daughter through the same type of trauma… So we put off the dealing with the dummy issue some more…

But then suddenly The Princess’ neighbour and BFF (three weeks younger) gave up the dummy (not of her own volition, of course). Apparently a nurse told her mother that letting a 22 month old suck a dummy outside of of sleep times was “borderline abuse” and that was that – the dummy was gone the next day, except for sleeping. And The Princess’ BFF coped brilliantly.

I knew The Princess’ case was a little more severe, however, and that she wasn’t going to give up her dummy without a huge fight. I hatched elaborate plans, based on ideas from other moms, to mark her farewell to the dummy.

First, we went along to Frankie & Fred’s toy shop in the Blubrid Centre where I told her that she could choose a toy if she was willing to pay for it with her dummy. At first she was uncertain, but the sight of an enticing, wooden, Melissa & Doug’s cup-cake set managed to convince her somewhat. Still, the moment when she had to hand over her dummy to the very patient salesladies, was tough. She hesitated for quite some time, but she clearly understood that this was the only way she was going to get her lovely toy. Eventually, she relented, plucked the dummy from her mouth and “bought” her cup-cake set.

I thought we were on a roll and produced a second dummy, with which another toy could be purchased. After firmly sticking that dummy into her little mouth, she eagerly chose another toy. However, when the time came to choose between the new toy and the dummy, she literally abandoned the toy in the middle of the shop floor and sucked madly on her precious dummy. She didn’t even argue when I reminded her that we’d therefore have to leave the shop sans the second toy of her choice.

Mission only partly accomplished.

The next part of the operation was a pre-planned “farewell to the dummy” mass playdate. We invited four fellow toddlers around to watch her dummies sail away into the heavens, attached to helium balloons. Science has never been my forte, though, and The Husband (who’d especially come home early from work for the proceedings) quickly pointed out that the eight over-sized helium balloons I’d collected were not going to hold the weight of her remaining nine dummies (over and above the stash of dummies I had hidden in the cupboard for sleep times). And so, Plan B was hatched whereby two of the nine dummies were symbolically attached to the ballloons’ ribbons. The other seven dummies I sealed in plastic, and, with fear in my heart, deposited the package into the kitchen dustbin… The end of an era…

Despite the impressive spectacle of her dummies being carried away into the clouds, it didn’t take The Princess much more than 40 minutes after her friends had left to start crying for her dummy. She knew she hadn’t witnessed the ascension of her entire stash.

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To make matters more confusing, we now had to start chanting our new motto from “the balloons carried your dummies away!” to “when you’re a big girl, dummies are only for… SLEEPING!”

By this stage it was about 6pm and sleep time was around the corner anyway. Not the best timing, I’ll admit. When The Princess climbed into bed at 7pm and was presented with her dummy for the night, she couldn’t have been more elated.

It’s now been a whole eight days since we bade farwell to the dummy during all waking hours. On Day 2, we had a full-on meltdown the likes of which I have only very rarely experienced with The Princess. In hindsight, it only lasted 35 minutes but it felt more like three hours. We’re not completely out of the woods yet, but after the first three or four tough days when tears were shed more regularly for the dummy, things started getting easier. Now, The Princess usually only asks for a dummy if she sees another child sucking one or if she’s tired. It’s so great not to have this giant piece of plastic obscuring her beautiful face anymore. Also, I no longer have to wrestle with myself when she cries for the dummy and wonder whether I should be strong and try to withhold it or whether I should simply give in. Now, giving in is not an option, unless we want to start again from Square One and I definitely don’t have the strength for that…

Pregnancy and its Perks

Dr M down was my gynae during my first pregnancy. Despite coining preposterous terms such as “psychological epidurals”, I loved her. She understood The Husband and my neuroses, our need to have absolute clarity on absolutely everything as well as The Husband’s need to have all risks laid out in statistical terms. She got us. She even gave herself away a little when she told us that our names had come up when she’d  been talking shop with her professional neighbour who was our newly appointed paediatrician:

“They’re very nice,” she claimed that she’d told the paed. “They ask ALOT of questions but they’re very nice.”

The Husband also loved her – partly because she is an avid cyclist. She’d give us information and advice about the developmental progress of our baby in utero and The Husband would give her information and advice on the best bike to buy. Honestly. This included e-mails of 500 words in length, with advice on things like: frames, component sets (including brakes, gear shifters and cranks); wheels (including “clinchers” and “tubbies” or “deep section”, “non-deep section” and “semi-deep section) and, finally, advice on cleats. Here’s an extract from an e-mail on the latter, just to illustrate the attention to detail:

…The next decision is whether you get mountain biking or road biking cleats. Mountain biking cleats are much easier to walk in at the coffee shop but have the disadvantage of not distributing your power in as perfect a manner as road biking cleats. I would recommend mountain biking cleats and then up-grading to road biking cleats at a later stage.

What can I say? Just an everyday e-mail exchange between two specialists in their fields…

Unfortunately, Dr M decided to give up obstetrics just as I was thinking about falling pregnant for a second time. Highly inconvenient. I have actually overheard The Husband telling our friends that she made this professional decision in order to free up more time for cycling. I think he honestly believes it to be the case.

The point is, when I found out I was pregnant late last year, I had to find a new gynae. Normally, you can’t get an appointment with a gynae for love or money in this town, but fortunately you are afforded a form of priority status when you’re preggers, so I managed to get in at my gynae of choice.

The Husband was in Russia for business at my eight week check-up so I went alone. All was going well until Dr C told me to please “step on the scale”. Now, since I’d found I’d I was pregnant four weeks earlier, I gone into a high-fat feeding frenzy. I knew I should not be obliterating 15 months of dieting in favour of yellow cheese, butter, pasta, crisps and chocolate but I simple had no desire to be logical at this point.

Dr C: I need to weigh you.

Me: Thanks, but I’d rather not.

Dr C: Perhaps. Still, I must.

Me: No, really. I really don’t want to get on that scale. Can I tell you what I weighed before I fell pregnant and then you can just weigh me right at the end and if things look like they’re going pear-shaped in between, then you can say something… but don’t be too harsh…

Dr C: (looking ever so slightly irritable). That’s not going to work. I need to monitor your weight on a continuous basis.

Me: Really? Why? Isn’t this the time when all women balloon? I’ll lose it afterwards, I promise.

Dr C: You need to get on the scale now. Don’t look – I’ll take down your weight.

Other perks of pregnancy which I seem to enjoy every time include the grow of new tufts of hair on the edge of my hairline, just above my forehead. I suspect it’s that purple box full of ridiculously expensive Preg Omega vitamin tablets that seem to have cornered the pregnancy vitamin market. I wouldn’t mind more hair, but of course that depends entirely where… I don’t feel that tufts growing heavenward from my temples frame my face in quite the manner I’d like them to. On the plus side, these vitamins seem to turn my usually paper-thin nails into super strong talons and I can easily live with that.

I am fortunately (mostly) over the very hormonal moodiness of the first trimester when I was irrationally angry with the world and all its inhabitants. Hormones are scary things. At least the neurotic Anglophone world hasn’t yet completely banned pregnant women from eating chocolate, else I don’t know how I would have coped. When one thinks that our mothers smoked and drank during pregnancy. And now, a mere thirty-something years on, we are not supposed to let smoked salmon, beef carpaccio or camembert pass our lips… I already feel sorry for the Princess’ generation… imagine how long the list of food and drinks to avoid will be then.

Which reminds me. We’ve been in Franschhoek for the past five days for a cycle race. Franschhoek is a village that Woolworths Foods has evidently not yet discovered, meaning that I’ve had to forego my Chuckles fix for nearly a week. Luckily, we are now back in Jozi and I’m off to indulge in the last few remaining permissible indulgences for pregnant women…

Home Pregnancy Tests Are Not For the Faint-Hearted

Home pregnancy tests and I got off to a bad start at the beginning of last year. As I explained in great detail in my post A New Level Of Ditsyness I had an unplanned pregnancy scare when The Princess was ten months old – all because I’d kept the positive test from when I fell pregnant with her and re-used it, twenty months later, without realising that it wasn’t a fresh test. Gross. And dumb. But it was my first test and I was excited.

Just liked I’d planned falling pregnant with the Princess down to a T, I wanted to plan and be mentally prepared for a second pregnancy. After countless cocktails on my solo trip to New York when The Princess was fourteen months old, I downloaded the Period Tracker app, went off the pill and tried to imagine life with more than one little monster.

After several months and no missed periods, I started toying with the idea of giving up wine for that unknown time of the month when you might be pregnant but you don’t know it. I also heard a theory that some (not all) women should avoid caffeine when trying to fall pregnant. No coffee, no wine, a certain amount of sex on certain days… this was starting to get more complicated than I had realised…

And then, all of a sudden, deep in earnest conversation with the BFF visiting from Cape Town, my I-phone started playing an unrecognisable jingle, flashing lights, vibrating and scaring the living daylights out of me. It was a message from Period Tracker:

ONE DAY OVERDUE!

After my false alarm seven months earlier, I decided not to rush off to Lancet Laboratories for a blood test. The number of days between my cycle hadn’t been exactly consistent, according to Period Tracker, so I figured that one day overdue was no reason to plan the nursery yet.

Because I’d heard that it’s most ideal to do home pregnancy tests in the morning (something about your HCG hormone levels being highest then), I waited until the next day to dig into my stash of home pregnancy tests. And yes, I made sure that the tests were sealed in foil this time. To this day, I don’t understand how the designers of these tests expect a full bladder to be emptied onto a tiny plastic stick that’s about 1cm wide and 2cm long (I’m talking about the surface area you’re supposed to pee on). You then have this critical “no pee” zone that you need to avoid at all costs, else your test is inconclusive. Here’s what my test looked like:

If you ask me, this test looks sort of positive – I say “sort of” because the colour of the test (“T”) line is so much lighter than the colour of the control (“C”). I therefore wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be “sort of” happy to be “sort of” pregnant or if I was supposed to “sort of” not really get my hopes up. Maybe seasoned pregnancy test users would have better luck interpreting this crap excuse for a test but I had no idea what to make of it.

Naturally, I only had one of these useless instruments in the cupboard. The logical thing to do would have been to head to a pharmacy when the shops opened at 9am or to send The Husband. The Husband, however, was out cycling all morning and The Princess and I had breakfast plans at 9am and anyway, if I was indeed pregnant, I figured that the fetus would be in need of food, as was I.

Breakfast turned into brunch and then it was time to hightail it home for The Princess’ day sleep. By now, The Husband was home and it would have been the perfect opportunity for one of us to go to a pharmacy… HOWEVER… I’d been promising The Husband that I would get my butt onto a bicycle for several months now and that very day was the day that this event was due to take place. I’d even been to his cycling store during the week to “get fitted” by the experts who’d near- mutilated his bike in an attempt to make it comfortable for me. The Husband was bursting with excitement and it was just one of those things I could not pull out of.

But I devised a plan in which I wouldn’t have to pull out of the ride AND we could buy some pregnancy tests. We’d cycle past Dischem at the Blubird centre and pick one up there. Simple.

Not so simple. We pulled up outside Dischem only to discover that on Sundays, it closed at 1pm. Next stop: Clicks at Melrose Arch. Also closed on a Sunday afternoon. Surprise! The pharmacy at Melrose Arch: closed down when Clicks opened its pharmacy. I was sure there had been a pharmacy in the Evermed centre near the corner of Corlett Drive and Atholl Oaklands: also closed down, (no doubt when Dischem moved in over the road). And so we chugged home from our urban cycling adventure sans pregnancy test.

We then rushed to make our afternoon plans in Westcliff. On our way home, I thought we’d stop at Clicks in the Rosebank Mall which was part of a heaving centre so it was sure to be open. Not at 17:10 on a Sunday, however. And then it was supper, bath and bed-time for The Princess during which time The Husband drove to The Wedge in Morningside (which appears to house the only late night pharmacy in Sandton and surrounds).

Finally, he came home armed with three pregnancy tests. These tests weren’t comparable to the R25 Dischem tests I’d been using. These tests looked like they meant business:

Although it was now 8pm and not apparently the ideal time of day to be taking a pregnancy test, I went off to pee and see.

It was negative. The first Clearblue test’s key showed that two dark blue lines in the shape of a cross (similar to the cross on the Swiss flag) meant that you were pregnant and one horizontal, dark blue line meant that you were not pregnant. My “negative” line was more of a sky blue than a dark blue but there was absolutely no second line crossing this line so it looked pretty much negative, rather than “sort of” negative.

Thus far, I had one sort of positive test and one pretty negative test. I assumed that meant that I wasn’t pregnant. I decided that this caused for a sympathy glass of wine. It looked as though I wasn’t pregnant after all. I had lost interest in the stash of expensive tests The Husband driven north to procure.

Until my bladder began to fill up, that is. Then I decided that if I had to pee, I may as well pee on one more stupid Clearblue stick.

At first I didn’t notice anything different about the second Clearblue stick, but when I had to wait the requisite few minutes for the test to show a result, I couldn’t help but sneak a peak, even though a watched pot never boils… And then I saw a digital screen with a little flashing egg timer. So this was the Rolls Royce of pregnancy tests… (If you look carefully at the picture of the two Clearblue boxes in the picture above, you can easily notice the difference between the two tests but at a glance, it’s like trying to quickly distinguish between chunky and smooth cottage cheese – the packaging is so annoyingly similar…).

After the Rolls Royce had finished thinking, it flashed its result in actual, legible English language words:

PREGNANT 1-2 WEEKS

Finally! A test going out on a limb with a declarative result! And so, in the space of a day, I went from being possibly but inconclusively pregnant, to most probably not pregnant, to probably pregnant. The Husband and I were partially elated and partially unsure that we should be, even after the fourth and final Clearblue digital test announced, once more, that I was 1-2 weeks pregnant.

First thing the next morning I called my new gynae to say that I’d had two positive pregnancy tests out of four and so I thought I was pregnant. His receptionist told me to go and get blood tests done which I dutifully did within the hour. I was to call his rooms a few hours later to confirm the test results.

When I called, stating that I wanted to know what the blood tests had revealed, the receptionist sounded both bored and skeptical. Not a good sign. These were her words:

“Um… Let’s see here… Ja… Okay…Yes…So it says you’re only just pregnant.”

OH      MY       GOODNESS! I understand the risks inherent in early pregnancy and Period Tracker tells me exactly when the first day of my last period was so I know exactly how pregnant I am. ! I just want to know if I should currently be thinking of myself as a pregnant person or not!

Needless to say it took me a day or so to get my head around the notion and a full two weeks before the nausea set in.

Now I am about 15 weeks and am sporting what I would call a seriously distended belly. This is the one time I actually would like friends and strangers alike to inquire as to whether or not I’m pregnant but since my stomach popped just post the Christmas holidays, people are understandably wary of putting their foot in it.

The Strong-Willed Child

Long before I felt ready for children, I recall my sister-in-law mentioning a book called The Strong-Willed Child. I’ve just found it on Amazon:

She was offered the book by her sister when her first two children were around two and four years old. She laughed and declined the offer to borrow it, declaring that the term “strong-willed” did NOT apply to her two boys. Then her third son came along. He is now five years old and I’ve heard her say that if he hadn’t come along, she’d think parenting was a breeze and would have found it difficult to empathize with parents who thought otherwise.

I’ve had a suspicion for a while now that The Princess might perhaps be a little more willful than the average child, but at the same time I’ve witnessed that most babies and toddlers have minds of their own and want what they want when they want it. With that in mind, I’ve been reluctant to explain every tantrum and act of stubbornness with the lame, veiled apology of “What can I say? She’s just very strong-willed, everybody!”

In terms of discipline, based on how upset I feel when I am around unruly and, especially, cheeky, children, I thought I’d be a really strict parent. But somehow, on an hourly and daily basis, implementing the intention to be strict is so much more exhausting than I could ever have imagined. And therefore, so far, I suppose I haven’t been particularly strict with The Princess. Sometimes I think that this is not such a big deal and other times, I get the sense that I’m only creating problems for myself later. The handful of times I’ve spoken sternly to her and really meant what I said, she has completely and utterly ignored me – or screamed her head off if it involves taking something away from her or taking her away from a situation. I thought that perhaps she’d take The Husband seriously. So far, however, stern words from him yield no better response than the same words from me.

I used to think that she was too young to really understand being reprimanded or too young to understand what she done wrong, but I’m currently ready ​French Children Don’t Throw Food​ and this book has totally changed my view on what The Princess can and can’t understand.

The book is a “study” (though much of it is anecdotal) of the differences between child-rearing approaches in France (where the American author is raising her young children) and in Anglophone countries (notably Britain and America). The book points out a series of notable differences between the generally more neurotic, overzealous, competitive parenting amongst Anglophones and the more ​relaxed, less child-centric approach (which still includes firm boundaries and a large framework of rules and social norms) apparently ingrained in French society. I firmly and wholeheartedly relate to most of the attributes the author conveys upon Anglophones – herself included. One key difference that Druckerman notes is that the French (or Parisians, as her experience is limited to the middle- and upper-class arrondissements of Paris) assume that their babies can/ soon will, understand basic instructions. She gives an example that really hit home for me, in this respect:

…when Bean (the author’s child) is about ten months old…she begins pulling herself up in front of a bookcase in our living room, and pulling down all the books she can reach. This is irritating, of course. But I don’t think I can stop her. Often I just pick up the books and put them back. But one morning, Simon’s French friend, Lara, is visiting. When Lara sees Bean pulling the books down, she immediately kneels next to Bean and explains, patiently but firmly, “We don’t do that.” Then she shows Bean how to put the books back on the shelf, and tells her to leave them there. Lara keeps using the word doucement – gentlyI’m shocked when Bean listens and obeys.

I read this about ten days ago and I really believe that I’ve spent far too long assuming that there is still so much The Princess is too young to understand. If she had happened to develop a penchant for pulling books off a low bookshelf, I certainly would have assumed at ten months old – and probably alot beyond that age – that she wouldn’t really and truly grasp that “we don’t do that”. Now I find myself saying “we don’t do that” to her all the time… I feel like it’s sinking in for all manner of minor transgressions so far… It’s empowering 🙂 Small things amuse full-time mothers…

Last night, however, The Husband was in our hotel bathroom and he heard an unusual sound: the sound of me speaking very seriously and very firmly to The Princess who’d just willfully destroyed a puzzle piece. He came out to witness this unusual interaction. When he realised what had happened, he also spoke sternly to her. She simply looked at us as though we were stark raving mad or – if she understood her transgression (which I’m pretty sure she did) – she looked at me as though she couldn’t give a rat’s arse that I disapproved of what she’d done. I got the distinct impression that she’d done it because it was fun for her and that she’d do it again in a heartbeat if she felt so inclined. Our interpretation of her reaction sent The Husband into a neurotic Anglophone-style panic with respect to our unsuccessful attempts at disciplining our child. He wanted us to take this discipline thing WAY more seriously…

This morning I was presented with the perfect opportunity. I was fresh from as decent a night’s sleep as one can be when one sleeps in the same room as one’s toddler. The Princess and I were almost ready to leave our hotel room to go down for breakfast when she made to empty a Ziploc bag with about 120 fairly small, puzzle pieces onto the bathroom floor. I told her she was welcome to continue, but that she’d need to put them all back.

I feel exhausted even attempting to write about what ensued. In short, it was a 45 minute battle of wills between myself and my 21 month old toddler. No matter how many times I explained that we would only exit the bathroom once she’d put the puzzle pieces back into their packet, she willfully and flatly refused to do so. I remained calm throughout and never raised my voice. All through numerous tantrums and crying fits, I patiently sat and waited for her to do as I asked. The Husband supported my trying to discipline our child and confirmed that she understood perfectly what was required – she simply refused to co-operate because that would be giving in. But after 45 minutes he felt that we’d made our point and called the battle a “draw”. The actual results were as follows:

Six love to The Princess in: the First Epic Battle of Wills.

I think I may need to download The Strong-Willed Child for the next few days of beach reading…

Reflections on “Rookie Parent” Holidays

Last December, The Husband and I made some colossal “rookie parent” holiday mistakes with our nine month old. These were the major errors, which we try to remind ourselves of, before planning holidays with kids:

1) We went to three destinations:

We went to Cape Town for five nights; Hermanus for 17 nights; returned home for two nights; went to The Seychelles for six nights. Total packing and unpacking time: an estimated 40 hours or the equivalent of exactly one normal work week (outside of France). And those 40 hours exclude shopping for the holidays…

2). We stayed in a five star hotel

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for luxury accommodation. The problem was that the establishment we chose only altered its “no children under 12 policy” a few months before we arrived and it soon became clear that this was an economic decision to increase occupancy levels during the recession – strangely enough, they weren’t longing for screaming kids to adorn their secluded swimming pool area. Not only were there obviously absolutely zero facilities for babies or children, there were also naturally no family rooms on offer. Booking a second five-star room for The Princess and her night nurse was not an option, so we waved goodbye to our then, full-time nurse and said hello to 17 virtually sleepless nights with an unsettled child and her clueless parents in our lovely five star suite, overlooking the ocean.

3) We thought we’d survive sans nanny and sans changing station for 18 days

After three days of carrying a nine month old and solo nappy changing on a hotel bed, I felt about a hundred years old, possibly older. I thought I had somehow cracked a rib or pulled one of my intercostal muscles in my sleep. I struggled to breathe if I tried to walk even slightly quickly – that included walking around town with a pram, so I was honestly not attempting to walk particularly quickly at all. I couldn’t laugh because it hurt too much. By around 9am every morning I had lower back pain which only abated after lying on my back for the night, but then it would start up again the next morning. I honestly thought I had somehow sustained a severe rib-cage injury. It took me several days to figure out what was wrong. The Husband then tried to take over carrying The Princess as much as possible when he wasn’t cycling. A few days later he was complaining of severe pain in his left arm… Basically, we made a great, full-time, parenting duo.

4). We took a five hour flight to the Seychelles leaving at 1 in the morning

Even at nine months old, The Princess was not one to miss out on action. We arrived at the airport at around 8pm, believing that she would shortly fall asleep in her pram. No such event ensued. Instead, she reveled in all the action around her and got progressively more and more excited during the long wait in the check-in queue. At about 11pm, after approximately 90 minutes of queuing and many more minutes getting through security and passport control, we arrived at the lounge where our friends and travel companions’ 11 month old had been sound asleep in his pram since 8pm. She finally allowed herself to be pushed to sleep in her pram for 30 minutes before we had to board the flight. This cat nap was precisely the second wind The Princess needed. During the five hour flight to Mahe, The Princess and I pretty much enjoyed an all-nighter.

The return journey from the Seychelles equally eventful. Our pick-up for the airport was at 6am. As though sensing that we had an early wake-up ahead of us, The Princess decided to pre-empt things, and woke up – for the day – at 2:30 in the morning. When it became obvious that she wasn’t going to go back to sleep, The Great Pack began, lasting approximately three hours, until nearly 5:30am – close to perfect timing for our pick up. Then, just to liven things up a bit, The Princess had started to show signs of gastro-like symptoms towards the end (fortunately) of our holiday. She had one enormous vomit (could have been way worse, of course) and developed diarrhea. Subsequent laboratory tests revealed that she had contracted not just salmonella, but also some type of ecoli. (In defence of the beautiful Seychelles, these two lurgies can apparently be contracted anytime, anywhere…)

We did, however, get one thing very, very right during last summer’s holiday. We took a nanny with us to the Seychelles. At the end of the holiday, The Husband turned to me and said, “We should never have wasted money taking a nanny with us.”

Me: “You’re joking, right?”

The Husband: “Of course not! The cost of booking a separate room, the flight, all of that…”

I was incredulous. I thought it was the best money ever spent. To this day, I would forgo new clothes, new shoes, manis, pedis, holidays and hairdressers for three years if I had to choose between these things and holidaying with a nanny. I wasn’t too sure how to get this across to The Husband, so I tried a different tack:

“Taking a nanny on holiday with a baby is value for money. Owning seven bicycles – ​that ​is a waste of money”.

(I think he secretly agrees – not about the bikes, of course).