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Slow Down, Mama

I find myself rushing ALL THE TIME. It has become so ingrained in me to do everything as fast and efficiently as I possibly can that, even at times when there is no reason to rush – I am hurried. I drive with haste (though not recklessly), and am easily annoyed if the car in front of me doesn’t move the instant the light turns green.

I remember a time that doesn’t seem so long ago, when I would trot through a mall, casually stopping to admire something in a display window, popping inside on whim. Nowadays, trips to a mall are rather efficient affairs, generally armed with a detailed list and a plan of action already mapped out.

Grocery shopping is much the same except I write my grocery list in accordance to where the items are located in the store. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking efficiency and planning. That’s my jam! But something happened last week made me stop and think that maybe I need to slow down a bit.

It was a beautiful sunny Saturday. The girls had just finished a ballet lesson in Umhlanga and we decided to pop down to the beach across the road for a morning stroll. I found myself holding Harper’s hand, and ushering her along quickly, before she said: “I know we have to hurry mama”.

I was slightly taken aback, and enquired why we had to hurry. And her reply left me feeling like a real sh*t mom: “because we always have to hurry”. So, my stress, which I manifest as a constant state of ‘rush’ has now been conveyed to my toddler.

I walked the rest of the way to the beach in silence, mindfully slowly, and as the girls got stuck into building castles on the sand, I asked my husband if he felt that I was in a constant state of haste. His response was a loud laugh, confirming that I am indeed moving at breakneck pace and pushing them all to keep up. (Except he said it a little nicer than that – thankfully).

It stayed with me all day until the girls were finally asleep that night and I could really think about how I had been behaving in recent years. They were right of course. Something had happened along the way, and the girl who stopped to smell the roses had become the mother who stopped for well… nothing.

Man, I felt so guilty of inflicting that on my family! I don’t want to be the mom that is pushing them along all the time. I want to be the mom that is present, relaxed, fun. Surely I can be well-organized and still enjoy the little moments with my children? Where do I draw the line?

Firstly, I need to be mindful of how and when I convey haste. If we do need to hurry for any reason (maybe we’re late for something), I am going to communicate that to my children in a manner they will understand. I don’t want them thinking that we need to rush all the time, but allow them to understand when urgency is required, and why.

But more than anything I’m going to start making a conscious decision the be more present. And on the days when we have nowhere to go and nothing to do, I am going to allow then to set the pace. It will not be easy… I have been conditioned to run from one task to the next… but I am going to try my best to slow down and soak up this crazy, messy word of motherhood. I owe to my kids.

10 Reasons why Checkers Little Garden gets Big Thumbs Up

We love collectibles. There – I said it. We collected all the Stickeez and the mini shop items. We collected super animal cards. Angry birds and McDonald’s happy meal toys. It’s a sickness, really.

The only problem with our OCD collection skills, is that several tiny toys and more than a few cards, are now sitting at the bottomest bottom of the toybox, never to be seen or played with again. And the plastic – so much plastic. It’s not really good for our planet, now it is?

So when Checkers recently announced their new collectable campaign … I was pleasantly blown away! Here’s 10 reasons why the Twincesses and I love, love, LOVE the Checkers Little Garden:

1. It’s eco friendly: The materials used in the Little Garden seedling kits are compostable or recyclable: the pots are all biodegradable, made of wood pulp and peat. The seeds are all natural and the soil pods are made of coconut husk. Isn’t that amazing?!

2. It promotes family time: We just love that this initiative will encourage kids and parents to spend time together when tending their seedlings and the eventual garden that will result.

3. It encourages outside play: Anything that gets the kids excited about being outside, away from the TV or their tablets is a good thing, our humble opinion.

4. The accessories are seriously cute!: From little watering cans to petite wheelbarrows, the accessories that accompany the Little Garden campaign are a shrewd marketing move from Checkers. Parents will not be able to resist the miniature rakes, spades and garden shears in bright, bold colors.

5. It’s sustainable: Unlike the tiny plastic toys that have been long forgotten, the Little Garden promotes growing flowers, herbs and vegetables that should continue to flourish seasonally if tended well.

6. It’s educational: The concept promotes knowledge about growing your own food and food sustainability.

7. Gracie Greenfingers is the coolest kid on the block: The Little Garden mascot and master gardener is witty, sassy and seriously hip. She’s there to offer advice to budding gardeners and she could not be any cuter if she tried!

8. It promotes a new hobby: Gardening need not be reserved for the older folks anymore. With this initiative, kids can maybe find a new, unexpected hobby.

9. It’s water wise: The entire program encourages consumers to save as much water as possible. Some of the seedlings are drought tolerant and others will need just a little bit of water to flourish.

10. It’s effectively free: While the campaign will have you choosing Checkers above competitor stores just so you complete your collection, the seedling kits are free and you’ll receive one for every R150 you spend in store.

We can’t wait to complete our collection and for our seedlings to sprout!!

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Are you loving the Little Garden as much as we are? Let us know in the comments.

Peppa Pig at Prima Toys

Prima Toys is one of the leading toy distributors in Southern Africa. They represent some of the most famous toy and character brands in the world, so it was excitement all round when they sent us some beautiful Peppa Pig Toys for the Twincesses to review.

“In recent years Peppa Pig has become a firm favourite amongst pre-school children. Some may even say that she has become somewhat of a celebrity with many fans the world over. So it is no surprise that the new Peppa Pig range of toys are set to become an essential part of the toy box!

Inspired by the TV show, the new playsets, characters and themes are iconic and instantly recognisable by children and their parents. The toys are great for role play and encourage children to use their imaginations by making up lots of Peppa Pig stories.”

If you’ve been following our journey, you’ll know the girls have been more than a little Peppa obsessed lately. The minute they saw the box, their eyes lit up… but when they realized it contained Peppa Pig goodies… I can’t explain the joy!

We received 3 lovely different toys from the PrimaToys Peppa Pig collection.

The first was the Fancy Dress 5 Figure Pack. The collectable pack includes five favorite Peppa Pig characters in fun dress-up costumes. There’s Princess Peppa, Danny the Pirate, Pedro the Clown, Candy Witch & George the Dinosaur. The figures have moving arms and legs and provided hours of fun for the girls as they created their own storyline with each of the characters.

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The second item we received is Harper’s favorite: the Peppa Pig Sing And Learn Microphone.

Kids will instantly recognize the tunes from the TV show, and when they press the “Peppa” key, Peppa Pig will sing along with them! I’m normally not a fan of toys that make a noise, but this one is just adorable! Chunky, yet sturdy enough for little hands, its sure to be a hit in our household for a long, long time!

We also received the beautiful Peppa Pig Classroom Playset – but I’m saving that one for another day as the girls have been so spoilt already! They get to play with one of their all-time favorite characters and bring the stories to life in their own words, using their imaginations.

“Peppa Pig personifies childhood adventure and joy. She loves to play with her brother and with her friends, and she always provides a positive underlying message such as co-operation, playing together and the importance of family and friendship,” says Chiquita Patrizi, spokesperson for Prima Toys. I couldn’t agree more!

The Prima Toys Peppa Pig collection spans puzzles, figurines, a camera, microphone, games and a coin bank. We received these toys for review purposes, but all opinions remain 100% honest.

What it’s like to have a baby overseas – My pregnancy and birth experience in France

I moved to Paris, France in 2009 after my marriage to a French citizen. I had already been residing there for 6 years when we found out we were expecting twins, yet my first thought was to get on a plane (while I was still allowed to fly) and go home to SA.

I wanted to have my pregnancy experience in South Africa. Amidst family and friends and familiarity. With doctors who spoke fluent English. I didn’t know it then, but eventually deciding to have the babies in France was the best decision I ever made.

A twin pregnancy is automatically deemed “high risk”. There was a high possibility of the babies arriving prematurely and my team of doctors were outstanding.

My “social security” benefits covered every doctor visit, including ultrasounds (I had monthly visits and scans due to being high risk). It also covered the numerous blood tests and screening tests that are performed in the first trimester. Other benefits included antenatal classes and physiotherapy for lower back and sciatic pain.

I developed gestational diabetes about halfway through my pregnancy and was immediately referred to a diabetologist. I had weekly meetings with this specialist that included meal planning, testing and going over my daily finger-prick glucose records.

Pregnant women can collect a “badge” from their local municipality which ensures they receive a seat on any of the public transport modalities. I traveled to and from work on the metro, but found I never needed the badge, as I was automatically ushered to a seat each time I stepped onto the train.

My birth experience itself was a little traumatic, due to hemorrhage after my C-section, and I was particularly thankful to be in a world class hospital. The hospital was amazing! The private room was of hotel standard… really! Equipped with a large cupboard, flat screen TV, modern baby bassinet and bath, sofa and a large reclining chair that converted into a bed.

My pre-delivery room had a large hot tub where I could “work through the contractions” although I never used it.

The standard of care was amazing! The hospital provided literally everything we needed in the first few days for both myself and the babies. My glucose levels were monitored closely as well the swelling in my legs (with daily anticoagulant injections).

I had a lactation specialist visit me in my room to walk me through the initial breastfeeding experience.

The girls had their assessments done by my bedside and this included hearing testing.

The staff were so invested in us and our well-being… it was unbelievable to think we were just another patient.

Hospital meals were not only edible, but actually delicious, and came with a cheese course. It was after all, France.

A municipal officer visited our room to register the girls in private. We received their birth certificates two days later which she hand-delivered.

We left the hospital exactly 7 days after the girls were born. Correctly installed car seats were mandatory.

Post natal care for the babies included vaccines/ growth and development assessments and a mandatory ultrasound on the girl’s hips as they were both breech In utero.

For me, apart from (more) glucose testing, I was also covered for 20 sessions of “pelvic re-education” which is a type of psychical therapy to retrain and tighten the muscles of the pelvic floor. I’m NOT kidding. The French take this very seriously.

I had a midwife visit us at home a few days after we settled, and this was also fully covered by the social security benefits. She spent a good few hours with us, helping me with breastfeeding challenges and discussing the routine we had going. She checked the babies weight, and vitals and specifically looked for lip-tie issues.

After all this, I got to enjoy 34 weeks (yes, you read correctly) of fully paid maternity leave. Parents are then welcome to take time off from work (until the child reaches 3 years of age), to raise their children, while their job and salary is guaranteed to them when they return. They receive a social grant during this time if they opt for this benefit.

I am so happy with my ultimate decision to have continued with my pregnancy and birth in France. From the experiences some of my friends describe, I think South Africa still has a way to go to ensure the birthing experience is pleasant and enjoyable for families.

How was your birth experience? Anything stand out for you? Let me know in the comments.

Peppa Pig Live in SA

A superstar visited Durban this weekend! She’s pink, she talks in a proper English accent and she just loves jumping in muddy puddles. Yes, Peppa Pig had set her sights on SA’s sunniest city and the Twincesses could not have been more excited!

We went to not one, but two live performances at the Playhouse theatre. We had purchased tickets months ago, but then won a set of family tickets at the last minute.

I deliberated going twice, and even called a few friends to see if they wanted the tickets; but if you remember this post, you’ll know how completely obsessed the girls are with Peppa Pig. And what’s more, the winning tickets included a VIP Meet and Greet with Peppa and her piggy family after the show!

The performance itself was amazing! A fully immersive, interactive show that had the kids jumping, clapping and laughing along. The shows lovely facilitator, Anna was engaging and enthusiastic, and ensured the kids were involved throughout.

There were loads of Peppa’s favorite songs, including the ‘world-famous’ Bing Bong song…which everyone sang along to (parents alike). Madame Gazelle would have been so proud!

Mummy Pig taught the children important lessons about wearing sunscreen and only swimming when a grown up was there to supervise. While Daddy Pig made everyone laugh by reading the map upside down. George had lost Mr Dinosaur at the start of the show, and the entire plot centered around finding George’s favorite toy while taking us on a trip through the forest, the beach and the mountains.

The stage designs were lovely and bright, and the children were excited to see a few of Peppa’s well-know friends as well, like Suzy Sheep, Pedro Pony and Danny Dog.

The show had everyone on their feet at the end, singing and clapping along! I must admit, it was thoroughly enjoyable, and had every child enthralled from start to finish!