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.

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A visit to the Chocolate Garden

The Chocolate Garden in De Chamoy Estate (north of Durban) is my new favorite hangout.IMG_0507

Set in a lush garden setting, the wooden pergolas and cobbled paths give the place a hint of a storybook atmosphere. Essentially a cafe/coffee shop, the Chocolate Garden serves delectable breakfasts and light lunches with a good selection of drinks and snacks.

But what draws me to the place time and again, is the fact that it is SO kid-friendly. There’s a colorful jungle gym and playhouse, all set on child-approved astroturf. There’s also a sandpit and a tepee which the Twincesses just love.

IMG_0525But perhaps the girls’ most favorite thing about the Chocolate Garden… the bunnies. They have named each of the fat, white bunnies that inhabit the place:  Thumper, Rascal, Betty, Daisy, Oreo, Lily, Milo and Bella…are but a few.

We linger over breakfast and pots of steaming tea while the friendly waitresses ensure we are well taken care of. Meals are value for money and there is a lovely kids menu that offers a twist on the regular choices. Deep fried mac and cheese balls, anyone?

It is one of the few places where parents look relaxed and peaceful instead of frazzled and hurried, which speaks to the calm that seems to emanate around the place. Of course we had a ton of tears when we had to leave (from girls, although I did not want to leave either), and they reluctantly climbed into the car as I had to make FOUR pinky-promises to bring them back the next week.

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5 more minutes, please mom!

I would highly recommend the Chocolate Garden for a lazy weekend breakfast spot. They can be found here: 1 Robert Armstrong Rd, Barrs Flats, Verulam, South Africa.

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The Slow Burn of Motherhood

The craziness and heaviness that comes in the newborn months are well documented. The sheer exhaustion and frequent “WTF am I doing?” moments are discussed at doctor’s appointments and whispered about at playgroups.

But the slow burn of Motherhood is often overlooked. The chronic fatigue, the overlooking of one’s self and the deprioritization of our own needs are factors that lead to Motherhood’s slow burn.

What makes this phenomenon dangerous, is that its often not seen as “severe” enough to warrant immediate action for change. We accept the weariness as a ‘way of life’ or a passing phase that never really passes.

All well and good in the short term, but constantly putting off one’s well-being benefits no-one in the long-term. As the well known saying about Motherhood goes: “You cant pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.”

As a mom of 3 year olds, I know how difficult it can be to find time in the day for myself. My eyebrows have last been waxed in 2016 (I’m growing them out – my excuse), and I haven’t bought myself new clothes since before my girls were born. Seriously.

So I get it. There are a thousand ‘more’ important things to get done than my eyebrows. And honestly, I’d rather spend money on my kids than myself… but, but BUT! I need to revisit my unintentional  martyrdom. Am I really doing my kids any favors by overlooking myself so frequently?

How can I be teaching them to value themselves when I constantly reinforce the notion that I place little value on myself?

I’m not sure how just yet, but I’m going to try to change this. Maybe with little, tiny baby steps. I’m going to value myself a little more, focus on my well-being a little more. It could be a coffee with a friend here, a manicure there.

Here’s looking at me kid!

Save the Drama for your Mama

Ever heard a teacher rave about how well-behaved your child is and thought in disbelief “You can’t possibly mean my kid”. Let’s explore why kids save their worst behavior for their Moms.

Having a child behave like an angel for others can be frustrating and confusing for us moms when we seem to always be at the receiving end of bad behaviour. It’s hard not to take it personally when it seems like the tantrums are saved especially for us, and it’s easy to fall into a way of thinking where we blame yourself and question our every parenting decision.

This is really something I have been struggling with for the past few months, and set about doing some research into the “Save the Drama for your Mama” phenomenon.

Almost all behavioral psychologists agree: it isn’t intentional. Your child isn’t spending her days at school counting the minutes until they can get home to scream at you. At the core it boils down to the fact that home is a ‘safe zone’. The child is able act their ugliest, be their most vulnerable, because they feel safe. And a vast majority of the time, being vulnerable looks and smells very much like a tantrum.

The number one thing to remember is to avoid getting angry yourself at your child’s outbursts. Your attention is the fuel to the fire and the minute you participate in the outburst, you reinforce the negative behaviour. Pretty soon your child knows exactly how to get Mom’s attention, regardless of whether it’s negative attention or not.

Be consistent in your method of discipline and carry out consequences as promised. There is no easier way to lose credibility with your child than to not carry out the promised consequence for bad behaviour. The punishment should be age/time-length appropriate (rule of thumb = a minute for each year), and parents need to follow through with threats of discipline.

It’s important to remember that kids cannot be well-behaved 100% of the time. They too need a way to vent and to let off frustrations about their day or feelings, which very often, is what a tantrum boils down to – a way to cope with emotions that are too overwhelming.

Help your child develop problem-solving techniques that are relevant to his/her age. Validate their feelings of anger or frustration (dismissing them makes matters worse), then offer them an alternative way to cope: “I see you’re feeling angry, and that’s ok. But would you like to play on the swings outside until you feel better?”

Dealing with the split personality ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ kid might seem challenging and deeply daunting, but I try to remember, even on the worst days, that while I may get the brunt of my child’s poorest behaviour, I also get the best of it too. I get to see her at her most real, so I get to experience her highs and lows at close range. And I wouldn’t change that for anything!

Easy Peasy Dinner Cups

The Twincesses aren’t the easiest when it comes to mealtimes. They could have a favorite this week which they hate the next. And very frequently, one of them will like something while the other loathes it.

So as you can imagine dinner times are normally fraught with stress. I try to come up with imaginative ideas that encompass relatively healthy ingredients. Not as easy as it sounds when you work full time and have twins who could happily eat dry pasta all day, everyday.

I remember my mom used to make us scrambled egg cups when we were little. I loved it!!! So I tried a variation of it one day, and it was a hit!

So I’d like to share with you the quick and easy recipe for dinner cups with my secret ingredient!

What’s great about this dish (apart from the fact that its easy and quick to make), is that you can use any combination of ingredients you have in the fridge. Great to use up leftovers and super easy to hide veggies inside.

To make these easy dinner cups you’ll need:

– sliced bread (1 slice for each ‘cup’)

– eggs (roughly 1 egg for every 2 cups)

– any other ingredients your child fancies

(I normally use bacon or ham, cheese and sweet corn). Tuna, peppers, chopped tomatoes, chicken cubes or feta also work well.

Method:

-Preheat oven to 180 degrees and grease a muffin pan for the required number of cups.

– Cut off the crusts on a slice of bread and use a rolling pin to flatten it.

– Fold the flattened bread into the muffin pan so that it forms a sort of ‘bowl’ for your fillings.

– Beat the eggs and add the desired precooked ingredients.

– Spoon egg mixture into cups and bake for approx 10 Minutes until eggs are cooked through.

I always add a few spoons of Woolies butternut mash. I have written a separate post about the sheer versatility of the Woolies mashed veggie range… it’s just brilliant to add a healthy dose of the good stuff to your kids meals with them being none the wiser! I add a few spoons to pasta, pies, stews, eggs… just about anything really.

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The Twincesses love their dinner cups, and I try to mix it up with different fillings every now and then to ensure they don’t get bored.

Hopefully if you try it, it will be just as big a hit in your household!

Why I chose to raise my kids in South Africa

Why on earth would you leave France to come back to SA?

Its a question I get asked so often – and my response always varies.I lived in Paris, France for 7 years, but as soon as we found out we were expecting the Twincesses, we started planning to relocate to South Africa.

Part of that decision was due to the fact that I wanted my children to have a childhood similar to mine. A childhood of sunny days at the beach, surrounded by family. Days of playing with their friends outside and riding their bikes up and down the neighborhood streets.

I know that SO MUCH has changed in South Africa since I was a child though. Crime has escalated exponentially, and the days of playing in the streets are well and truly over for most kids in South Africa. Yet, I don’t see our decision to relocate to SA as a gamble… I see it as a leap of faith.IMG_1822

My kids will only have one childhood. And my intention is to fill that childhood with wonderful memories for them to cherish when they are older. Part of those memories will be having their extended family around them. The biggest motivating factor for me to make the move back was my family. They are all in South Africa, and I did not want my kids growing up to feel like strangers around them. Watching them with their grandma … my heart melts. I wouldn’t trade it for a million euros!

Space was another deciding factor for us. We lived in the heart of Paris, a stone’s throw from the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. But our apartment was a mere 45m2. That’s pretty average by city-dwelling standards…but i could NOT imagine raising TWO children in that cramped space. Yes, there was the option to move – buy a bigger place, but that would have meant a mortgage or rental, and most definitely a place OUTSIDE of the city, as real estate prices in Paris are through the roof!

While in SA, we reside in a four bedroom house with a large backyard, large, open spaces to have the extended family over for braais and sleepovers, and our very own pool which the kids just adore. We could never have had this in France. And don’t get me started on the weather!

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We did not make the decision to relocate to South Africa lightly. We had 2 stable, well-paying jobs and left it all for a step into the unknown. We considered various factors such as the cost of living, healthcare, quality of life and safety. We thought about it long and hard, and changed our minds at least twice before finally deciding to take the leap of faith.

There are some days when I question my decision (opening a newspaper normally does that)…but do I regret my choice to raise my children in South Africa? A resounding NO.

THIS is where we are meant to be right now. The option to go back to France will always be there as dual nationality makes it relatively simple to reconsider….and it may very well be something we do in the future when the girls are older (as the thought of them being teenagers in SA sometimes scares me)… but for now, right here is where we belong.

And I intend to live our lives to the fullest, and enjoy every moment in our sunny, vibrant country that has SO MUCH going for it, in spite of all the negativity.

#MeToo: What it means, Why it’s needed

The #MeToo campaign is seeking to expose the magnitude of women who have been, in some form, at some time in their life, exposed to sexual harrassment.

Be it catcalling to rape, any unwanted sexual advances from an entitled male is being counted.

The hashtag is sweeping social media along with heartbreaking stories from women worldwide who have been victims of sexual abuse.

The campaign comes hot on the heels of, and perhaps in response to, the explosive allegations against Harvey Weinstein; studio exec and film producer extraordinaire.

Numerous actresses, many who are household names, have come forward with their stories of sexual assault against Weinstein.

The most troubling thing about this though is the pattern that emerges time and time again: rich, powerful men who feel entitled and completely invincible… in a position of such influence and domination, that their victims have no other choice but to remain silent. Or so it seems…

That for me, is the main reason this hashtag and its movement is so important. Apart from shedding light on the magnitude of abuse, I am hoping it is also giving a voice to the once voiceless.

And in doing so, those who are (or will be) victims of sexual abuse will know that they need not remain silent. They need not fear or hide because of the perpetrator’s influence on their careers, their images, their lives.

In this crazy world, where the president of the United States can get away with boastful anecdotes about sexual abuse he himself had perpetrated, I fear for the girls I am raising amidst the hate and hostility that seems to infiltrate men of all creed.

I fear it’s not a matter of “if” but merely “when” my own girls will be able to count themselves amongst the band of “#MeToos”. The thought makes me sick to my stomach.

I pray my daughters will know how to use their voice, how to say “no” and mean it. I pray they will have the strength to stand up for themselves when it may seem impossible.

As parents we are tasked with the great responsibility of raising strong, self-assured women; and strong, secure men who respect them.

It is my hope that the #MeToo campaign becomes a rallying call to and for all those who have remained silent for far too long.

You are heard. You are strong. You are not to blame. You are not alone.