slow

Emme and Jett are sitting in the huge red tub Marc bought me to bath in (another story for another time, suffice it to say I miss having a bath). They are playing some random mix of a doctor game, Playmobil and something to do with a belt and a bandage tied together. Its drizzling outside, as it has been for days now. The “joy” of living on a tropical island – lots of rain. I found a playlist on Apple Music called “Acoustic Chill” which is probably a little melancholic given the dreary grey skies outdoors and relative quiet indoors. Regardless, I have it playing and somewhere in my chest/abdominal cavity there is a bubble of nostalgia that I keep having to ignore. Perhaps I should change the playlist?

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Any way, this day is moving nice and slowly. We have done our school work, folded laundry, tidied and cleaned all that needed tidying and cleaning and now we are in that glorious space between all we have done and goûter (afternoon snack) where the big girls get tech-time and the younger two get to do whatever they like. I like this slow pace.

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You will notice, I love this word “slow”. I even like to just say it , “slow” (as opposed to “from” which I hate saying). I am a firm believer in slow. Especially since having kids. I want time to move slowly. I want us to move slowly through time. I want to do everything slowly. I want to live “slow”. Ryen recently told me to “preach what you [I] practice”, and on this one I really can say I’m doing just that. It is my mission in life to just slow it all down.

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But why? A while back I listened to a series of preaches by Andy Stanley entitled “Breathing Room”. Our then home church, Linc, also did a series with the same title. And what really struck me, was the idea that in order to live more fully, to find happiness, to be more ALIVE, people found themselves cramming as much as possible into their days. On a quest for more they added more. The whole idea is actually so backward and so sad. Truth is, if we really want MORE, we have to have less. We need to do less and take more time doing it. The analogy of folding paper and placing it into a glass jar was used. A person was told to crumple up, ball up, scrunch up paper and put as many pieces into a jar as would fit. The natural response was for that person to hurriedly scrunch and shove. Soon enough the jar was full and the person was pretty pooped. It’s tiring scrunching and shoving. A second jar was brought out and the person was told to neatly fold the same amount of paper as he used in the scrunch jar, and systematically place each folded piece into the jar. The jar didn’t even get a third as full as the scrunch jar. Not only was the jar not filled, the person folding and filling took his time and didn’t feel pooped at the end. In fact, he took a similar amount of time to do what looked like “more” work and landed up with better results.

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There is much I can say, I could really write a whole thesis on this topic. That series changed my life in so many ways. For one, it led me on a road to “Simple Living”. And on that road, I found “slow”. Slow is me taking time for more. More connection with my kids and my husband. More connection with my environment and with the present. More connection with myself. And, more connection with God. A beautiful by-product is that I get “stuff” done more efficiently, I fit more into my day than I used to be able to and on days when I feel like not fitting so much in, I have grace for myself because I know myself better than I ever have before. I value slow because I have seen its value come to life in my own life.

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I am sure I will speak lots more on this as time goes on. I would love to hear from you – your thoughts and questions on the idea of “slow”. Lets unpack this a little more.

 

 

 

aware (and pics of our time with courts)

It is hot. Heat wraps around us like a blanket and trickles down the back of my t-shirt. Outside, I hear fruit bats calling to each other. I can smell the rotting mangos on the driveway and front lawn where they fall, bite marks perforating their green and red skin. I’m sure rats also enjoy them once they have fallen. This morning, a beheaded rat was left for us on the front doormat. A gift from the two feral cats we have been feeding. We have named them George and Cricket. I think Cricket is the mom, she is bigger than George, more wary of us humans. George is inquisitive and we leave doors open for them after their evening meal in the hopes that they will get used to us and come inside. George looks in and then runs back to Cricket, his safety net.

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I am sitting in Emme and Jett’s room waiting for them to fall asleep. They have had their bedtime story and are starting to settle in. I’m eager for them to sleep so that I can go catch some alone time before I go start the evening ritual with the bigger two. We are settling in.

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We are midway through January and I have yet to take a moment to give thought to the year ahead. I am not worried. We started the year off calmly, enjoying a proper holiday with Courts. We spent ten days together as a family, reading, swimming, eating, sleeping. It was such a beautiful and intentional time and, I think, exactly what we all needed.

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Now, I can feel us finding a rhythm. We have some routines in place. Some rituals we are beginning to follow. I even find myself doing things in order when I wake up: get up, drag the washing basket to the kitchen where I turn on the kettle and then begin loading the washing machine. Once that is done, I unload the draining rack and dishwasher and then make my morning cuppa (or my second cup if Marc has beat me to the first one and delivered it to me in bed) and wind my way back to my bed to enjoy my cup in silence. It is the same every day.

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IMG_0353IMG_8164IMG_8159IMG_0384I love this sense of rhythm, this moving easily from task to task, all the while breathing in the life around me. I like the almost predictability of doing some of the same things every day. I like hanging the washing in the sun, flicking each item out to rid it of wrinkles and smelling the new soap we use. I like making a snack plate of apples and peanut butter for Emme and Jett and hearing them squeal ,”Apples” as if it’s the best snack ever. I like setting the table while my dinner is finishing up on the stove, laying each utensil neatly, a glass above each knife, the napkin folded into a rectangle in the center of each place. I like calling my family for dinner and then checking the time, noticing that we eat around six thirty every evening, whether I am trying to or not. I like that we are finding our groove and that the honeymoon period of living on a tropical island seems to have worn off and we are starting to actually LIVE here. I like that at the end of last year we decided our family word for the year would be “flow”, and it seems to already be fitting. What I love most about it, is that it seems to have slowed us down and settled us into a simpler way of life. Into a time where we are noticing life as it happens around us. I feel as though we are more aware.

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Aware. Perhaps that will be my word for this year.

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food fight 2019

 

We have had some food fights recently. And by food fights, I mean fights about food and not the fun kind of food fights where things get crazy and food is hurtled across rooms. Although … there may have been an incident where some food was taken out of someone’s mouth and thrown on the floor, so that does kind of qualify. It wasn’t fun though and I didn’t feel happy or proud afterwards. And yes, it was me who threw the food. And no, I did not take it out of my own mouth.

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Having five children means having five very different HUMANS. Some humans like food, all food. Some humans like to try new foods and base their decisions on whether or not they will eat these foods on the fact that they have actually allowed said food to pass their lips. Some humans genuinely don’t like certain foods, which is ok. Some humans eat large portions and others eat small portions. And then there are humans who think that seeing something and deciding that it doesn’t LOOK like something they will eat qualifies them to say, “I don’t like it”.  I have some humans and they all fit into one or the other of these categories. The latter being the most fun category of all.

 

Moving to Mauritius has forced us to try out a lot of new food. Some of the foods we have tried, and liked, are foods we had never even heard of in South Africa. It has been a food adventure for sure. And, as with all adventures, there have been some moments where we have just really wished for the same ol’ same ol’. That said, for the most part we have enjoyed trying new things and most of the foods are delicious. I’m not sure I will ever like Jackfruit (jaquier or jacque in Mauritius). But, that’s ok.

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Manioc (Cassava)
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Eating “Boulette” at the Mahebourg Waterfront

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Delicious Coconut Pastry

At home, however, I have tried to keep it as “normal” as possible. As a family, we follow a predominantly plant based diet. The kids are used to, and enjoy, nourish bowls, lentils, vegetable stews, salads etc. They grew up on this stuff. We do make an occasional spaghetti bolognese or chicken something. But the child in question, has always been a natural vegetarian any way.

 

So, the food fight:

“Child” suddenly doesn’t eat ANYTHING but pasta or bread. All other  food is “yucky” and child doesn’t like it. We manage on most nights to get Child to eat, sometimes we have to physically spoon things into Child’s mouth, but we generally win after a bit of conversation and cajoling.

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Now, there are some factors that come in to play here. I have to understand some important things like developmental milestones, emotional and psychological factors, taste preferences, gender (I may be giving away Child’s identity a bit here. Sorry Child!) As a parent, I feel it is important to consider ALL these factors and aspects pertaining to “issues” we are having with our kids and then deal with them accordingly. And, for the most part, I am able to do this.

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But, on the night of “Food Fight 2019” I had some of my own factors weighing out my rationale – I was tired, maybe a bit lonely, longing for some space of my own, feeling a bit drained by being present all the time and not carving out enough time for myself etc. etc.

This is how it went down. Child refused the food on offer. We tried our usual tactics and then “had” to deliver the “ultimatum”, “It is your choice. You can either try the food we have made for dinner or you can go to your room and wait for us to eat our own food and then you may come out. However, there will be no other food for you”. Of course we thought that this manipulation would work because parents are the boss and all that. It failed and Child landed up being force-fed a spoonful of food which Child proceeded to gag on and began sobbing hysterically. I calmly (like actually calmly) took Child’s hand to lead Child to the bedroom where I planned to have a rational discussion about food and its benefits etc.

 

* side note: if you know me, this is not my normal behaviour. Yes, I am calm, but I don’t usually turn things into a big drama and have power-play showdowns.

 

Well, we got into the room and the gagging had stopped. The food in the mouth was now clinging precariously to the lower lip and child was silently weeping. I asked Child to please swallow and Child refused. And then, I lost it. I grabbed the food, threw it on the floor and stormed out of the room after saying something mean like “Now you will stay here until we are finished eating” and some other mean things like “I’m sick of you not eating”.

I sat back down at the table where the rest of the family were silent and wide-eyed. Of course, I tried to believe I was justified in my actions. But sitting there and seeing them all looking at me like that was HORRIBLE. What I had done was just so mean, and they knew it. And, it was so out of character for me.

 

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Here’s the deal, my child’s behaviour says NOTHING about my parenting. Child is a child and is actually entitled to behave like one. As I mentioned before, there are other factors to consider that affect a child’s behaviour. If I mindfully consider these factors, I am able to rationally approach helping Child to navigate his/her behaviour better and to make his/her own mindful choices. I am able to set achievable tasks and goals for my child and when he/she doesn’t achieve them, I am able to help him/her.

My behaviour says EVERYTHING about my parenting. Now hear me, I am not beating myself up over “Food Fight 2019”. In fact, I am actually laughing as I type because in retrospect it is ludicrous and super funny. It was also a direct result of me not being completely “ok”. I apologised to Child and we were able to move forward that night. Child even ate an entire bowl of food and declared, “I’m so proud of myself” at the end.  But, how I respond or react to my children says EVERYTHING about me. My greatest role model is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and ABOUNDING in love. What is love? Who is Love? I love the Passion Translation of the well-known verse in 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up”. 

 

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May I model Love in my parenting and when I mess up, may I look to Love and see that my failures are not defeats. I will never give up trying to be a better parent. I will never give up learning how to better navigate the journey of parenting, which I can assure you never ends (my adult daughter is still my daughter). I will always strive to be a better me and to turn my eyes to Him, the Author and the Bar-setter.  Again, thank you for joining me on this journey and my prayer is that you will be inspired, as I am, by Love.

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rain and flow

*** disclaimer: this post is full of bad, unedited photos. This is real life.

 

 

There is washing hanging from nearly every surface in each bedroom. Every time I think there is a break in the clouds, or a gap in the rain, the skies open and the rain comes down in swishy laughter, tormenting me with its wet grin. Yup, it has developed human qualities. I have developed a love-hate relationship with it/him/whatever. Nothing dries. NOTHING. And in other parts of the Island, like 8km away, the sun shines down in glorious, golden goodness. There, EVERYTHING dries.

I am learning to live with the quirks of my new island life. Tropical rain that makes this a green and beautiful place but an impossible ‘laundromat’.  Tiny bricks of butter and no fresh milk (my mom will tell you that box milk and I used to be enemies). All the fresh, delicious fruit that goes to the hotels and the leftovers that are sold to us at ridiculously high prices (Except on market days -la foire- where you can get beautifully fresh and reasonably priced fruit and veg AND shop plastic-free. Unfortunately, the markets are crazy busy and my kids are still not comfortable in large crowds and so I don’t get to the market often enough). Markets. Scooters everywhere, and not many helmets. A large selection of cheeses but not much gouda. Being called “Madame”.  Stray dogs everywhere. Stray cats everywhere – even playing in the sea. Sun that shines on turquoise waters and rain that doesn’t chill you. Rain on the beach doesn’t drive people to shelter because it invariably lasts a few minutes, so people just ignore it. Rain on the beach is different to rain 8km inland. Multiple weather systems or micro weather systems on just one small island.  If you live in the South, the North is far and so the Island is bigger that I thought.

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Shopping haul
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Our local supermarket, London Way
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Bus Trip
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Litchi trees covered with nets against bats
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Stray kitten playing in the sea

Nine weeks in and life is starting to feel somewhat “normal”. We have not moved to our own space yet, which is equal parts frustrating and helpful. We are incredibly grateful to Marc’s dad for opening his home to us and making it such a comfortable space for us to live in for now. There is a longing in our hearts for us to have a home, though. It is a difficult decision to make, to not rush into moving. We are determined to make the right choice in terms of where we will live and don’t want to rush into an emotionally-charged move and land up in an area that isn’t going to work for us as a family. We have discovered, as I mentioned, that the Island is bigger than we initially thought and that the four major areas provide different pros and cons in terms of what we dreaming of for a home, community and environment. The North is currently winning the “competition” as it seems to be ticking most of our boxes – beautiful beaches and many opportunities to live within walking distance to (if not in view of) the beach, community, variety in terms of shopping choices, restaurants etc and very importantly, family.

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Lunch on a beach in the North after a business meeting for Marc
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Family
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Family Moments
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Cousin Time

The South, where we live now, is beautiful. I mean, EXQUISITE. The ocean is always clear and glassy. The sea life is prolific. There are mountains and green spaces all around us. BUT, it is dead quiet. There are no schools close-by and as a result, not many children. The children who do live here spend their days traveling to and from school. It is a gorgeous holiday destination but not a very vibing place to live. We are bored and lonely and starting to get tired of the same ol’, same ol’. The shops are not well stocked and so I tend to wait to do a decent shop when I know I will be in an area with a nice big supermarket. This means dinner is becoming a monotonous, carb-affair and the fruit situation looks very much like apples, apples and more apples. I long for a good nourish bowl and an avo.  That said, there is a new mall opening soon and so maybe my tune will change once we have more choice.

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The kids will be finishing up their school work for the year really soon. I am so proud of how well they have done given the many changes they have faced this year. They are an adventurous and tenacious bunch. I, personally, have enjoyed the freedom of having less as it has given me a bit more space to enjoy homeschooling them and to experiment with and explore some new methods and content with them. I am constantly learning and growing as they learn and grow and it has been great to have the freedom of no “physical constraints”  ( a house to clean, mostly) to interfere with our learning processes this year. Moving around a lot provided so much educationally. I feel like we have learned so much about so much. In particular, I feel like outside of pure academics, we have learned a huge amount about ourselves and about life. We have really come to understand the “live simply, simply live” ethos and I can honestly say that it has become more of a way of life than ever before for us. We have learned how to make much out of so little, and in all aspects – from meals with very few ingredients to elaborate games with very few toys. We have more hours in our days and so much more to fill them with and yet, our possessions are few and our  commitments are minimal. We have learned to savour moments and to enjoy the small things, like sunsets and starfish and fresh breezes and story time at night and whispered conversations after lights out. We are content.

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This longing for a home comes after a beautiful year spent collecting memories and learning through some tough times too. It is time to put down some roots and to begin making new memories in a space that will be a bit more “stable” . We feel ready to be a family in a home. We have spent this year becoming and its time to find a new flow in a new community with new dreams and new adventures. I am excited for the next steps, and excited to be on a journey towards a new dream. I hope you will continue to live these steps with me.

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call me Enid

Today we have been in Mauritus for seven weeks. Slowly, we are shaking off the trappings of one life to explore the freedoms of another life, all the while holding on, fondly, to the things from before that helped to shape and make us us.

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Picnic in the garden

I feel like I am living in an Enid Blyton book a lot of the time, and half expect the children to call me “Mother” and for their dog, Scamp, to magically appear. There is a strong sense of “time stood still” here. Although I guess it would be “Maman” and the dog would be “Leon” or “Rififi, but i digress. Time …

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I love that my children spend a LOT of their time in the garden or on the beach. I love that they have made friends with sweet French children who are fun and a little bit old-fashioned in all the wonderful ways a person can be old-fashioned. I love that they now play boulle in the garden or board games or ping pong and make up games to play in the pool (not ours). I love that it is normal for children to go snorkeling and to swim in the ocean from the time they can walk. I love that after lunch there is “rest time” and after rest time is “gouter” (snack) and after gouter you meet your friends to play ping pong or go swimming on the beach and that it is normal for these play dates to only end at 6pm. I love that it genuinely feels like the Secret Seven may be having a meeting next door and that the Famous Five are camping alone on the beach somewhere close by. I love that, although the internet here is crazy fast and way better than what we had in South Africa, it feels as if children here are completely unaffected by it. It feels as if time has moved way more slowly here (in many respects, good and bad) and I love it.

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Games in the pool with Gabi, Matteo and Noemie
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Snorkeling 
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Boulle in the garden with Tante Jos 
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Making a “campfire”
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Ice-creams from the ice-cream truck at Blue Bay
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The best way to end a day

The thing I love the most is that I feel as if we are giving our children a proper childhood. One like the ones we had. A childhood spent outdoors, come rain or shine, running freely from activity to activity with very few cares other than being late for dinner. I love it! And I will mindfully pursue this for them for as long as I possibly can.

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Golly, it’s taken me long enough to actually get here and write this post. I so badly want to be proactive about “blogging” and I think about it a lot. But, actually getting there is proving somewhat difficult. I love writing and I love this platform as a way of taking a bit of our every day, a bit of what is in my head and a bit of what I’m feeling and learning and chronicling it all. A journal of sorts and perhaps even a kind of memoir, something to look back on and something that, maybe, someone can learn from. I’m not very sure how to be better at making time for it. Perhaps as we settle more into “normal life” I will settle into a better routine of “structured time for the things I love”.  For now, I will post as often as I can.

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You’ve already gathered that life has been busy. All the more so since Marc arrived just over a week and a half ago. I can’t tell you how wonderful it has been to be reunited after being apart for four months.  We have been reveling in having a dad and a husband again. And adjusting to life as a family again.

Mauritius is treating us well. I promise I will post again soon. Perhaps, sooner than later.

saturday

We are having a slow Saturday. Most days here are slow, so when I say, “a slow Saturday”, I mean slooooow. Our initial plan was to wake up and head down to the beach, but Mica and I only got to sleep after 2am because the rats, or bats, in the roof where having a Friday night party that sounded like 3 grown men were dancing up there (exaggerated, but you get the idea). Needless to say, the beach morning didn’t happen. A long lie-in happened.

 

Emme and Jett have been playing Playmobil all day. I have read and flicked through Instagram, done a bit of washing, sipped coffee and nibbled panne chocolat (our Saturday morning tradition). At lunch time I made our other Saturday tradition, ham rolls, for lunch (so much for being plant based) and after that I went outside to hang my washing.

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These tiny rolls will be the undoing of me. They are too, too delish!

Slipping off my shoes I curled my toes around a few blades of grass and felt the tickle of them, which made me smile. I stopped. I looked around. The sun was beating on the top of my head, reminding me that summer isn’t far away and this will be our first Mauritian summer. I felt a slight breeze slide across my face and the smell of my fresh washing wafted up to me. I looked down and saw my shoes, the washing, the pegs, my feet. And it looked so good. So real. I was 100% in the moment. I took out my phone to capture the moment, in the hopes that one day, when I see it, I am reminded to live in the moments. To take great pleasure in small things.

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