Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Experiences

Robyn is counting the days to the school holidays now. Eleven more school days for her (the others have to wait another week after she's released). I cannot believe this year is nearly over. I realised today that somehow the whole year went by and we didn't go away as much as we usually do - somehow April and September got skipped. We'll have to rectify that next year, though with the World Cup here next year getting a booking anywhere in the winter holiday will be tricky. Perhaps we'll have to be brave and Camp in the 'Berg in Winter.

Speaking of camping, the first question the kids asked after I announced a while back that we'd be spending a week in Mauritius in December, was 'Will we still go camping in January?' Old habits die hard. And yes, we will still be going on our traditional New Year camp. Hopefully with a bunch of friends. I can't wait for our trip to Mauritius though. We have not been out of the country since the year before Robyn was born. Planned this a few months ago. Had some money available and decided to throw caution to the winds for a change before it could be spent on sensible things (walls, fences, home maintenance, etc).

All the end of year things are coming in a rush now. Concerts, plays, awards ceremonies, parties. This weekend Peter and I attended my bike group's end of year party. The theme was The Angels Go to Bollywood (the name of the group is Ama Angels - you'll get the Ama part if you're South African, but also as in 'Don't hate me cos Ama Angel'). After some obligatory moaning (dress-up parties and I don't get along too well), we got into it and decked ourselves out in something vaguely appropriate. I assisted Peter in the buying of his Indian shirt. I walked confidently into the Indian clothes shop, explained what we were in need of, looked around for husband, and ... he'd vanished. Went to retrieve cowering husband from adjacent shop window, dragged into shop, and finally purchased shirt (aka kurta). The party was great. We hardly ever go to big noisy parties anymore, and when we do they're usually work things, and everyone else is about 24 and single. The food was amazing (a variety of curries), and the DJ had the choice of music exactly right.

The weekend before, we celebrated Peter's 40th birthday with a small party at home. He says it's kind of a relief to have finally turned 40, as for the last few years he's been feeling like he's about 40, or nearly 40, anyway. Having arrived, he can now relax for about three years until feeling like he's nearly 50.

Lauren's away tonight, on an school excursion. She'll be leaving this school soon. Off to join Robyn next year in senior primary. Yay! Only three schools next year! She has had a very good year, except for becoming a bit bored academically. She seems to excel at so many things. I think she's going to enjoy the challenges and wider opportunities available next year.

Daniel also has some big changes heading his way, as in January he finally leaves preschool behind and starts grade 1. He was very excited to buy all his school uniform recently. It was fun buying little grey shorts and white shirts after five years of school dresses. He is so skinny we had to buy the smallest possible shorts and they are still enormous on him. He is starting to read and will love becoming a fluent reader. He is interested in anything scientific he can lay his hands on. Currently, it's space, stars and planets. Reading things with him I learn too. My mom told him to remember the planets with 'My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nice Pies', and my dad always told me 'My Very Eager Monkey Jumps Swiftly Under Nine Planets', however now, with Pluto's demotion, My Very Educated Mother would have to have Just Served Us Nandos, and My Very Eager Monkey would have to Jump Swiftly Under ... Nigeria?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sigh, sick.

Blech. Am thoroughly sick of being sick. Days since last bike ride: 12. Can almost see muscles atrophying while this stupid sinusitis dawdles on. I have antibiotics with the most catastrophic side-effects. They taste foul too - taking one is like swallowing an entire hospital wing. Two hospital wings, actually, since it's two tablets at a time.

Life gallops on at an unnerving pace. Synchronising six people's lives can be somewhat daunting.

Actually 12 days since my last real bike ride, but just over a week ago, the Sunday before last, the girls and I took part in the Amashova fun ride from Hillcrest to Durban - easy-peasy 38km road ride in which you practically free-wheel the first 30km into Durban. It's a fun ride which piggy-backs on the real Amashova race from Maritzburg to Durban. It was fun, though I think 30km downhill in the misty, cool morning was what turned a moderate cold into sinusitis-from-hell. The girls thought it very cool cycling down the freeway into Durban (the route is totally closed to cars for the duration of the event). I only wish I'd taken Danny too - just didn't know quite how easy it would be. Next year!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Love is ...

... stopping to buy groceries on your way home on Monday night and picking out 'Sexy' deoderant for your nearly-40-year-old wife.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rain ... vegetable patches

We've had a lot of rain today. I blame this on our having recently purchased and installed a little sprinkler system at the kids' vegetable patches. Peter connected them up yesterday, but it's rained several times today so we've not been able to justify turning them on.

I'm hoping that the addition of sprinklers to the vegetable patches holds the key to actually getting some vegetables (and herbs) out of them. This is about our fourth attempt at vegetables in the last few years. Usually the effort required to water, weed, and discern what is a weed and what is not is too much for the young gardeners and the vegetable patches die a horrible, thirsty, overgrown death. Watering the patches used to require tugging obstinate, heavy, muddy, only-just-long-enough hose around the garden, fending off dogs of different sizes, and getting thoroughly wet in the process. Hence the sprinklers, and an attempt to demarcate different areas of the patches where they've planted different seeds. Last time things kept popping out of the ground and I had absolutely no idea whether it was friend or foe (being totally clueless about all things plantish).

We hope this time for stunningly successful crops of carrots, lettuces, beetroots, peppers, spinach, strawberries, and beans - as well as some herbs and flowers!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Couple of pictures

Annalise - We actually didn't take any pictures on the race. There wasn't really time or energy! I often do with the kids though - wait for them to catch up and take pics. There are some thumbnails here though (taken by photographers on the course). They focus on the bikers rather than the scenery though, so you can't see too much.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Today was a momentous day for me - a hugely important point to have crossed on my journey away from Horrifically Unfit. I completed the "Half Hill2Hill" - together with my friend (we ride a lot together). The 105km Hill2Hill is THE one-day mountain-bike event of the year in the area, and the "half" is the short version of this race (around 43km). The MTB events around here are typically classified as Intermediate (25km), Half-Marathon (40km), Marathon (75km), and then extreme (or just plain silly) events such as the Hill2Hill. There are also family fun rides, with less technical track, of up to 20km. We've done a few of these with the kids.

Today was an incredible experience from start to finish. Things which stick in my mind:-
  • Standing, shivering, at the start early this morning, wondering if we could do it. And why we were doing it.
  • Incredibly, missing the start of our batch and having to start ten minutes later with the next batch. Unbelievable!
  • Discovering how beautiful the course was.
  • The first glorious long descent.
  • Riding along the railway track.
  • The dreadful hill up to the first water station.
  • The track through the forest.
  • Rattling across rocky hilltops where there was really no visible path other than race arrows painted on the rocks.
  • The horses.
  • The helicopters zooming around at the stage when the 105km leaders were passing us. They had started also early in the morning, but another 60ish km back!
  • Agonising cramps in my quads - new experience for me. Sitting on the side of the track with 18km to go trying to stretch life back into my muscles and get them to operate again.
  • Falling in some deep sand.
  • Unexpected river crossings, particularly one gorgeously deep one towards the end.
  • The photographers who kept popping up unexpectedly and taking pics.
  • The last, endless, slow 5km.
  • Seeing the finish.
  • Crossing the line and hearing Peter and the kids cheering me in.
  • How proud Peter was.
  • At supper, doing Best Thing Worst Thing with the kids and hearing Daniel say 'Mom finishing the bike race'.
Peter's been really supportive of this journey of mine this year. I am so grateful to have had the chance to go down this rabbit hole.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Poo. Also Hockey.

Lisa's dog poo horror story:

Had to lock Fudge in the bathroom for three hours this afternoon so that I could attend Lauren's hockey matches. She's too small to leave safely in the garden while we're out, and she can escape from the scullery no matter how much of a baricade we set up (think Mr Bean in the projection room in Mr Bean's Holiday). Not wanting to return to wee-damaged floor boards, the bathroom seemed the only option.

Poo. And poo smears. And poo prints. And a puddle. And bits of dog food.

On the newspaper, on the floor, in the bath, on the windowsill, under the door.

Briefly considered setting fire to the bathoom.

Peter's competing dog poo horror story:

While I was taking the girls to school this morning, Peter found a dog poo actually in our bed. I returned to find him, slightly hysterically stuffing sheets and pyjamas and socks into the washing machine and looking for the 'boil' programme. Seems last night he somehow managed to get a poo on his shoe, and from there to his sock, and from there into the bed, all without noticing. All credit to his domestic astuteness this morning for noticing the bed smelt 'a bit off'.

Peter claims his story wins.

On another note, I had such a wonderful afternoon watching Lauren's hockey tournament. Her first hockey matches ever. I have become a Mom Yelling From The Sidelines. I love it.

Lauren is such an incredibly enthusiastic person. Her sheer oomph just amazes me.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


We have a new puppy. Or rather, Robyn does. After months of desperate pleading, we caved in and gave Robs a Puppy Of Her Very Own for her 11th birthday. Actually, we gave her a puppy 'voucher', on the understanding that she could exchange it for a puppy of her own choice after a) we returned from our mid-year holiday, and b) she managed to find a suitable puppy. Robyn was a child on a mission, compiled a list of phone numbers for animal shelters and pet shops, and started phoning them all. Eventually, we found Fudge nee Brownie, and after much anxious waiting to see if she could really be ours (she'd been reserved by someone else, but the home check there didn't work out), we brought her home one Friday morning towards the end of the school holidays. She's a gorgeous little dog, half daschund and half something else.

Milo is thrilled to have some bouncy company, Benjy is tolerant in a long-suffering sort of way, and Sammy (the cat) tries to remain aloof. Right now all three dogs are cuddled up together in the scullery. Milo turned out to be a good nanny for Fudge, as Fudge howled piteously the first couple of nights on her own in the scullery (until she's house-trained she needs to be locked somewhere for the night so she can't mess all over the house), until we had the bright idea of putting Milo in there to keep her company. Benjy seemed to feel left out of the huddle, and so now they all sleep there together.

Our kids always have greatly protracted birthday celebrations. First there's The Birthday (family presents, supper of choice, exemption from home chores, cake at school). Robyn's other major present was a new bicycle. Can't believe she's on a 24-inch already - that is almost adult size (26-inch). Then, sometimes weeks later, when we manage to extract a free Saturday or Sunday out of all the chaos, there's The Family Birthday Outing. Robyn chose the lunch restaurant, and then we went ice-skating and to a movie (since Stephen's not interested in movies yet, this last part was just Peter and the three big ones) and finished the day with ice-cream and waffles. Finally, there's The Long-Awaited Party, to which hordes of friends are invited. This year, I got off quite easily with Robyn's party, as she planned most of it herself, opting to play on the Wii Sing-It and watch a movie for entertainment, eat pizza for supper, and have helium balloons, streamers, poppers, sparklers and ice-cream to help the festivities along. She has a really nice group of friends - 11 year old girls who actually act 11, rather than 11 going on 16. Much noise and hilarity ensued as the party got under way.

Speaking of taking the big kids to movies, Peter and I alternate, while the other stays with Stevie. This system meant that I recently got to take Robyn to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, together with her friend, also a Robyn, and her mom (Jeannette my biking friend). I thought HP6 was pretty good, though was a bit surprised at the emphasis on teen love and angst, and a bit disappointed by how much of the plot they left out (figuring out who the half-blood prince actually was, and all the digging into memories of Voldemort's beginnings).

I'm looking forward to Saturday. Jeannette and I are riding what looks to be a gorgeous 25km. When I first got my bike 18 month ago, I didn't really know where we were going to ride, apart from our local bike park. And now, we are riding all over the place. Peter and I have done quite a few rides with the kids, which is wonderful from a family perspective, but it's nice to do the occasional event without the kids, as we can go at a more satisfying pace.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I have a cold. Not quite enough to hamper this morning's ride (sore throat only) but at 4.37 this afternoon it suddenly thumped me rather hard.

My fph* is steadily falling. Today my bike was in hospital and I had to ride a hired bike. Missed my baby, but I survived it so it was a good experience and a step out of my comfort zone in a different direction. The frame was bigger than mine, the brakes were block brakes not disk brakes, and the right hand gear shift operated in the opposite direction to mine. I've been trying to do the descents faster recently, and making use of brakes that one would have to describe as under-achievers helped enormously in this regard.

We just emerged from a really busy weekend (sort of a four-day weekend, with Tuesday being a public holiday, and Monday correspondingly a school holiday) and are about to plunge into another. Robyn, who has just joined Guides, had a mini-camp and outdoor cook-out, at which she made roast chicken and potatoes and baked apples and custard over a fire. And Peter and the girls took part in a clean-up operation along the Hillcrest railway line - also because of the Guides connection. And Jeannette and I rode on Saturday. And I got some really fruity bruises. And there was soccer, and a braai, with Daniel's soccer team, and a sleep-over for Lauren, and games at home with friends on Saturday and Sunday evening. Puerto Rico is a brilliant game.

I love my life. I would just like a day to recover from it all now and then!

I should mention that Lauren's gym competition that I wrote about last time went really well. She came second in her section, and will be a member of the KZN team in the inter-provincial event the weekend after next.

* fph - falls per hour

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Descent from Mount Euphoria

Two not so fun bike-riding things happened recently. The first was that cane ride I mentioned last time. We finished it totally exhausted. Totally. Everything hurt below the chin, and I could hardly move the rest of the day. I thought maybe it was just the pace of the ride. Most of the riders were Really Fit People, and my friend and I were at the back of the pack. Idly enquiring as to what distance we'd ridden, we discovered we'd done 37km. This explained why we were so wiped out. Almost too wiped out to be proud of the distance. We would never have done it if we'd known the distance beforehand. On the plus side, distances in the mid-20kms now seem rather arbitrary.

The other thing which happened was I took the plunge and got my first pair of shoes with cleats, which just seem to be known locally as 'cleats', and corresponding pedals. Loads of people getting started in the sport swear, at the beginning, that they'll 'never get cleats'. And then people become tempted. The more you start riding hectic routes, and the more ambitious you get, the more you can see the benefit of being attached to the pedals. (Sounds silly, I know.) But cleats let you get up hills more easily (each foot can pull as well as push), the design of the shoe and the rigidity of the sole makes for more efficient use of energy (though they're not great to walk in), and you're more stable without your feet being able to slip and slide off the pedals (which tends to happen quite readily on fast descents and rocky bits).


Getting in and out of the damn things takes a lot of practice. Four days riding with cleats, and seven falls to date. Trying to come to a stop in a hurry, try to uncleat - crash. Not fun, especially on day 2 when I took four of the falls. It was a bit of a confidence shaker. (What have I done, this was a stupid idea, will I ever enjoy bike riding again, etc.)

I'm hoping things are improving. I'm going to persevere for at least June and see how things look by the end of the month.

According to local lore, apparently seven falls is the magic number, and then you stop falling. Or, in that wikipedia page on the pedals,
First time clipless users may not be proficient in unclipping quickly when coming to a stop, sometimes resulting in a low speed fall.

Another busy weekend is ahead of us, with a sponsored walk tomorrow morning at Danny's school, followed by a sleep-over for him, along with the rest of his class (the 'senior' class). There are about 10 of them in the class, and the sleep-over is the highlight of their three years at the pre-school. So he's pretty excited about that.

Then, in the afternoon, while Dan's staying on at school, the rest of us will be watching Lauren in another gym competition. This one is the KZN provincial selection meeting. The results will determine the KZN team who'll represent the province at the inter-provincial meeting in a few weeks time. Should be exciting. I hope Lauren's ok tomorrow. She's not been feeling very well the last week or so.

Sunday morning will be Dan's first soccer match ever, against another club. He's been waiting for this for months. I hope it lives up to his expectations.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Adrenaline Rush

Must go to bed soon as I'm getting up tomorrow (Saturday!) at 5 something in time to be picked up at 6. A friend and I are off on a bike ride with our group. This one is a 'cane ride' - as in a ride predominantly through sugar cane farms, with the emphasis on fitness and distance rather than on technical mountain biking skills. Depending on where we ride, we get a very different biking experience. Thursday afternoon I had my best ride ever. Switchbacks (zig-zagging paths up steep ascents), rivers, rocks, drop-offs, bridges. The adrenaline rush is incredible, and I come home and sort of glow for about 24 hours after. It's like all my adult life I've been waiting for this, and I just didn't know it. Although I've been keen to get into bikes for a few years, I had no idea what mountain biking would actually entail. I think I am someone who has a real need for physical thrill and challenge. When I was a child, sailing provided me with a somewhat similar experience, but that ended when I left school (other than the odd day casual sailing with the family). The biking is filling a gap I hadn't managed to identify before.

My euphoric mood from yesterday's bike ride came to a sudden halt this afternoon when Stephen, at a party, took rather a nasty fall on his own bike ('bike' = black plastic toddler's push-along bike) at a birthday party. The house has a large gently sloping tarred drive along the front, and I idly noticed that Stevie was having fun scooting along it. Five seconds later I looked again to see him hurtling down the other (incredibly long, and much steeper) section of the driveway, curving down towards the bottom of the garden. He must have rounded the corner and just kept going. It just never occurred to me that he would do that. Stupid of me. I started running, scattering glass of coke and keys as I went, but there was no way I could reach him in time, and he landed hard on the tar. Grazed and bruised arm, shoulder, and cheek, and a nasty little cut above the eye. I need to watch him more carefully. He is so independent and capable I can forget he is so little and inexperienced still. I am neurotically careful with Bad Stuff like Swimming Pools and Cars, but tend to be a bit too relaxed with other things. These things happen to kids, but this incident was totally avoidable if I'd just been keeping a better eye on him. Anyway, got to just learn from it and move on, I guess. Visit to the clinic, magic glue on his cut (so much less traumatic than stiches), and an x-ray just to check the wrist (no fractures, huge relief), lollipop. No major damage I suppose. I hope he is not scared of his bike now!

Life is incredibly full and busy. Lots of good stuff, but really, really busy.

We spent several hours last Saturday at Lauren's first gymnastic 'levels' competition. It was fun, and quite a lot more formal than the casual ones she has attended in the past. Different gyms from all over the province sent gymnasts. It was fun to see all the teams in their club colours. We were all thrilled when she received a fifth place (out of 13 in her section), and we were also quite surprised at the result, as she got a disappointing score on beam due to her omitting a couple of steps in the routine. This meant she got into the medals (six medals for each section) and got to stand up with the other medal winners.

Other than gymnastics twice a week, Lauren also still does ballet (also twice a week), and recently joined a Cubs group, which meets on Tuesday evenings. Add to this three school extra-murals (hockey, sewing club, and an academic extension group), and recorder and choir, also at school, and she is a very busy little person. Seems to thrive on it though, and fortunately homework is currently something she can dash off without much trouble in between all of this. A couple of weeks ago, she joined me on her first 20ish km bike ride - one of the events at the Karkloof Classic MTB event. The ride was several km longer than planned - an enormous swarm of bees caused the ride to be detoured along unprepared tracks strewn with logs and other obstacles. I was so proud of how well she did. Peter did the 10km ride with Robyn and they also had fun. I'm hoping Robyn will soon feel confident enough to come on the slightly longer rides.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

And we're back ...

... although you're probably not.

No great way to restart a blog after a few weeks in absentia, so I'll just jump awkwardly in until I feel like going off to bed.

In honour of my upcoming 40th birthday next year, I have enthusiastically embarked on a mid-life crisis. I have joined a mountain biking group and am riding once or twice a week. I am totally loving it and am possibly on the way to obsession. I even have the weird, tight, padded cycling shorts. I started out frighteningly unfit, to the point of seriously thinking I must be about to have a heart attack after struggling part-way up one very nasty (steep, long, rocky) hill. My fitness is improving however, from absolutely awful to fairly awful, and I'm optimistic about continuing to improve. The trainer and his assistants are very skilled at pushing us just that little bit harder each time, but not enough to freak us out. It is such an adrenalin rush riding singletrack, or flying down the hills, or finally conquering those up-hills. I have finally found my 'thing'. I find gyms claustrophobic and noisy, would rather stick needles in my eye than run, but riding for me is absolutely exhilarating.

More about singletrack.

Last weekend I rode my first event, the Intermediate (25km) event at the Cumberland Classic. I have just gone to the results table to verify my finishing time (proof I really did it!) Finishing was indescribably satisfying. And yesterday I abandoned my poor family from 6.30 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon to go on the monthly outride with the group. This ride was in the midlands - and had a lovely mix of farmland, views, MUD, bridges, MUD and singletrack. The actual ride was around two hours, but getting there, a shower and a yummy lunch afterwards, and getting back, made the whole thing a marvellous day out.

In other news, today we voted, and on Monday my little boy turned six. He is, like most other little boys around here, obsessed with Ben 10. And is presently cuddled up in bed with XLR8, which we got him for his birthday. We also got him, among other things, this cool soccer table,
which we are all having a lot of fun with. Danny has joined a soccer club, under 6 division, and is loving it. He is terribly cute in his boots, long socks and shin pads.

Since January, Stephen has been attending play-school in the mornings (with about half a dozen other toddlers). Up until now this has been three mornings a week, but I am now putting it up to every morning as I am just not coping with even the small amount of work I am supposed to be doing. He doesn't sleep until mid-afternoon now, which means I cannot work at all on days he doesn't go to school. By evening I am far too shattered to work. Luckily he loves school. He has also moved out of our room into Dan's room - we bought bunk beds for the boys. Danny enjoys being at the top and Stephen, at the bottom, seems to sleep better there than he did in our room, where our pottering in and out of the room, and chatting, perhaps disturbed him. His hobbies include puzzles, helping with the laundry, his bike, couch-gymnastics, books ("bookies"), and trashing his sisters' rooms.

And I'd like to put in an update on the other members of the family, but this is going to have to be a two-parter, as I'm suddenly awfully tired.

A closing note: I'm probably the last person to have heard of Susan Boyle, but I'm putting a link here anyway. Made me cry.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


OK, so Sherlock figured out why it was proving so tricky to identify which type of woodpecker we had. Turns out they're Barbets (White-Eared Barbets). Luckily I figured this out before handing them over to Bird Guy this morning. Their plumage was becoming less and less like anything on the woodpecker page in our bird book!

I don't feel too bad about the mistake though. Both woodpeckers and barbets belong to the Piciformes order of course, having the same characteristic zygodactyl toes. What's that you say? Not too brushed up on the piciformes order? Forgotten your facts on bird feet?

So I can either be awfully embarrased about my mistake, or feel justifiably proud of rearing them this far when I am so absolutely clueless about birds.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Feed the Birds

In my other life, in some parallel (more organised, slower, balanced and well-adjusted) universe, I am one of those fun, zippy people who blog daily, or at least several times a week about events as they are unfolding.


Almost three weeks ago, the enormous tree in our front garden split down the middle and half of it crashed spectacularly down to the ground. As always when this sort of thing happens, I find myself sending up little thank you arrows of prayer that no one was hurt, as an hour or two before this happened the kids, including Stephen, were playing in the very spot where the tree landed.

It wasn't even stormy or windy at the time, just another beautiful day in paradise.

It was extremely "cool" and "awesome" according to the kids.

Shortly afterwards, the kids were swarming up and down the fallen tree, exploring and inventing games. During the course of this, Robyn experimentally stuck a stick into a hole in the tree, and was startled at the chorus of chattering that erupted.

We realised the hole must be the entrance to a nest - probably a woodpecker's nest.

Unsure what to do, we thought we'd wait to see if the parents came back. Maybe they'd try to continue feeding the babies inside the fallen tree. In hindsight, this wouldn't have worked out. Not only would our dogs and cat never have left them in peace, the nest would soon have filled with rain water.

So, the next day, Operation Woodpecker began. Here's Peter beginning to chip away at the hole with hammer and chisel. Milo is keen to assist.

On and on this went; as it turned out the hole was the entrance to a tunnel that went 30 or 40 cm down the inside of the tree.

Finally, three hours later (we had to go very slowly and carefully), this is what we removed from the bottom of the hole:

Five very new baby woodpeckers.

Very bald, very new baby woodpeckers.

Very hungry, very bald, very new baby woodpeckers.

There had recently been a termite swarm, and the kids quickly collected some of these from the pool. We fed them every half hour, having to switch from real insects as collecting insects for five hungry babies is quite a task.

They all survived the first night, but unfortunately one died on the second day.

The other four continue to thrive.

Here they are a week later, feathers more noticeable and (though you can't see it well in this picture) eyes beginning to open.

And again, about ten days after that (now looking like birds):

And today (perched on their log while their bucket-nest is being cleaned):

They started out in a cardboard box, were quickly relocated to a more practical plastic container, and then about a week ago were upgraded to a taller bucket after I came in to feed them one day to find them half way across the bed the container was on.

They're in our granny flat, as we needed a closed-off room which we could heat (when very young they need to be kept very warm), and which we could keep the animals out of. I feed them a mixture of beef mince (they're naturally insectivorous), pronutro (high protein soya cereal), and water.

We're going away on the 27th, so I'll have to hand them over sometime soon. There's a bird whisperer sort of guy not too far away who works with all sorts of birds and he's offered to take them over and work on their release. I will be sorry to hand them over as it has been a fascinating (though demanding) experience, but even if we weren't going away I don't have the equipment (such as an aviary!) to manage their release.

Hopefully when we return from Cape Town we can go and visit the bird guy again and see how they are doing.

Not sure yet what sort of woodpeckers these actually are. It's rather hard to tell with their young plumage. The most likely candidate, in terms of location and clutch size, is the Cardinal Woodpecker, but so far there aren't really any identifiable markings visible. I'm not sure when the red would start to appear.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Nearly six weeks since

Life is currently a strange dichotomy of post-bereavement emptiness and frenetic year-end madness. Maybe this is a good thing, as a string of individual days survived eventually add up to a week, then weeks, and then months, and perhaps this is the only way to get through it. The long-term future without him still seems an impossible burden to shoulder, particularly when I think of my mom's loss - far greater than mine. Logically, I know there must be a way through this, but it seems unattainable at this point, impossible to imagine. It is now nearly six weeks. I am still in the stage of thinking in terms of how many days (or weeks) since but I am past the stage of waking each morning, and several times a night, with a violent lurch of pain.

Last week, as it happened exactly a month after his death, we attended a fond farewell tea at the physics department at the university. They spoke of his commitment and enthusiasm for teaching physics and showed some of the video clips he made to demonstrate physics principles when the apparatus required was too big to bring into the lecture theatre. The best loved of these is the one which illustrates the Doppler effect. In the clip, my dad's driving his beloved Viva, at about 60 mph, down a long straight road. Neeeeeeee-yow, the car goes as it passes the camera. Voila, the Doppler effect. Followed by a dramatic noise of crashing, added for fun by my dad and the audio-visual guy, and then by an angry police siren.

The worst of the frenetic year-end madness will be over in a few days as the kids break up for the summer holidays on Thursday and Friday next week. I am so looking forward to their being on holiday and to lazy, watermelon-and-icecream days in and around the pool. Some friends with younger kids are busy planning holiday camps and other activities to shorten the time their kids are hanging around the house - but I cannot wait to have them hanging around the house. Term time is too busy. I feel a desperate need for us all to reconnect.

Today was a summer days taster, as we finally had a hot Saturday. It has been cloudy and raining for about two months. Today the four kids and I were all in the pool together. Stephen, predictably, loves the pool - he wants to do everything everyone else does. I finally had to take him out when he started turning blue.

Other things we've been doing:

Peter and I went to a work end-of-year function last night while my sister-in-law and her boyfriend babysitted all four children for us until 11.30pm - including Stephen who was awake when we left and whom they managed to get to sleep eventually. Big milestone for us as this is the first time he's had a babysitter he doesn't know very well. Surprisingly, he wasn't too upset at all by the experience. I think it must help having all his siblings around him.

Robyn is playing mommy to a mini-colony of ants. Interestingly, they seem to be vegetarian ants, enjoying cheese and apple but not wanting anything to do with raw chicken.

I went to listen to Robyn play in a recital at school, and was totally creeped out by a little girl in the audience having a doll like this. This is really, really creepy. The doll was so totally lifelike it actually resembled a real, dead baby. Ghastly. Who in their right mind would want something like this?

Some related, similarly sad and creepy, links:

Documentary about women who collect fake babies
Sculptor makes dolls of babies that died
Police smash car window to "rescue" reborn baby doll

Daniel and Lauren learned about toad reproduction first-hand as some toads decided to persue love and happiness in our pool a few nights ago. In the morning a pair of them were meandering around the pool trailing strands of eggs several meters long. Lauren even went diving to rescue them from the chlorine water and transfer them to murkier waters of the bird bath.

Peter's been playing his birthday wii game (cheered on by the kids; fortunately the 13 age restriction seems overdone and it's pretty harmless for them to watch).

We've been doing way more ironing and cleaning than we'd like as our cleaning lady is off sick with some as yet undiagnosed illness. Stephen follows behind the rest of us undoing our efforts.

The girls and I are hooked on the Mamma Mia music and have been singing it in the car for weeks. Peter, who didn't see the movie, doesn't get it and thinks we are a little strange.

Time for bed, and hopefully we'll be greeted by another hot day tomorrow.