Tuesday, 6 October 2015

35 life lessons I have learned before turning 35

Back in June, I wrote a letter to my 21-year-old self.

This list is a little different. It's what I have learned over the years, little truths in my personal life, my career and parenthood. They might be useful to you, or they might want to make you unleash hellfire in the comments section.

Here goes:

  1. You are what you binge-watch.
  2. But you are not your status updates, not even close.
  3. Studies say that you are at your happiest when you're in your mid-20s. Your ability to learn new skills, like languages, also peaks at about 26 and so does your intelligence. Then, I read a study that says most people stop listening to new music after the age of 26. The moral of the story? Don't waste your 20s mooning after that asshole who doesn't WhatsApp you back.
  4. On that (ahem) note, don't stop listening to new music.
  5. Buy property as soon as you can.
  6. Never buy a brand new car; it is an insane waste of money. You lose 30% or more of the value before you drive it off the showroom floor.
  7. Think you have what it takes to work for yourself or start your own company? Stop wondering, do it now. I wish I had made my first hire back in December 2010 when I started freelancing full-time; Content Candy would have been triple the size it is today.
  8. The best presents are experiences. No one can take them away from you.
  9. Marry someone who is your intellectual equal; someone you'll never get tired of talking to. Someone who challenges you. It is the only bond that lasts the test of time. 
  10. Having a baby is a lottery. I cannot overemphasize this enough. When your baby comes out of you, you kind of project your own personality onto it. Well, surprise! Personalities don't come custom-order. You could be raising a socially awkward, Nobel-winning gene-splicer who will still be living in your house when he's 42 OR you could be raising Dexter and might have to help bury a body in your back yard. And there are no backsies.
  11. While we are talking about babies, you know how they say: "Don't worry about having enough money; that will come right in the end"? This is the single dumbest advice I have ever received as a young mother, and I heard it from so many people. No money = no babies. 
  12. Opinions. Don't be afraid to have them.
  13. Everything they told you about using sunscreen is true.
  14. Learn to read food labels. You are responsible for your own nutrition, and it's not something to take lightly. I did, for far too long, and now I'm sorry.
  15. Learn how to activate your "pause" button, and get rid of your "rewind" button. 
  16. My mother took her own life. My fiance died drunk driving. My eldest son is mentally challenged and in a home. Do I blame any of this on an unhappy childhood? No, I am an adult and I am responsible for the circumstances of my life and the manner I choose to live it. I see far too many people blaming their absent father or their alcoholic mother as the reason they are the way they are. Grow a pair, will you?
  17. Opinions. Don't be afraid to share them.
  18. Travel, travel, travel. Once you have kids, you'll have to wait until you retire before you get to do any more globe-trotting.
  19. So you're not that young anymore. Don't forget to goof around. Stuff an entire bag of marshmallows in your mouth; suck out the air from a helium balloon and sing Bohemian Rhapsody. Superglue someone's mouse to their desk.
  20. No one wants to see your belly button after you turn 35. It's sad. My belly button is lonely.
  21. No one knows how to "adult"; we're all winging it and hoping someone "adultier" than us will help when it all goes for a ball of shit.
  22. One thing I do know about being an adult is, we answer our phones. We make phone calls, we take phone calls and we do business over the phone. With our actual voices. Sometimes even face to face. 
  23. It should be illegal to schedule 60-minute meetings. Nothing needs 60 minutes to discuss. You talk for 17 minutes and fill the rest of the time with waffle.
  24. Get insurance. Make the payments. Life is full of nasty surprises.
  25. No one's "outside" matches their "inside". Don't be quick to judge.
  26. Opinions. Don't be too proud to change them.
  27. Know when to lead, and when to step back to give someone else a chance to shine.
  28. Ask stupid questions. Usually everyone is wondering the same thing.
  29. In the early days of my freelance career, I fucked up a few times. Exactly four times. I am embarrassed about it. You know how they say: "Be careful who you step on on the way to the top, because you will bump into them again?" Now I am working alongside some of the people who I let down all those years ago, and I have to put on my big girl pants and own my mistakes. It has been character-building to say the least.
  30. Have one friend who is much younger than you, and one who is much older than you. Have one friend who posts an endless stream of motivational quotes and never stops cheering for you, and have another friend who is a complete nutjob conspiracy theorist. 
  31. If you worked hard in your 20s and early 30s, by now you'll start seeing the rewards. Stay humble. If you don't, karma will arrange to tuck your skirt into the back of your panties.
  32. Don't say "yes" to events that you feel obligated to attend, and then flake out at the last minute. Just say "no" right up front.
  33. If your kid has to ask you to put your phone down because they're trying to talk to you, that's one time too many. (Yeah, I know: it reads like a stab in the eyeball. Guilty as charged on this parenting crime.)
  34. While we are talking tech: you don't need an app for that! You don't need an app to track the quality of your sleep, or one to help you mediate, or one to make rain sounds. Less is more. 
  35. Yes, you are turning into your mother.
Last one: You're only going to get squishier around the middle. Find someone who loves your squish.

Oh wait, I have one more: Know when it is okay to break the rules. Sometimes you are going to have to, to get results, to save a life, to make a meaningful change. Other times, you're just breaking the law because you're an ass.

Have you just crossed over into your 30s or 40s and have some wisdom to share? I'd love to hear it.
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Thursday, 1 October 2015

Hands-up if your kid is a picky eater. Here is how Pediasure Complete can help

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There was a time when Travis the Lionheart would only eat yogurt or custard. 

That was it. 

I was a first-time mom dealing with a kid with sensory issues, and I was so stressed. He hated the textures of certain foods. 

I would buy bags of organic veggies and make little mix packs of carrots, and sweet potato and baby marrows to keep in the veggie drawer. At night, I would boil them and mash them as finely as possible, with a dollop of butter thrown in. He refused to eat it. 

Travis refused to eat the veggie soup I tried to get down him. He refused absolutely everything, and as he grew older, his eating habits did not improve, and I was in a permanent state of anxiety at mealtimes, worried about his nutrition.

Picky / fussy eating is a common phenomenon and most parents at some point face challenges from their children about eating. Your kid might refuse to eat, play with his or her food, eat less than usual, dislike certain food groups, throw tantrums at mealtimes, or simply refuse to try new foods.

Fact is, about 25% of all young children are picky eaters.

Here are some tips for dealing with a child who is a picky eater:
  • Don't force your child to eat.
  • Set regular meal times: in other words, eat at the same time every day, sitting down as the table as a family.
  • Meals should be between 3 and 4 hours apart.
  • Serve small portions of food. Only top up (with another small portion again) once the first one has been finished.
  • Mix things up - serve some foods they haven't yet tried, alongside foods they know and like.
  • Don't make mealtimes longer than 20-30 minutes.
  • Supplement your child's diet with an all-in-one nutritional solution like Pediasure Complete.

For more tips on how to create healthy eating habits for your picky eater, visit Pickyeating.co.za.

Picky eating is normal childhood behaviour, and it is not a reflection on your ability as a mom. As long as you're making sure your child gets all the vitamins and minerals your kid needs to grow up healthy and strong, you're doing everything you can.

PediaSure Complete is a complete and balanced nutritional supplement (scientifically-proven), ideal for the picky or fussy eater. Pediasure ensures that children who are fussy eaters receive the nutritional support they need to grow and develop normally, while giving moms complete peace of mind that their child’s nutritional requirements have been attended to.

Give it a try! You can find PediaSure Complete at Dischem, Clicks, pharmacies and baby stores nationwide. Here's a place where you can speak to other parents who are battling with picky eaters and get advice from experts.

This post is sponsored by PediaSure®Complete. The comments on this page do not constitute medical advice. Your healthcare professional is best placed to evaluate your child's growth and development. Should you have any concerns or questions, please seek advice from your healthcare professional? For product-related questions, contact the Abbott Nutrition Support Line on 0861 22 68 87.

Monday, 28 September 2015

The one where she finally buys those Hunter Boots

Everyone has a carrot. Something you dangle just out of reach; something that makes you give it your best. For me, it was a pair of Hunter Boots. And yesterday, I finally bought them.

I have worked so hard for so long to buy these Hunter Boots, that I can't even remember why I fell in love with them in the first place. I mean, it's September! I won't even get to wear them until next winter (although the 4pm highveld thunderstorms this summer will make for some pretty fantastic puddle-jumps).

Before buying these - they cost R1679 - the most I had ever spent on a pair of shoes, and by a country mile, was R1000 for the sparkly kitten heels I wore on my wedding day. Eight years ago. We got them in one of those Italian boutique stores that I'm also too nervous to wander into in case I am accosted by a sales lady who can smell the "poor" on me.

Here is the thing about these Hunter Boots. It was time to buy them. It was time to claim my reward for a job well done. My partner and I have worked our butts off for almost two years now, growing and growing and growing our business. In the early days, we promised ourselves that if we did well, we'd indulge in a little spoil.

It's my 35th birthday on Sunday and this is my spoil.

To grow from two people to ten people in 23 months comes at great personal cost: our salaries. We kept them modest, paying ourselves just enough to keep our families afloat.

I still drive the same beat-up Honda Jazz that's been missing a side mirror, a sun visor, and the back windscreen wiper (thanks for that last one, Travis). We could have hired one less person and I could have bought myself that new car months ago.

We still live in the same pokey townhouse. My kids still go to the same nursery school. We had to fundraise to get the money we need to secure a spot for Travis the Lionheart in his new home. I buy cheap makeup, shop 2-for-1 deals at CottonOn, and just generally keep it tight in the wallet department.

My father, who has done very well in business, once refused to spend more than R100 on a pair of pants. Because they are just pants, dammit.

I totally get this.

Which is why it was so hard to buy those Hunter Boots. In fact, I had to be nagged and nagged until I swiped that card for them. Then I winced when I got the payment notification.

But at the same time, I finally felt that sense of achievement that I have been denying myself for so long. And remember my Ouma, who once told me that every woman needs to set aside a little "funny money" every month to get herself something that she really wants. Because if you don't, what's the point of all those long hours and anxious weekends where you couldn't switch off anyway?

Friday, 25 September 2015

Like learning to ride a bike

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Sure, the Big Guy Upstairs in His Infinite Wisdom has handpicked you to raise a boy who still can't hold a fork and wears nappies at the age of eight years old. It's hard.

He has also handpicked you to raise another boy child who was walking when he was eight months old, and at the age of three, asked you to take the training wheels off his peddle bike so that he can go faster. Spoiler: he went faster; so did my heart!

There he goes!

Raising Travis the Lionheart has been an exercise in humility. I have had to swallow my pride, and watch as our friends' kids made poo-poo in the potty, and learned how to swim, and posed in their too-big uniforms at the gates of their new primary schools.

Once you make a habit of suppressing feelings like pride, it's kind of hard to open that tap again without gushing awkwardly or responding with a strangled "Well done, my boy" and a Mr Roboto hug. Like you can't figure out the pressure settings on a fireman's hose of parental love.

So when I watched Ryan peddling furiously down the driveway of our complex with his training wheels off... I cried. I cried because I was overwhelmed with pride. It was an emotion so sweet and intense that I was swept away in the current.

And then I felt angry at The Big Guy Upstairs for denying this emotion to me, with Travis. And then I felt guilty for feeling so proud of Ryan, because to take such deep pleasure in the achievements of one of my children and not the other is surely wrong. And then I felt defensive, because why the fuck shouldn't I be proud of my 3-year-old son who taught himself to ride a bicycle at such a young age?

The thing about being a mother to one disabled and two perfectly abled children is that you can never, ever, ever let this battle raging inside you show on the outside. It is not your children's responsibility to moderate your emotions.

So here I am, learning to just be proud of my kid, freely and without reservations. To just enjoy the sensation, the moment, the swelling of my chest, the fierceness of my joy.

A bit like learning to ride a bike.

Monday, 21 September 2015

On learning to "just be" in an ocean of "do"

Hi, my name is Stacey and I am a recovering workaholic. If this was 2013, and we were all still bragging about how busy-busy we are, it would be sexy. But thank the Big Guy Upstairs that that stupid fucking ship has sailed. There is nothing sexy about always being switched on, always needing to keep busy, always needing to flaunt the fruits of your productive type-type-typing fingers.

Fast-forward to a night not so long ago that I threw my back out when I recklessly... wait for it... rolled over in my sleep. You read that right. In. My. Sleep. Up until that moment I didn't realise that before rolling over I'd been doing a kind of shuffle-shuffle thing with my hips - something I have been doing since pregnancy - and now, well, it's the only way I know how. Clearly I have the core strength of an 80-year-old!

Have you seen those little old ladies at the shops, pushing their trolleys along but kind of using the trolley as a walking frame? That could be me, except I am 35. Oh, hell no!

So I've started going to gym; I forced myself to make the time. The first couple of times I took my phone with me and had it propped up on the treadmill so that I could answer emails as they came in, because heaven forbid anyone should have to wait longer than 10 minutes for a reply... Then I started leaving my phone in my gym bag. 

And you know what happened? 

In fact, I started receiving fewer emails. And the emails I did receive started arriving at more regular hours, like 8am to 5pm. So either there is some kind of quiet revolution going on where we're all starting to respect that people have boundaries and don't pester them with work-related communications after hours OR I had created a free-for-all vortex completely of my own doing where my time belonged to everyone but me. Probably a bit of both.

Now, I switch my phone off at night and only switch it back on just as I leave for the office. I read paperbacks instead of mindlessly scrolling through tweets and Instagrams at bedtime. Instead of spending 5 minutes at the drive-thru, I take a few extra minutes to run into Food Lover's Market to dish up a giant serving of tuna salad for the same price.

I am learning how to "just be" in the moment, instead of letting that hamster run in my head, peddling away frantically at the wheel, blurting out a constant stream of action items: "Oooh, write a blog post on this!" and "Aah, here is a new way to manage this process at work" and "That's clever, let me tweet that!"

You know, I used to think that this never-ending stream of ideas made me special. That it helps me do well as a blogger, as a journalist, as a business owner... Now I realise that it is a weakness, the sign of an over-stimulated mind, like a toddler who hasn't got her nap in, just wondering about, spouting nonsense like a tiny drunk.

I am listening to my body. I am quieting my mind. 
Quality before quantity.

And with just a few days before my 35th birthday, I find myself musing, why did it take me this long? 

Monday, 7 September 2015

We take a washing machine for a spin for #MissionSamsung

I know, I know. Why does the mommy blogger get to review the washing machine, right? I work the 9-5, and I am the only adult in our household who doesn't use the washing machine. True story.

Which kind of makes me, the tech journalist, the perfect person to review what essentially is a computer that washes clothes. So, blast off: #MissionSamsung blogger challenge!

I just want to add here: our brief was to be as creative in our reviews as possible, not to be as flattering as possible. So this is as honest I can be when reviewing a washing machine. It has clever functions! It washes clothes! They came out clean ;)

But first, to test this washing machine, we needed laundry!

This was my favourite part of the challenge. From the moment I received that first "Hey, do you want to review a washing machine?" email, all I could think about was those old detergent adverts on TV where they squirt mustard and black ink on a white shirt, and get grass stains all over it - and then they spray on the pre-treatment Suzelle DIY-style, and they're like: "There's it!"

Of course, that's detergent and this is a washing machine - related, but not the same thing. Which didn't stop me front mixing up a batch of home-made paint yesterday and hitting the park with Ryan - who is always up for anything. We had a blast chasing each other around with squirt bottles. WATCH THIS VIDEO ;)

When we got home we climbed straight into the bath tub. After that, I collected all the dirty clothes from the weekend lying around the house. (Sigh.)

We put the Samsung activ dualwash to the test

The first feature I am looking for is user-friendliness. I don't want to have to read a manual to do a load of laundry. Here is what the instrument panel looks like:

Buttons for days, but not confusing.
You can do a load of laundry by pushing just three buttons. Power. Normal. Start.

You don't have to choose "Normal". I was pretty excited that you could also choose "Blanket" or "Jeans" or "Delicates". I mean, come on: there is a Jeans setting. I share a house with three boys and wear jeans just about every day myself. That is definitely a feature that gets the thumbs up for me. You also don't have to just press three buttons, there are actually quite a few settings that you can toggle to set how long the spin dry cycle is, or if you just want to do a rinse.

My husband's favourite feature is that the Samsung activ dualwash range runs on an inverter, which means it uses only a fraction of energy that other washing machines do, and the "Eco Tub Clean" function. He dreams of getting us off the grid, so any way that we can minimise our carbon footprint scores points with him.

South Africa's biggest laundry day problems

Before the challenge kicked off, Samsung polled its fans to ask what their biggest laundry day problems are. The results: messy pretreatment, tangled washing, lint on clothes, and detergent stains left on clothes. 

So easy to use, even a four-year-old can do the laundry.
Together, my assistant Ryan Sebastian Spider-Man Michaelangelo Ninja Turtle and I set out to see which functions of the Samsung active dualwash could solve these problems.
The built-in sink means no more messy pre-treatment. Look mom, no spills!
Did you see the sticker on the lid of the washing machine that said "Wobble"? That's Samsung's Wobble technology, and that is what makes sure that your clothes don't come out tangled after going through the wash.
As you can see, no lint and no detergent stains. This is thanks to the Magic Filter and the Magic Dispenser. I actually threw one of the boys' white fluffy blankets in with this wash to test the "no lint" function. This is the black Samsung branded T-shirt I was given with the washing machine. Not a mark on it.
Hands up everyone who had to put their top loader in the garage because it doesn't fit under the counter in your kitchen ;)

Don't you love the smell of fresh laundry?
Verdict: I found the Samsung activ dualwash simple to use. I didn't have to do anything special to activate the Magic Filter or any of the other functions that solved the everyday laundry problems. It just... works.

How much? I was at Makro last week buying new office furniture, and I priced the Samsung active dualwash range of top-loaders. The 13kg is going for R5999, the 15kg is R6999 and the 18kg is R8999.

Full disclosure: I get to keep the Samsung active dualwash after this review. We already own a two-year-old Samsung top loader, that I get to pass onto our caregiver Saint Irene, who gave birth to Katlego a couple of weeks ago. This makes me happy.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

How to make a rainbow cake - it is easier than you think

I have always wanted to make a rainbow cake. I actually tore a recipe out of Good Housekeeping South Africa over a year ago and filed it in my plastic recipe binder. It was from their Bake Stars section, and it came from Lauren Beukes.

She wrote: "I love the secret whimsy of a rainbow cake. It looks like an ordinary cake from the outside until you slice it and everyone gasps. It's the distillation of delight in a cake." Could I possibly crush on Lauren more? 

It turns out, yes, I can. Because when I was definitely not stalking Lauren online, I came across this interview where Lauren said that the recipe was actually her sister-in-law's, but the magazine didn't credit her for it. Tsk, tsk. Don't you know how we writerly types feel about attribution?!

Where to get the recipe
So here it is, the recipe that I used to make the Lionheart's birthday cake last weekend. Fully credited to Lauren Beuke's sister-in-law, who adapted it from Everyday Easy Cakes & Cupcakes - find it here

Below I have just added some notes from when I was working through the recipe myself. And yes, instead of making your sponge cake from scratch, you can just use 3 x box cakes.

But I am a "make it from scratch" kind of girl.

Notes to make an awesome rainbow cake

Be smart when you are baking your layers; do them in order so that you can build and ice your rainbow cake as each layer comes out of the oven. Start with the purple and work your way up to the red layer. I did the purple and red layer in the oven; then the red layer stood out on the cooling rack for ages while I did the blue, green, orange and yellow.

The recipe asks you to split your batter into six containers - I just used old yoghurt tubs. Worked a charm.

Remember, you don't have to go searching for purple, green and orange food colouring. You can just combine primary colours like red + yellow = orange.

The colours come out a bit darker after each layer has been baked.

The recipe calls for a plain butter icing, but I think that a cream cheese icing with a dash of lemon zest would also probably work well. What I did to break the sweetness was alternate strawberry jam, tinned caramel and the butter icing between the layers, just for variety.

It took me 2.5 hours to bake and ice this cake, including cooling-down time.

Also, Smarties are fun for decorating, but they are a pain in the butt when you're trying to slice through the cake later.

See the red layer, chilling in the background while I waited for the yellow and orange layers to come out of the oven? Lesson learned.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

What does it mean to be a strong woman?

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As a woman, what does being “strong” mean to you? That was the thought that stayed with me all day yesterday after attending the Good Housekeeping Shine Strong high tea, at the invitation of CNA. The answers were so different for each person at my table.

For me, being strong means not allowing myself to fall to pieces in the face of adversity, whether it’s been the challenges I’ve faced in growing my business so that I can provide for my family, or what we went through just a few weeks ago: placing Travis in residential care. Being strong means sometimes putting myself first. Being strong means reaching for my dream – like starting my own agency – even when a small part of me thinks it’s impossible.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you a bit about what an incredibly lavish event the #GHShineStrong high tea was. If you haven’t been to the green oasis in the city that is Shepstone Gardens, just off Louis Botha in Orange Grove, you have to add it to your Things To See In Jozi bucket list. It feels like you tripped down the rabbit hole and landed in Wonderland. Gorgeous spring flowers and bunting everywhere, champagne and fruit juice on arrival. And the sponsors’ stands! Just wow.

Of course, I made my way to the CNA stand immediately to see what they had on display for us.

As someone who makes her living as a writer, I am such a stationery fiend. (Don’t touch my black Pilot Fineliners!) I wasn’t disappointed: there was the bright and cheerful range from Caroline Gardner (plus their cute owl range) and a whole selection of adult colouring books, including the popular Mindfulness Colouring Book that I actually gave one of my cousins as a gift earlier this year.

The biggest delight for me was the range of bakeware from the Little Venice Cake Company. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know how much I love to get my bake on!

The sweetest goodie bag from CNA.
As an extra surprise for all the attendees, CNA had goodie bags for everyone, filled with items from the Gorjuss range.

You could also have your photo taken with the Pantene team, get your make-up done at the Benefit stand, have your hair done at the Braun stand, or grab a cupcake from Lancewood. Sasko was also there with their versatile Sasko Quick Treats range.

Our host, Gail Mabalane was just radiant. And Sally Emery, the editor of Good Housekeeping, spoke from the heart when shared with us what it means for her to be a strong woman.

But the absolute star of the day was the talk by Lucilla Booyzen, who is the founder of SA Fashion Week. She started her talk with pictures of her as a child, telling us that she always has this picture in her mind and it reminds her that inside, she is still that same child and has the same dreams. Then she spoke on how to tap into the unlimited potential we have inside ourselves, and how we, as women, let circumstances hold us back when in fact, those barriers only exist in our minds.

“Everything you want, also wants you,” she said. It rings true, don’t you think?

All in all, it really was one of the loveliest, most beautifully organised events I have attended in a long time. Thanks CNA for the privilege of attending. It was the perfect note to end Women’s Month on.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

How to talk to kids about the birds and ... about SEX

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I thought a Saturday night would be a good time to go live with this post. After the kids have gone to bed. Because this post is about sex. Specifically – talking to your kids about sex.

Durex approached me to ask if I would do a post on this topic, and at first I was like: “Um, this is a parenting blog” and then I was like… exactly. I have three kids, and I assure you that wind pollination was not at play in their conception ;)

Kids. They are smart.

You know what my 4-year-old asked me the other day?

“Did you chop your willy off, Mom?”

 I am the only woman in an all-boy household. So I am the model for the female anatomy, and my middle son has just realised that I’m a little different in the downstairs region. I was just about to launch in an explanation that boys have a “willy” and girls have a “cookie” when I remembered that you are supposed to use the proper words: penis and vagina.

And then I was imagining my smug 4-year-old bursting into nursery school the next day to tell his teacher, very importantly, that his mom has A VAGINA.

Other questions I have had to deflect in the last few weeks: “Why do you have boobs, Mom?” and “How did the baby get into Irene’s tummy?” Irene is our nanny, and she’s just had a baby boy.

These are all questions about your body and the differences between male and female. For now! But the alarm bells are ringing: I had better start figuring out how to answer these questions intelligently and without going bright red in the face.

I am also determined that my sons learn from the beginning, to be respectful about women’s bodies and female sexuality too. “Be the change you want to see in the world” and all that.

I realise now that The Talk is not going to be a once-off. It will be a process. And I will probably have to repeat it, with more and more details. And I don’t want my boys to “find out” from another source. I want to be in control of the conversation. Which is lofty talk from someone who is nervous to teach my boys to say “penis”, but it’s a start.

I want to know: what worries you the most when it comes to your child’s sexual education? What are your questions when it comes to:
  • Talking to your children about sex
  • Questions you are scared to ask your children when it comes to sex;
  • Details of about their sexual activity; and
  • Communicating your concerns around sex, etc. 

Send me your thoughts and questions in the comments section below. 

Durex will have CONNECT-ED Buddy answer all your questions. CONNECT-ED Buddy is part of Durex’s CONNECT-ED programme, a high school initiative, run in association with the Gauteng Department of Education. It aims to give high-schoolers the knowledge they need to make smart choices around sex.

It doesn’t matter if you think your child is too young or that your questions are quite specific to your situation, just go ahead and ask them – because there is probably a mom and dad wondering the exact same thing. The questions you ask here, and the advice from CONNECT-ED Buddy, might even make it into newspapers and radio.

I will go first. Some of my questions:
  • Must I wait for my kids to ask me about sex first?
  • How do I talk about topics like masturbation? *face goes bright red again*
  • Do we seriously have to make them use the words penis and vagina?

You have until the 7th of September to send me your thoughts and questions. The first person to send their comments will win a ‘Birds and the bees toolkit’ worth R 1000. And I might just throw in some sexy goodies from Durex for mom and dad to enjoy ;)

Friday, 28 August 2015

His first birthday away from home...

On Friday, Travis turned 8 years old. Eight years this family has been living lionheart, and only two months since he moved to Oakhaven (which I have started referring to as a boarding school for special needs kids when people ask me, for my own sanity as well as for shorter, less awkward conversations. "So where is your other son?" "He's in a home for mentally disabled kids." "Um, okay." See? Awkies).

It's been a tough few weeks for me - business is good, which is always bittersweet because it means I am working my ass off while we find the right people to hire and take some of the workload off me - but I was determined to do something special for Travis. I wanted to make sure we mark this milestone with a celebration.

For some reason "doing something special" equalled me making a rainbow cake on Thursday night after the kids had gone to bed, but at the last minute I decided to cut myself some freaking slack in the Pinterest mom department. Because let's be honest, Travis doesn't give a fig about rainbow cakes; he wouldn't even notice. The rainbow cake thing was all me, being me i.e. overcompensating for "sending Travis away" by making a ridiculously difficult cake, thus demonstrating the depth of my love for him. Seven layers of frosted love!

So on Friday morning I hit up Food Lover's Market and bought some of their cupcakes that I knew were delish because we'd smashed quite a few of them in our faces before, plus a tiny chocolate cake just for the birthday boy. And candles. And rainbow-coloured balloons. Just had to get something rainbow. Then I made the 40-minute drive to Oakhaven in Midrand so that I could surprise my kid, who I had not seen in a week.

And boy was he surprised! When I pulled up to the gate, I could see him sitting on the veranda. You should have seen his eyes light up when he saw me! I managed to catch the exact moment he recognised me, on camera. Travis is usually so hard to read, but not at that moment. I just saw delight in his eyes.

This exact moment. The world stood still. Just for a second.

He was a bit confused, though, and kept taking me by the hand to lead me to my car. Shame kiddo. These moments are especially tough for me, but I try not to take them to heart. You see, Trav's routine, when he sees me, is that we collect his kit bag, get in the car and then he comes home for the weekend. Why else would mom come?!

I haven't written about it, but there have been some truly heartwrenching moments these last few weeks when I have gone to visit Travis (just to spend time with him, but not to collect him for a home visit) - and well, he was really confused and upset with me because I wouldn't let him get in the car. We're still figuring out how to do "visits", which is why you've been seeing me having picnics at Oakhaven with him on Instagram.

Anyway, boy was Travis chuffed with I brought in the cakes and balloons. He freaking loves balloons!

Party time! I tried to stick with the no-sweets rule, so I only brought cupcakes, and then two punnets of fresh strawberries in case some of the kids couldn't have cupcakes. 
Look at the Birthday Board fo Travis. Oakhaven really went out of their way to make it a special occasion for our Lionheart.
Ballooooooon! Bazinga!
It's party time!
We gathered all the Oakhaven kids on the verandah and sang happy birthday (while Travis sneaked his cupcake off his plate). I'm so glad that I made the effort to mark the occasion for our boy. Out in the sunshine, with brightly coloured ribbons blowing in the wind, and his special birthday boy badge and birthday card, drinking juice and eating cupcakes with his friends - it was a much nicer celebration than Travis would have enjoyed at home.

Look how everyone's cupcake is still on its plate - except our Trav. Ohm nom nom!

We searched for ages to find a lighter for the candles, and when we finally found one - Travis had zero interest in blowing them out. And he loves blowing out candles, trust me. You should see him when it's loadshedding. Kids = always gotta be otherwise, I tell you.

After about 30 mins I quietly left by the front door to go put in a few hours at the office before returning later that afternoon to take him home for the weekend. I did get around to baking him that rainbow cake by the way. Here is how the rainbow cake turned out.