Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Where to from here? Help me decide...



Today marks five years since I launched this blog to my friends and family. Since then we have laughed and cried, there were awards and interviews in the media. A billboard, even. But darling readers, for a while now I have been in a weird space with my blog.

With the Lionheart moved out, it feels like the end of a chapter. And I am sure you have noticed, but I don’t post very often about his two little brothers and the “regular” kid stuff and milestones. That’s because while I’m comfortable being Trav’s voice – what with him not having one of his own – I’m not so comfortable sharing details about my ruggles, like what so-and-so’s mom said to me in the school parking lot, or bedwetting, or that one time my kid spat in my face. Yes, really.

So where to from here? I knew right from the beginning, in 2010, that if I started writing about the Lionheart’s story, it might become my only story. Or at least, the only one that people were interested in.

I feel like there is more to me than being the Lionheart’s mom, but my blog stats say otherwise. My Lionheart posts are by far the most popular, according to the God of Pageviews. And with Travis not being at home for 26 days a month, well, you can see where this is going.

I’m still “living Lionheart”, though. This domain is my home, and I’m not going to move out! I’m just not sure what my home on the Internet should look like going forward. So I am putting it to you: please help me take Living Lionheart to the next level. Tell me what you want me to talk about here.


If you have any other ideas, please share them with me in the comments. This is a time for honesty; so tell me what you really think. What you don’t like, and what you would like to read on this blog in the future. I will be sharing the results of the poll next week so you can see what everyone voted.
Blogger Tricks

Friday, 31 July 2015

Win a Kenwood mixer worth over R5000 with Sasko Quick Treats


Sponsored post

You know what goes well with flapjacks? Salted caramel sauce. Except on the two occasions that I have tried to make it at home, I once ended up hacking chunks of sugar crust out of my best saucepan, and on the second occasion, with a dark gooey mess that tasted burnt.

Sasko Quick Treats comes in Flapjack Mix, Cookie Mix, Pancake Mix, Scone Mix, Vanilla Muffin Mix, Chocolate Muffin Mix and Bran Muffin Mix.

Flapjacks are easier, especially if you’re using a pre-made mix like the ones from Sasko’s Quick Treats range. If you follow me on Instagram, you know flapjacks are something I make often for the boys. Except I put on a British accent and called them “crumpets”.

As a treat, I decided to surprise Travis, Ryan and Oliver with some flapjacks for afternoon tea when they got home from school. It took me less than 5 minutes to whip up the mixture. As long as you have the three basics – eggs, milk and oil – you can make just about any of these Sasko Quick Treats.


I had about a cup of dark chocolate chips left from when I was making biscuits the other day, so in they went.



I was originally going to lump a handful of blueberries into the mixture, but they’re not in season. Though, this time of year you can buy a punnet of strawberries for less than the price of a 2-litre milk! So strawberries and cream it was for the finishing touches. The boys loved them.

Chocolate-chip flapjacks with strawberries and cream. And eyes made of chocolate sauce.
Definitely NOT sharing with his little brother.


WIN A KENWOOD MIXER WORTH OVER R5000!

Another great finishing touch in the kitchen is a Kenwood Stand Mixer. I have wanted one of these babies for ages!

Sasko Quick Treats is giving away a Kenwood KMX50 Stand Mixer to one lucky Living Lionheart reader. 



How to enter

Buy any Sasko Quick Treats bake mix - they are on promotion until 23 August - and show me what twist you would put on it, like how I added chocolate chips to the Flapjack Mix. Use the hashtag #SaskoQuickTreats, and share your pic with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.



Good luck, and happy baking!



Terms and conditions
This competition is open to residents of South Africa only. You may enter as many times as you wish. By sharing your pic with the hashtag #SaskoQuickTreats, you agree to it being used in a gallery on this blog in Round 2 of the competition. The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Round 1 of the competition closes on 19 August 2015, and the second and final round on 26 August 2015. The winner will be chosen on the same day, and announced on this blog and via the Living Lionheart social platforms.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Our little lion man has lost his roar


This is embarrassing to admit, but since Travis moved out, love songs make me cry. Unbreak my heart. It must have been love, but it’s over now…

There is that Mumford & Sons song “Little Lion Man” that’s been a bit of an anthem for us, but now the words stab, stab, stab since our boy has been so ill.

But it was not your fault but mine,
And it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
Didn’t I, my dear?


We went on holiday without him. Fourteen sleepies I waited to see his sweet face.

Last Friday I left work a bit earlier so that I could fetch him, and it felt like my heart would explode with love when they led him by the hand to my car where I was waiting.

I’m biased, I know, but I think Travis has the face of an angel. I see past his googlie-eyes, one always looking a bit squiff and unfocused. I see past his one ear that juts out further than the other one, like a bat straining to hear the squeak of a mouse. 

The expression on his face hasn’t been touched by knowledge of the ugliness of the world, and of people. This must be what Adam and Eve looked like before she bit into that apple. A beatific smile. Innocent, unknowing, unsullied… My little Peter Pan who will never grow up.

But that Friday night Travis began burning with fever. I slept next to him while he sweated and shivered and tangled his legs in the duvet. He wouldn’t eat. He wouldn’t drink. Friday turned into Saturday, then Sunday and then Monday.

The lionheart in his natural habitat - the bathtub. Always makes him feel better.

I waited for the runny nose or the wet cough to tell me he was getting the flu, but nothing. No clue what was wrong with him. Then on Monday I had the worst stomach cramps myself and thought, okay, this must be what’s wrong with him.

On Tuesday morning at 4am, I heard giggles bubbles out from behind his bedroom door and I was so relieved. He was going to be okay. (Crazy to think that just one month ago those same giggles at 4am would set my teeth on edge.)

So back to Oakhaven we went, and when I dropped Travis off he looked so freaking happy to be there among his friends. It was actually the first time I had been there in the evening, and it cheered me greatly to see the camaraderie in the house. The rooms were filled with kids in the middle of their nighttime routine, the telly was on, some were fresh out of the bathtub and in their PJs, others still finishing up super.

When I drove back home, I felt lighter. My heart was at ease.

Then 48 hours later, I got the phone call. The fever is back. Travis is turning away all food. He’s limp and has no energy. I charged off to fetch him.

I don’t know what is wrong with our boy. Tomorrow we are going to see our GP, but I know she won’t be able to tell us much. “Does it hurt when I do this?” she’ll ask. He won’t respond.

Travis is in mourning, that’s what I think. He’s forlorn. Perhaps it is just dawning on him that he has a new home, and this isn’t just a weekend visit anymore.

Or perhaps I am torturing myself, and actually, he just has an ear infection.

It’s this not knowing that is making me heart-sore, and for the 12,956th time in his short life I find myself wishing he could speak.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Watch how the power of touch brings this baby back to life...

Sponsored post

As you can imagine, after our Lionheart was diagnosed when he was 8 months old, our lives became a rotating schedule of occupational therapy, physiotherapy and visits with a neurologist for babies.

Before he was born, we had attended antenatal classes, so I knew all about the benefits of baby massage and how touch is important for your baby’s well-being (click here to learn how to massage your baby), but this was a whole other level.

We had stretching and exercises that we needed to do with him, helping him build tone, especially on his right-hand side, that was much weaker than the left.

It wasn’t a chore though, because I enjoyed those moments when it was just Travis and I, and I rubbed him head-to-toe with the Johnson’s & Johnson’s aqueous cream after his bath every night, pressing my thumbs gently into the soles of his feet and running my hands down his lean little arms and legs.

We got into a routine, and it was a pretty good use of all the Johnson’s baby products I’d received for his baby shower. Hands up all the other moms who had literally two or three years’ supply of aqueous cream after their baby shower!

But mostly, it was just it was about the bonding for me. You know what it’s like: you spend so much time looking at and touching your new baby that you’re convinced you could identify them blind-folded, you know their shape and feel so well.

It’s good for baby too: he feels safe, and loved, and studies have shown that touch therapy promotes healthy weight gain and enhanced growth and social development in babies.

You have to see this video, called Power of Touch: Kate Ogg & Jamie’s Story. I properly cried while watching it!


Did you do baby massage with you little ones? Who showed you what to do?

Sunday, 26 July 2015

That one time I tried a juice cleanse

The idea of a “juice cleanse” seems like something that a woman who owns a Nike two-piece to gym would do. A woman who keeps an address book in her Polo handbag, next to her keys with a World’s Best Mom keyring her kid made her in nursery school. The kind of woman who has her “es aych one tee” together, because she would be far too polite to use swear words in public.

Well, for almost 24 hours I was that woman.

And then I ate a bowl of pasta.

I’m not bashing juicing, because jislaaik those juices are delicious, even the broccoli one scheduled for Day 1 at 8am. I just happen to have the willpower of that triple-chinned mayor from Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs. Meatballs, mmm.

I’m not going to be too hard on myself though. I never intended to do the whole juice cleanse thing. Originally, I was window-shopping on Instagram, you know, for someone’s life that is clearly more together than mine. Heart. Heart. Heart.

Then I saw my darling Ms Dadic’s post about her Juice Co experience, and if you have met Nicki in real life you’ll know that she radiates wellbeing. GLOWS! Like sparkles with minerals – a vitamin vampire! She mentioned she finds it hard to get the mandated five fruit and veg in a day.

And as we were chatting, I had a vision: opening the freezer at my office, and finding it packed with colourful bottles of cold-pressed juices called Radiate! Vivacious! Bliss! (Incidentally, also the names of my favourites from Juice Co.) (This is bit where I say that this is not a sponsored post.)

Because I have a bit of a drive-thru problem, people. I bolt out of the house in the mornings without eating breakfast, and then do the drive of shame at 3pm, and hope the sweet cashier lady doesn’t recognise me and say: “The usual?”

* dies *

Anyway.

I sampled a few of the juices – you can buy them for R29 for 300ml at Impala in Craighall Park if you are a Joburger (hmmm, burger. Dammit, stop it) – and I found the liquid veggies pretty easy drinking. I didn’t have to hold my nose or anything!

Radiate! This one is my best.
Don’t laugh. I’ve been fighting the good fight against veggies since I was a kid. I will never forget that one time a serviette full of some yucky veggie – probably Brussels sprout or patty pans – fell out of my pocket as my family was leaving a hotel restaurant.

So, when we came back from our beach holiday, I banged off my order for the three-day juice cleanse and read and re-read Natasha Clark’s flippen’ awesome post called: “10 Things I Learned While Being On A Juice Cleanse”. Bookmark that shit.

Anyway, let’s fast-forward to Saturday. It’s worth mentioning that you don’t just drink juice the whole time, you get herbal teas, wheatgrass shots and soups, and the chances of you feeling hungry are zero. They come packed into a Styrofoam box with a neat schedule and guidelines.

Nature's goodness, straight from the freezer.

Basically, they make it impossible to fail at this juice cleanse. Unless you are me.

Man, I struggled. I can just imagine what was going on in my body’s Command Central. “What the FUCK is this?! Sergeant, prepare for war! We’re being attacked… by nutrients!”

Seriously, for 24 hours, square centimetre for square centimetre, I was the most nutrient-dense person in Johannesburg. Quite an achievement for someone who is this close to having a KFC meal named after her.

But the detox was heavy stuff. My head felt like it was splitting, then filled with cotton wool, then lead. Logically, I knew I was in the throes of sugar-carbs-caffeine withdrawal, and this was a Good Thing and I must just stick it out and not be such a baby. Spoiler: I was a big baby.

I tried to distract myself by watching series, then reading a book out in the sun, and of course, the Lionheart was home for the weekend and he wasn’t feeling great himself, so he needed lots of TLC. By 8pm, the aroma of The Hubband’s pasta got the better of me and I wolfed down a bowl and HATED MYSELF. Proper.

Then, c'est la vie. This is clearly not a good time for me to do anything drastic in my quest to improve my health. Baby steps. Baby steps.

I’ve now committed to having one juice every day for lunch. You can buy them in bulk – 20 or 40 at a time – and keep them in your freezer, so that’s what I’m going to do. But at the office, because Tash was right: my kids kept stealing sips from ma juices! Not that I’m going to deny them this fruit-and-veggie nectar of the Gods. I’ll keep a few at home for them too.

So here ends my one-day adventure in detox-by-juice-cleanse. I wimped out! But I’ll keep trucking. Or chugging, rather.

Oh, and Instagramming, because man, those juices make for pretty pics.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Review: Ice Age Expo in Johannesburg

I don’t usually blog about events and exhibitions, but I received so many questions after posting the video of the boys and I whizzing down the ice slopes at the Ice Age Exhibition, that I had to share.

This year I went to NickFest (you try being in enclosed space with thousands of screaming kids hyped up on sugar) and the Art of the Brick (more for adults, and a bit short). The Ice Age Exhibition was by far the best. Maybe it was because I took the boys after the school holidays, in a quiet afternoon, but I found myself having fun. We practically had the place to ourselves!

PS: Tip, there are no toilets in the exhibition, so take your kids beforehand in the canteen one level up before you go.


It starts off with a long corridor, with large posters where you can read more about the Ice Age, nice for school groups. 


There are some fossils and skulls to look at in glass cases. This is the first dinosaur you see, so you will be tempted to whip out your camera. Don't worry, there are loads of photo opportunities of way cooler dinosaurs coming.



Kids under the age of two might find the animatronic animals scary, so hold their hands when you go through this brightly coloured tunnel (time machine). The dinosaurs are lurking behind a curtained off section just after this, and they make loud noises!


The first dinosaur you see is pretty harmless ;) But then comes a big gorilla!



Funnily enough, this shark was one of the few exhibits the boys were happy to get up close to because he doesn't make loud sounds or move suddenly. Jaws!


There is quite a variety of dinosaurs to see... this crocodile was huge, and swings his tail back and forth and opens his jaws. There are large birds, long-toothed tigers, cavemen, and a few LCD screens lined up where you can see prehistoric whales and sharks swim past.


The woolly mammoths that you see in all the posters are towards the end of the section where all the animatronic dinosaurs are.


Check out this big guy! After you have seen the dinosaurs, there is an icy tunnel you can walk through. Hold the kids hands in case they slip! I had to take my boys through twice they loved it so much.


After the dinosaur exhibit, there is a play area with all kinds of activities. Get out your wallets. The boys really enjoyed doing these etchings of dinosaurs. This is a free activity. 


There are two ice slopes to go down, the one on the right is pretty fast and I recommend it for older kids (there is a "You must be 1m high" sign.) They do cost extra.


The question is: is it worth it? We parents are used to the hustle now; cough up a couple of hundred bucks for tickets, and then when you get inside, it is another few hundred rand to take part in the activities you were expecting to be included in the ticket price. This was no different, but there were more free things to do than other exhibitions I have taken my boys to. This is what I paid extra for:


Rides down the ice slopes: R55 each (tip: they let me and both boys go down the slope together in one inflatable boat for the price of one ticket)
Freaking enormous posters of mammoths and tigers: R25 each (best buy!)
Face painting: R40 each
Slushies: R20 each

Some of the things you can do for free: take photos with all the dinos, go through the ice tunnel, dig in the sandpit for bones, do etchings with the crayons and paper provided.

The Ice Age Exhibition is still open at the Sandton Convention centre until 8 August.

Disclosure: we received free entrance for one adult and two kids. I paid for all the extras. Also, don't be silly like me and park in Sandton City and take the sky bridge. Rather park in the convention centre; the exhibition is in the lowest level.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Eight years after becoming a mom, I started learning how to parent

Travis the Lionheart, just hanging out (excuse the pun) at Oakhaven residential care for children with special needs (and superhero powers)

It’s three weeks since the Lionheart moved out, and we’re wrapping up our first holiday as a family of four. The school term has officially started, but as both the boys are still in nursery school, I’m not sweating the small stuff. You know, like attendance records. Because adventure is out there!

I’m planning on writing a post called: The Secret Bonuses of Raising a Disabled Child. Top of the list – your disabled kid doesn’t attend a mainstream school, so yay, longer beach holidays for you. That post is going to be fun to write, but this post isn’t.

You see, now that we are Trav-less, I am noticing some of the not-so-nice things that were going on while we were all hanging in there by our fingernails. Like, this parenting business.

Apparently milking a baby out of your ovaries isn’t enough. You have to teach your children discipline, and manners, and learn patience, and occasionally let your offspring fall flat on its face because = Important Life Lessons.

I’m not saying my two younger boys are brats, but man, I should learn to stand my ground more often. Like, the banana incident at breakfast on Sunday.



Kid: “Mom, can I have a banana?”

Me (mumbles): “Sure.”

Ouma: “Ryan, maybe don’t have a banana now, you’ll spoil your breakfast. We are eating bacon and eggs in 2 mins.”

Kid: “Mooooooooom… I want a banana. NOW.”

Me (realising this might be one of those “parenting” situations I’ve heard so much about): “No, Ouma is right. Put down the banana. We’re eating breakfast now.”

Kid: THROWS TANTRUM

Kid: but eventually eats some breakfast, with banana sliced into it



I know it’s just a flipping banana, but a principle was a stake, and frankly, it’s exactly this kind of thing that I would let slide before, when the Lionheart was still in residence.

You know how they say, “Pick your battles”? Well, I picked my battles and the battle was usually, “Just make it to 8pm without curling up in a corner and crying in front of the kids about how sad, exhausted and depressed you are”. Banana battles? Pass.

Except now, I can’t pass on these little parenting moments anymore. I don’t have the I’m Raising A Disabled Kid So Cut Me Some Slack shield. I packed it away when we packed Travis off to Oakhaven. I miss that shield. I wriggled out of all kinds of stuff while holding that shield.

But this is one of the very reasons WHY we made this tough decision, to have a dual household of sorts. “Ruggles” at home, and “Lionheart”at Oakhaven - so that I can be a better parent to Ryan and Oliver. It sounds weird to say out loud, but Travis doesn’t need parenting – he needs physical care and plenty of cuddles; banana wars are not something he gets.

So here I am, with my head out of the sand, eight years after becoming a mom, finally learning how to parent.

(And I’m standing my ground on the whole nursery school attendance records thing, by the way. We’ll have 14 solid years of worrying about school attendance soon enough, when Ryan starts “big school” in 2017.)

(Look at me, picking my battles.)

(High fives self)

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

There is a lightness to our family since Travis moved out...

This is not going to be a long post. We are on holiday, you see. Our first holiday without Travis. And I am afraid if I start writing, my emotions will come bubbling to the surface and I will spoil this precious 7-day escape from reality for everyone.

There is a lightness to our family since Travis moved out.

There, I said it.

We are frothy. We are more fun. More spontaneous. Everything seems easier and more straightforward. His brothers are basking in the sunshine of our undivided attention. Which doesn't seem right, because when Travis was living with us, he kept to himself quite a bit, hiding out in his room like a Womble, so they never really had to fight to get Mom and Dad to notice them. It was as if they sensed how thin we'd been stretched and gave us our space.

After almost 8 years of living Lionheart, I lost track of how much time I was spending changing his nappies, and feeding him, and holding his glass for him to drink something, and fussing when he had one of his episodes, and sitting with my shoulders tense and my mood dark when he was not.

What a terrible way to live. But then again, sending your disabled child away to live in residential care is an equally terrible decision to shoulder for your family, despite how easy the lovely folks at Oakhaven are making this transition for us, always sending updates and photos of him.

There, you see? I am over-thinking this and the clouds are creeping in. I really need to learn how to lighten up.

Here, let me share some photos of our wonderfully "normal" and "neurotypical" holiday - our very first one. The weather is bloody freezing actually, but that never kept a small boy from digging his toes into the beach sand.












Monday, 13 July 2015

Tips for travelling with a special needs child

Any parent of small children will tell you that going away on holiday is actually no holiday at all. It is a time fraught with stress, as we try to manage our little one in a different environment, often surrounded by friends or extended family who are watching your every move. At least, it feels that way.

As a parent of a disabled child with some pretty colourful behavioural issues, let me tell you - leaving home for a "break" was one of the most stressful events in my life. 

There was the time I had to carry Travis (who still couldn't walk) and his special needs buggy down a dangerously high rocky embankment when we went to support our friends at the finish line of the Comrades. And the time he threw a fork at another hotel guest in the dining room of the Drakensberg Sun because he was experiencing a sensory overload. I have learned to enquire upfront exactly how thin the walls are at a B&B, because I don't want to inconvenience our neighbours if he has a shrieking meltdown - several times a day during our stay. 

The folks at Webjet asked if I would share a few tips for travelling with a special needs child on their blog.



They interviewed a few other specialists and parents in the same boat, and it makes for an interesting read. Go and check it out.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write for Webjet, nor is this a sponsored post. Just a labour of love ;)

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Simple living with Simply Chicken’s lifehacks for families

Sponsored post

Do you have any clever tricks that you use at home to make life, well, little easier?

My mom-in-law is actually a fountain of these: she taught me how to hang my clothes up properly when they come out of the washing machine, so that I wouldn’t have to do too much ironing later. Also, how to fold plastic shopping bags into neat triangles so that they don’t take up too much space in my pantry where I store them. She also showed me how to chop onions like Jamie Oliver, chef-style.

Remember we came up with that delicious “Chicks in a Blanket” lunch box snack a couple of weeks ago? The challenge was to come up with a recipe that was quick to make. I have a found a few more ideas to make things a little simpler around the house (because we have three kids, the Lionheart family knows all about cutting through the chaos on the homefront).




Simply Chicken has a whole board of clever lifehacks on Pinterest for you to explore. It’s full of great timesaving ideas. Go and check it out – some of them are really nifty.


Psst! Don’t forget, there is still a chance that you could win a kitchen makeover worth R40 000! All you need to do to enter is buy any pack of Simply Chicken Steaklets or Viennas, and then SMS your name and the last four digits of the barcode to 47901 to enter.

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