Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Questions and answers

Inspired by Living & Loving editor Tanya Kovarsky running her Q&As that weren't published in the mommy blogger feature in the May issue (you must check out her blog 'Dear Max'), I'm following suite. 

Your name and kid’s name and age
Stacey Vee (30), Travis the Lionheart (3)

Your blog URL and domain?

What do you blog about?
“Living with a Lionheart – a kid with special needs – is challenging. So is phoning customer service at the City of Joburg, being stuck with an X in Scrabble and getting bubblegum out of your kid’s hair. You survive.”

Do you work, and if so, where and as what?
I own a copywriting and editing studio called Copy Candy. The best thing about being your own boss is inventing your job title. I’ve called myself ‘wordsmith’, ‘copy guru’ and even ‘alphabet wizard’.

When did you start blogging and why?
In July 2010. Travis was diagnosed with De Morsier’s syndrome, a congenital brain malformation, at eight months. It sounds cheesy, but after running the gauntlet of tears and grief, I had a thought: why would The Big Guy Upstairs give me, a writer, such an odd and unique child? That’s when Travis the Lionheart got his voice online – which is ironic, because he only speaks dolphin in real life, mostly squeaks and shrieks.

When do you blog, and with what laptop?
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays usually. I blog with my laptop and occasionally with my iPhone.

What do you get out of blogging?
It’s cheaper than seeing a shrink! I find writing about the trials and triumphs of our family helps me sort through my feelings.

Will you let your kids read your blog one day?
Not so much Travis. As he’s intellectually impaired, he may not learn to read. However, chances are good he’ll have a sibling. A ruggle – which is what I call a ‘regular kid’. I find it hard to believe that child won’t be embarrassed by me spilling my guts online about his/her disabled older brother. Playgrounds can be cruel places…

Have any of your blog posts ever got you into trouble, or have you had a most controversial blog post?
I’ve never been in trouble, but one issue of WTF Friday, which is a regular rant I post, I wrote about how stupid Baby on Board stickers are – only to get a flurry of stern replies. Apparently the sole purpose of those stickers is to tell paramedics to be on the look-out for an infant if you’re in a car wreck. Who knew?

What was the blog post you most regret?
The Lionheart goes to a special needs school. Last year, one of the children was expelled for reasons I won’t go into. I regret writing about that… it was not my story to tell.

Do you blog 100 percent honestly, or do you bear in mind that your colleagues/family etc will read it?
I am 100% honest, even when I know it makes my readers flinch in horror or wet themselves laughing.

What is the one thing you won’t blog about?
The usual: religion, politics... my secret Death by Chocolate cake recipe.

Do you have advice for wannabe or current bloggers?
Don’t start a blog unless you are committed to keeping it updated. Once you build up a fan club, you owe it them and yourself to post regularly.

What is the one blog you can’t live without (aside from your own)?
There are two: Jou Ma Se Blerrie Blog by Margot Bertelsmann and A Day In The Wife by a hilarious American gal called Julie.

What do you think makes a good blog?
In a mommy blog, people want to read your posts and think: “Man, have I ever been there…”

What do you hope people will get out of your blog, or are you simply blogging for you?
My blog is about a concept: Living Lionheart (join our Facebook group!) – accepting that life is sometimes unfair. Most folks are scared to make eye contact, for instance, with a person in a wheelchair. Not only are my readers okay with Trav’s disabilities, they laugh out loud at him and his antics.

What is the one thing you’d love to blog about, but can’t?
I used to write some racy stuff about sex and relationships. Now that I’m blogging about my kid, I’ll probably get lynched by a gang of outraged moms should I take it up again!

Have you made real-life friends through the blogosphere?
You bet! I correspond with moms in the US, the UK and Australia who have special needs kids… many on the autistic spectrum.

If you had to blog about Living & Loving, what would the blog post be called?
‘We’ve got that Loving feeling…’

What are your other hobbies?
Kamikaze cookie baker, amateur astronomer, thwarted novelist.

What did your last Facebook status say?
You know you're married to a tech junkie when we have two XBoxs hooked up to two giant plasmas... with four people playing Call of Duty split-screen. Two upstairs in the man cave, two downstairs in the TV room...

What did your last Tweet say?
Love is… being smeared in Weetbix smoosh and toddler kisses.

The last SMS you received said…
“You have used more than 98% of your data bundle...”

Saturday, 23 April 2011

WTF Friday 12: Sisterhood of the Urine Samples

What the Fuck Friday is the most blissfully belligerent day of the week. It’s the one day the author of this blog does not delicately arch an eyebrow in distaste at some perceived stupidity. Instead, she goes all passive-aggressive and blogs about the proverbial fork in her ribs to her tiny online fan base.

On Wednesday I was at the va-jay-jay doctor. For my 12-week scan, and the Big Thumbs Up...

(Sidebar: apparently the word gynaecologist makes most of my male readers’ left eyeballs twitch manically, so I’m toning down all jargon related to the plumbing of the female reproductive system today.)

Thing is, at my va-jay-jay doctor, you “do not pass go and do not collect 200 dollars” until you check in your urine sample at the front desk with the receptionists.

Now let me set the scene: when you arrive at the VJ doc’s offices, you step through a glass door into a cosy waiting room, where everyone has a front-row seat from which to peer at you from behind a well-thumbed copy of O magazine or Getaway, as you approach the receptionists’ counter – basically a serving hatch in the wall.

The urine sample containers are kept in a neat dispenser to the right of the receptionists’ hole-in-the-wall, along with the key to the ladies’ bathrooms. I think it gives those prim little admin jockeys a thrill, you know, really tugs on their corset strings, putting the pee cups up for every Tom, Dick and Johannes Stephanus in the waiting room to see.

Then there’s the matter of getting the pee into the cup! It’s a screw-top container, about the size of the ones a pharmacist dispenses pills in: the opening no more than 3cm in diameter. So you’re hovering over the toilet bowl, with this teeny cup suspended under your erm, the place where the urine comes out. I don’t know about you, but unlike the males of the species, I’m not too well-versed in the exact trajectory arc of my stream of pee. More’s the pity, I have never had the pleasure of writing my name in urine on a wall!

So you aim for the 3cm opening and hope for the best...

It’s also impossible to judge when that tiny container is full. You stop-peek-start-stop-peek-start until it is filled to the brim! Why it’s so important to me that I can demonstrate that I can pee like a racehorse, and that my cup runneth over, I wouldn’t know. Must be an alpha-female thing. You screw on the lid tightly, and balance the disturbingly warm container on top of the toilet paper dispenser (because there’s nowhere else), and wrap things up in the bathroom.

Breathe a sigh of relief. Done!

But the worst is yet to come. Because now you have to get your container of warm urine back to the receptionists’ hole-in-the-wall... in front of a packed waiting room of patients who’ve probably seen this little social dilemma played out every time they visit the VJ doc, and frankly, theatre tickets don’t have this much popcorn value!

I’ve seen plenty of ways to play this. Some ladies try to hide the container in the palm of their hands, placing it into the urine sample receptacle by the receptionists like they’re palming 500 bucks to a corrupt Metro cop. Other ladies keep their hand in the handbag or a jacket pocket as they stroll nonchalant up to the hole-in-the-wall and swiftly deposit it in the plastic kidney dish marked ‘Urine Samples’. Others still wrap it lovingly in toilet paper like a Christmas present.

Me? I thought: “Screw this!” I held my pee in a cup out in front of me for the waiting room to admire the deep rich glow of its sunflower yellow, dumped it unceremoniously into the plastic dish and said: “That’s for Mrs Venter, okay? Don’t get it mixed up with someone else’s!”

Patient 1. Receptionists 0.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Secret Diary is live!

If you haven't already guessed, I've been keeping the lid on some pretty big news for the last couple of weeks. What the blazes is going on, I hear you ask?

Read all about it at The Secret Diary!

Monday, 18 April 2011

If the shoe fits!

There are these moms. They drive wide-bottomed SUVs that I can't see past when I'm stuck behind them on the road, with vanity plates like "Purrfect GP". They have long, acrylic talons. They drop off their children at school wearing velvet tracksuits, their hair in sleek ponytails so that you can't see the extensions glued to their scalps. They have 10am appointments with a private yoga, er, yogi. Their kids wear tiny Reeboks and Nikes.

Hooray for me, I am one step closer to being one of those yummy mummies!

Okay. The Big Guy Upstairs forbid…

But yesterday afternoon I slapped R350 on my cheque card for a pair of Puma sneakers for Travis the Lionheart. Usually I would snort in derision at such wasteful expenditure. But when you are coughing up (from somewhere deep in your bowels) close to R1800 for a pair of orthapaedic shoes for your disabled son - yes, the ones we call astronaut shoes - those Pumas look like a flipping bargain to me. I'm even SAVING money, people. In fact, I'm buying Travis another pair.

Because the Lionheart wears a custom-made splint on one foot, his right foot is at least one size bigger than his left foot. I'm even considering buying two of the same pair of Puma sneakers, one pair in size 7 and the other in size 9, so that he has matching shoes that fit his individual feet perfectly. (Or I could be diabolical and ask the shop assistant for both sizes and then swop them out in the boxes before paying for them at the till. But that would be evil, mwah ha ha HA!)

So my special needs kid wears designer sneakers. Lionheart, you are styling!

Speaking of styling, the May issue of Living & Loving magazine is on shelves from today. There is a feature on The Most Addictive Mom Blogs, which has a splash of Lionheart for your reading pleasure - as well as Q&As with some talented mommy bloggers I've had the pleasure of meeting since doing the shoot. Remember that day :)

And on Wednesday, the Secret Diary goes live. Just saying.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

WTF Friday 11: Oh, fork...

What the Fuck Friday is the most blissfully belligerent day of the week. It’s the one day the author of this blog does not delicately arch an eyebrow in distaste at some perceived stupidity. Instead, she sends her personal baggage through an X-ray machine for the entire world to see... and sometimes, it’s ugly.

Picture this, if you will...

It’s Thursday morning. I’m at Silverstar Casino. Being assaulted by the ching-chinging slot machines and torturous glow of a million watts of neon lights. I haven’t been conned by one of those “you’ve won a free holiday (if you’ll just come to our two-hour death-by-PointPoint timeshare pitch)” scams. I’m there for a media function.

But first, we have to get through the security checkpoint. And I’m right at the front of the school-squadron-gaggle-whatever of humourless technology journalists. I plonk my handbag down on the X-ray machine’s conveyor belt and step through the metal detector. No alarms, no beeps, yay for me! A swat team does not descend from the roof.

I flash a triumphant grin over my shoulder at my tech-lovin’ comrades. (Admit it, making it through security unscathed these days is a reason to feel smug.)

“Ma’am!” It’s the lady at the X-ray machine. Aaaargh! What now?

“Ma’am. I’m afraid I can’t let you take any cutlery into the casino. It’s against casino policy.” She says this just loud enough to make sure that everyone in my press group gets an earful.

And yes, you heard right, cutlery. If only the plush red carpet would swallow me up like in a Stephen King hotel horror story...

I shuffle over to the monitor, and there clear as day is a giant metal fork in my handbag. And a dessert spoon. And ANOTHER big dessert spoon. I’m not sure why, but I’m mortified. My ears are burning in shame. I giggle like a car with a faulty starter and glance at my (mostly male) colleagues. “What? I’m a mom.”

Come on, who knows when you’ll suddenly need a fork?

Then I have to place my oversized handbag down on the ground, and fish around for the offending cutlery, while EVERYONE gathers around me in a circle, in morbid fascination no doubt. Like at the scene of a horrendous accident. I surreptitiously give the trio of silverware a polish before I pull it out of the depths of my mom-stash and it’s confiscated by security.

Hooray for me, this particular media function included breakfast (in the sky, the table and chairs dangling from a crane). The theme was: “Taking [insert product’s name] to new heights!” So there we were, like, a 100m off the ground, with my sense of embarrassment being taken to new heights as the jokes kept on coming.

I have a sense of humour about this, though. Because the bra I had also stashed in my handbag that morning – the same one that went through the X-ray machine – didn’t have any metal wires built into the cups! There is a God.

Friday, 8 April 2011

WTF Friday 10: Taking it up the @#! for the pharmaceutical companies

What the Fuck Friday is the most blissfully belligerent day of the week. It’s the one day the author of this blog does not delicately arch an eyebrow in distaste at some perceived stupidity. Instead, she bangs her head on the keyboard and goes: “ehfwgfqlo’wh’flk!”

So we’ve just come back from Trav’s three-monthly check-up with his neurologist, and frankly... I’m all WTF Friday’ed out. I spent all morning working on my speech: “Enough with this behavioural drug bullshit. It’s not working. I’m pulling the plug!”

Risperdal has turned my son into a walrus. An extremely cranky walrus. And there is only one person to blame. Me. Because I went against all my principles, and caved like a soggy cardboard box under the weight of Trav’s increasing violent outbursts. Until finally, after two years, I had tuned that little voice inside me that pleads “Don’t do it!” down to a squeak, and we told the paediatric neurologist: “Okay. Let’s give it a try.”

The thing is: there is no “trying” with this kind of drug. Once you’ve opened the door, the pharmaceutical companies wedge their giant boots into the gap, and that’s it... your kid is on drugs for life.

Imagine that inside your three-year-old’s brain is a man, high up in the control centre. I like to imagine he’s a little like Homer Simpson. Twiddling buttons, upping the serotonin, tweaking the dopamine levels, dunking his donut in his coffee, and because this is Trav’s brain... probably going “Doh!” a lot.

Now you introduce a clever robot into the control centre. Let’s call this robot Risperdal. But really, it could be any neural-type pharmaceutical, like Lithium or Prozac or Xanax. Within a couple of weeks the robot is running things so smoothly, that eventually Homer Simpson can’t remember what all the levers and buttons do anymore, because he doesn’t need to, right?

The robot breaks down, and now the control centre is STUFFED. Homer Simpson is obviously no flipping help at all anymore, ’cause he’s forgotten how to do his old job. The solution: let’s bring in a NEW robot.

So despite that Risperdal is doing nothing for Travis except turning him into a blimp-sized toddler, I have been talked into giving it a go for another couple of months. And of course I said, “Yes!” because he’s SO aggressive and angry, and the shrieking and biting and pinching is SO bad, I am terrified what he’ll be like WITHOUT the Risperdal.

Spot the vicious cycle.

But first, Travis has been scheduled for another EEG to see if his epilepsy is spiking undetected, as this could be the reason why he’s such a cranky walrus. Only then will we be re-looking his Risperdal dosage. And possibly his Lamactin too, which is his epilepsy meds (and incidentally also a mood stabiliser). His neuro has also recommended that we try speech therapy, as his inability to communicate could also be a contributing factor.

And so my heart gets heavier, and inversely, my wallet gets lighter. I’ve just been informed that my medical aid is contributing a whole R280, to be stretched over three years, towards Trav’s foot splint. I’m paying the balance: almost R4 000. And no doubt he’ll grow out of it in a few months, and I’ll fork out another R4 000. And so on...

Sorry WTF Friday fans, sense of humour failure today.

I’m sure I’m not the only parent who has regretted putting their child on a behavioural drug. I bet there are just as many moms who sleep like babies at night, secure in the knowledge that it was the best thing they ever did for their kid.

Tune in on Monday next for a more upbeat, comical post about something amusing, like how the Lionheart likes to make fart sounds on my rather squishy upper arms.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Curious Incident of the Neck Pillow in the Night Time

Travis is exploring all the cupboards lately. He likes to unpack my shoes several times a day, and seems to have a particular fetish for a strappy silver kitten heel I haven’t worn since my sister’s wedding. He also has figured out how to open the pantry door in the kitchen. He then lays on his back and gazes up serenely at the packets of pasta and tins of creamed sweet corn – it’s a feast for the eyes, I guess!

Last night the Lionheart wiggled his chubby fingers into the gap by the door of the linen cupboard, and wedged it open. “Who-aaaaa!” I could almost hear him think as his stared up at the (alarming overstuffed) shelves of curtains and tablecloths and fitted sheets.

He fished about at the bottom of the linen cupboard, and... he got a bite! A blue-and-white striped neck pillow, the kind you take with you to sleep with on a long flight. We were watching this whole fishing expedition in uncharted waters from the couch, so we immediately saw that Travis had found something cool with a capital K!

For starters, it had stripes. For a boy-with-not-so-great-eyesight anything with stripes is an instant hit. Also, the neck pillow has this kind of bean-bag squishiness that is a sensory delight for the Lionheart. Travis is LOVING this neck pillow!

And he knows right away that this odd kidney-shaped thing is a pillow, and lies down on the tiled floor with it propped beneath his head. Which is, of course, really uncomfortable because a neck pillow is designed to fit around your neck while you catch of few zzzzzs in an upright position in an airline seat. It’s far too awkward to sleep on like a regular pillow.

Travis tosses and squirms. He cries. He loathes this pillow thing! But he adores this pillow thing! But it’s soooooo uncomfortable. But it has beautiful, eye-boggling stripes! And so it goes on... He can’t get comfortable with the neck pillow, but he won’t let us take it away. He’s not happy to simply cuddle his new stripy toy, because it’s not a toy, it’s a freaking pillow, Mom, duh!

His unconventionally wired brain says: “It’s a pillow. You put your head on a pillow. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. But it’s a pillow. And it has stripes. You love stripes. So you have no choice but to sleep on this damned stripy pillow now. This is all very logical. Don’t fight it.”

This is a classic case of Does Not Compute with our Lionheart. He gets stuck in this kind of “infinite loop” quite often. He just couldn’t seem to bring these two conflicting ideas together: love pillow/pillow uncomfortable. Finally we had to confiscate the neck pillow from him; the screeching and sobbing was just getting out of hand. “Look Travis, a distraction in the form of a yummy bedtime bottle!”

Stripy neck pillows: can’t sleep on them, won’t sleep without them.

(By the way, it’s school holidays, and the Lionheart is bored stiff. Which explains the archaelogical cupboard adventures.)

Monday, 4 April 2011

Saturday, 2 April 2011

WTF Friday 9: Flaming teddies

What the Fuck Friday is the most blissfully belligerent day of the week. It’s the one day the author of this blog does not delicately arch an eyebrow in distaste at some perceived stupidity. Instead, she starts typing with furious energy, not even stopping to spellcheck, and then slaps her sometimes-unpopular opinion on the interwebs.

I don’t know about the rest of you moms, but since Travis was born I’m practically running an orphanage for stuffed toys. And it’s bloody tricky to re-home them. Even the children’s home a couple of blocks away that I support rolls their eyes when someone sneaks a teddy bear into the cardboard box of hand-me-downs they receive.

It’s because we all know: teddies are stupid gifts. They are the duds of the toy world. The soap-on-a-ropes.

Travis has, I recently counted while rummaging through the trucks of baby stuff stacked in the garage... wait for it... 43! This is because he only has eyes for one stuffed toy: Froggie.

Just. The. One.

The Lionheart has received some flipping gorgeous teddies over the years.

Plush, cuddley-wuddley ones that have spent more time snuggled against MY bosom while watching telly on the couch. I’m a sucker for a really lavish teddy bear. Ironically, Pooh Bear, who travelled everywhere with me until I turned 13 and left for boarding school... Pooh Bear was a rather tatty, glassy-eyed bear. The stitching was ripping out underneath his arms. But I loved him with that mindless, I-won’t-leave-the-house-without-him loyalty that almost every child attaches to just One Special Toy at some point in their childhood.

So yes, we all want to be the favouritest auntie that gifts our favouritest niece or nephew with The One. And I have learned to plaster a cheery smile over my exasperated grimace when I spot yet another fluffy ear peeking out of a present for the Lionheart.

Here are some ideas for what I’m going to do with the 43 stuffed toys in the garage:

1) Go to the unit across from us in my complex, and offer my dodgy neighbour, whom I’m convinced is a crack dealer, all the teddies free-of-charge – so that he can rip out their innards, stuff them with contraband and smuggle it across the border.

2) Similarly, I can replace their stuffing with cheap sweeties, hang the teddies from the rafters and we can have a piƱata party for Trav’s next birthday.

3) Instead of dropping them off at children’s homes, I can deliver them to Pollsmoor Prison for the inmates to snuggle.

4) I can find two matching teddies and turn them into ridiculously oversized slippers – it’s starting to get a little nippy, after all.

5) And my No 1 idea, I can become a guerrilla activist, and set up impromptu teddy bear picnic scenes all over the city. I’ll superglue picnic blankets and teddies and plastic teapots in secluded corners of public restrooms, in the elevators of shopping malls and maybe even upside down on the ceiling of the licensing department – bringing a splash of quirky to the days of passersby everywhere...

Did you have a favourite toy growing up?