Monday, 30 January 2012

The Vaccine Machine

Let me join the legions of mommy bloggers who start their posts off with the words: “I am so pissed.” I’ve just come back from getting Ryan’s three-month immunisation shots done, and I’m not sure what’s hurting more – his chubby thighs or my wallet.

Round 1 (ding!): the 6-weeks shots
You know, back when I took Ryan for his 6-week shots, I ranted most eloquently to anyone who would listen about how bleeding expensive it was.

First I went to the paediatrician for his check-up. The good doctor was running 30 mins late and made me languish soaked to the bone in his waiting room (I’d been klapped by one our infamous Jozi thunderstorms in the parking lot). I undressed Ryan, the doc weighed him, measured him up and down and around the head, bicycled his little legs and ABRACADABRA! 10 minutes. R565 cash.

(Bet your ass I’m sending Ryan to medical school. I plan to brainwash him by playing reruns of Grey’s Anatomy and House until he’s of varsity age.)

Two days later I’m at the hospital baby clinic, where the sister in charge is bad-mouthing some other mommy who “tried to pull a fast one” by saying she’d gotten the date wrong for her son’s appointment. “Well I showed her – she’ll have to wait three weeks for a spot now.” Absorbing this oblique threat, I meekly undressed Ryan (who was so down with this programme), and she weighed and measured him again, gave him his government-grade (I asked) shots and BIBBITY BOBBITY BOO! R680 cash.

After I crossed her palms with silver, we made an appointment for his next round of shots at 3 months, which the sister informed me would be another R680.

“Screw this moneymaking merry-go-round!” I mumbled under my breath.
“See you in January!” I said with my giant Chicklet front teeth smile.

Round 2 (ding ding!): the 3-month shots
Needless to say, I phoned in and cancelled on the hospital baby clinic. There had to be other options. Government clinic? There’s one in my neighbourhood...

I did a little drive by; I parked my car in a deserted, weed-infested parking lot with graffiti on the surrounding brick walls. I’d just fetched the Lionheart from school, so I wheeled him along in his pram, into a crowded dark room where about 30 ladies sat in chairs in rows, like at Home Affairs.

Silence. I was the only whitie... and I felt EMBARRASED to be there. Not to be seen there, but because all the mothers there were so obviously from an impoverished background. They must have taken me all in – Honda Jazz (which was almost repossessed a few weeks ago), fancy Peg Perego pram (five years old and coming apart at the seams), Ginger Mary T-shirt (hand-me-downs from my mom who thinks I dress like a bag lady)...

See how hard I’m trying to rationalise why I think I’m ‘poor enough’ to deserve to get Ryan’s shots done for free? “When I was little,” I tell myself, “the nurses came to our primary school and we got all this done for free - because we pay taxes!” I almost felt like I needed to dress down for my government clinic adventure. Guilt-ridden, I backed the pram out of there pronto.

Interesting side-note: a rather cuckoo friend of mine says to never get your child’s shots done at a free clinic, because “the Illuminati put funny stuff in the government-grade vaccines to control the mass population”. Pretty nuts, eh?

So this is how I found myself at Dis-Chem this afternoon. I figured: “It’s a discount pharmacy, right? How much could it possibly cost?” As the sister was prepping Ryan’s vaccines, she said: “You know about the costs?” “Oh, I’m sure it will be okay,” I said, alarm bells clanging in my ears but me far too polite to say: “Stop the bus! How much exactly IS this going to cost me?”

It cost R1309. Almost double the R680 it would have cost at the hospital baby clinic. I had to split it between my debit and credit cards.

Let me tell you what I would rather have spent R1300 on:
  • 8.3 super-sized tins of (or five months’ supply) of Lactogen baby formula for Ryan 
  • 412 nappies for the Lionheart, or 646 nappies for the Little Prince 
  • A month’s worth of meat and veggies, to feed our family of four 
  • Given a street child a crisp R20 note every day, for 64 days 
  • Put it all on red at Silverstar Casino 

I feel a bit guilty bitching about the price of vaccines. After all, here I am moaning that something necessary for my child’s health costs too much – but earlier today I called someone out about paying their domestic worker too little (R50 bucks a day).

What do you think, readers? I’ve heard some moms are anti-vaccine. Their kids are shot-free. Am I being a Scrooge, complaining about the price of vaccines? Playing fast and loose with Ryan’s health? Taking vaccines quit literally out of the mouths of underprivileged babes if I go to a government clinic? Be honest – I can handle it.

Friday, 27 January 2012

WTF Friday: Sqwee girls

If you’re a How I Met Your Mother addict, then you know all about ‘woo girls’. But just in case you’re one of those chicks who are permanently tuned into the Crime & Investigation Network on Dstv (you will not BELIEVE how many chicks dig that medical mystery shit)... this is a woo girl, as defined by the Urban Dictionary:

“A female who is often found going 'WOOOOOO!' in public. This behaviour is most often exhibited while in the presence of other woo-girls. It is speculated that this is a mating call used to attract men of less than average intelligence. This behaviour can most easily be observed in bar districts, at Maroon 5 concerts, or spring break destinations. Also, woo-girls are known to have an affinity for Chads.”

But this woo girl thing is so 2009.

I was idly thumbing through Twitter yesterday, when I encountered a tweet from a perky young lady exclaiming (wait for it): “Sqweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”.That’s onomatopoeia for the sound excited tweens make when their mommy buys them a Hello Kitty training bra.

It was kind of cute. Catchy. Infectious even. Actually, it spread like a Biblical plague. By yesterday evening, there were so many “SQWEES!!” in my Twitter timeline that my ears were ringing.

This afternoon I was helping get a magazine to print at a client’s office, when one of the women in accounts answered her cellphone, leapt to her feet and.... sqweed.

“Oh my God! Oh my God! Sqweeeeeeeee! Oh my God!” like she was on an American game show. That’s right, she literally said the word ‘sqwee’ instead of shrieking in delight at whatever news was being delivered to her. It sounded like a thousand lobsters being boiled to death.

If she had put down the phone and announced: “Sorry about that editorial team, I just got some amazeBALLS news”, I might have tried to stab my red fineliner through my eye socket directly into my brain.

Oh yeah – I bet you’re wondering what a ‘Chad’ is. Look it up over here.

Monday, 23 January 2012


Brace yourself, because what I’m about to write will make your bitch-slap hand itch.

Last week I told a mommy friend over the phone: “I don’t get it when parents complain that children don’t come with manuals! Have you seen the shelves in the Childrearing section at Exclusive Books? They are creaking under the weight of... yes... MANUALS that teach you, step-for-step, how to raise a child! HELLO?”

Exhibit A...

As three-month-old Ryan is teaching me, raising ruggles is so... easy. (I already have a tingle between my shoulder blades that warns me that the Big Guy Upstairs is brainstorming an inventive way to strike me down with lightning just for saying that.)

Right on cue Ryan smiles at six weeks, he gurgles at eight weeks, starts munching through bowls of rice cereal at 12 weeks. The Babycentre app on my iPhone alerts me that this week he’ll start reaching out to bat at his cot mobile... and he does!

It’s just so damn rewarding. What a warm, golden syrupy feeling!

This might be old hat to you, but being a mom who has only ever enjoyed the bittersweet flavours of Special Needs Boot Camp, I’m gobsmacked at how effortlessly Ryan sails past his milestones.

True story: Ryan was constipated and I sent out a #mommytweet. 15 minutes later I was swirling a Vaseline-coated earbud in his bottom, and ta-dah, the poop came out!

Got a mommy dilemma? Dial Twitter for practical advice from other end-users. Look it up on the Google machine. Page through an old issue of Your Baby. There are tonnes of information out there, just a mouse-click or a page-flick away.

I would give both my pinkie toes, and possibly toss in my SPLEEN for Raising Lionhearts for Dummies. Do you know there is not one single book on the planet written about Trav’s condition? The best I’ve got as a user guide is a stack of research papers written in medicalese, and an online support group of 600 families (most of whom live in the US and sign off their emails with God Bless America *rolls eyes*) who are feeling around in the dark for answers, and strategies, and anything on how to raise a child like Travis the Lionheart.

This blog post is not meant to take a dig at regular moms. I know how hard it is. But let me dance in the rain for a moment, and delight in my regular-as-they-come baby Ryan. You’re rocking my world, kiddo.

Friday, 20 January 2012

WTF Friday: Men and their ‘ools’

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 mutters away to herself about it while she's stuck in traffic, then fumes silently while tenderising steak for dinner, then finally, she can't take it anymore, and she... blogs.

My husband has a mistress. She’s fickle. And wet. He spends large chunks of his evenings and weekends dipping his pole into her depths. Really, I’m just skimming the surface here! And she’s just lapping it up!

WHAT IS IT with men and their swimming pools? It’s like golf: you take it up as a relaxing hobby. Get in some exercise roaming the greens. Work on your short game. Get in ‘’the zone’. Except you actually end up hurling your nine-iron into the lake at the 11th hole, and then mow down a flamingo in a fit of golf cart rage.

Men think their pools are like a liquid Zen garden. They pull out their test kits, check the PH, add a cup of chlorine (you can tell A LOT about a man from the way he sprinkles chlorine into his pool)... lovingly skim off the dead leaves and drowned insects...

...then mutter obscenities about ‘alkalinity’ and ‘shock’ and ‘backwash’. Wrestle the Kreepy Krauly like they’re Crocodile Dundee! Spend hours pacing around the edge of the pool, willing the water with every inch of their macho being to go just one shade bluer!

Then it’s: “Sweetie! Come out into the garden for a second!”
Wifey: “Okay, I’m here. What’s up?”
Husband: “Well, what do you think? About the pool?”
Wifey (looking for some visual clue as to the correct response): “It’s very... blue.”
Husband: “Much better than yesterday, eh?”
Wifey: “Yes, yes! Yesterday it was more like aqua, and today it’s definitely leaning towards turquoise.”

(Men might not be able to distinguish between mauve and fuchsia, but their mental database of the many exciting colours of pool water is extensive.)

Husband (strikes cowboy pose with hands on hip, chest puffed up): Yes, well the PH was off, again, so I backwashed this baby overnight and put in that new Month Mate I picked up at Builder’s yesterday. Also, that useless bloody Kreepy wasn’t getting into the corners, so I added another length of pipe. You should have seen what was in the filter this morning; a Parktown prawn that was blah blah blah blah...”

Wifey (eyes glazed over): “Yup, it’s blue all right.”

Le sigh.

PS: I'm drawing the Bio-Oil winner at 5pm. If you want to share the story about one of your scars, pop on over and add it to the comments section.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

GIVEAWAY: Bio-Oil threesome!

AND THE WINNER IS: Dylan Seegers! Read his fan-testicle-astic story below to see why he’s a deserving winner. 

Let me overshare about my caesarian scar. My first one, from when Travis the Lionheart was born bum-first into this world, was neatly done. It has the same gentle curvature of Anne Hathaway’s smile; after a couple of months you could hardly see it anymore – but perhaps my lack of waxing helped.

My second and very recent scar, from when Ryan the Squishy Gorilla was delivered in October – it’s like that embarrassing tattoo you got after a night guzzling Tequila. It runs just underneath the first scar, and then jumps over it to run along the top, then loops back under it again. It’s more like Jack Nicolson’s crazy smile in The Shining.

Every scar has a story. These two remind me about my boys, and how the complicated Lionheart left me with the neat-as-a-pin white line of tissue, and how my textbook baby Ryan gave me this wonky one. Funny that. Needless to say, I’ll be using buckets of Bio-Oil!

Bio-Oil’s got all kinds of good stuff – lavender, rosemary, chamomile, and vitamins A and E. It contains no preservatives, is dermatologically tested, hypo-allergenic and non-acnegenic. You can buy it at pharmacies and select retail outlets nationwide.

Bye, bye baby scar secrets:
  • Wait until your six-week check-up before you slather on any products. 
  • After the all-clear from your gynae, use micropore tape or hyperfix tape to keep scar secure. (The more movement a scar is subjected to, the thicker it may become.) 
  • Place a small amount of Bio-Oil on top of the tape. 
  • Bath or shower as usual, you only replace tape once it starts coming off. 
  • You can use this tape for up to two years. That’s how long a scar takes to reach its final stage of healing. 

I’ve got a Bio-Oil hamper to give away that contains one travel size (60ml), one bathroom size (125ml) and one splurge-size (200ml) bottle of this magical body nectar.

How to win it? Tell me the story behind one of your scars. It can be sweet (I tripped over my heels when I spotted Ryan Gosling at the VA Waterfront), funny (adventurous sexual position) or scary (curling-iron accident). Best story wins!

SA residents only. Competition closes on Friday 20 January at 5pm.

RECIPE: Six Cup Crunchies

Crunchies! (Yup, I'm no food stylist.)

What to do when your mother-in-law buys a 2kg bag of Jungle Oats for you? I made these for the Lionheart’s first day back at school today.

2 cups oats
1 cup cake flour
1 cup coconut
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter (or 250g)

1 Tbs syrup or honey
1 tsp bicarb of soda

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the oats, cake flour and coconut.
3. In a small pot on the stove, melt together the brown sugar, butter and syrup/honey.
4. When the butter mixture comes to the boil, quickly stir in the bicarb and remove from heat.
5. Add the butter mixture to the oats mixture, and mix well.
6. Lick the spoon, and don’t tell anyone!
7. Press crunchie mixture into a 20cm x 30cm that’s been lined with wax baking paper.
8. Bake for 180 for 15 minutes, then 160 for another 15 mins until a dark golden brown.
9. Remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing into squares.

PS: For the adventurous, add a handful of dried cranberries in step 2.

Monday, 16 January 2012

White moms can't dance

I can’t put my finger on the exact date when it began. One moment I was swirling my glow sticks, standing on a speaker high above the party people getting down on the dance floor, like a magnificent bootie-shaking Statue of Liberty. The next thing I’m standing in a circle of WAGS (wives and girlfriends) at so-and-so’s wedding, going step to the left, step to the right, and clap, clap, clap.

Rewind and I'm going oets-oets-oets dressed in a fanny pelmet.
Fast-forward and I’m bopping like Helen Zille at a youth rally.

WTF happened? I’ll tell you, dear readers...

Somewhere between the Nineties and 31-year-old me, I was robbed of my sense of rhythm. I was mugged on the dance floor!

Perhaps the two babies that rented out my pelvis for nine-month stretches threw out my wheel alignment or something. Or fetishist surgeons switched my right foot with a second left foot, while I was distracted in the delivery room by the birth of my sproglings. Or the peddle-pushers of motherhood slowly cut off the blood flow to my ankles...

Rewind and I’m furiously wiggling my ba-donk-ka-donk at a Paul van Dyk rave.
Fast-forward and I’m doing the Funky Chicken at my sister’s wedding.

Excuse that reference to white moms in my post title. That was just a play on that 1992 movie White Men Can’t Jump. Although I’m sure my white-as-2%-milk, great-great-great-granny-wore-a-Voortrekker-bonnet-and-plaited-koeksisters heritage is not helping this gradual demise of my former dance floor domination.

I suspect it’s more my ‘mom-ness’ that’s at fault here. The disk space in my brain allocated to advertising my perky assets most vigorously at the night club (two hands in the air – “Look at me, look at me!”), has been wiped to make space for more appropriate system folders, like HowToBakeShrekBirthdayCakes.exe and HowToCleanCheeseTwirlDustOffYourCouch.exe.

Moves like Jagger? More like ‘moves like Martha Stewart’.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Holidays with a twist

It's all kinds of tricky organising a holiday when you have to accommodate the needs of a Lionheart. Like this one time, I made the rookie mistake of not inquiring beforehand if our rooms had a shower or a bath. Can you imagine our Lionheart on holiday without his bath tub? Yipes!

Special Kids magazine asked me to write a humorous piece about that old chestnut: "the special needs holiday". Well, it's an old chestnut if you're a part of the special needs community, but more like a wasabi peanut if you're tackling this challenge for the first time!

It was a blast scribbling about the bizarre requests and rituals that a family like ours has to make and accommodate when planning a getaway.

Read all about it in the December 2011 issue.


Tuesday, 10 January 2012

37 things I learned this holiday

1. You can survive a 12-hour drive with the Lionheart and a newborn, but you’re not guaranteed to arrive at your destination with all your marbles.

2. My wobbly thighs actually don’t look as bad in this season’s teeny short-shorts as I imagined they would.

3. Christmas is way better when you spend it with family. Lots and lots of family! Last year it was just my hubby, Travis and I... and it was kind of lonely.

4. Nobody sets a Christmas table like my mother. She starts planning decor, menus and guest gifts at least six weeks in advance. Friend me on Facebook to see the photos.

5. Granddad’s home-made brandy cream is like rocket fuel! Phwoar!

6. If you get given crystal glasses as a present, you’re too scared to drink out of them.

7. In 2012, I’m doing all my Christmas shopping online. I’m sure they spray some kind of pheromone into the malls over December that make you go into a spending frenzy.

8. Little girls, they’re curious creatures. (After spending time with our boys’ all-girl troupe of cousins: Adena Bree, Ava Jane and Emily Jane.)

9. I’ve been bitten by the Le Creuset bug. I want me some cast-iron, brightly-coloured enamelled casserole pots.

10. Tattoos. I’m over them (I should probably have an addendum: ‘for now’).

11. After turning down the editorship of one of SA’s most well-known parenting magazines, I’ve finally shaken off those “Should I get a real job?” doubts.

12. I’ve done an about-turn on my PR policy, and will probably do some reviews and giveaways this year, but promise you guys that the Lionheart blog is still a bullshit-free zone. No fake product endorsements here. Ever.

13. Almost nobody feels the need to switch on their Out of Office notices on their email over the festive season.

14. I love shopping at Poetry, but every single item I’ve clothing I’ve ever bought from there has ripped, lost buttons, had the hems come out or has holes in it.

15. Why buy pizzas when you can make delicious Mexicanas with Ouma’s pizza stone?

16. A long walk on the beach every day, hand-in-hand with someone you love, is food for the soul.

17. Seashells still wash up on Middle beach at Kenton-on-Sea. I haven’t been able to pick up shells off the beach since I was a little girl.

18. My new favourite blogger is DOMESTICURE. This gal’s posts will tickle your eyeballs; I’m crazy about her writing style. Get on over there and follow her blog immediately.

19. Nobody makes soetkoekies and biscuits like my mother-in-law. You’ll gain 2kg every visit.

20. Post-baby, I’m somewhere between a size 12 and a size 14.

21. Tarot card readings are perhaps not to be taken too seriously. Even if, years ago, this same tannie doing the reading kinda-almost-maybe predicted bad things about someone you loved very much, and then that person died.

22. Jellyfish come in shades of maroon.

23. There is definitely space in my heart for a third child.

24. Relax, I’m not pregnant. (I was a little worried there myself, he he.)

25. I can live without television, but I cannot live without an Internet connection.

26. Every craft market is chock-a-block with wooden hearts, hearts on a string, heart-shaped fridge magnets and wreaths and door knobs... Enough already.

27. I suck at Pictionary only marginally worse than I do at 30 Seconds.

28. I’m too old to get drunk on Old Years’ Eve.

29. I’m too young to appreciate a really good bottle of wine.

30. Travis the Lionheart can swim with water wings! He loves his water wing so much; he insists you inflate them so that he can bum-slide around the house with them on.

31. Travis can also pull himself up against a basin and turn on the taps. Uh-oh.

32. Ruggle babies can make eye contact, they smile and gurgle at you. They stand up straight on stiff little legs. I had no idea they could do that.

33. Lots of moms let their kids eat dog kibbles. It’s weird.

34. You can get your TV licence at the post office.

35. My repertoire of nursery rhymes is limited to Humpty Dumpty, Hickory Dickory Dock and Old MacDonald. Best I do something about that.

36. This city mouse likes to think she can rough it as a country mouse. But she can’t. Not really.

37. There’s no place like home!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Beware the stonefaces

One of the mommies at the Lionheart's school posted on Facebook today about how sad she is feeling: her daughter with special needs would have started Grade 1 this January.

Now, I've cried buckets: mourning the loss of the milestones and memories that I'd expected to share with Travis as he grows up. Sewing on his first Boy Scout badge. Helping him pick an outfit for his first school disco [do youngsters still use that word?]. Straightening his tie for Matric farewell. Even freaking out when I find cigarettes, condoms and Playboys stuffed under his mattress! That's a milestone too. Elbowing my son's bride in the ribs at their wedding to ask: "May I have this dance?".

He he he.



But I'd forgotten the First Day of Big School. Your kid standing there proud and nervous in a too-big school uniform, black school shoes polished bright. It's a big one.

It's okay to cry, though. I am not ashamed of my tears; they're not a sign of a weakness. You have to maintain a sort of 'fragility' of the heart if you're to weather the hailstorm of sorrows that come with having a disabled child.

That terrible moment when you first found out: whether it was during your pregnancy, in the delivery room, or the news was broken to you after MRIs and specialists turned your kid inside out to reveal the truth of his brokeness... that's just the beginning.

Imagine that you've 'lost' your child. But they didn't die. There was no funeral. It's hard to get closure. No matter how much you love your special needs kiddiewinkle, your heart is still haunted by the ghost of The Other Child. The child that could have been.

Some moms can't take it. The hailstones and milestones come, and it hurts like hell. So they turn off the feelings. Dam up the tears.

These poor moms, with their stoney hearts, and their stoney faces. The stonefaces, I call them... Bitterness has etched deep lines around their eyes and mouths. They're in their 30s and 40s, but they look like they're in their 50s. I pity them so, but I also think they're cowards. Because it's easy to switch off your feelings and be a stoneface. Anyone can do it.

But it's not easy to let yourself cry.

I had an epiphany this holiday, during a serene walk on the beach in Kenton one sunset. This was it...

Tears water the secret gardens of your heart. Pain blooms, but so does joy.

[Eat your heart out, Hallmark]

Friday, 6 January 2012

The buggyman

It’s 6.20am and I’m sitting under the fluorescent lights of the garage, in the driver’s seat of an aqua-green beach buggy. In my fluffy slippers. With my hair in a pineapple knot on top of my head. Frazzled around the edges after waking up to feed baby Ryan at 10pm, 1am, 3am and 5.30am.

I guess I’ve found myself in weirder places this early in the morning. Like in litter-strewn parking lots in Braamfontein after the DJ’s sunrise set, pondering glassy-eyed and cramp-jawed if Wimpy will open for a mega coffee before I crash. But that was pre-Motherhood.

And this morning post-Motherhood Me has Travis the Lionheart sitting next to her in the passenger seat; my little co-pilot.

I often wonder what my special needs child is thinking. But not since we arrived at Ouma and Oupa’s house in Kenton-on-Sea nine days ago. If you tune into Travis FM all you’d hear is: “Buggy, buggy, buggy, beach buggy, I want to ride in the beach buggy, buggy, buggy...”

Travis has an indecent obsession with Oupa’s green beach buggy (named Kermit). When he’s not riding shotgun with my husband through the narrow streets of small-town Kenton, he’s waiting outside the door that leads from the hallway to the garage. Or at the top of the staircase that leads down to the entrance hall, where the door is to the garage.

All through the house, you can hear Kermit roar to life when you turn the key in the ignition. Trav’s face lights up at the sound!

To the beachfront. To the jetty. To the shops. To the river-mouth. Accelerating to 100km/h on the main roads! Travis rumbles into the sunshine, the wind in his hair. Or cruises under the stars, the salty ocean air still muggy with sea spray.

We even ran out of petrol the other day, and had to push Kermit home.
Okay, it was like 200m tops.

As we sat side-by-side in Kermit’s hull this morning, dunking rusks in our cups of Milo while I read from a Dean Koontz paperback, Trav kept taking my hand and placing it on the gear lever. This means: “Go, Mom, go! Let’s ride! Start the engine!”

But being a stoo-oo-pid girl, Mom can’t drive the beach buggy without Killing Us All, so Dad had to be roused from bed early to take the Lionheart for his first spin of the day.