Wednesday, 28 March 2012

GIVEAWAY: Mama Mio toning serum worth R700!

WINNER: Congrats to SpiritedMama, who gets to slather away her wobbly bits with this fab product from Mama Mio! (And she's pretty excited!)

If you missed the Mama Mio giveaway over at Rattle & Mum, you still have a chance to enter here and win yourself this cheerful yellow bottle of Skin Tight Toning Serum.

It says ‘the new gym for slack skin’ on the Skin Tight box. But as I have written plenty of back-of-pack copy in my day, I slathered the serum on my baby belly for two weeks, and waited for the birth wrinkles to fade. I’m seeing results! I might even gain the courage to flash my belly button in a bikini again, which is brave coming from someone who has had two kids.

To win, comment below and tell me where you’d use Mama Mio’s Skin Tight Toning Serum. Crinkly knees? Saggy bum? Jiggle belly? For an extra entry pop on over to the Poise fan page (the sole distributors of the yummy Mama Mio range in SA) on Facebook and hit that ‘like’ button.

Can’t wait? Explore the Mama Mio range online at Maternal Bliss.

Terms and conditions: This competition is open to SA citizens only. Winner drawn randomly, and announced on Friday 6 April at noon

Monday, 26 March 2012

To get flu shots... or snot to get flu shots?

It’s occurred to me that today the sound of my keyboard clacking is louder than the sound of my voice. I must sound like an old record, scratchy with a hiss of static (this is what I guess because, of course, none of us know what we really sound like).

I get laryngitis up to three times a year, and it usually comes from snuggling my Lionheart when he’s caught a strain of the change-of-season sniffles. While I’m pressing get-better-quick kisses into his forehead, I also breathe in lungfuls of Trav’s germy germs.

This year’s strain should be called (in Big Friendly Giant style) the Snotgobbler of 2012, because even after he’s finished his course of antibiotics, I’m still pulling yards of slimy boogers from Trav’s nose. On the plus side, we’re making some progress with nose-blowing. It’s not that the Lionheart doesn’t know how to blow out of his nose; he’s just decided to blow his boogers into his hand. 

I know... snips and snails and puppy dog tails boogers, right?

Tissues used to make him freak out – it must have been a sensory thing – but in the last few days he’s starting to let me press a Kleenex up against his nose. Now all we need is for him to trumpet!

When I’m not on booger duty, I’m keeping a sharp eye on Ryan the Squishy Gorilla, because at five months old he’s never been ill. I’d imagine he doesn’t have much in the way of antibodies. Fingers crossed, he seems okay so far. Big Guy Upstairs, hear our prayers.

In the five years we’ve been a family, we’ve never done flu shots. I mean, who wants to get a jabbed by a needle, voluntarily? But looking back, if I’d bought stocks in GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceuticals, who are the guys that make the antibiotic Augmentin – by now we’d probably be rich enough to buy our own island, and we’d never have to breathe in the flu germs of sick strangers again.

But unfortunately, we’re not rich enough to buy our own house, let alone a private island. And I have a feeling my kids might get picked on if I sent them to school in ‘bubble boy’ suits.

So it looks like another season of seven, eight, nine trips to the GP – who’ll scrawl the words ‘influenza’ (no shit, Sherlock) on our medical records, bill us R350 for that sage diagnosis, and hand over a script for the people’s antibiotic, you guessed it, Augmentin.

Unless... unless getting a flu shot is worth it. Have you taken your family yet? Where did you get it done and how much did it cost? Is it worth alligator wrestling the Lionheart to get it done?

PS: If you haven’t yet, there are still 15 hours left to vote for the blog’s new domain name - we’ve bought two. Help us choose the Lionhearts’ new home on the web!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

RECIPE: Banana muffins with caramel centres

I was originally going to whip up a banana caramel fridge tart last night, but the bananas I purchased last weekend for this very purpose were, uh, past their ‘best before’ date! Damn. Loathe to throw them away in the bin, I resigned myself to an exciting (read: ho-hum) morning baking banana bread. Unless... Unless... I made banana muffins instead, with secret centres of caramel. Idea!

It's always more funny when you use a teddy as a prop.

125g butter or margarine
200g sugar
2 eggs
5ml vanilla essence
250ml mashed banana (about 5 small bananas)
250g flour
Pinch of salt
10ml baking powder
2ml bicarbonate of soda
125ml milk

For secret centre: Tin of caramel (you’ll only use a ¼)


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line muffin pan with paper cupcake holders.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then stir in the vanilla essence.
  3. Mix mashed bananas into the mixture.
  4. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix the bicarb of soda with a teaspoon of the milk, and add to egg-and-butter mixture.
  5. Gradually mix the combined ingredients together, adding the remaining milk bit by bit.
  6. To fill the paper cups: add a full tablespoon of the muffin mixture to each cup, filling them ¾ of the way. Add a dollop of caramel on top of the mixture – about a third of a teaspoonful. Then cover with a small teaspoonful of muffin mixture.
  7. Sneak a spoon of caramel for yourself.
  8. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes.

Makes 24 muffins.

Friday, 23 March 2012

I heart Gosling Fridays

This means you, Medihelp! (And for my American readers, we have private healthcare here in South Africa... they almost never spring for physio or OT or speech therapy or foot splints or chronic meds. The list goes on.)

Still, how hot is Ryan looking FIERCE?!

See another 25 hilarious Gosling posters over at ExtremeParenthood.

Afloat in a tugboat

My toes peep out of the water, way wa-a-ay on the other side of the giant bathtub at the Westin hotel in Cape Town. The soaps are grass green, shaped like leaves. One wall of the bathrom is painted a zesty lime green, and the shampoo smells like cucumbers. It's all very refreshing. Designed to sharpen the senses and make you feel revitalised and energetic.

I come out in a cloud of steam, wrapped in a fluffy cotton robe. Feeling clean... and something else.

It's my one night away in the Mother City. Just one night, I reason with myself... 24 hours of me time, being a professional, watching presentations, going out for din-dins at the Biscuit Mill. Then catching a flight back to Jozi, and straight off to a spa day treat with Baby Soft.

Living the life, eh? I should be loving every minute, if it weren't for the tug tug tug inside. If you're a mom who travels a lot, you know what I'm talking about. It's a gnawing sensation that cannot be stilled by the yummy shortbread biscuits next to the kettle in your hotel room, cute leaf-shaped soaps, or the luxury of a giant bed with goosedown duvets. Tug tug tug.

I miss my babies, yes I do.

The invisibles

Don't you love people-watching at airports? I watch the hellos and goodbyes, the look-I-can-afford-a-plan-ticket posers in their oversized sunnies, the iPod pluggers, the nervous first-timers who hover in front of the Now Boarding screens... I mentally pack my fellow passengers into their stereotypes, but I don't really know anything about them, of course. Can't judge a book by the cover, and all that. Still, I wonder if any of their pages have the same story as ours. I wonder if someone in their family is one of the Invisibles.

Think about it. If 3% of all babies born have some kind of abnormality, shouldn't we be bumping into people with wheelchairs and crutches and can't-put-my-finger-on-it-but-there-is-something-different-about-that-guy more often? I'm talking about everyday scenarios here, like when you're getting a haircut and buying bread and milk at the corner cafe.

Two years ago, before I began writing this bog, I would take Travis to the shopping mall close to our home and push him along, hoping that no one would notice that he has googlie eyes and drools more than any toddler should. I'd cringe when he'd flap his hands or make squawking noises and draw attention to us. Kindly counter girls and security staff would try their best kootchie-kootchie-koo with him and he'd bite!

I went from avoiding eye contact with other shoppers, to explaining away Trav's 'weird' behaviour with the explanation: he's shy... or... he's just tired. I began feeling braver, and would blurt out: he's mentally challenged! People didn't like this. Too much information, I read in their stiff expressions. So I settled on: my son is autistic. It's not an accurate description of his condition, but thanks to television, most people know what autism is and what to expect and they stop trying to get Travis to smile or high five them in case he goes all 'rainman' on them.

But where were they? The other moms with a kid like mine? Didn't they run out of milk? Need new socks? To this day I have yet to see another Lionheart being wheeled around Clearwater Mall in his special, reinforced stroller. Statistically, three out of every 100 people I encounter while out shopping should be in the same boat as us; even though some disabilities are not obvious on the outside. But it's once in a blue moon stuff.

There's a Lionheart in our Bath Tub is not just about raising awareness about families living with special needs... it's a call to action - "Come out, come out, wherever you are!" It's a complicated lifestyle, not just for the 'differently abled', but for the people who share their hearts and homes. The other 97% will forever remain on the outside looking in if we remain the Invisibles.

Next up: Gosling Friday.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Gosling Fridays

So I heart Ryan Gosling most deliciously. And the Squishy Gorilla's name is Ryan. These two facts are not unrelated. Imagine the room-spinning quality of my delight when I discovered that some inspired soul had taken the Ryan Gosling 'Hey Girl' meme and put a special needs spin on it?

Over at the Extreme Parenthood blog, the fascinatingly named Sunday Stilwell, who is mommy to two darling autistic boys, did her own Hey Girl poster with Ryan Gosling (read more about the original meme here). The rest, as they say, is can't-get-enough-of-it history.

Every Friday (err) Sunday posts a photo of Ryan Gosling, and special needs bloggers around the world make up our own, and then post the link on her blog and tweet so that we can share, giggle and fantasise.

This is mine for the week, below. You can also catch some good ones by searching for the #SNRyanGosling hash tag on the Twitter machine.

(I could eat Ryan Gosling up with a spoon! But frankly, who needs eating utensils? *lick*)

Thursday, 15 March 2012

State of undress

For at least a week now Trav has been bum-sailing through the house with his buns snugly ensconced in nothing but his Pampers. His soundtrack has been: “Born free-e-e… as free as the wind blows…”

The Lionheart has discovered fashion.

He’s never given a fig (or –ahem – a naartjie) about what we dressed him in, and then like those kids who discovered their wardrobe was actually a doorway to Narnia, Travis the Lionheart has cottoned on that there are stacks of T-shirts in his cupboard. Mountains of them! Red ones. Blue ones. Ones with monsters. Ones with race cars. But most exciting of all – ones with stripes.

My son has gone all Jean-Paul Gaultier (or maybe it’s Tim Burton al la Beetlejuice) on us with his fixation with things stripy. He spends his afternoons like a teenage girl, rifling through his clothes, picking out all his T-shirts that have stripes, scooting over to me and putting said shirt into my hands.

If I feign incomprehension at the shirt that’s been stuffed into my fist, Travis patiently takes it from me and deposits it onto his noggin like a hat. (He can’t dress himself, unfortunately.) “Like this, Mom. Put it on, put it on me!”

The Lionheart is also mixing fashion with physics: his enthusiasm for stripy shirts is directly proportional to his lack of enthusiasm to wear pants.

Be warned visitors: our house has become a pants-free zone. If it wasn’t for the rapid response time of Trav’s teachers, his classroom would also be a pants-free zone. As would Checkers. And Wimpy. Thank goodness he still fumbles with the tabs on his Pampers, or we’d be unwittingly be giving a free screening of ‘Free Willy’!

Still, I’m thrilled that our Lionheart is one step closer to something that resembles independence.

He’s expressing his personality through his outfits, just like any kid would – and his outfits are screaming “Stripes rule. Pants optional. That is all.”

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

GIVEAWAY: Build-a-Bear with Kinectimals With Bears!

AND THE WINNER of the Build-a-Bear experience, along with a copy of the new Kinectimals is C@th! Please give me a shout, ma'am, so I can hook up you and your kiddo with this beary nice prize! Drop me a mail on

His name was Pooh Bear. Not a very imaginative name, I know. Pooh Bear slept with me every night until I went off to boarding school at the age of 13; I left him behind so that the other girls in my dormitory wouldn’t make fun of my very beary romance. While I was away, the family pooch chewed Pooh Bear to smithereens. Boo hoo.

Imagine you could bring your teddy to life? I love this idea: Xbox has teamed up with Build a Bear, to bring two of the characters in the Kinectimals With Bears game out of the TV into your child’s arms! Clever huh?

There are two bears that you can assemble at the Build-A-Bear Workshop stores, either Champ: A Champion Fur Kids or Endless Hearts Teddy, which you scan into an Xbox 360 game.
How does it work?
Choose your bear, build your bear, and someone at the store scans it using a special ‘Kinectimals’ Microsoft Tag which imports your furry friend right into the game!

I’m giving away a Build-a-Bear experience with Kinectimals With Bears worth R500. It includes picking a bear, stuffing your bear, giving it a name, getting it scanned into the game, and a copy of Kinectimals With Bears! You can also play the game in-store.

How can you win? All you need to do is comment on this post, telling me the name of your favourite teddy when you were a kid. Simple as a dimple.

Terms and conditions: You need an Xbox 360 and a Kinect device to play the game. Visit the Build a Bear website to find the store closest to you ( Winner drawn randomly, and announced on Wednesday 21 March at noon. This competition is open to SA citizens only.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Give a Lionheart your old iPad

Here at Lionheart HQ, we try to take part in one special needs charity event each year. Last year I pushed Travis the Lionheart around Jozi’s Zoo Lake in his pram as part of the Walk for Autism awareness campaign.

This year, to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April, six autism charities in South Africa are taking part in The Big Autism Thing. On 31 March, they’ll be walking from Durban all along the coastline to Cape Town, arriving there on 9 June! That’s right, walking.

As much as I’d like to push Travis the Lionheart all the way to the Mother City, I have a feeling that even the fancy wheels on his special needs Maclaren Major Elite pushchair (donated by some kind folk – you know who you are!) won’t make it.

But we want to do SOMETHING! We want to MAKE A DIFFERENCE! So here’s what we’re going to try do:

Donate your old iPad!

WHAT TO DO: Have you upgraded from an iPad to an iPad 2? Is your old iPad gathering dust on a shelf? It may be old tech to you, but for an autistic child it’s like the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory! So much has been written about how iPads are helping autistic children communicate and learn; it’s an education tool that works. I have seen it in action with my own eyes.

If just one generous soul will donate me their old iPad, I will collect it, have it wiped and cleaned up at an iStore, and put it in the hands of a child with autism. Through your generosity, you will literally change a Lionheart’s life. (As you know, we call all special needs children Lionhearts here...)

WHEN WILL YOU HAND OVER THE IPAD? On April 2, to coincide with World Autism Awareness Day.

HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHO GETS THE IPAD? Should we manage to get one iPad in, I will create an entry mechanism on this blog where any parent or guardian of an autistic child can enter to ‘win’ it. The ‘winner’ will be chosen randomly, to be fair. The chosen family must email or fax me a letter from their specialist, even if it’s a one-liner, confirming their child’s diagnosis (just to rule out any chancers).

Easy peasy! Do you have an old iPad? Drop me an email at

Help me spread the word!

TWEET: Donate your old iPad to a child with autism! #iPadsforLionhearts

T&Cs: 1) Apologies if the word 'iPad' attracts any spambots; the workaround 'eyePad' might confuse potential donors. 2) This initiative is open to SA residents only. 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Loving the Skeptical Baby meme

Just look at this face! And those eyebrows! I used to be mad over lolcatz, but these days nothing turns my frown upside down like Skeptical Baby and his "you mean to tell me..." quips.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Killing (disabled) newborns - my thoughts

Now there’s an attention-grabbing headline. I can’t take the credit for it; it belongs to last Friday’s edition of the Sydney Morning Herald. In the interest of more balanced reporting, I added the ‘disabled’ bit in brackets.

What’s all the who-ha about? A group of Australian philosophers have published a paper in the British Medical Journal saying that – should your child be born disabled – as the parents of that child, you should be able to ask for an ‘after birth’ abortion, as long as the newborn is ‘put down’ painlessly. Their argument is that just like a foetus, a newborn also has no concept of life or its existence: no harm done then.

Now, as the mother of a disabled child, you would imagine that reading something like this would have me outraged. I was. As Samuel L. Jackson quoted from the great book in Pulp Fiction, I was all: “I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger!”

But I don’t want to tackle this with religious doctrine, nor do I want to politicise my response with my libertarian tendencies. I’d like to swing back around to those two words I used earlier: put down.

All weekend I wrote and rewrote this blog post in my head, poking at these philosophers’ logic to find a loose thread that I could pull on, to unravel their argument like a badly-knit jersey. Try as I might, I couldn’t find that thread. I couldn’t fight logic with logic. Perhaps it’s because these philosophers have employed their higher powers of reasoning, a quality that sets humans apart in the animal kingdom, to advocate for something that is so base, so very primal: herd mentality.

Many a special needs parent has pondered these thoughts: when a momma bird realises that something is wrong inside one of her eggs, she kicks the egg out of the nest. When a herd of wildebeest are under attack, they leave the lame and the sick behind to be eaten by predators. That’s nature, right?

Not so with humans. We nurture our offspring, sometimes right up until they’re 30 years old still living in your basement and you’re still doing their laundry! We don’t expect our elderly to walk off alone into the wilderness to die, so that they don’t slow down the tribe.

It wasn’t just anger I felt when I read about the justification of ‘after birth abortions’, in the pit of my stomach something unpleasant also roiled. The question: if I had the option, if I knew about Trav’s brain malformation when he was delivered (we only found out when he was eight months old), would we have had him ‘euthanised’? My heart screams the answer: no fucking way!

But the filing room in my mind digs up a conversation I once had with another special needs mom. Her child has terrible quality of life. This little broken being is in constant pain; she’s had multiple brain surgeries. Her mother confided in me: “Sometimes, I wish she wouldn’t make it back off that operating table. I wish she’d just slip away.”

I wasn’t surprised that this is how she felt, but I was surprised that she had the courage to say it. It’s taboo to talk about wishing your child was never born. It’s taboo to talk about an after-birth abortion.

One acquaintance did impress upon me the fact that these Australian philosophers wouldn’t be publishing their paper in a prestigious medical journal without intending to influence policy-making. It scares me that a group of scientists and politicians could create a law that allows us to ‘play God’ and scry an infant’s future quality of life based on what they see in the delivery room.

Almost every special needs mom I’ve spoken to has had a specialist tell her: your baby will never talk. Your baby will only live to the age of ten. And in Travis the Lionheart’s case: your child is blind. Wrong, wrong and wrong again. The doctors get it wrong all the time! And we must depend on their wishy-washy predictions of a disabled child’s future quality of life to make the decision whether or not to snuff that life out?

Perhaps, by ‘quality of life’ what we really mean is the parents’ quality of life? I’ve lost count of how many people have said to me: “God knows who can handle raising a disabled child; that’s why He gave you Travis.”

Wrong again. I don’t have deeper reservoirs of stamina, physical strength, emotional fortitude, patience, and frankly cash (because therapy and doctors’ bills are ludicrous), than any other mother. I’ve had to dig deep to find these qualities inside myself; and here’s the chestnut: anyone can do it, too. Anyone can raise a special needs child. Anyone! But it won’t be easy. And it sure as hell isn’t convenient to your lifestyle. YOUR quality of life can and will suffer.

Before the first time I gazed upon my first-born son’s face in the delivery room, and every fibre of my being yelled “I know you!”... before that life-changing moment, I was pro-choice. I felt a pregnant woman had the right to terminate based on her financial situation, her support structure etc.

When I was expecting Travis, our gynaecologist, when explaining the various prenatal tests, asked us: “Would you terminate if you found out your baby has Down Syndrome? Because if you wouldn’t, then don’t even have the tests done.” We did all the tests.

Boy, did life throw us a curve ball. Travis is one of only a handful of children in the country that has a serious midline brain malformation called Septo Optic Dysplasia.

Along with our intelligence, mankind has additional qualities that set us apart from other living creatures. Compassion. Empathy. The wispy concept of the soul that is the wellspring of the human spirit...

Travis the Lionheart can’t speak; he’ll be five this year and he can’t walk yet – but just by ‘being’ he has touched lives, changed hearts, moved a community. I realise that these are not tangible contributions to, for instance, keeping the cogs of the economy turning, or furthering the human race, like being an astronaut or discovering a cure for cancer.

It’s not logical, but I can’t imagine a world in which the indomitable spirit of the Lionheart does not exist.

Friday, 2 March 2012

What’s up with the traffic cones?

You know that sound a truck makes as it backs up? Boop-boop-boop? It’s been rattling around in my brain for days now, watching Travis the Lionheart play out his latest eccentricity.

Google ‘autism’ and ‘repetitive behaviours’ and you’ll find err, truckloads, of YouTube videos, photographs and forum posts about autistic children and their fixations. Lining up matchbox cars in neat rows and an obsession with all things that spin (remember Travis and his ‘soapies’?). These behaviours send some ruggle moms into freak-out mode.

“Is my kid autistic!?” they type.
“Relax, tannie. Probably not, but keep an eye on it,” I always say.

Long story short, this is what a repetitive behaviour looks like: Travis has been ‘parallel parking’ his head between two makeshift traffic cones for almost a week now. The Lionheart bum-slides across the tiled floor with two of something tucked his arms, places one on either side of his head, and then rolls slowly from side to side.

Look left, right, and then left again...
First he rolls left until his cheek touches the cool surface of the tile; then he carefully ‘course corrects’, let’s say it’s the tractor this time, until the tractor almost-almost touches his cheek. Then Travis rolls right and repeats with the other tractor, each time narrowing the gap between the two so that he can ‘park’ his head in the space.

Here’s the chestnut: the objects have to match. Two tractors. Two slippers. Two bottles of shampoo. And if you attempt to disrupt the Lionheart during his endless roll-check-correct-roll-check-nudge-just-a-bit routine (which literally goes on for hours), then you risk the Wrath of Trav.

These photos were taken over the last three days, showcasing Trav’s new quirk.  I’m amused, bemused, and flat out confused by his behaviour (but secretly I also delight in the crazy beautiful weirdness of my first-born).

PS: Just heard that Travis was doing the same thing with two giant exercise balls at school today. I would have loved to see that, he he! Apparently he was getting so angry that the balls kept rolling away that his teacher and a helper had to hold them in place for him. Cheeky monkey!