Sunday, 23 February 2014

Frog hunt by flashlight

Last night the three boys and I went on a frog-hunt after dark in the Walter Sisulu botanical gardens. It was organised by Travis’s school, and his principal Sue and her husband Ryan (who I called ‘Big Ryan’ all evening because obviously I have a ‘Little Ryan’ in team Lionheart) offered to help me with the kids because my other half was in Welkom race-timing. There were about 45 of us all together, picnicking on those lush green lawns before the sun set and our talk started.

The Walter Sisulu botanical gardens, we are blessed that we live so close to Mother Nature’s pop-up gallery. How many of you can say you have a waterfall in your neighbourhood?

I’ve always believed that you can tell a lot about a person’s inner world based on the type of landscapes they are drawn to. For instance, I think the flat, yellowed corn fields of the Free State are stark and beautiful, but it’s not my kind of beautiful. It’s a Helvetica kind of beautiful. Some people have a penchant for succulents and cacti gardens, which is probably my least favourite type of flora of all. It speaks to me of thirst and lack, but for others it speaks of a store of potential. And I could go for hours about how crass the palm trees planted along the main roads in the west of Johannesburg are. ‘New Money palm trees’, I call them.

But give me green, rolling grasslands. Give me rocky cliff faces and trickling springs. Give me sweetpeas, snapdragons and climbing roses. Overgrown, forgotten gardens where the gates have rusted shut. (Not sure what that says about my inner world? Probably that I need to neaten up the flowerbeds of my mental garden and oil the hinges of my gates!)

Ryan and Travis had a blast exploring while a niggle-bug Oliver was glued to my hip for most of the day (he might be teething again). We arrived at 4.30pm, spread our blankets and raided each other’s picnic baskets.

What do you get when a bunch of special needs families get together for a picnic? I’ll tell you what… probably one of the most interesting picnics ever. One little guy hijacked Travis’s MacClaren stroller for a push across the grass. Travis kept trying to break into the book shop. “Is it okay if your kids eats Coca-Cola flavoured Cheerio’s?” I had to ask a mom, who’s inquisitive tot was scrounging in our cooler bag. You never know who is allergic to what in a special needs community. And everyone is just so helpful. Because we are all struggling. We can spot a code red meltdown brewing a mile away.

Travis with his beloved Sue, who is the principal at his school. They have such a special relationship.

Back to the frog hunt. After 6pm we went up to the Imbizo hall for a talk and a slideshow about frogs. Picture this: the lights are out and there are kids in wheelchairs, and some with funny walks. One kid kept asking about dolphins. Another in the back made chirping froggie noises. Travis stole a bunch of keys of the presenter’s table to stim with.

It was chaos and made me smile right from my bellybutton.

Speaking of chaos, imagine a troop of giggling, stimming, rolling special needs kids and their families, wearing Wellingtons, and armed with flashlights and nets, stomping down the pathways in the botanical gardens after dark looking for frogs and toads? It’s a wonder we found any at all!

Oliver refused to sleep in his pram, and I had forgotten to bring extra blankets, so I ended up sticking him underneath my shirt with his head popped out at the top and carrying him all the way to the waterfall and back kangaroo-style. It was cold, and it was crazy fun. It was exhausting (the walking part), and it was exciting. If you are looking for something different to do with your kids one evening, I highly recommend a night-time frog hunt at the Walter Sisulu botanical gardens.  


  1. What a cool idea!! Jack and Kiara would love this.

  2. What a fantastic outing! Love it!

  3. What fun - nice to know there is a safe place to go at night. Am I ignorant or what? What is stimming?


Thanks for sharing, Lionheart readers. ROAR!