rotten apricot fight

More Play. Less School.

When I was young… and really, I’m not that old… I played.

A lot.

In fact, when I was Morgan’s age, most of my play was uninterrupted, unsupervised, free Me-Time.  My mom got on with doing her thing… and she let Soo and I do our thing.   She’d call us in for dinner when it started to get dark – but other than that, we were left to our own devices.

Back then, we lived on a smallholding in Benoni that we fondly (or not so fondly) referred to as “The Plot”.  We had 6 acres of land… a swimming pool, a trampoline, loads of trees to climb, fields to explore and animals to interact with.

Some of the things we did during those years (and this is a small list):

  • Built our own tree houses.  One was in the willow tree… the other was in the apricot tree.  For a Christmas present, my parents renovated the Apricot Treehouse – into a *proper* treehouse… complete with roof tiles, carpets, balcony and trap-door with rope ladder.  Best. Christmas-Prezzie. Ever!
  • Built our own forts.  This was one of our favourite games… pretending that we were stranded on a desert island and that we needed to ‘survive’ and build our own fort and hunt our own food.
  • Raced BMX bikes.  We even had a BMX bike track in the back of our ample yard.  My dad made a deal with a friend who had a earthmoving machine.  The friend got a Cosy-Gas-Log-Fire… and we got a BMX track (which made me the envy of all the boys in my class at school).
  • Milked the cow, collected eggs from the chickens, picked fruit from the trees, helped my mom to make jam and to bottle and preserve fruit…
  • Had rotten apricot fights (see photo at the top of this post).
  • Rode the horse.  His name was Billy, and every Wednesday, I would canter him up the road to Jill’s house for horse-riding lessons.
  • Climbed many things (oh, how I loved to climb!).  Apart from climbing every large tree on the property, we could often be found on the roof (of the double-storey house)… or on the roof of the garage.
  • Digging for “secret treasure”… (or burying secret treasure… including Prince Charles & Lady Di coins from my parents’ collection which were never retrieved from the earth of The Plot).
  • Playing Matador with Rooster Fight.
  • Swimming (and inventing all kinds of pool-games).
  • Making pots and other little things out of natural clay found in a small pond right at the end of our largest field.

(Again – this is just the tip of the iceberg)…

Performing a play for our family… (including aunts and uncles)...

Performing a play for our family… (including aunts and uncles)…  (I’m on the left).

Soo and I on the balcony of our favourite treehouse...

Soo and I on the balcony of our favourite treehouse…

Indoor games with my sister and cousin...

Indoor games with my sister and cousin…

Soo and I (with cousin Clare and her stepsister Kathy and stepbrother Mark)… at The Plot.  We used to love climbing right on top of the roof of the house...

Soo and I (with cousin Clare and her stepsister Kathy and stepbrother Mark)… at The Plot. We used to love climbing right on top of the roof of the house…

Soo and I playing a game we had invented which involved the wagon, a chair, some dolls and a sign...

Soo and I playing a game we had invented which involved the wagon, a chair, some dolls and a sign…

Dress-up (my mother had made both of these outfits from scratch)… I was a mermaid, Soo was a rag doll...

Dress-up (my mother had made both of these outfits from scratch)… I was a mermaid, Soo was a rag doll…

My tramp party… (come to think of it, I often liked to pretend I was a tramp)...

My tramp party… (come to think of it, I often liked to pretend I was a tramp)…

This is Soo and I with our cousins, Clare and Jenny… and those are our Easter Features.  During Easter time, my Mom would (as a treat) buy chocolates and sweets of all shapes and sizes - and we'd be allowed to create edible "Easter Features"…

This is Soo and I with our cousins, Clare and Jenny… and those are our Easter Features. During Easter time, my Mom would (as a treat) buy chocolates and sweets of all shapes and sizes – and we’d be allowed to create edible “Easter Features”…

Back then… my mother didn’t hover around, checking up on me all the time.  We were allowed to go for walks on our own… (in fact, that’s how I’d go and visit my best friend Sonja…  I would walk to her house, on my own).  We were allowed to ride our bikes in the street – and I was allowed to ride my horse to riding lessons every Wednesday – on my own.

Back then, there was very little on the TV that interested us.  Occasionally, we’d hire a video from the video store -but only on special occasions.  If we played inside, we’d make up our own games… and I was never bored.  There was a piano I could play… or other musical instruments I could experiment with.  There was a small typewriter that I could type my short stories on.  There was loads of art supplies, paper, pens and other creative materials.  We had a massive bookshelf, bursting with books of all sizes and topics.  We had a bag of paper dolls that my cousin had given us.  We had pets to play with (dogs, cats, hamsters, rats… and on occasion, we looked after spiders, captured snakes and a newly-hatched guinea fowl called Henry).  We were allowed to bake or create our own kitchen masterpieces (I used to make chocolate fudge… and Soo’s favourite recipe was Creme Caramel)…

There was a record player – and we could play our favourite music… and choreograph dances and write and rehearse plays.  There was a generous collection of records – both for adults and for kids.  There was a dress-up box – with countless items to dress up in.

And then, there was the privacy of our rooms.  Soo and I had a huge bedroom.  The upstairs section of the house was our domain.  It had it’s own balcony and bathroom… and it’s where many, many friends and cousins visited… and where many, many games were played (and fights were had).

I often say that I survived my rotten school-experience – simply because of the variety of what was on offer at home.  My play-needs were met.  My creative-needs were met.  I learned more at home than what I did at school (and it’s also where I began nurturing my talents and passions).

The things that I’m good at today…  the talents and the skills that I’ve developed and which earn me an income today…. were ALL birthed and nurtured at home – in the creative and free environment that my mother had created.

I don’t think Mom realised it at the time…  but in retrospect, I look back on those years – and I’m so… relieved… that I had an *outlet* for my creativity… and for my curious and adventurous spirit.

Mom – recognising my creative gift – sent me to art classes with my aunt.  Unlike school (with things like potato prints and only 3 colours of vile powder paint – red, blue and mustard)… my aunt challenged me creatively – and refused to patronise me with “easy” projects.

The same was true of music.  My first piano arrived in our home as a birthday gift for my 8th birthday (because Mom had wisely detected my love for music).  School didn’t teach me music.  I taught myself music… on that Bentley.

Additionally, my mother had me join an amateur children’s theatre production company called Protea Choral Society… and I loved it there.  In so many ways, I felt at home in those creative spaces… where there was singing, dancing, composing, storytelling and art (none of which were on offer at my school).

Performing as Boy George in the children's production, "Mini Pops"...

Performing as Boy George in the children’s production, “Mini Pops”…

My creativity survived in spite of that awful, soul-destroying experience known as “school”… because my mother had equipped me with the resources I needed most… and had set me free to use them in whichever way I chose.  Without Mom even realising it, she had plugged me in to the Interest-Led-Learning lifestyle which I now carry forward with my own children, today.

Thank-you, Mom.

No… seriously…. THANK-YOU, Mom!!!

The reason why I write this post (apart from wanting to publicly thank my Mom)…  is because I have noticed such an enormous change in the world we live in today.

Play… and opportunities for children to play…  and create… and initiate and learn (in a natural way… in a natural environment) are now very, very different.  No longer are children encouraged to ride their bikes in the street… or walk to the home of their friends… or do anything – really – without constant adult supervision and monitoring.

Even children’s playgrounds have morphed into plasticky “safe” zones…. rather than organic spaces where kids can still push the boundaries (and learn in the process)…

I find this to be very sad.  I think kids are really missing out on something special…

I recently read a BRILLIANT article about WHY this might be the case – and what we (as parents) can do, to turn the situation around.  I strongly recommend THIS ARTICLE to all parents.  Seriously, it’s such a good, thought-provoking read.

Secondly, I watched a brilliant TED talk by Dr. Peter Gray (recommended by Ken Robinson).  It’s called “The Decline of Play and the Rise of Mental Disorders”.  Here it is:

Nuff said.

More PLAY… less “SCHOOL”.  Children learn best during play.  The glaring evidence is all there.  Whether we take any notice of it is still up for debate.

morgan sea

Cliffs, canons, baboons and childhood memories…

So – I thought I’d share a bit of what we’ve been up to for the past week or three…

We’ve been settling in very nicely to our new temporary home in Misty Cliffs.


misty cliffs

 

misty cliffs7

We are spoiled for choice when it comes to beaches.  There are sandy beaches… and rocky beaches.  The beaches directly in front of our home are rocky… with loads of little pools for the kids to explore.

Two days ago, I took the kids for a sunset walk on the beach…  here’s some photos:

misty cliffs6

Morgan was in a dancing mood...

Morgan was in a dancing mood…

…and a jumping mood...

…and a jumping mood…

misty beach

Another one of the things I love about this area is the nature.  Apart from the magnificent mountains, beaches and the sea (whose waves I hear loudly crashing as I type this)… there’s many birds… and small mountain creatures (like rock hyrax (dassie) and Cape gray mongoose)… and, of course, the beautiful fynbos… like this:

fynbos

And there’s a mountain stream that flows alongside our house and empties straight into the sea… and, of course, there’s baboons…

Joah watching a small baboon...

Joah watching a small baboon…

We’ve already had a few visits from the baboons.  Occasionally, they’ll circle the house and look in through the windows and try to figure out ways to get in because they know that they’re bound to find food inside.  Because it’s winter, we usually have the doors and windows closed anyway – and when they see us, and notice that we’re watching them as much as they’re watching us, they’re slightly more wary.

Today, we arrived home to discover that they had been digging in the charcoal bag and had found our firelighters.  Because the firelighters are wrapped in a sealed plastic bag, I think they thought it was food… so they tore and bit at the plastic bag… got it open… bit little chunks off of the firelighters… realised that it was yuck… and left us a mess of chewed box, plastic and bits of fire lighter – strewn across the patio.

If they make this much mess out of one small box of firelighters – I would HATE to imagine what they’d do to the inside of the house if they ever managed to get in!

Weather-wise, we’ve had a couple of really idyllic days.  Today, it was warm… the sea was flat and calm… and Morgan even had a (very short) swim in the pool.  When we first arrived at Misty Cliffs, the weather was very different.  It was wet, windy and very cold.  On one of those wet days, I decided to take the kids to the toy museum in Simon’s Town.

To get to Simon’s Town (from Misty Cliffs), we travel via a mountain pass… and it just so happened that I spotted a big cannon on a hilltop and decided to take the kids for a closer look…

It certainly offered a gorgeous view over Simon’s Town…  but it was SO cold (as you can tell by Morgan’s expression)… and the kids just begged to be let back in to the car.  I managed to take a few quick photos though…

simon's town view

cannon

Afterwards, we went to the toy museum…  which was really, really tiny…  but still housed some interesting cabinets packed full of toys.  There were even a number of toys that I remember from my childhood (jeez – am I getting so old that my childhood playthings are now in a museum?)…

Those toys brought back a whole lot of warm and fuzzy memories…  and this pram especially:

pram

My cousin, Clare… (who, incidentally, had her left thumb bitten off 4 days ago – but that’s a topic for another day)…  anyway, Clare and I were best buds growing up… and Clare had a pram just like the one above.  By the way, Clare wasn’t given the pram as a gift… she had stolen it!  Wheeled it straight out the shopping centre when nobody was looking (and her mother was too embarrassed to take it back)… (tee-hee)….

Clare and I had loads of fun in that pram.  We used to take turns squeezing in and pushing each other around the streets outside (back in the days when parents weren’t so bloody paranoid about their children playing outside).  Anyway, on one occasion, we decided to put a “REAL Baby” in the pram.  The “Real Baby” being my sister, Soo.  And we decided that we were Mommy and Daddy (Clare always made herself Mommy, and I was left to be the Daddy whether I liked it or not)… and we decided we were going to take our baby for a walk….  down a really, really steep hill.

Long story short, we lost control of the pram (with Baby Soo inside)… and it hurtled down the hill (without us) and capsized at the bottom, sending Baby Soo tumbling out with much screaming.

We got into big trouble for that.

Anyway – so I liked the toy museum (small as it was) because it brought back all kinds of fun, childhood memories.  Here’s some pics:

They had a very large collection of toy cars...

They had a very large collection of toy cars…

Tea sets...

Tea sets…

Toy soldiers...

Toy soldiers…

A small, model train set...

A small, model train set…

toy museum2

Dolls and doll houses…

After the toy museum… we drove to Kalk Bay for lunch.  We wanted to get some fish & chips somewhere pretty… preferably somewhere warm – overlooking the sea.  Whilst looking for the perfect lunch spot, we happened upon some harbour seals.  Morgan and Joah normally love watching the seals – but again, it was just too damn cold…  so we ended up abandoning our restaurant search and fleeing back to McGruntis (the name of our Jeep)… and driving home for a warm meal, blankets, a fireplace and DVD’s.

kalk bay

That is Morgan’s “I-am-cold-get-me-outta-here” face.

So there you have it…. a bit of a random’ish update about a few Cape Town places…

I am now going to warm up some leftover pizza… and watch a movie… and wait for Nick to Skype me (he’s in Jozi at the moment… wrapping up the latest film).  Chat later.  :-)

hout bay

To preach… or not to preach. That is the question.

Perhaps you can help me out with a question that I’m struggling to answer.

I’m trying to figure out…  how to “Speak my Truth”…  whether on this blog… or in my books and courses… or art… of life in general… but I’m not entirely sure what speaking my truth actually means.

I’m probably over thinking again…  but perhaps you can help me understand this process better.

Let me tell you how it started.

A while back, I read this quote on the Free Your Kids Facebook Page:

“You have wonderful ideas.  Ideas change the world and implementing them in your own life is a step to a better tomorrow.  But consider the possibility of opening your mouth and letting your message flow.  You may be mocked.  They may talk about you behind your back.  Eyes will be rolled.  But you’re planting seeds.

Seeds don’t germinate immediately.  The first time any of us was exposed to a new idea, a new way, a different paradigm, we probably rejected it out of hand.  But the seed had been planted.  Weeks, months, even years later, we encountered that idea again.  And it didn’t seem as freaky.  Our brains had acclimated to the new information.  After further exposure, we began independent research.  The idea began to seem less insane.  It seemed, dare I say, almost plausible.

Plant those seeds.  You may never see them bloom.  You may never see those lovely flowers.  You may never sit in that garden yourself.  But maybe your children or grandchildren will.  We change the world by changing one mind at a time.  By touching one heart at a time.  By planting one seed at a time”.

Now… I must confess… when I first read this, I loved it.

I resonated with the process that the quote described…  how change came gradually.

Let me use the whole homeschooling / unschooling thing as a case-in-point.  Not too long ago, I was the parent who strongly believed that homeschooling was only for paranoid, fearful, uber-religious people.  And I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as “unschooling” (and I would have been horrified if I did know).

When Morgan was small, I was firm and resolute in my beliefs:  Morgan would go to public school… just as I had… just as my parents had… just as everyone else had.

But… somewhere along the line, a seed was planted – and I can’t even tell you exactly where.  It could have been the shitty pre-school she attended.  It could have been the fact that “normal school” just seemed to make less and less sense.  It could have been the fact that I had utterly resented my own schooling – and I started questioning whether school had actually taught me anything (other than the basics of reading and counting)…  It could have been a conversation with somebody.   It could have been the fact that I was disturbed by how much Morgan was conforming… and trying so hard to “fit in” with other children at her pre-school.  It could have been the stupid rules she began parrot-fashioning…

Changing my mind about the schooling thing was a process.  A slow process.  There was lots of reading… research… and deep, intense discussions with Nick – and eventually, other families… who had taken that route.

Okay…

But here’s the thing that… I dunno… eats at me a bit (about the quote above)…

Did *somebody else* plant the seed that led to me educating my kids differently?  Was it a person (like a persistent evangelist who keeps sticking “Repent!” flyers on our gate) that planted-the-seed that eventually convinced me to reconsider my outlook on school?

I don’t know.  I have my doubts.

I don’t know if anybody planted a seed… and besides, the whole seed-planting thing sounds a bit creepy to me.  It reminds me of the days when I was a dogmatic Christian and believed I was “Right”… and everyone else was “Wrong”.  Back then, I was big on evangelising… and believed that we could “convert” people – or change their minds (usually using fear as a weapon:  “Where will YOU go when you die?” was a firm favourite).

“If people are only good because they fear punishment and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed” – Albert Einstein

Let’s just say that the Heather of today isn’t particularly enamoured with the idea of converting people… or convincing people… or trying to change the minds of people.

Actually – I’m not even sure whether it’s possible for me to change someone else’s mind…

I think people change their own minds…  I don’t think their minds are changed *for* them by someone else.

So…  while I am rather reluctant to “plant seeds”… or “change people’s minds”… I still think that there is a place – and a need – for connecting… and discussing… and questioning… and challenging… and inspiring.

And that’s what I’m interested in.

When Nick and I first took the big step of NOT enrolling our daughter into Grade 1… it was a scary – and lonely – place to be.

All of our friends either had children in school… or they were busy enrolling their kids in school.  We didn’t have a “tribe” of fellow homeschoolers  (and definitely not any unschoolers!)… and many, many times – I would question our decision… and Nick and I would ask each other:  “Are we sure this is the right thing?  Have we gone barking mad?  Are we going to regret this further on down the line?  Are we damaging Morgan by not sending her to school?”…

It was lonely.  It was scary.

But…  what a blissful, beautiful relief it was… to finally connect with other people (initially online connections which gradually turned into face-to-face meetings and friendships).

What a blissful relief to know this:  WE ARE NOT ALONE!  There are others out there who feel the same way as us!  There are others out there who are walking the same path!  We’re not the only people doing this… in fact, there is a massive (and rapidly growing) movement of people… all over the world… who are re-thinking “school”… and questioning what it means to “educate” – or to be “educated”…

And what a relief it was… to discover the writings of John Holt, John Taylor Gatto (who write the kind of stuff that resonates so strongly with me) … and even the less hardcore people like Ken Robinson… or Seth Godin.  And what a relief it was to plug into a network of unschooled adults – and to watch talks like this one… which simply reaffirmed that we were okay…  that we were on a path best suited for us… and that many others were walking that path too.

Part of the reason why I blog… is because I seek those kinds of connections.

And here’s the thing…  I don’t just seek out connections for *me*…  but I would also like to offer some inspiration and encouragement for those who still feel as though they’re walking the lonely road.  I want to raise my hand and say:  “Hey!  You’re not alone!  You’re not crazy!”…

And I can offer that place of understanding… I guess… for anyone who walks an unconventional road – who lives differently in some way.  I *get* the path less taken.  I understand what it’s like to live differently… and to feel so at odds with the world… and out of place… diagonally parked in a parallel universe…

And if I can be part of somebody’s tribe… and if I can offer a little space of encouragement and inspiration… for those who march to the beat of a different drum… well, let’s just say… that will make me very happy.

But… back to the “preaching” question.

I’m trying to understand where the line is drawn – as far as my honesty is concerned.  I mean – how much am I *really* allowed to share on this blog… before I start pissing people off and sounding all “preachy” as though I’m trying to “plant seeds”… or force some kind of unwelcome indoctrination down someone’s throat?

How much do I share about my thoughts on education… without coming off as angry… and condemning… (of the choices of others)…?

How much do I rant about the Rat Race… without making somebody (who works in a corporate job and negotiates the traffic every day) feel… I dunno… unwelcome… here?

How do I… “Speak My Truth”… without shaming the choices of others?

Perhaps the very wise Brené Brown has some additional insight in her book “Daring Greatly” (the chapter is about parenting… but try to read the following quote with a broader perspective in mind):

 “When you listen to conversations, or read books and blogs, about controversial and/or divisive issues in parenting, like how and where women labour, circumcision, vaccinations, co-sleeping, feeding, etc., what you hear is shame and what you see is hurt.  Deep hurt.  You see people – mostly mothers – engaging in the exact same behaviours that I earlier defined as shaming:  name-calling, put-downs and bullying.

Here’s what I’ve come to believe about these behaviours:  You can’t claim to care about the welfare of children if you’re shaming other parents for the choices they’re making.  Those are mutually exclusive behaviours and they create a huge values gap.  Yes, most of us (myself included) have strong opinions on every one of those topics, but if we really care about the broader welfare of children, our job is to make choices that are aligned with our values and support other parents who are doing the same.  Our job is also to tend to our own worthiness.  When we feel good about the choices we’re making and when we’re engaging with the world from a place of worthiness rather than scarcity, we feel no need to judge and attack.

It’s easy to put up a straw man in this argument and say, “So, we’re just supposed to ignore parents who are abusing their children?”  Fact:  that someone is making different choices from us doesn’t in itself constitute abuse.  If there’s real abuse happening, by all means, call the police.  If not, we shouldn’t call it abuse.  As a social worker who spent a year interning at Child Protective Services, I have little tolerance for debates that casually use the terms abuse or neglect to scare or belittle parents who are simply doing things that we judge as wrong, different or bad”

Although Brene is talking about parenting in the quote above, I think that what she says applies to many situations.  I like the part where she says that “our job is to make choices that are aligned with our values and to support (others) who are doing the same”.  But, it’s a fine line…  I think.  I want a space to be really honest about how I feel (about a number of topics)… and sometimes, honesty involves a rant! –  but, at the same time, I don’t want  those rants to alienate… or shame… people who believe differently to me.

But…  that said… I also don’t want to be so ridiculously watered-down and insipid… because I’m trying so desperately hard not to offend others or hurt their feelings!

“I cannot give you a surefire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure:  try to please everybody, all the time” – Herbert Bayard

Where is the line drawn?

Is there a line?

Perhaps a quote by Socrates is in order:

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”

But… then again… it takes me right back to the first question:  IS it my goal to “change” people?  Is it my goal to “change” the world?  Is it my goal to “change” people’s minds?

Or is my goal to connect with… encourage… inspire… and challenge?

And if so – how do I do that whilst remaining true to myself… but without hurting, shaming or alienating others??

Thoughts???

disney2

Do I regret raising my kids like this?

This post is part 2 of this post… where I answer 2 questions from Claudia, a follower of this blog.

In her second question, Claudia asked:

“Once the kids grow up, do you think they’ll be unable to adapt to a less exciting lifestyle?  Will they be open minded but also full of unreachable expectations and unable to settle down with a regular person?  Do you see any great advantages in settling down and doing the routine-thing with a full calendar of activities on the fridge and growing up with a group of friends?  Will we be cheating our kids in any ways?  I guess my bottom line question is, do you have any regrets in regards to their upbringing?”

We took our kids on a 2-month road trip around the United States earlier this year.  One of the places we took them was Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida.

Well, anyone who has ever visited those places… will understand how overwhelmingly “wow’some” they are.

I remember a family member worrying that the Disney experience would “ruin” the kids… because surely, after experiencing the wonders of Disney World… nothing else would ever measure up.  And every other playground and theme park would be held up and compared with Disney… and found to be lacking.

“How”, she wondered, “will the kids be able to enjoy the smaller things… the ordinary things… the less impressive things… after visiting the ultimate kids’ playground?”.

As it turns out, she needn’t have worried.

Our kids have enjoyed every single experience…  whether the expensive, uber-entertainment of Disney… or the organic treehouse down the road… or the battered slide at the park.  As much as our kids loved Disney World (and they did)… they have equally embraced ‘lesser’ playground experiences with just as much joy and enthusiasm… simply because they don’t view those experiences as being ‘lesser’… just different.

I think that all of us… adults and children alike… should embrace – with enthusiasm – every opportunity to make beautiful memories and to make the best of our precious life.  And I think that beauty and happiness can be found in many different places – not only the ‘exciting’ places.  Some things are less exciting…  but meaningful and beautiful nonetheless.

I have enjoyed some wonderful, exciting, blood-pumping experiences is my life.

I’ve swam on the back of a Whale Shark, jumped off the Gouritz River Bridge, gone parasailing in the Pilansberg, wreck-diving off the Natal Coast, raced snowmobiles across frozen fields in Ohio, gone tobogganing in the Austrian Alps (among many other things)…

And yet… some of my favourite and most meaningful times are things like this:

  • enjoying a beautiful view (as I am right now, whilst typing this blog)
  • deep, meaty conversations with thinker friends
  • snuggling with my husband and kids in front of a fireplace
  • sitting at a lovely coffee shop, watching my kids play and enjoying a good cup of coffee
  • a good movie
  • a vase of fresh flowers

I don’t compare the “big” experiences with the “small” experiences.  The exciting things aren’t “more”…  they’re just different.

One of the things I value most about how we’ve chosen to live is this:  the experiences we’re enjoying and the memories we’re making.

Some of those experiences and memories are made on international travels… and wow’some opportunities.  Others are made in small organic playgrounds… or on the beach… or having coffee with a new friend… or sampling guava jam for the first time.

Playing "Shop-Shop" with some local kids at the playground down the road.

Playing “Shop-Shop” with some local kids at the playground down the road.

The kids have also had an incredibly diverse array of experiences.  The US Road-Trip was like a high-energy, on-the-move-all-the-time boost of wow’ness.  Here in Cape Town, we’re enjoying a different season.  Life is far slower… there are different things to appreciate now… different experiences to be had.  It’s not a ‘lesser’ experience than the US Road Trip… it’s just different.

Suffice to say…  I think our kids will be able to adapt beautifully to any lifestyle they choose.

And who knows… maybe, at a later stage in life, they will want to travel less.  Maybe I will want to travel less.  I honestly can’t say.

And Claudia, as to whether I see any great advantages in settling down and doing the whole routine thing…

I honestly don’t think it’s an either / or situation.  I think that many people are actually suited to the more settled life.  Not everyone wants to travel the world.  Not everyone enjoys The New.  Some people genuinely like a settled life… a town, a community… an established base… where they’re known and understood.  I definitely see value in that.

It doesn’t suit our family… (well, not right now, any way) – because we’re just not wired that way.  We thrive off The New.  We love adventure.  I have an unquenchable curiosity… a longing to know what’s around the next corner.  But obviously, not everyone is like me.

This blog – or at least I hope people know this by now…  isn’t about inferring that there’s a right or wrong way to live.

If there’s only one thing I fervently believe in, it’s this:  Live DELIBERATELY!  Live on purpose!  CHOOSE your path!

Don’t drift along… don’t fall into a routine because it’s what everyone else is doing… don’t keep trying to fit-in or live up to expectations that other people have placed upon your life.  Live deliberately!

If you have a dream to travel…. then travel!!

If your dream is to own a farm in the countryside and grow your own veggies and bottle your own jam – then do that!

If your dream is to start up your own business – then do that!

And… I think that if we, as parents, live deliberately… live purposefully… and follow our dreams… then we set a fantastic example for our kids.  And I don’t think we’ll be cheating them in any way at all.

If I have any regrets about my kids… and their upbringing….  it’s this:

I regret the early years.  I regret sending them to daycare from 7 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon.  I regret placing so much value on my work (which I didn’t even ENJOY) – and thus my kids were shuttled away in order to accommodate nasty clients, uninspiring work and draining deadlines.  For what?  So we could afford to pay for a mountain of accumulated stuff??  

So… those are my regrets.  I regret those years.

But I don’t regret our lifestyle now.

Apart from all the beautiful memories we’ve made… and the amazing experiences we’ve all enjoyed…  I think the most important part is this:  Morgan and Joah get to be with present, happy parents.  They get quality time… family time… and loads of love.  They get to see what it means to live deliberately.  And they know that it’s possible for them to live deliberately too.  They get to see Mom and Dad happy.  And they know that it’s possible for them to be happy too.

And that’s what I ultimately want for my kids:  I want them to choose their path, to live on purpose… and to be happy.  :-)

 

feesh

My long-winded philosophical response to a reader’s questions

Recently, I received a message from Claudia (a regular reader of this blog)  on the Living Differently Facebook page.  She had a couple of questions about our lifestyle… and since they’re pretty typical questions, I thought I’d respond to them in a blog post.

Here’s what she wrote:

“Sometimes my husband and I struggle with the decision to take the non-traditional path.  How do you deal with criticism and / or jealousy?  Many times when we have taken the road less traveled, people around us feel their way of life threatened and start questioning our choices.  They are often dear friends of ours, but they feel promoting a different lifestyle is saying something is terribly wrong with the traditional ways.  We do not want to lose them and we do not want to hurt them.”

I think the best way for me to respond to this question is to quote a passage from Brené Brown’s book, “Daring Greatly”.  Although Brené is talking about child-raising (in the context of this quote)…  I actually think it applies to a much broader scope of understanding.  Here’s what she says:

“Our need for certainty in an endeavour as uncertain as raising children makes explicit “how-to-parent” strategies both seductive and dangerous.  I say “dangerous” because certainty often breeds absolutes, intolerance and judgement.  That’s why parents are so critical of one another – we latch on to a method or approach and very quickly our way becomes the way.  When we obsess over our parenting choices to the extent that most of us do, and then see someone else making different choices, we often perceive that difference as direct criticism of how we are parenting”.

I actually think that Brené has touched on something much bigger here… than simply the parenting debate.  I think that humans… in general… crave certainty.  And… I think we crave certainty because it feels good.  It feels comforting.  It feels secure.  If we’re certain about our beliefs… our values… our traditions… our decisions… it provides us with a feeling of security…  a sense of being “right”.

And we’re happy in that place.  That comfortable place of certainty and knowing… and perceived “rightness”.

But – the problem with certainty… is that it often breeds absolutes, intolerance and judgement.

We don’t only see this within the context of parenting…  we see this in the context of religious belief systems, of traditions, of daily choices that people make with their lives.  We see it everywhere.  “My” way is the “Right” way.

When people are comfortable in their particular certainty… or their decision or choice on how they’ve chosen to live life, what they’ve chosen to believe, how they’ve chosen to parent their children… and so on…  all it takes is an annoying family member or friend who steps out of line… and does things DIFFERENTLY… and suddenly, it’s as though every “certainty” and every “absolute” is now being brought into question.

I honesty think that when one takes the road less travelled… in ANY arena… one can expect a fair amount of flack.

In general, people don’t like it when you do things differently… because… consciously (or unconsciously) it calls their decisions and beliefs into question.  And questions are the enemy of certainty.

Here’s another quote I like (by Alain de Botton):

“Every society has notions of what one should believe, how one should behave and how one should look.  These social conventions are formulated in legal codes and religious doctrines, but also in a vast body of social judgements which we take for granted, which dictates what we wear, how we live our lives, who we respect and how we look.  We refrain from questioning the status quo because we associate what is popular with what is right”.

I especially like that last bit:  we refrain from questioning….  we refrain from questioning…  we refrain from questioning….

For me – that’s the start of where certainty becomes ugly (and absolutes and judgements soon follow)… it all starts when we refrain from questioning.

We don’t QUESTION our education… (or even whether it worked for us – never mind our kids).  We don’t QUESTION the authorities…. we don’t QUESTION the rules…  we don’t QUESTION the religious belief systems… or our sacred texts (or the origin of our sacred texts)…  we don’t QUESTION the-way-it’s-always-been-done…  we don’t QUESTION the Rat-Race…  or *WHY* we live life the way we do… we don’t QUESTION the systems… we don’t QUESTION the status quo…

And the reason why we don’t question… is because we associate what is popular with what is “right”.

There’s that certainty again.  That static, dead place of “Knowing”… of “Being Right”.

But it’s a comfortable feeling, nonetheless – and a feeling that so many of us crave.

So… when somebody comes along (and especially when it’s somebody close – like a friend or a family member) – and that person does life differently.  And they do all the “wrong” things.  And all the things they’re “not supposed to” do.  And they swim against the flow…

Well… let’s just say… that people can become really, really indignant.

Why?

Because you – by your different choices – are calling their certainty into question.

And certainty hates questions.

And it’s not as though you’re doing it on purpose (pissing them off).  It’s not as though you’ve made a decision to live differently… just so you can piss off all your family and friends.  You’ve made a decision to live differently… because (for whatever reason)… the “Normal Way” just wasn’t cutting it for you.

But it pisses people off nonetheless!

The reason why I’ve typed such a long-winded response…  is because… looking deeper into the “why’s”… has really helped me to understand why some people feel so threatened and have responded with such… defensiveness… and sometimes even anger… to our choices to live differently.

————————

Dealing with it has been a challenge.  Part of me wants to get very defensive and justify… in great detail… every single choice that we’ve ever made.

But eventually I realised that I don’t need to justify my decisions to others.  I don’t need to explain myself.  This is my life.  I’m accountable to my husband and kids.  Nobody else.  Other people – and especially not strangers – don’t get to lecture me on my lifestyle choices.   If they disapprove of our choices…  well – that’s their decision.  I don’t need to try and convince them otherwise.

Another way that I’ve tried to deal with the criticism… is simply to distance myself from the critics.

However…  if the critics are people close to you – or people that you love dearly – then distance isn’t necessarily an option.

What I have tried to do (and this is a work-in-progress, and I certainly don’t get it right all the time)… is I try to affirm the decisions of others who live differently to ME.  I’ve written blogs about how there isn’t only ONE “right” way of doing life… in the hope that it will show my family and my friends that I absolutely and unreservedly respect THEIR decisions to live life on THEIR terms (and hope they’ll respect and support our decisions to live life on OUR terms too).

I try to show my sister… (who loves her job at a big corporation) that I don’t scorn her for her choices…  that I am happy that she CHOOSES a life that makes her happy… even though it is so different to mine.  I try to explain to my mother (who is very Christian)… that – although I don’t share the same beliefs as her – that I do not (and never will) ridicule her beliefs… and that I don’t see her way as being “wrong” and my way as being “right”…  I just see us as… different.  And I try to make it clear to my friends…  that even though their children attend public schools…  that I do not (and never will) scorn their schooling choices because THEY know their kids far, far better than me… and THEY know what’s right for their kids and their family… just as I know what’s right for MY kids and MY family…

And I try my best to make it clear how much I love diversity…  even if it means that there’s a whole lot of people out there who live and believe VERY differently to the way that I live and believe.

But you know what… when all is said and done…  you still can’t afford to live your one, precious life trying to please other people.  As valued as your friends may be… your life is still YOUR life – not theirs.  Do not make decisions based on what other people might say or think about you.

Nick and I still have a small handful of wonderful, non-judgemental friends who… in spite of living on the more *conventional* side of the coin to us… remain committed to our friendship (and us likewise).  I don’t need people to be the same as me in order to maintain an authentic friendship.  In fact, I deliberately want a diverse group of friends… who hold differing ideas, ideals and beliefs – because it’s diversity that – I believe – will teach me.  And challenge me.  And grow me.

I think that one of the reasons why we have so much certainty and intolerance in the world… in the first place… is because people flatly refuse to expose themselves to “The Other”.

But… that’s a topic for another day.  I’ve already rambled on for long enough.

I will address Claudia’s second question in the next post.  :-)

 

Nick and I at the top of Chapman's Peak...

Artisan chocolate, wine estates and family reunions

So, about 3 weeks ago, we had visitors!

First, Cousin Mike spent a few days with us… and after he had left, Nick’s brother (Dino) arrived with his two girls, Danni & Gabi.

Morgan and Joah adore their cousins and had been really missing them, so it was a very exciting treat to have the girls come to stay for a week.  Nick’s parents flew in for a few days as well.

One of the (many) things I love about Cape Town is how MUCH there is to do here.  Much of Cape Town’s life-blood is tourism and there are many, many wonderful things to do and see.  First stop was the beach.  Morgan and Joah were super-excited to show Gabi and Danni “their” beach.  There was much running, playing and burying each other in sand…

The 4 cousins high-speeding towards the sea...

The 4 cousins high-speeding towards the sea…

The sea - yay!

The sea – yay!

The girls in their element...

The girls in their element…

Gabi making a sand mermaid tail for Joah...

Gabi making a sand mermaid tail for Joah…

Family fun on Long Beach...

Family fun on Long Beach…

The following day, we decided to take a drive to Somerset West to visit Vergelegen Wine Estate.    Vergelegen is a real treat.  As with most of Cape Town’s wine estates…  it’s not just a farm with vineyards.  There’s 2 restaurants, beautiful picnic spots, wine tours and wine tasting, a kid’s playground, a historic manor house and museum… and gardens….  beautiful, beautiful gardens…. with fountains and ancient camphor trees… and so much more!

Here’s some photos:

wine estate 3

(Above) – This is the restaurant where we had lunch.  It’s surrounded by gorgeous gardens, fountains… and this lovely view (Joah’s bum notwithstanding):

wine estate 5

There’s also a lovely play area for the kids…

wine estate 4

After lunch, we took a stroll around the gardens.  The old manor house is a real treat and had me ooooh’ing and aaaaah’ing….  and then, there were the camphor trees.  The massive 300 year old camphor trees… (which I instantly fell in love with)…

wine estate tree

Dino and the kids on one of the camphor trees...

Dino and the kids on one of the camphor trees…

And ancient oaks too…

The kids exploring the inside of Africa's oldest oak tree (planted somewhere between 1700 and 1706)...

The kids exploring the inside of Africa’s oldest oak tree (planted somewhere between 1700 and 1706)…

And here’s a photo of the kids and I with my brother-in-law, Dino…  my mother-in-law… and my 2 neices (Nick is taking the photo):

wine estate

 

More niceness at the Wine Estate (including my awesome male)… :-)

More niceness at the Wine Estate (including my awesome male)… :-)

Another place we visited (with Dino and the girls)… was The Spice Route.

We first stopped for lunch at Fairview Wine & Cheese Estate (next door to Spice Route).  It was a truly beautiful setting…. and there was a bakery… and dairy… and a goat tower… and a shop selling all kinds of yummy delicacies.  My only regret was that we went on a Sunday – and it was packed with people.  Packed!  Next time, I’ll take the kids on a week day… and we’ll go and watch how goats are milked and how cheese is made.

After lunch, we hopped over to The Spice Route next door.  Oh – I LOVE it there!  It’s like a mini village of shops and restaurants all offering various, made-on-the-premises goodies and treats.

Cousins, fountains & fish...

Cousins, fountains & fish…

spice route2

La Grapperia pizza restaurant is one of the venues at the Spice Route… (next time, we’ll eat lunch there)…

We decided to stop over at the coffee and chocolate place – DV Artisan Chocolate, Roastery & Espresso Bar… and…. omigosh…!  It was such a treat!  I’m definitely going back (when there are less people!)…

The chocolate is made on site… and you can stand and drool next to big, glass windows while the machines churn big pots of melted chocolate before your eyes.  You can also do a chocolate tasting…  I guess it’s like wine tasting… where a clever person who know a lot about chocolate tells you all about the different flavours and textures and how everything is made.  (I would have signed up for that – but there were just way too many people that day).

We decided to sit down and order some coffee and chocolatey things…  yum!  Here’s some pics:

Joah is clearly enjoying the home-made chocolate ice-cream...

Joah is clearly enjoying the home-made chocolate ice-cream…

Some of the artisan chocolate on offer at DV's...

Some of the artisanal chocolate on offer at DV’s…

artisanal

During the same week, my mom was in Cape Town.  She was staying with her friend, but we decided to meet up for a morning, strolling around Kirstenbosch Gardens (another one of those must-do places in Cape Town).  Mom had brought along some prezzies for Morgan and Joah… and hit the jackpot with a French knitter and some wool for Morgan… (who has regularly kept at it ever since).  Here’s some pics:

Morgan with her gift-from-Granny… a French knitting gadget...

Morgan with her gift-from-Granny… a French knitting gadget…

She just kept knitting while we walked… and every time we stopped, she'd find a little spot in the sun… and knit!

She just kept knitting while we walked… and every time we stopped, she’d find a little spot in the sun… and knit!

Joah pretending to be dead.

Joah enjoying the soft grass.

Me, Mom and the kids… at beautiful Kirstenbosch Gardens.

Me, Mom and the kids… at beautiful Kirstenbosch Gardens.

It was lovely seeing my mom again.  I would like her to come and stay with us for a whole week… and I would definitely like to take her to visit the Spice Route.  Another person I’m desperately missing is my sister.  I haven’t seen Soo since late October last year!  We were packing up for our 2-month US Road Trip… and Soo was in Nigeria on business.  When we touched base in Joburg earlier this year, Soo was in Nigeria again.  So we keep missing each other – and now I really miss her!  I’d love to have a good catch up over some coffee and something yummy.

Travel has it’s many pro’s…  but missing friends and family (wherever they are in the world) is always the downside.

Anyway… before Dino and the girls headed back to Joburg, we got to take all of the kids to the aquarium and also for a boat tour around Cape Town harbour.

The cousins and the clown fish at the Cape Town Aquarium...

The cousins and the clown fish at the Cape Town Aquarium…

aquarium2

And they loved the boat tour, of course!

And they loved the boat tour, of course!

It was actually quite funny (on the day we took the kids on the boat tour).  Nick had to fly back to Joburg for a meeting so Dino and I ended up taking the kids.  The boat tour guide got the idea that I was “Mommy” and Dino was “Daddy”… and that all four kids were mine!  Eeek!

Needless to say… Morgan and Joah had a marvellous and very happy time with Cousin Mike, Yia-Yia, Papou, Granny, Nano (the name they call Dino)… and Cousins.  Now they’re nagging me for time with Matt & Erin… and Adelaide… and have told me that they also miss Isabelle and Grace (in Ohio!)… and they want to see Keren again… and why does cousin Kyra have to live so far… and when can they visit the Karoo to see Edwina again…. etc… etc…

Like I say, this travel-thing has it’s pros and cons.  Missing people is the hardest part.

sunset

A tour of our new nest

So…

I’m sitting here, typing this to you… from a lovely beach house in Misty Cliffs – which is our new home for the next 3 months.  If you’re wondering where Misty Cliffs is, just go and have a look at the continent of Africa… and trace your finger down to the southern most tip of Africa – Cape Point.  Misty Cliffs is just down the road from there.

It is beautiful here.  Unbelievably, breathtakingly beautiful.

Behind us are towering cliffs… in front of us, an uninterrupted view of the Atlantic Ocean (which today is broody and stormy – just the way I like it).  And surrounding this house are indigenous trees and fynbos and flowers… and birds and creatures of all shapes and sizes… including (sigh) baboons.

Baboons are a bit of a menace in these parts.  They embark on regular organised raids and given half a chance will sneak into a home… head straight for the kitchen… and steal every edible thing they can possibly carry (and leave a big mess in the process… and lots of poo too, because when they get nervous, they poo!!)… (ugh!)

Anyway, I’m very determined not to be a victim of a baboon raid – so I make sure every window and door is secured whenever we leave the house… and I make sure not to leave any food out on the table.  Let’s just say, I’m very… aware.  I’m not scared of baboons (and I don’t want my kids to be scared of them either)… but I’m aware of how sneaky they can be, so I keep an eye out for them so I can make my presence known if they start plotting.

Here’s some photos of the new nest:

The driveway leading up to the house (it's actually very steep)...

The driveway leading up to the house (it’s actually very steep)…

The house… and the splash pool (it's cold - but in spite of that, the kids are determined to swim in it… at least once!)...

The house… and the splash pool (it’s cold – but in spite of that, the kids are determined to swim in it… at least once!)…

The lounge / dining area… with windows leading out on to the deck… all with uninterrupted views of the sea.

The lounge / dining area… with windows leading out on to the deck… all with uninterrupted views of the sea.

The kitchen… which kinda inspires even ME to cook...

The kitchen… which kinda inspires even ME to cook…

View from the kitchen over the dining area...

View from the kitchen over the dining area…

Main bedroom with en-suite bathroom….

Main bedroom with en-suite bathroom….

And a special treat… for me (who has only been showering for the past 4 or 5 months)… is this wonderful TUB…!!! (Oh, I have missed having a bath!!!)...

And a special treat… for me (who has only been showering for the past 4 or 5 months)… is this wonderful TUB…!!! (Oh, I have missed having a bath!!!)…

What's next-door to us on our left….

What’s next-door to us on our left….

to the right

And… on our right…. this is the neighbour’s cottage…

These fish are on the wall in our living area.  Can you guess why I like this little arrangement so much?

These fish are on the wall in our living area. Can you guess why I like this little arrangement so much?

The shell path leading to my Happy Bench...

The shell path leading to my Happy Bench…

In case you’re wondering why we aren’t in Noordhoek any more….

Well, it was simply to do with size.   The Noordhoek apartment was gorgeous – and our hosts were wonderful, laid-back people (and our kids got on famously well with their little boy).  And, for a quick visit to Cape Town, the apartment would have been perfect…  but now, because it seems like we’re extending our stay… we need a bigger space.

And we need a bigger space… mostly because of Nick’s work.

It was pretty challenging for him to focus on editing when kids were running through the apartment, chasing and playing and making a noise.  Also, having Nick’s editing suite set up in our bedroom wasn’t ideal.  I found it hard to sleep if he was editing during the night… and he felt bad about waking me.  We knew that if we were going to make nomadic work (for Nick) a viable option, that he would need a dedicated room that we could convert into a small studio.  A place where he could shut the door and be left in peace.

So – we knew we wanted a place with at least 3 bedrooms… and we also knew we wanted a garden (the bigger the better) so that the kids didn’t feel too cooped up inside the house.  And – of course – we knew that we wanted a beautiful view.

One of the main reasons we’re living in Cape Town in the first place… is because of the natural beauty.   Being surrounded by natural beauty just… I dunno… does something… for me.  It nurtures something deep inside of me.  We always said that if we lived in Cape Town, we wanted to live somewhere that “felt” like we were living in Cape Town.  We didn’t want to move into one of Cape Town’s many landlocked ‘burbs.  Then, we may as well live in Joburg again.  We wanted to see the sea.  We wanted to see the mountains.

Nick and Joah on Long Beach...

Nick and Joah on Long Beach…

That's me… sitting on a rock and writing in my diary...

That’s me… sitting on a rock and writing in my diary…

So that’s how we ended up here… in Misty Cliffs Conservation Village.

The house we’re in is usually rented out in Summer for a daily rate (that is considerably above our budget)… but, because we’re staying here in Winter – we have got it for an affordable monthly rate.   And I’m grateful… and it’s beautiful… and I feel very blessed.  Now – I just need to persuade some Joburg-based family and friends to come and visit!!!

As a final photo… I wanted to show you my little bench:

My happy bench...

My happy bench…

This little bench is tucked away in a hidden corner behind some trees in the garden.  It looks out over the sea, and when I sit there, I feel as though I’m secluded… surrounded only by nature.  It’s the place where I have a conversation with God… and myself… about how grateful I am for this life – and how I take none of it for granted.

It’s time now for me to light up the fire place… and boil the water for the kettle.  Anyone coming over for coffee??  :-)