Update #14. Housework & Happiness.
Sheesh. This has been a hard one to get to. I made a vow to myself (well, okay, I had a thought) that I would not send out another update until I had got the hang of doing it properly on this website. It took a few weeks, as the first thing you put in is your blog name. So I thought, keep it nice and simple…my name- Lea. Username has to be a minimum of 4 characters. Seriously? So my username was leaitsonlythreeletterswhatamisupposedtodo. Until I calmed down and a few weeks later was able to figure out how to make a proper name. But that one is still there, forever in space, apparently, as you can’t delete them. Yes, you can check.
Anyway, Heath is at work all day, the kids are at school until 2, and I seem to have less time on my hands than ever before. If I manage to exercise for an hour in the mornings, the remainder of the day consists of a gym routine in itself, as I bomb around a grocery store (no longer weeping in the bread aisle saves time– I have my regular loaf now), unload the 43 bags/boxes myself when I get home, and then run around with a vacuum cleaner. I am not OCD when it comes to housecleaning. I read a corny facebook thingy the other day about dusting, of all things. “Dust if you must, but there’s not much time, With rivers to swim and mountains to climb, Music to hear, and books to read, Friends to cherish and life to lead.” Yeah, it was one of those. They obviously haven’t felt the temperature of the rivers in Cape Town, and I might not FIND my life because of the dust in our house. Cape Town is crazy dusty! Must be the wind. Anyway, I was saying I’m not OCD about housework– I only vacuum once a week, and on day 6, when we walk down the passage, the tiny tumbleweeds of hair, dust, lint, fluff and invariably loom band elastics (Ethan!!) follow us down as we walk by. I enjoy housework actually. I have without a doubt saved my family, heroically, from scores of spider bites (geez, anything for a bit of entertainment sucking up live insects. Except for a stinkbug. I thought he was dead, but he wasn’t. He was very alive and annoyed, and he perfumed the whole house.) Housework doesn’t make for great end-of-the-day conversations, though…. Hi Josh, how was your day? Well we had a drug search at the school with the police, and sniffer dogs and everything. Nothing was found, though. Apparently, this is routine here. How was your day, mom? Well, I think I surpassed the record when I found THREE lego heads in the vacuum cleaner bag. Three! All HEADS!! Aiden, how was your day? Well, I think the Afrikaans teacher is favouring the other new kid, because his oral was terrible, but he got a higher mark. It’s so frustrating, mom, because I worked so hard. How was your day? Well, I did 2 loads of washing, but then the weather changed and I had to fit both loads onto the tiny drying rack in the lounge. Supernatural, I tell you! My love, how was your day? Craaazy busy, and one of our clients that have a huge company, well, their factory burnt down to the ground last night! It’s just terrible. Anyway, how was your day? Well, I discovered a home method of self-tanning, when you open the vacuum bag outside to empty all the dust, and the southeaster blows unexpectedly. I find it works best if you’re a little sweaty beforehand.
Hmm, I think you get the gist.
So I have about 2 days of the week where I feel sane-ish. And probably on one of those days it’s a Friday, or we get last minute take-out because I forgot to defrost the meat or something. The other days, by the time Heath gets home at 5, I am haggard, frustrated and still preparing dinner whilst doing homework and laundry…so much for couch time with my poor husband. So he hasn’t even got time to take off his shoes before he gets delegated a salad, or serious instruction of a child, because the meeting I had with their teacher reveals he is quite the character in class, and chooses to make heartbeat noises whilst she teaches them biology. (She says Ethan has great rhythm though. This we know already.)
There have been days where I had time to start the update, but they were dark days for me, and if I had written then, we all would have been in tears by line 2. I cried one day in a mall when I ended up walking behind a couple who were holding hands. I just felt so lonely! I missed my husband so much, I had no-one to share my coffee fix with, and I couldn’t find apples. This stuff builds up, you know. I have not only had to adapt to Heath not being home, but I have had to adapt to not working with him. I realise now that we have not been apart during the day since 1999, when he joined me in my clothing business, then from there, we’ve worked together ever since, in restaurants, in family, in ministry, in everything. That’s 15 years. Now I’m supposed to wave goodbye happily every morning at 6:45? Not happening easily, I can tell you. It has been a challenge to me to really find out who I am in Christ, just me, not me and my relationships, or my family. And to find purpose in dishes and laundry. Many a prayer said over the sink here, let’s just say. Psalm 51:17 says, The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. So to say it’s been an adjustment is an understatement. And to fit the usual takes-the-whole-day kind of conversation into the half hour we have free after kids are in bed is ridiculous.
I do not begrudge it one bit, though, as we are both overwhelmed with gratitude for Heath having this job. He does not have to work at nights or weekends, Fridays he gets to come home a little earlier, and every payday there’s money in the bank. Yeehah. I am so proud of him. He has learnt SO MUCH technical stuff (resins, glues, bonding recipes!) and was indispensable from about Day 2. He is working so hard, is often exhausted, and we both have moments where we wonder where we’ll go from here. I believe that it is a foot in the door, a stepping stone, to where God wants us to be. So we trust, and believe that God will work it all out for our good.
Oh, this could be a Cape Town Postcard, right? This LADY came into the Bondstick Factory, selling buffer pads. Everyone was busy and not paying her any attention. She put her wares down and pulled this face. The next 10 minutes saw 8 selfies, and the sale of some buffer pads. Hysterical!
The boys are doing great, and the pace of life seems like a roller coaster at times, but I think that’s mostly due to the fact that there’s 4 of them. They had a 10 day break from school, which was relatively very short compared to what we’re used to; but it was perfect, although difficult with Heath at work, and no swimming pool at home. Then back to Term 4! Homework is suicide/homicide hour (or 2) in our house. It’s me on google translate frantically translating while Ethan reads (he’s amazing with afrikaans, boet!) stir the mince for dinner, check Joshua is studying and not on his phone, confiscate said phone just in case, help Aiden with maths, but as I make salad, he usually figures it out anyway; watch Luke plough through his maths, send him for a timeout for 5 mins because he really does know the work, he just doesn’t WANT to know the work, and 5 minutes usually buys me a much happier child and a finished salad; test Ethan on his times tables, stir mince, freak out because Aiden has two orals coming up- an afrikaans one and an english one- he has to stand up and present them to the class, with visuals if possible. Send off emails to afrikaans
people to translate, then phone a friend (no million dollars at the end of this one) to arrange to go over all the pronounciations; brainstorm an outfit for Luke to wear to Medieval Day at school; stop mince from burning. It’s crazy. Fridays there is no homework, which is wonderful. It’s usually a very unproductive day for me, children are lucky if they eat.
17th September was a milestone in the Stewart family. Joshua came home from school and announced that he had been told to shave the fuzz off his lip. What a proud moment for Heath, and a hysterical one for all his brothers. I was just wondering if I was supposed to keep a lock (or a bit of fuzz) for his scrapbook?!? Was this like his first haircut ever, where the first tender lock is forever preserved for memories’ sake?? Hmm, on second thoughts, it was too similar to a freaky experience I had in Zim when looking in a friends scrapbook of their daughter, who was about 11 at the time. Usual baby photos, sweet, aah cute, oh she looks like whoever blah blah, turn the page, and ohh, what’s that? Her umbilical cord stump, you say? I think I just vomited in my mouth. Did I touch it? Oh please, don’t let my arm have brushed it. It’s not even clingwrapped or ziplocked for goodness’ sake. It’s like human biltong, and it’s all very very bad. So I will not be keeping Joshua’s fuzz.
But hereby the milestone hath been recorded!
We had South African National Day in September sometime. Ethan’s grade had a great festival planned– stickbread cooked over a braai (I won’t bore you with the details, but yes, its bread on a stick), painting t-shirts with the SA flag and dad’s playing rubgy (touch, of course…there were no ambulances on the day). Heath unfortunately had to work, but I was on stickbread duty and ensuring no-one fell into the braai. It was a great day because the parents really get involved. They also merge with a rural school for the day, so the poorer schoolkids have a ball. Ethan is loving school, and has settled really well.
Luke is doing so well. On the last update, we had been advised by doctors to put him onto Ritalin. We have decided not to, and I am having regular meetings with his teacher on how we can best help him. 3 weeks later, she said he seemed much more settled, still very distracted, but a lot happier in himself. I don’t think an emigration can ever be underestimated in how it shakes their world. Anyway, since then, we’ve decided to record his progress situation by situation, and if we don’t see any improvement, we will have to reassess then. Luke has started swimming, and has his first gala next week, which he’s so excited about! The exercise is great for him too.
Aiden has a ridiculous social life. He has been to more parties since we’ve been here than I’ve had in my life. However, at each gathering, because there are usually 10+ children, the host defaults to feed the children boerwors rolls- cheap, easy, traditional braaivleis staple food! Not a bad thing at all, of course, until you get to your ninth one. Then you’re like fainting at the smell of boerwors. So funny, its a standing joke with us. It’s always a loaded question: So…. what did you eat at Nina’s house?
Joshua has begun exams, and they continue until end of term. The whole country seems to slow down to put pressure on students at this time. No social outings, no late nights, and heavens above, no play dates!! So he’s studying lots, and he knows how important they are. I think he feels very nervous, but now that he’s written a few, is feeling a little better. Next week he has high content subjects- Bio, History, Maths. Our neighbour is a maths genius, sent from heaven, and she spends time with Joshua for an hour most evenings -for free- to help him through the “not-even-google-has-the-answer” type of maths that he’s doing. He comes homes beaming, so happy that he understands trigonometry! It has been a real blessing.
The rumour about Capetonians being very clique-y has proven true. Snobs. You can meet someone around stickbread, and they will check you gone every day after. I seem to be good with remembering names, though, so I’m waiting for the right timing to yell out of my window in the carpark, Hi Michelle! How are Calla and Sandra doing? I hope Calla’s ballet exam went well! Byeeee. But we have cracked a social barrier, and been invited to dinner with several families from the church. I think after 5 months, they’ve sussed us out, and decided it was safe to have us over. So that’s been great getting to know some people better. There are of lot of ex-Durbanites and ex-Johannesburgers (?) here, and together, we shall reform this snobbish culture!
Now for another this-is-what-the-weather-does update. I have decided that if Cape Town weather was a person, it would be a precocious teenager, whose favourite word is PSYCH!!! (A much used childhood word for me.) As in, ‘Spring has arrived…PSYCH!! Here’s some snow.’ Even weather forecasts are changeable right up to the day. We’ve had two appalling beach days. Yes, beach and appalling in the same sentence. The first was at False Bay, we thought the water would be warmer, but it was filthy due to currents, the beach was full of bluebottles, and the wind. I can’t even finish the sentence properly. Just the wind. I was so upset. We tried again soon after, but the tide was high (duh forgot to check) and the water was like melted snow from the mountains, so we just played frisbee on the lawns and ended up standing in a line throwing to ourselves because the wind. That was fun actually.
Here are some pics to prove my point:
Left- A sudden rainstorm on the afternoon school run caused flooding on the roads. Right- taken at 7:15am- heavy mist on the way to school.
AND it’s light until 8pm here now. So weird getting used to that! On the weekends, I’m wondering why I’m eating my hand, then realise its 9pm, but it feels like 6pm and we haven’t had dinner! In an effort to conquer the blazing bright sunlight at 6am on a Saturday morning, I have bought sleep masks for everyone.
Well, if we don’t get an extra hour of ‘Avatar’ sleep, at least we’ll have had a good laugh.
One of the bigger issues of our settling has been to apply for my spousal visa. We have been waiting weeks for the return of my police clearance from Pretoria, only to discover that the South African postal service is actually on strike. We do all we can to track the letter- to no avail, so I am reduced to phoning Pretoria post office daily until finally I manage to get hold of Grace. Yes, and grace. She finds the letter (the mind boggles) and has it in her hands she says. I try not to squeal on the phone and we arranged for a courier to collect it and get it delivered here. On the 3rd day, they managed to find someone at the PO and not get tangled in the strike action. Relief! I went for my interview to Home affairs on the 27th October. It was very straightforward, and now we wait…usually between 3 to 8 weeks.
Last update, my car was still in for repair. 8 weeks later, we still wait. Between following up with insurance / warranty people, and getting parts and payment sorted out, it has been a bit of a nightmare. This Chrysler is one of my top 10 questions when I get to heaven. Okay, maybe top 20. Why did we go through all this, when we felt that this car was for us?? Now EVERYTHING has been fixed / sorted / replaced, so do we hang onto it and hope the engine’s okay and the doors don’t fall off? Or do we sell it and buy…what? Aaargh, what I would do for some writing on the wall right now. Or the aeroplane banner thing as in update #10! What we’re feeling right now is to keep it. There are other decisions to be made regarding transport now as the firstborn son reaches age of driving! See updates 15, 16 and 17 coming soon to a device near you!
To finish off, here are some pictures of a few places we’ve been.
Strikingly strapping and strong Stewart sons stand with stacked stocks of strawberries (selected with special sensitivity to stop squashing) straight from the stems of seasonal sustenance on this smallholding, following which they were scooped into smoothie machine and swallowed. Ssssorry, got a bit carried away there.
A visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden:
Aiden rock-in’ the chair.
Lots of love to you all,