The poltergeist

My teenager (one of them) is a poltergeist.

Mainly invisible, his presence is only made known by the movement and disappearance of items in the kitchen, a damp towel on the floor and by following the occasional screams from his siblings.

He shuns the light, preferring to live as a denizen of the darkness, rising at night to pilfer snacks and stomp through the house. Sometimes, you may hear the dulcet tones of YouTube, the clacking of a keyboard or the chiming of a WhatsApp notification.

I can only laugh. I was exactly the same. Teenage angst was my middle name. I lived entirely in my room, playing melodramatic, soul searching music and reading Nietsche (why?).

I haunted my home like a wraith, stopping to only to drop pearls of wisdom in front of the ignorant swine that were my parents. (Sorry, parents, but it’s just a metaphor).

They could never understand the depth of emotion that I was feeling, how put upon by the world I was and how it was impossible for them to ever plumb the depths of the trauma of being such a spiritually enlightened teenager.

Now, I erupt in gales of laughter with my long-suffering parents over my utter self-indulgence, but it’s all part of being a teenager.

So, I’ll let him sleep and dwell on the deep existential questions of his time. I’ll stock up on snacks and feed him on demand. Periodically, like some hothouse plant, I’ll drag him into the sunlight and open the curtains of his room.

One day he will emerge like a butterfly and hopefully not as a twinkly vampire with illusions of grandeur.

In all honesty, I’m quiet enjoying it. It makes a difference from his younger years when I was unable to pee by myself.

Of course, these days, the only downside is that his poltergeist senses can sniff out a hidden chocolate bar like a beagle can a fox.


80s Parenting Fail

It’s an 80s celebration at our school

Dress up in 80s style



“What should I wear?” asked my son

“That’s easy!” I replied.


Black skinny jeans, your Dad’s Docs and the Sex Pistols t-shirt.

Put the dog’s chain around your neck and spike up your hair.

You’ll look awesome.


We pulled up at school at this morning.

Everyone did Madonna and Wham.

And my son looks like Sid Vicious.


Parenting fail.

Jack and Jill went up the hill…


Falling down the stairs

Jack and Jill went up the hill…

Except that his name wasn’t Jack, it was James. And her name wasn’t Jill either. And the pail was a cup of coffee.

Okay, aside from the tumbling down the hill, our stories don’t have much more in common.

Perhaps, ‘Pride comes before a fall’, would be more accurate.

I was on top of my morning. I was up in the dark to take Firstborn to training. I was even dressed and not in my pyjamas. I don’t know why I bothered.

I strode down the dark stairs to the garage toting my cellphone in one hand and my brand-new coffee cup in the other.

And then I wasn’t.

Then, like Alice, I fell.

There was no white rabbit, but a lot of slow motion.

I could have put my coffee cup down on the way.

I didn’t realise just how many steps there were, until I hit each one on the way down.

Every single, bone jarring one.

I ended up, a crumpled heap, in the small space between the last step and the door.

Firstborn leapt lightly like a gazelle down to where I lay in numb humiliation.

“Are you okay? Are you okay? Mom!”


And the dog quivered in laughter.

He got me back on my feet, rescued the cellphone and I got into the car and drove him to training.

And the trainer overslept and didn’t arrive.


By the time we got home again, my knee looked like some distorted genetics experiment and my leg had locked up like a mannequin.

The skinny jeans are now artfully ripped in such a way that if I bought them like that, I would’ve paid twice the amount.

I was peeled out of their remains and got back into my lounge pants, aka my pyjamas, and a pair of fluffy slippers.

And then I went to work.

In my PJs and my fluffy slippers.

Too a client presentation.

I had a severe case of FML.

Limping upstairs to our tame chiropractor and sports rehab office, a lovely young lady said she’d take a look.

I’ve now reached an age when I could have given birth to the medical professionals treating me.

This sweet girl, with her dewy fresh skin and caring smile has the hands of a demon lord.

I didn’t cry when I fell down the stairs, but I cannot lie, my eyes did prickle as she kneaded around my knee cap.

Anyhow she strapped my knee up with neon pink tape that looks quite jazzy and sent me home saying “Avoid stairs and don’t drive.”

I looked at her with the eyes of middle-aged mother of three and thought about saying something like, “You don’t have children do you? One day you’ll know that lying with your leg up, not driving and avoiding stairs in a house built on the side of a mountain with three teenagers running wild is about as impossible as teaching pigs to fly.”

But I bit my tongue and just nodded.

Then I went home, dug out Great-Granny’s cane and hobbled up the stairs to make dinner.







When bad things happen to sort-of okay moms

Big girl panties - 1

Once upon a time there was a mom.

Sometimes, she liked to think she was a goodish mom.

Sometimes, she just couldn’t even.

This time is one of those times.

Right now, at this precise moment, she would get a F, or a more PC ,Failure to meet Requirements grade by the maternal inquisitorial squad. This squad, however, is unable to provide any more punishment than she is current undergoing and they’re standing around holding their G&Ts and laughing.

This mom, we’ll just call her Mom with a capital letter, is currently having a crisis of faith, a breakdown or a fit of hysterics, depending on your point of view. She may also be tottering on the brink of calling time-out and spending the rest of the day (week, year or life) in the nearest adults-only bar with G&T on tap.

Mom knows that she extremely privileged to have three beautiful children, a husband and her mother close by. She knows that many parents struggle by on their own against impossible odds. She has enormous respect and awe for these persons. They are much better at adulting, clearly.

Currently, however, her gratitude is somewhat marred by:

  • One child with concussion due to having his head beaten repeatedly against a wall at school, who has to row at SA Champs on Friday. R4000 later of CT scans and neurologists and cortisone.
  • One boat that has somehow to be magically levitated to said regatta.
  • One rowing coach having several litters of kittens, none of which I can offer homes to.
  • One child with tonsillitis.
  • One husband in Zambia sending WhatsApps and then Facebook messages saying the same thing in staccato one word bursts – Not. Unlike. Captain. Kirk. Of. Star. Trek.
  • One mother in hospital.
  • One father in the UK sending beautiful photos of his serene front lawn covered in perfectly white snow.
  • One father-in-law nearing the final bridge between this world and the next.
  • One blocked drain.
  • One dead dishwasher.
  • One enormous wall cabinet taking up the entire width of the garage fallen over erupting tools and bits of car engine all over the floor and teetering on its last legs before succumbing to gravity.
  • One sleepover-birthday-party-with-7-small-girls hangover. NEVER NEVER NEVER EVER AGAIN EVER!
  • One English speech on idioms due for tomorrow.
  • And her job. Let’s not forget her actual 9 to 5, salary-paying JOB! Which, right now, is the least stressful part of her life. At least she knows what to do, how to do it and when to do it by.

Mom is reaching the very end of her tether.

Mom is losing her shit.

Actually, she’s not, because her shit can’t be lost down the blocked drain.

Mom is drowning in shit.

On the outside Mom looks pretty well put together, but inside – inside the elastic of her big girl panties is about to snap, leaving the bloomers around her ankles, tripping her up so that she lands on her face – smoosh.

Mom’s friend took her out for coffee and for a short, blissful hour, Mom pretended the shit did not exist. She sat in the eye of the storm watching cattle, rowing boats, shopping bags and other detritus whirling past, lit every few moments by another strike of lightning.

Then Mom, went back to the real world.

Her cellphone was having an epileptic fit.

Rowing Child with Concussion and Rowing Coach with Kittens were sending frantic WhatsApps to Mom who was on the other side of the city, while trying to find each other in a 20-meter radius.

Mom sent each one the other’s phone number and declined to be a call center agent in India trying to fix someone’s problem in Argentina while liaising with a technician in Japan.

Mom has called a plumber.

Mom has given out medication to children.

Mom is jittery from a diet of pure caffeine, because who has time for food anyway.

Mom is turning off her cellphone and logging out of Facebook.

Mom is seriously considering climbing under her desk, building a pillow fort and humming to herself until it all goes away.

And then Mom will get up, put on lipstick, pull on her big girl panties and fake-it-til-she-makes-it – again.

One day, Mom knows, someone in charge will realise that she is hopelessly under-qualified for this.

By then, she’ll either have it down or be pretending to ride a unicorn in a nice padded cell somewhere with pretty coloured pills for breakfast, lunch and supper.









The end of the world

teenager - 1


Bring a teenager sucks. I’m not old that I can’t remember it – the existential angst, the belief that the world revolved around you and that everything was deeply unfair and designed to thwart you at every turn.

Honestly, how my parents didn’t abandoned my self-absorbed ass on a pavement I still don’t comprehend. I suppose it really is proof of their love for me.

I’m in a bit of a fix you see…

My son and I were supposed to jet off for a mini-break this weekend so he could visit his BFF and I could wander down memory lane. That was until his sports coach gave birth to several litters of kittens this morning. And I can’t blame him.

I really thought we’d be okay. I thought we’d maybe miss one training session, but rowing season is heading for the Grande Finale and him going on a jaunt this weekend would blow his chances of being in the A boat.

Now, I have to face going home to tell him that we’re postponing our trip. It’s actually a good idea, this weekend would have been crazy and if we go in a few weeks we can stay a little longer and he can actually spend time with his best bud.

Still, I know the look on his face will drive daggers through my heart.

Being rationale is not a symptom of being a teenager.

I pondered giving him a choice, but the truth is, I know the choice he’d make would be the wrong one.

Many moons ago I did ballet. I loved it. I was good at it. Then one sunny day I told my mother I wanted to hang out at a friend’s house. She gave me the choice to see my friend and say cheers to ballet or go to ballet. I chose my friend and have regretted it ever since.

The level of competition in school boy sport has become all encompassing. I don’t know how these kids cope. I struggle through a deadline driven 8-hour a day job and he’s up at 5am and crashing in exhaustion at 10:30pm every single day.

I tried to explain that a year may seem endless right now, but by the time he hits 40, will be a blink of an eye.

That the guy climbing Everest has times when he doubts every choice that led him there. When he wants to give up and go home. When he’s cold and hungry and tired. Even when he’s scared. And many do. They go home. But the ones that carry on trudging step by step make it to the most beautiful view on the world and accomplish something intangibly powerful.

I want him to find that hard-headed stubbornness and push on through, but at the same time I want to hold him close and make it all better.

I suppose that’s what being a parent is all about – loving them enough to know when to make unpopular decisions for their greater good. I know he’ll only understand many years from now and that for the foreseeable future I’ll be persona non grata.

So for right now, I’ll just offer some silent gratitude to my parents for the unpopular decisions, for the times I ranted and raged, for giving me choices and consequences and for loving me despite everything.







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What can possibly go wrong?

_Don't worry darling. I've got it all under control._

“I’m going to London for the week,” my beloved spouse informed me.

“What can go wrong?” I thought.

It turns out, quite a lot.

  1. The new school term starts, no-one knows when they finish school, where their school shoes are or if their uniforms still fit (they don’t).
  2. The Wi-Fi password isn’t working and we can’t watch any movies.
  3. The dog managed to damage her leg and is limping around on three feet looking embarrassed and miserable.
  4. The cat died.

This is how my last 24 hours (almost) broke down…

16:00 Husband leaves to go to the airport.

17:00 Children discovered miraculously that school starts tomorrow and despite all assurances discovered that pencil cases, shoes and uniforms have somehow evaporated. I engage in a search and rescue mission to find enough to go around.

18:00 Dog 1 finally reaches the end of his patience with Dog 2 and injures her hind leg. Dog 2 begins limping miserably. Knowing it was her fault, but trying to pretend it wasn’t. I resolve to take the dog to the vet on the way to work in the morning.

19:00 I relax. Children are clean, used actual soap (I checked). This is importance because arriving home on Saturday from 3 weeks away I saw a note on the fridge reading, “Luke and James showered yesterday” – which referred to the day before yesterday.

20:00 Children getting ready for bed, I’m in a pair of Star Wars pyjamas. Screams alert me to an emergency. I find the cat in the throes of a seizure and then going limp. Panic ensues. Owner of the cat gets hysterical. I give him an overdose of rescue remedy, grab the cat, wrap it in a towel and hustle the oldest son into the car to hold the cat. We race madly across town to the last remaining emergency vet only to arrive with a very ex-cat. I pay the exorbitant cost of a vet to tell me the cat has expired. We negotiate burial and cremation, and I turn down the memorial urn and plaque. We settle on cremation. I realise I am still wearing the Star Wars pyjamas.

21:00 The bloody gate won’t open. Oldest son has to scale 6 feet of vertical steel and find a fork to jimmy the lock. Armed neighbourhood guard arrives and crazy woman in Star Wars pyjama pants tries to convince him that this is actually her house. Oldest son’s bed has to be forensically cleaned to remove evidence of the cat’s demise. (Oddly enough, Google kept serving me a GDN ad for a forensic cleaning service only last week. What clever little boys and girls anticipating my needs. Do I need to fear a conspiracy?)

22:00 Finally calmed down grieving children and collapse into a chair for a cup of tea.

23:30 Remaining cats remind me that I missed the evening milk run. Milk in a china saucer (no cat bowls), poured in front of them in case I taint it by pouring it out of their view.

00:00 Bed. And prayers. Lots of prayers. Lots of heartfelt pleas to the divine, who is probably laughing his celestial socks off.

05:00 Alarm goes off. Mad rush to leave for school. Forget to take dog to vet and decide she can wait until tonight when I will pay triple the amount for a vet to see the outcome of her hubris.

08:00 Arrive at work. Phone husband to let him know about the cat. Get the distinct feeling that he thinks I should have done feline CPR, driven faster or somehow wrought a medical miracle. Also get the feeling of extreme relief that he didn’t have to deal with it.

08:30 Colleagues welcome me back and ask me if I feel rested. I look at them bemused. Rested? HA!

11:00 Remember that children will at some point need to be collected from school, but have no idea when. WhatsApp parent group in the vague hope someone else will know. They don’t.

12:00 Remind me why being a grown-up was something I wanted to be?


2015-10-03 16.44.07

Our beloved Siamese, Sinatra, passed away from a heart attack last night. It was quick and apparently painless (although I think the vet told me this in an attempt to make things better – after all, who is going to tell a bereaved pet owner that their cat was in excruciating pain?). He was only 6 years old and apparently his death was the result of years of in-breeding by humans in the attempt to create the perfect cat. All cats are perfect, but there you go. I shall miss him immensely, his loud voice, his bright blue eyes, his contempt of all living creatures and his warm little purring body next to mine. I can only believe he has gone to pet heaven.

Goofy Freya, on the other hand, deserves neither sympathy for her three-legged state nor the massive amount of tender care she’s got as a result. Bonnie Prince Charlie showed remarkable restraint despite the numerous trials she has put him through, but having his bottle top stolen from under his nose was going too far. I have a sneaky suspicion she is putting on a show in order to garner the special treatment she is now receiving.

My life is dictated by children and animals. I have no dominion over them at all.


No-one ever told me about teenagers


I’ve given birth three excruciating times. Everyone had advice for me then. I was told all about babies, babies I could handle, but no-one, and I mean no-one told me about tweens and teenagers. No-one explained that I would never, ever again sleep late, or have a weekend, or decide to skip dinner and just sleep.

It’s like getting a puppy. You’re all prepared for a bundle for cuteness and no-one really explains that said bundle of furry joy will shortly turn into a hell-hound hellbent on destroying your shoes, your furniture and anything chewable. Kids are like that too. Only, it goes for longer.



My beloved firstborn is a rower and has a girlfriend. This means my weekends are spent ferrying him to regattas, training and PDAs with said girlfriend.

So, no more Saturday afternoon lazy braais and a lot more sitting around in coffee-shops waiting for them to emerge from the movies holding hands and generally being adorable cute.

Also I spend that time plotting how to destroy her if she breaks my boy’s heart.


#Parenting3Yeah, you thought that once your baby slept through the night it would all be roses and snooze buttons.

HAH! Bazinga! It’s not.

Getting said firstborn to training at 5am most mornings is not my idea of sleeping in. And on the rare occasions when I don’t have to get up before the early birds, one off my offspring will decide that it is vital, a matter of life and death, an emergency of Chicken Little proportions to peel my eyelids open to see if I’m awake yet to provide food.

I wasn’t, but it’s kind of hard to not be NOW.


#Parenting4I remember with a nostalgic sepia tint that time when my boys were just happy to have clothes. Now, it takes them longer than me to get ready to go anywhere and the trauma if the perfect t-shirt is not ironed to perfection!

As for my daughter? She’s 9. My clothes are her clothes. Ergo. I have no clothes. All my t-shirts are her dresses, actually, even my dresses are her dresses. My shoes are her shoes. Ergo. I have no shoes.

I spend my mornings scrabbling through her drawers trying to find something to wear.

I thought this happened later? Like when she was 16?



Once upon a time, one large pizza would feed the whole family. Now, everyone gets their own large pizza, and I get a slice of one. And then, 30 minutes later they’re all hungry again.

Locusts. They’re like locusts. They eat ALL THE TIME! Anything. I spend more time feeding them now than when they were babies.

If my boys continue on this trend, I’ll need to buy a farm to keep them in food stuffs.



My gratitude that Facebook and Twitter and WhatsApp were not around during my teenage years knows no bounds. My parents were kept safely insulated from adolescent trauma.

Now, my son spends his allotted 2 hours a day chatting with girls and periodically grunting at me in some form of early pre-verbal caveman communication.

And I spend the same 2 hours freaking out about child molesters and cyber-bullying.


Parenting is a minefield that shifts all the time. Just when you think you’ve got it mapped out, the mines relocate and you end up saying something innocuous like, “How was your day?” and BOOM!

You’re left lying on the ground with your legs blown off wondering what the hell just happened.

I wonder if ’empty nest syndrome’ is actually the parental equivalent of PTSD?



Boys. What every mother needs to know.


As an only girl child becoming the mother of two small boys felt something like Alice falling down the wrong rabbit hole and not landing in Wonderland.

Everyday I learn something new about the male species. They are a source of endless wonder, humour and bemusement.


Farts are hilarious! The louder, longer and smellier they are, the higher they score.

Farts under the covers are particularly funny. Ideally a fart should have actual mass and colour. It should move across a room like a noxious mushroom cloud.

In the bath boys will have competitions to see who can produce the most bubbles form a single expulsion. This can keep them occupied for hours.

Eventually they will try to bottle a fart in an empty soda bottle or attempt to light the escaping methane to produce a rocket ship effect.

My eldest son has currently decided to devote his life to producing a stink bomb soldiers can use to clear a room based on the scientific principle of the Fart Effect.

It is best not waste energy on fighting this. It is a biological imperative, like leaving dirty clothes on the floor and eating you out of house and home.


This is very important. Boys are not good multitaskers. They can do one thing at a time as long as nothing else distracts them.

Instructions need to be clear and simple. Every instruction must contain – a personal affirmation, please and thank you, and most importantly a time frame.

For example, if you were to say, “Would you take out the trash?”, a boy might reply “Yes.” By this he means that he could, maybe, some time in the distant future yet to be specified. You can’t get angry when two days later the trash is still in the same place.

The instruction should be worded as, “My darling, you are so strong and manly, please would you take out the trash now? Thank you.”

Do not confuse the issue by trying to add on anything else. It confuses them. If you asked them to take out the trash and bring in the groceries, you are likely to find your groceries in the trash.


Boys need constant positive affirmation; even for things they do everyday.

They need to be told how clever, how handsome, how brilliant, how manly they are. All the time. This goes on their entire lives.

If a boy does the washing up, which you do every day without the slightest gratitude, you need to go into paroxysms of delight.

Squash a spider? Oh my great and courageous warrior.

Put the toilet seat down? Oh you considerate and fabulous gentleman.

And so on. Unpack the metaphors and hyperboles of genius. Make a list, you will need it.


My amazing son now has testosterone. This means he has turned into a monstrous hormonal Jekyll and Hyde. I will suffer through it, because one day I will wake up and he’ll be a human being again.

In the meantime, he will smell. Bad.

Apparently this is totally normal, some sort of evolutionary pheromone. It is not attractive. It has a distinct aroma of dirty gym sock. I think of it as a sort of teenage prophylactic.


Boys may be very independent, not hug you in public and answer back with smart aleck commentary. Thing is, they may be big and smelly and farty, but every now again, they will fall asleep on the couch with the head on your shoulder, or grab you in bear hug.

It is important to stop everything you are doing in these moments and just savour them.

When their hearts get broken, you’re the one they’ll come to, to make it all better.

When you need something heavy lifted or a bug removed, they’re the ones who’ll do it.

To them, you will always be the most beautiful, clever, amazing woman in the world and no one will ever love you as unconditionally as your sons.

They’ve seen you in the nick. They’ve seen you first thing in the morning. They’ve seen you cry, scream and lose your cool.

They’ve seen it all and they love you anyway.