Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Birthday special!

Birthday Parties

It was my youngest granddaughters second birthday party recently and it was a lovely occasion – for family and friends, and especially our little Kylie.

It was a little party with simple decorations, practical eats and a few friends and family. Nothing over-the-top like, for example, Khlo√© Kardashian’s daughter True’s first birthday party when R119,000 was spent on pastel balloons alone! There were also neon lights, sculptured foliage and ‘unicorn’ ponies amongst other extravagances.

I’ve been invited to many First birthday parties where there has been too much fuss. By the time the last guest leaves, the family is exhausted, there’s a huge mess to clean up and the birthday girl or boy is miserable.

Keep it simple. If you have the money to ‘splash out’, wait until your child is at least five before hiring a party-planner, venue and entertainer.

Here are some do's in the meantime:

 Do take photographs and have the best ones printed or copied for safe-keeping – pictures on your cell phone will be deleted by time your child is older.

Try and keep junk-food to a minimum: be creative with savoury sandwiches, vegetable sticks, cheese, cocktail sausages and fruit kebabs.  

Children’s birthday parties are not about the adults and grandparents – they’re mostly about the children. Plan games and activities with prizes. Remember it’s not what you say and do for the children that’s important, it’s how you make them feel that they will remember. Some children are shy when they’re left with strangers. They may not want to join in the games or they may feel alienated because they’re not part of the ‘in’ crowd. Do little things for these children to help them ‘fit in’ and have fun with the rest of the gang.

Gather the children round not only for lighting the birthday-cake candles and singing, but also for opening the presents. I’ve been to parties where the presents are put away to be opened afterwards. Children feel special when ‘their’ present is opened and admired by all.

Birthday parties are not only about the food: they’re also about learning social skills and helping your child, who is the ‘star’ of the day to be a gracious host and celebrity. Plan well. Prepare early. Enjoy the day with your child. After all, that’s what Birthday parties are about.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Celebrating your period
The 28th of May is International Menstruation Hygiene Day. You may be asking: what’s there to celebrate? Periods are inconvenient, messy and painful. They come with PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome), pimples and mood swings. They’re uncomfortable, you have to wear pads or tampons, they hurt and they have a particular smell. I look forward to the day when I don’t have periods anymore.

True. All true. 

But, think about it. Period blood is the blood of life. It’s not the blood of war, trauma or death. The blood of the womb gives life to a fertilised ovum (or egg) that becomes an embryo, and brings New Life after nine months.

Ask any woman struggling to get pregnant, the joy when her womb finally accepts life, nurtures it and gives her a child. Ask any woman keeping her fingers crossed that she did not get pregnant, the relief of seeing her period! Ask any young girl the surprise of blood on her panties when she has her first period. Ask any older woman the relief when her periods finally stop.

The demise of mankind won’t be a bomb or a meteorite, a virus, volcano or even global warming. It will be the interference of science with the natural rhythm of menstrual cycles. Already there is evidence in first-world countries where women, after using hormonal contraceptives since first becoming sexually active in her teens, are struggling to get pregnant and have to pay for expensive artificial methods (that may or may not work) to do this.

Periods that are ‘regular’, pain-free, and last 3 – 5 days are the sign of a healthy body and a healthy lifestyle. Periods should not be so painful that women have to miss work (or school), so heavy that pads are soaked through within two hours, and so irregular that they’re always unpredictable. When women have these symptoms, they should be investigated – and not overruled by taking hormones to cover-up the problem.

Today’s woman is taking a whole new look at her femininity and learning to understand her body by reading subtle signs. We are, after all, like the moon – constantly changing within an algorithm of hormonal high’s and lows that create cycles and periods, lead to pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding and finish with menopause and New Life when baby days are over.

Let’s join hands today and celebrate our womanhood. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

The gift of Motherhood

The gift of motherhood this Mother’s Day

This Sunday, we will be celebrating Mother’s Day in South Africa. As usual, the commercial world has been advertising ‘Mother’s Day’ specials’ for weeks and families are enticed to buy ‘smellies’ and jewelry to ‘show mom how much you love her’.

Well, let’s forget about all that nonsense and think about what Mother’s Day is really all about.

Mother’s Day is a celebration of ‘Motherhood’. Each time I was pregnant, I would think about my growing baby when I was in the bath. I would wonder what was happening in the hidden world of my womb. While my tummy was still flat, I would think: Is a baby really growing inside there?

After a few months, when my tummy began to swell, this confirmed my pregnancy. From six to nine months, my tummy was like rising dough or an inflating balloon. Then it began to look like an island in the ‘sea’ of my bathwater. As my skin stretched and became tight and shiny, my belly button popped out like the plastic indicator in a cooked turkey. In the last few weeks, before my babies were born, I would feel the hard head just above my pubic bone, and see a tiny foot or knee move across my tummy like a little mouse under a blanket.

And then, the crumpled, wrinkly skin after birth when my precious baby lay in my arms.

The gift of motherhood makes a woman strong and protective, creative, resilient, patient, kind, loving and forgiving.

Motherhood gives a woman a purpose. A mother will sacrifice everything she has for her children. The satisfaction of motherhood comes not only from watching children grow and develop, step by step and stage by stage (without reading a book, they know just what to do). The final reward is watching your children do for your grandchildren what you did for them when they were small.

So, Moms, take time this Mother’s Day to reflect, and thank Creation for the gift of Motherhood. It’s not only about gifts and breakfast in bed – it’s about family, love, togetherness, having fun and enjoying the little things in life. 

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Tips for Lupus awareness day - 10th May

Wear purple for International Lupus Awareness Day

I had many of the Lupus symptoms, but I took it that exhaustion, headaches, and body aches were all part and parcel of being a busy mom, running a small practice and the responsibilities of parenthood. I also never found the time to get these checked. This was mostly because Lupus comes in flares – you’re feeling absolutely fine one day, awful the next. Recovery takes from a few days to about a week, and when you’re feeling better, what’s the point of going to the doctor?

10th May is International Lupus Awareness Day. Although Lupus seems to be on the increase, this may be because it’s recognised and diagnosed earlier today with antibody blood tests. Lupus also mimics the symptoms of many other chronic conditions, mostly HIV. The difference is that HIV is a virus that damages the immune system, whereas Lupus, an auto-immune disease, damages its own immune system. This affects connective tissue and because the whole body is made up of connective tissue – even blood is connective tissue – any system in the body can be attacked. The most severe being a direct hit to the heart (when this happens, Lupus is often only diagnosed at a post-mortem), kidneys, liver, lungs, and brain. It’s for this reason that people with Lupus (usually women) need to go for regular blood tests and check-ups.

They also need to:
  • Avoid infections, or get these treated ASAP
  • Avoid direct sunshine – this can initiate ‘discoid’ Lupus
  • Avoid stress
  • Eat healthily
  • Exercise
  • Take up a hobby
  • Don’t google – ask your doctor because every case is different.

The doctor who gave me the best advice told me not to focus on my Lupus, but to focus on my passion. When he asked me what my passion was, I told him it was music.
“Focus on your music then,” he told me. “When I see you again, I want to know what you have done with your music.”

And so, I did. I joined the church choir, volunteered to be the organist, and now I play the piano just about every day, simply for my own enjoyment and love of music. Along with regular check-ups, avoiding junk food, fats, and sugar, I enjoy hobbies like knitting and card-making, writing, cooking, and baking – all of which not only keep me busy and motivated, they also help to bring in a bit of extra cash.

If someone you know has Lupus you can:
  • Keep them company when they go to the doctor/hospital for check-ups
  • Help them out when they have flare-ups (these can keep us bed-bound for at least a day – sometimes longer)
  • Keep them motivated (depression and sleeplessness are real): take them to the movies or out for breakfast. Encourage them to take up a hobby, exercise or yoga
  • Send SMS messages just to ask how they’re doing.

If you think about it, everybody needs this kind of support. We should all help and encourage one another to live and eat healthy, live each day to its fullest, and to do the best we can with what we’ve got.

Happy Lupus Day to all my friends at the hospital.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Coping wtih the unexpected

Special needs children and adults

We have a ‘special needs’ child in our family. We’re not unique – just about every family I know has a child (or adult) who needs extra care and attention. It’s not something we wish or hope for – in fact, it’s something we fear. And yet, when it happens, life-changing events make us sit-up and realise how lucky we really are.

We recently celebrated Easter and, as usual, enjoyed family gatherings. Our youngest granddaughter, nearly two, has struggled through major setbacks since her premature birth. Today she has two shunts that drain fluid from her brain into her little stomach and she is visually challenged.  Yet, our little granddaughter is thriving and, in many ways, behaving the way a nearly-two-year old should. This is not only thanks to medical intervention, but also thanks to love. The crises of her operations, Intensive Care and recovery did something special for the family – it brought us together and made her mom and dad and two siblings, extra-strong and extra-resilient. 

There was a time in my life when I worked at a home for mentally and physically disabled children and adults. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do and sadly, within a short time, I had to move on and away from an institution where, quite literally, helpless people had been abandoned by their families and were left at the mercy of care-takers.

At the time I also interviewed a family who had a little girl who was a ‘micro-cheph’ – in other words, she was born with a very small head and under-developed brain. Her parents were told that she would not live beyond the age of five, she would never walk, talk or see. Today she is a teenager, taller than her mom, able to walk and hold a conversation. I put this down to her loving family who give her constant love and attention.

I do understand that there comes a time when special-needs children and adults need special-care facilities – a home or a school where their needs are catered for, where they can mature and develop special skills and where they can be looked after, yet enjoy some independence. People who work in these places are angels who have answered a calling, and are prepared help these people with love and understanding. Their families are fully supportive and look at the home or the school as an extension of their family where they can be helped.

Too often we get caught-up in a world that’s ‘me, me, me’. Like a silly dog chasing its tail, it gets us nowhere. Special-needs children and adults who are trapped in their own little worlds are so incredibly open to receiving from others. In turn, they give us such joy in return for the smallest interaction – a smile, a hug, something to eat or drink, a blanket to keep them warm.

My granddaughter, with a happy smile on her face and in beautiful blue eyes, has taught me not to shy away from daunting challenges but to face them, fearlessly and head-on. In many ways, she has given to us, more than we could ever imagine.