Six weeks to go!

6 weeks until we leave. I’m simultaneously thrilled and petrified. We have so much to do still to prepare! Stuff to sell and give away, things to buy, people to see …

Our passports currently living in a safe with our visas to the US, UK and Canada

In preparation for our leaving we’ve been selling the contents of our house. In the beginning this was difficult because everything is a part of our story, our 20-year, two-child journey together to this point in our lives. We had to emotionally disconnect before we could get rid of things. Now, though, we’re throwing things at the highest bidder! Discounts given to the person who can collect soonest. Here – have a free pile of books!

Dining room table gone, couch gone, rugs gone, nice curtains gone

I’ve met some interesting people during this process. We chat first on social media then we move our relationship forward and connect on WhatsApp. We organise a time for collection. It’s like a strange kind of date where pleasantries are exchanged for goods. When people hear that we’re emigrating we get all kinds of responses: encouragement, envy, justification why they aren’t leaving, political ramblings, and anger at the state of the nation. We always steer the conversation away from the negativity and emphasise that we’re leaving for a new adventure. It’s true. We want our move to be about what’s positive, exciting, new and full of opportunity. We don’t want to leave South Africa under a pall of negativity and shrouded in resentment.

Part of the preparation for the move has been figuring out what type of accommodation we’ll need and for how long. We’ve literally spent weeks slogging through Air B and B listings, Kijiji.ca, and random Google searches looking for a comfortable home for the first part of our stay. We need a place for 10 days while we’re looking for more permanent accommodation. But when you’re traveling with two shrinkies in the depths of winter there is much to consider! After hours of searching, clouds of sighs, and countless keyboard-inflicted blisters, we found our Air B and B match! We will no longer be homeless when we arrive in Canada. You’re welcome kids.

With flights and accommodation organised, at least for the first 10 days, we can turn our divided attention to our leaving date: 12 January. But before we can climb into the plane and settle in for the first season of our new lives, we need to clear out this damn house and buy ourselves some warm clothes! Leggings and a tunic just won’t cut it in -40c.  Anyone need salad bowls?

The piles of boxes we’re collecting to get rid of stuff and some lonely Tupperware containers a ‘time waster’ left behind

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The first of many

Tonight I cried for the first of what will undoubtedly be many times until we leave in January 2018. I cried because I missed my best friend who left South Africa for Qatar more than a year ago. I cried because I was listening to music with her but we’re on opposite sides of the world. I cried because people were bemoaning the high levels of crime in the country. I cried because a friend experienced a random act of kindness when a stranger paid for her groceries. I cried because I don’t see my friends as often as I should and I don’t always know what’s happening in their lives. I cried because we have to find new homes for our dogs and we’re their people – we’re their people! I cried because I know my daughter is having so many feelings about leaving that she doesn’t know how to deal with. I cried for all of these reasons. But the main reason I cried was because I’m scared.

I’m scared of leaving all the familiar things. I’m scared of leaving the comfortable life we’ve worked so hard to build. I’m scared I won’t have this life and these comforts in a new country. I’m scared of flying to a country I’ve never been to, to start a whole new life without the security of a job. I’m scared because the support system we have here, though small, will not be coming with us. And, as much as I tell myself I’m not scared – it’s all a lie. I’m very scared.

But I know this new adventure is the right step for us. It’s the best path for our little family. This new adventure will give my family so many new opportunities. This adventure will give us so many exciting experiences. I know it’s the right decision. But I’m still scared and I’m still crying.

Maple leaves, Northern Lights and aquamarine glacial lakes

We’re moving to Canada. For real. There – that’s the first time I’ve made the announcement for all the world to see. We haven’t exactly been hiding the fact that we’re emigrating, but we wanted things to fall into place before we started making public declarations. Those things have fallen into place. So this is the public declaration.

We began this process to apply for permanent residence about sixteen months ago. And, after some milestones and phases, we are in the final stretch. We have our passports back with our permanent residence stickers in them. Why did we decide to move to Canada? I mean, you don’t get a country that’s more a polar opposite of South Africa than Canada, do you? There are so many reasons why. 

The Northern Lights as seen from the Yukon (Florian Schultz Photography)

Canada is such a family oriented country. It seems as if there are so many different ways the government is trying to make life for families richer and fuller. For example, the Canadian Education Savings Grant contributes 20c for every dollar you contribute to your Registered Education Savings Grant. S0 when Holly and Eli reach university, they’ll both have savings accounts we set up and that the government has helped us build! Also, children’s clothes are not taxed. Another thing, when you have a baby you get up to 18 months parental leave. Once the mother has taken just about four months, the rest of the time can be shared between mom and dad (not that we’re having any more children! This is just to illustrate my point).

We’ve sold our house and the paperwork is being prepared. We’ve begun to sell our belongings as we’re not planning on taking much with us at all. Except the kids’ toys – we need them to have some familiarity on the other side! And while all this is going on, we continue to search for the best (not perfect, that’ll come later) place to live. The best place for our little family to live. Because that’s what this is all about: doing the best we can for our family.

I hope you’ll keep reading my blog. I plan to chronicle our adventures both as a way to keep in touch with friends and family, and as a way to process this massive decision we’ve taken.

Banff National Park (Photo from Banffadventures.com)

Serendipity went splat

You know when things are impeccably timed and result in the most serendipitous events? For example, you walk out of a change room in a shop to swop a shirt that was on the wrong hanger displaying an incorrect size and you bump into a friend you haven’t seen since you left school 20 years ago as she steps backwards out of her change room to get a better look at her jeans? Well, we just had a moment that was the opposite of that. So you could say it aserendipitous.

Our house is on the market and, as I explained in an earlier post, the business model of the estate agency we’re using involves us paying a flat fee for commission and then we show the house ourselves. So, tonight was a show night and we had four people scheduled to arrive at 15 minute intervals.

The house has never looked so tidy!

The first couple turned out to be Seth Rogan and his wife. I know! We were as surprised as you are. My husband greeted them and escorted them in through the front gate while I pretended I wasn’t there. The plan had been for me and the littles to have a picnic supper on the lawn watching Full House while strangers walked around our house. Because things with children don’t ever (ever ever) go as planned, that didn’t happen. The picnic ended when Seth arrived. There I was left watching Full House with two mostly untouched bowls of macaroni cheese, a dog with halitosis, and a couple of mildly suspicious weaver birds. The children promptly ran into the house to follow our guests around from room to room, like two curious chihuahuas.

We had four sets of people come to judge our living arrangements. The chihuahuas frolicked and minced, minced and frolicked while I tried to look simultaneously busy and invisible in the garden. By the time viewer number four’s arrival was imminent, the boy child (who has had a stomach bug) decided he’d had enough and went to pick daisies by the front door. I saw him stomping around on something wet-looking that, on closer inspection, turned out to be his own poo. It had exploded from his nappy like an angry swamp monster and run all the way down his legs. As I turned to alert my husband of the code brown, our last viewer pulled up to the gate. Husband grabbed boy and sprinted to the bottom of the garden, holding him with arms out stretched and a look of determination on his green-tinged face. I leaped inside and grabbed a small plastic cup, the first container I could find, which in hindsight wasn’t very effective, filled it up and tried to wash the steaming puddle of poo off the path and front-door step!

The last viewer wasn’t particularly interested in our house, which may or may not have had something to do with the fact that as she walked into our garden the first thing she saw was me changing a nappy that was so befouled my eyes were watering.

Speaking of watering eyes… the day came to a close with our five-year-old daughter pouring peppermint essential oil all over the bathroom floor and smearing it in her eyes. That led to a fun 45 minutes or so of her howling and lowing like an injured cow. You absolutely cannot make this stuff up.

In this house, we break the rules

In this house we do things differently. We do admin and prep the hour before in the manner of people who’ve been taking coffee intravenously. We make four different dinners in a house of four. We’ve also been known to paint the walls at 9:45 at night. In our house, we have rules so that we can break them. We don’t like rules and we don’t do things because we’re meant to. And we like companies who break all the rules and do things differently.

In this house, we break the rules.

We’re selling our house and moving on. It’s bitter-sweet: we love this house; it’s a real family home and has just about everything we want. It’s just not in the right location. When we were looking for houses, before we found this one, I told Mr Bloom that our garden must be big enough for our children to play Thundercats in. Our garden is perfect for a friendly race between Cheetara and Tygra. It also has a beautiful, long swimming pool, excellent for imagining the shark from jaws is chasing you when you swim alone. You know how you do? Because we like rule breakers, we are using the services of a market-disrupting company called LeadHome. They’re kind of like the Uber of estate agencies. You book them online, and potential buyers make appointments in your personal calendar.

It’s a family home.

Mr Bloom and I both love digital media. We spend time on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I do a great deal of ‘research’ on Pinterest, too. We get our television fix from Netflix. Both Mr Bloom and I have experience in digital marketing. So it made complete sense for us to use a digital estate agency. Now, instead of show days where strangers arrive en masse (or not) to poke around in our undies and judge the guest towels in our bathroom, we’ll be showing potential buyers around our home ourselves.

Like I said, Mr Bloom and I like to break the rules. So maybe we’ll have our potential buyers join us for a spot of TV viewing. We can all sit together and watch an episode of Golden Girls or Vampire Diaries. Maybe we’ll ask them to help us out in the veggie garden. They will, after all, reap the benefits if they decide to buy. I like to bake on weekends. Maybe I’ll hand over my Le Creuset spatula and let a potential buyer bake the carrot cake or ice the cookies, while I sip my perfectly chilled chardonnay.

We may invite the buyers to help out in the veggie garden.

Whatever we decide, I’ll let you know on one or other digital platform.

This time last year…

It’s 8:24pm on 15 February 2017. This time last year I was lumbering up and down in the TV room. Stopping every few minutes to lean over the couch, breathe through the pain and occasionally vomit into my thoughtfully positioned bucket. The contractions were getting quite rough, but I could still manage them (with the help of my Doula and the support of Roger).

I’ve been doing this a lot today, thinking about ‘This time last year’. It was a monumental day in our lives, in my life. I would soon be meeting my baby boy. My second child. Our last child. I’ve felt so emotional today. Fragile even, thinking back. Perhaps because I still have unresolved feelings about the way Eli’s birth went – not quite the way i had hoped. I will always have feelings about it.

He is the most content, joyful, intrepid and adventurous little thing I’ve met. If he’s not climbing up onto the coffee table, he’s crawling head first down a huge step or eating dirt at the bottom of the garden. I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s boofed his head… And I’ve lost count of the number of ways I’ve learnt to say ‘I love you’ to him.

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Eli has an older sister, Holly, and when she was born I thought my heart would explode with the love and feelings it was meant to contain. Until I realised it didn’t need to, and shouldn’t, contain that love at all. The love in my heart needed to gush out and envelope my daughter and let her know a 100 times a day that she is the most loved little girl in the world. 

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When I was pregnant with Eli I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to love him as much as I love his sister. I needn’t have worried. Adding a child doesn’t mean love is halved. Rather it means your love doubles. In fact it more than doubles. Sometimes one child needs more love than the other. Instead of taking from one to give to the other, there’s always extra to give the one who needs an extra serving. And then there’s till more to give to the children of your friends.

In the year that’s passed since Eli decided four weeks early to join us earthside, our lives have been tipped upside down, on their sides and right way up again, a little dented, bruised, scraped and showing signs of wear. But signs of wear like a pair of hiking boots that now hug your feet and have molded themselves on the shape of your foot. Our lives have been irrevocably changed, but they finally feel like they fit.

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We’re a family of four. A family. We fill a square table in a restaurant. We take up all the space available in an Uber. We’re a doubles game in tennis. But we’re more than that. We’re a family. And my children are more than just two little beings. They’ve moved themselves into my heart and taken up every free corner and space they could find. Just like what they’ve done in our house with their toys (and in my car with their crumbs).

In just over seven hours time, this time last year, Eli would be born. At 4:20am on Tuesday 16 February 2016. It was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I didn’t think I’d survive. I begged for mercy. I cried for Holly. I swore, using some choice words. I ‘lowed’ like a cow. I shouted. I moaned. I stopped breathing through the contractions and started swearing through them instead. I screamed like I was being tortured. But every single painful second of that labour was worth it. And I’d do it a thousand times over to have Eli again.
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