Not just 4 a kid

I’ve mentioned it before, a couple of times, because I feel so strongly about it: we moms have to stick together. But more than that, we have to support each other. I belong to quite a few mother’s groups on Facebook and I’m horrified to see how quick-to-judge some moms are. I think for the most part, we’re all just trying to do the best we can with what we have. Sometimes it turns out the way want; sometimes not so much. Having said that, I’m also fortunate to have some very supportive mom friends and wonderful women in my network. Which brings me to this post that I’m sharing with you. I’d like to tell you about Ally Cohen and http://www.4akid.co.za.

 

Ally and her gorgeous children

Ally and her gorgeous children

Ally is the mom of two gorgeous children, and founder of the 4 a Kid website. Ally has, since 2007, established sole agency and sole agreements with companies all over the world and sells a variety of child and baby safety products. Ally has won a number of awards and appeared on various television programmes and in numerous baby magazines. All this while still being a mom! You see – we can have it all!

Ally says her mission is to make sure child safety products are available and affordable to parents across the country because it’s every parents’ obligation to ensure the safety of their child. And I couldn’t agree more. Our little ones rely on us to make sure they’re looked after and that’s where Ally’s website can help us.

I could spend ages browsing this site – there are so many great products including strollers, clothing, pregnancy products, toys and educational activities. It took me a while, but I managed to find my top three favourite products.

 

Car seat strap

Car seat strap

I love the car seat strap clip that has clips on either side of it and attaches to each baby seat strap to stop you mini Houdini from escaping. This product appeals to me right now because, no sooner are we out the driveway than Holly has whipped her arms out from the straps of her chair.

Holly's hair

Holly’s hair after a nap!

 

The Knot Genie Detangle Brush is also great. Holly has such fine hair that gets super knotty at the blink of an eye. This detangler works a treat at getting the knots out without any tears.

Baby Cubes

Baby Cubes – for freezing baby food

 

And last, but not least, are these Baby Cubes. When my little girls first started on solids I would spend every Sunday afternoon making and mushing veggies for her meals for the coming week. It was always a struggle to find enough containers to freeze her portions in. These are great for that.

 

If you’re looking for a particular baby product or children’s product, safety or otherwise, pop on over to www.4akid.co and check out the wide range of products available.

 

Angel of mine

It’s the last day of holidays after Christmas. Its been two and a half mostly wonderful weeks of family time together. And, while it’s been absolutely exhausting, I’ve loved it!

I used to love Christmas: I loved getting and giving gifts. I loved the lunch on Christmas day with the whole family. I loved the rush to buy the perfect gift. I loved the Christmas carols from October. I loved everything about it. I didn’t know it would only get more fun once we had a child.

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Christmas and the holidays are now about Holly and how much she enjoys herself. It’s all about watching her swimming with her dad, jumping on the trampoline, climbing on jungle gyms, eating ‘icy cream’ and ‘water-the-melon’. And then passing out at the end of a busy, exhausting day.

Today I’m sitting in a tea garden watching my beautiful, smart, strong and courageous little girl climbing, jumping, laughing and running. And there are secret tears hiding behind my sunglasses. I’m not sad, really… just reflective.

Holly starts play school in just over a week. And I’m petrified for her. Who’s going to protect her from the boys who are too rough and push her down? Who’s going to protect her from her own unsure little legs as she climbs high up in the air? Who’s going to protect her from the little girls who tease and taunt?

I know I can’t be there to do all of this all of the time. I know the best thing I can do is love her unconditionally and help her to become independent, strong and resourceful. But any parent’s first instinct is to protect their child with the fervour of a rabid dog.

When Holly starts school, she’s going to have the best time! She’ll play like it’s a holiday every day. Shell make new friends. And she’ll meet new children who may not be so friendly, but she’ll learn to cope with those difficult situations too.

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So as I sit watching my baby play on the last day of the holidays, reflecting on how much she’s grown in two and and a half years, I realise that we’ve reached a major milestone in her development. And in my journey as a mother.

A quiet lunch in toddler Mordor

Birthday lunch

Today The other day we went out for lunch for my Mister’s birthday. Gone are the late nights of dancing and drinking cocktails with funny names and little fruity garnishes, as too are the boozy afternoons sipping a chilled Pinot Grigio in the cool shade in the gardens of posh restaurants. Now we select an eatery based on the quality of children’s entertainment first, then the quality of food. Usually, actually almost never, you can’t have both. And very often it’s neither.

Jumping castle

This year the restaurant got off to a winning start by messing up our booking for 12 people. How does one mess up a booking? You don’t write it down. Anyhoo. We made a plan and moved some furniture around to accommodate ourselves and we got on with it. Because that’s what we do as parents, isn’t it? We make do. At our table every person, barring one single female friend and one single brother-in-law, had children – either their own or borrowed (one couple was babysitting a sister’s baba).

I always feel sorry for people at restaurants who don’t have children. Yes, you read me right. I feel sorry for people who don’t have all manner of activities spread over the table, wine glasses lined up almost forgotten and out of reach in the middle of the table, a variety of half-sucked, semi-chewed dishes adorning the table, and the shrill sounds of ‘Mommy! Icy cream!’ echoing through the air. Why do I feel sorry for them? Because you have to put up with our children doing all of this.

As parents, we’re used to:

Messy kids!

  • having spaghetti bolognaise spilled all over our white button-down shirts and once-pretty skirts
  • the table being sticky, wet and decorated with soggy tissues, questionably stained wet-wipes and long forgotten Barney juice boxes
  • being climbed on as if we were human-shaped, flesh-coloured jungle gyms (or, as Holly likes to yell: CASTLES – as in jumping castle)
  • having conversations that sound like this:

Parent: So, how’s your sister doing? PUT THAT KNIFE DOWN BEFORE YOU STAB
YOURSELF. Give me my wine. What were you saying?
Friend: (ever so slightly taken aback) Uhm… which sister?
Parent: The one who was seeing that guy she met at th… I SAID NO! YOU ARE NOT HAVING
OYSTERS FOR LUNCH. YOU WON”T EAT THEM.
Friend: My sister, the only one, is married. To another woman.
Parent: Oh! When did they get marrieee… GET YOU DIRTY FEET OFF THE TABLE! YOU’RE
NOT AT HOME!
Friend: Four years ago.
Parent: Right. Now I remember. And you? How’s James? OH FOR GOODNESS SAKE! PUT
YOUR PANTS BACK ON!
Friend: My husband left me a year ago to become a rodeo clown. I thought you kn…
 Parent: I’ll be right back – she’s trying to lick that cat again!

Does any of this look familiar? This is why I feel sorry for my friends who’ve come to enjoy a ‘peaceful’, ‘relaxing’ lunch. We know that there’s no such thing as a peaceful lunch when there are children around. Each family, encamped at their overflowing tables, is just trying to keep their own little Mordor contained within in allotted restaurant space. Children, in varying stages of undress are running in all directions screaming, their parents looking on blankly with glazed-over eyes.

If you recognise yourself in this picture as the parent of a toddler or young child, I raise my glass to you in camaraderie, strength and acknowledgement of the hours of lost sleep you’ve suffered. And I say cheers to the joyous, ongoing celebration that we’re blessed to have these amazing creatures called children in our lives. If you’re one of the friends of parents – I apologise on our behalf for the wet sleeve of your gorgeous new top from Zara, the tomato sauce stain on your still-blue jeans, and the hours of lost conversation

A dog friend in need is a friend indeed

Blackie Dog

Blackie

I’m sitting in my car in the driveway on Sunday morning, a dog sleeping outside my door, listening to the doves cooing, the weavers bickering in the trees, and the bees buzzing in the distance. These are all the sounds of spring and summer – sounds that lift my spirits and make feel that absolutely anything is possible and, actually, there is still a lot of good in the world.

I’m sitting in my car because we’ve just returned from The. Longest. Walk. Ever. Long in terms of time, distance not so much. We didn’t really choose to walk at a pace that had disabled snails smirking at us – it was Holly and her new shadow, Blackie who chose to amble along slowly on this beautiful spring morning.

Blackie is a Labrador cross Border Collie and the newest addition to our little suburban family. He is a rescue dog from an amazing organization called Barking Mad. His first Person went into a retirement home and couldn’t take Blackie with him. And we were looking for a calm, friendly, affectionate, secondhand hound as a companion for us, Idumbe and as a cuddle monster for Holly. It seems we found all of those things.

Blackie and Holly have taken to one another beautifully. She lies on him (we peel her off) and he lies back and soaks up the attention. She rubs his ears, he closes his eyes in pure bliss. Thankfully he is one of the most tolerant dogs I’ve ever met, so he’s well suited to our family with its raging lunatic toddler and slightly neurotic German Shepherd.

Idumbe and Blackie dog

Idumbe, Holly and Blackie

As for why Blackie was on a go slow when we went to the dog park? He was absolutely petrified! It didn’t occur to us that he might not be used to going for long walks in open fields with hundreds of other dogs racing all over the place marking their territory. But it seems that was indeed the case. He’ll soon get used to going out for walks though – we’ve been taking the neurotic Shepherd four times a week.

So why am in the car? Holly passed out on the way home and she doesn’t transfer from one sleep spot to another. So, instead of waking her and having a grumpy on hands, I’ll use this time to write a little. It’s what we moms are good at: grabbing those few quiet moments that are presented as little gifts from the universe and clinging to them for dear life.

Bye bye baby

I’ve just recently left a job that I loved. I worked at a woman’s monthly magazine where the women I worked with were amazing and I made a couple of awesome friends. The perks were also super: being flown to Cape Town for lunch at Babylonstoren by Woolworths, being treated to lunch at DW-13 by Soms Delta, enjoying an air-fried lunch in the sky courtesy of Samsung. And that’s just mentioning my last month there!

Babylonstoren

Magical Babylonstoren in Franschhoek

Beautiful Franschhoek

Beautiful Franschhoek

So as you can imagine it was with a very heavy heart that I left. But the decision to leave was actually very easy. You see, my two-year-old Holly is developing so quickly every day and I really felt like I was missing out on too much of her life. And that’s not something I can ever get back. For a long time now I’ve wanted to find a way where I can still work – because I need and want the stimulation and income – but also have flexible hours to spend with my girl.

I know it’s a lot to ask for, but it really shouldn’t be! Mother’s should not have to choose between work and their family. Ever! So I spent a great deal of time thinking about what my skills are and what I can offer from home. And I’m actually pretty talented when it comes to writing (I hope!) and I have loads of experience in social media management. So I decided to start my own company: Miss Write. And, in the process of marketing my company using various social media platforms, I was contacted by the ex-MD of the company I used to work for.

To cut a long, but serendipitous, story short, she offered me job where I could work for her new, small company (perfect for me!) called Ceed Learning, with flexible hours, and from home (except for a few hours at the office sometimes). And the company is happy to let me continue working on my social media management business! So, everything I’ve worked for and been through, I believe, has led me to this point: a mommy who’s been given the chance to work and spend time with her angel, by another mommy.

And, because I’m not travelling to work every day and wasting time in traffic (up to two hours a day) I get to spend precious time with Holly doing things like this:

Sensory activities

Blue spaghetti sensory fun!

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Coloured spaghetti sensory activity (you see, learning’s in her genes!)

1. Cook spaghetti in water coloured with food colouring.

2. When it’s cooked, place it in a bowl with or without water.

3. Let your baba play with it outside – it gets messy!

Activities for toddlers

 

Toddler development activities

Toddler fun in the sun

Every day I notice how much Holly has developed: she uses new words, strings more words together, surprises us by coming up with the cutest and strangest ideas, and has so much fun doing activities for toddlers. The other day Holly went galloping outside when she heard my mom’s car pulling into the driveway. Mister, scared that she’d run in front of the car, shouted for her to stop. She came back whimpering and looking sorry for herself, so we explained that we’d got a fright and didn’t want her to get hurt. For the rest of the day, at every opportunity (a loud advert on TV, a dark barking, the extractor fan on the stove) Holly would tell us, earnestly, ‘Holly got a fright…’ In the cutest, high-pitched voice…

This reminder, of her out-of-control development, spurred me on to put in that little bit of super-mom extra effort that we all have, and make some new activities for her to do with her nanny. So, if you’ve been following my blog, here’s the next batch. If you haven’t, check out my previous post with activities for toddlers.

Fruit matching

Fun tddler activities

Fruit match

This is a simple activity that helps toddlers learn:

  • the names of different fruit
  • different colours 
  • matching like objects
    All you need are two pictures each of about six different fruit (printed out or cut from a magazine), some glue, a piece of cardboard and a pair of scissors.

    Cut the pics of fruit out and glue them to your board to lend some strength to the pictures. Then cut out around the pics so you have 12 individual fruit pics.

    Now your little one needs to match the different fruits together.

    Texture sorting

    Texture sorting

    Texture sorting

    I love this activity – we learnt it at TOPTOTS. Toddlers sort different textures into different containers.

    Get yourself six little containers, six food items with different textures ( sugar, cereal, oats, coffee, tea, couscous, maize meal, sesame seeds, flour) – anything you have in  your pantry will work. Get a kids’ painting tray or any container with different compartments (an ice tray could work), and a spoon.

    Get your little one to take a spoonful of one of the foods and place it into one of the compartments. Then ask her to do the same with a different food putting it in another section. Your toddler should do this for all the foods until each is in a separate compartment.

    Tell her what the different foods are, let her feel them and describe the texture for her. This is great for:

  • sensory development
  • learning different textures
  • learning the names of different food
    Torn paper picture
Fun toddler activities

Torn-paper picture

This is another cool activity we did at TOPTOTS. It’s great for:

  • practising fine motor skills
  • developing their pincer grip
  • learning about different colours

     

    You need a plain white or light-coloured piece of cardboard to stick paper onto, a glue stick, and about four or five different coloured pieces of paper or tissue paper, torn into small pieces (about 3-4cm).

    Cover your cardboard in glue and get your sweetheart child to stick pieces of coloured paper all over. They need to pick up the pieces off a tray or the floor and press them down so they stick.

These are simple activities you can prepare at home for your toddler to do. They don’t need a lot of time to put together, we’re all busy moms – ain’t no one got time for that – and they don’t cost anything or a lot at all. Just use things you’ve go around the house – improvise. And enjoy!

Estelle the Lady of the House!

Woodrock Animal Rescue

The Meldau’s home is situated on the same stand as Woodrock Animal Rescue’s shelter. The rules of the Meldau house may seem odd and foreign to most, but to Estelle it’s a way of life.  Wood Rock Animal Rescue is an animal sanctuary which upholds a pro-life policy. Their focus is to rehabilitate, re-home and rescue animals of all kinds, until there are none left.

Visiting the Meldau house is like no other experience. You must be prepared to be attack-greeted by 20 odd, very confident, affectionate and over-bearing dogs. If one met Estelle in a public forum, one would never guess this is the way she chooses to live.

Estelle and Nicholas have tailor made their lives to involve their animals. Both are qualified people: Estelle a teacher and Nicholas an accountant. Together they’ve achieved their dream of building and operating a safe haven for 150 homeless dogs, 12 honorary cats, 9 donkeys and 30 geese, ducks and chickens.

Woodrock_1

Woodrock Animal Rescue is a non-profit, pro-life, no-kill, rescue, rehabilitation and re-homing facility providing assistance to unfortunate, homeless, abused, neglected, stray, injured, ill, geriatric and unwanted animals that would otherwise have miserable lives and premature deaths.

Estelle and Nicholas have well on 20 additional ‘keepers’ (give or take) at their home. Most of these home dogs are damaged. Each dog knows his or her place in the hierarchy.

The matriarch of the home is Emma, a large slow geriatric boerboel who dominates the covered couches. She agrees to share her abode with Oumie a Never Ending Story look-alike. Estelle often gets calls from people surrendering a family pet as they ‘aren’t getting along or they are misbehaving’. Yet we don’t have any such issues. Estelle’s reaction is, how can that be possible? There is always a fundamental reason which, with a little effort on the owner’s part could be sorted, for example aggression at feeding time; simply feed the dogs in separate areas.

Abby, a black Labrador cross, chooses the front area of the house as it is close enough to observe a new comer and easily accessible to the snack box – known as the kitchen.

If you stop Estelle to ask about one of her dogs, she simply rambles on and, with great glee, she’ll indulge you by giving you detailed explanations of each dog. How they arrived. Why they arrived and what absolute joy each pet gives to the family, insisting that she is the lucky one. She also will always remember your dog’s name but forget yours.

Chummy is her funny man – a pug cross jack russel. He’s referred to as the dishwasher and is very clever at accessing plates of our food, when our backs are turned. This adorable boy took months to warm up to touch. Today he is a cuddle bug; the power of love!

Walk up to the main room and at the top if the banister and you are welcomed by a very robust large happy loud dachshund called Eddy Bear. This big boy is the only dog that is not a rescue. He is treated with dignity and has an aloofness about him. Eddy is 16 years old but looks 6.

Jenny, a brown dachshund in a Labrador’s body, has the chosen place of her head on the pillow on the main bed. She comes bounding up the stairs with such joy. Jenny is the naughtiest dog of all and the most protected by Estelle. Don’t try to say she is spoilt or given too much rein; you will be shut down. As soon as you open the security gate to the bedroom, Jenny will sprint into the room, grab a massive mouth full of cubes and jump onto the bed to snack, her cheeks bulging like a chipmunk.

Opening the gate is a process on its own as one must manoeuvre going up a flight of stairs with some 10 dogs challenging you. On approaching the landing there is a race to see who can get in first and of course push the gate as hard as possible creating a spring back reaction which needs to be controlled. Twelve dogs, who have chosen the upstairs room as their very own, each have their own bed carefully made with clean blankets. This arrangement may change depending on snack and activities downstairs.

Lucy, an old senile ridgeback cross staffy, who walks with a wobble, has 2 main aims in life: One is to keep a watchful eye on her master and lord, Nicholas, and the other is to keep the other eye on Jenny, her nemesis. The 2 of them will raise the level of barking to fever pitch and ‘who’s your daddy?’ play fighting is par for the course. Estelle is most tolerant of this activity as she finds it cute and humorous. The pair doesn’t get into any real scuffle. Thali often finds herself involved in this activity as once the ‘fight’ commences she takes it upon herself to bark incessantly. She is a small Alsatian that belongs to Estelle’s son. Thali is getting on in years and has a disorder that has caused her to go blind. She has adapted well and finds the activities at home keep her involved. At first she was disillusioned and showed signs of depression. Sadly she sometimes misses a stair.

Buksie is a beagle cross. This adorable small man is around 15 years old. As hard as Estelle tried, he found adjusting to human attention hard. He wanted to be transparent and just ‘be’. Today he is the first in queue to take part in every activity.

Thumper hobbles along upstairs and downstairs as the poem goes. This little mongrel is a victim of a hit and run. He is simply delightful and makes for a very easy boy with no hang ups. He bears the scars of the accident but has no scars emotionally.

Chucky, a Pygmalion happy boy, lives up to his name. He is such a magnificent dog, yet has a demon nature – do not try touching him (except Nicholas). He regards himself as the aloof big deal of the dogs. We just love his ‘holier than thou’ attitude. He has a space in the home and in Estelle’s heart. Smiles all round.

The last recruit is darling Wesley. Taking care of this little paralysed dachshund is truly like having a baby in the house. Once Estelle has put down her bag and run a bath, laid out Wesley’s nappy change, Wesley is bathed (she expresses him as he is incontinent). He gets his cream and Nappy on. Then he gets rigged up into his wheels and takes part in the normal running of the Meldau home. He really is an expert in his wheels and speeds around like Charlton Heston in Ben Hur.

Can we take the opportunity of introducing our special dog last? Cadbury is a chocolate brown dashchund. He is such a trojan. Cadbury is blind and has never seen. He is very affectionate and simply adorable. Estelle has such a weakness for this dog. She watches out for him and he watches out for her. May this dear boy ever understand and know how much joy he brings to the Meldau home. In Estelle’s words ‘he is our inspiration!’

Puma

To contact Estelle go to http://www.woodrockanimalrescue.org.za/ or call 076 155 4439.