Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Once upon a perfect holiday…

I love that God is inside of time and outside of time at the same time, that he is the creator of time, and that he can do with it as he pleases. I really think he did something quite miraculous with our time away. We got back yesterday after only twelve days of holiday, and yet it feels as if we were away for a month. We had an absolutely magic time.

Top Seven Blog-worthy Holiday Highlights and Reflections:

1. Recipe for Rest

Take one small seaside village.
Add two exhausted parents and two delicious little boys.
Mix in gallons of tea, perfect weather, and the occasional power outage to enforce chill-out.
Add trips to the beach, splashes in rock pools and swims in the lagoon and sea.
Ensure there is a mountain bike and several forests and hills, so that the rider may disappear, in order to come alive.
Stir in as much sleep and as many books as you can fit into the mixing bowl.
A twin stroller and regular walks, chats and picnics will enhance the flavour of the dish.
Garnish with a golden retriever prone to escaping, getting wet and making friends.

2. Surreal tea

One particular afternoon, we had tea in the garden after a bit of a snooze. The sky was storybook blue. There was not a breath of wind. It was warm enough to sit outside and cool enough to wear slippers and enjoy the sun on your face. Scott was sitting on an old towel, drooling and slowly dissolving a boudoir biscuit. Cam was busying himself with a hot cross bun and drooling slightly less. Murray and I were sitting in ancient folding chairs drinking tea. The grass was long, warm and lazy, buzzing with benign mozzies and other things that buzz, benignly. A butterfly even alighted briefly on the teapot. A chubby Cape Batis watched us from the fence. Everything was right with the world.

I’ll never forget those minutes. They were the closest thing to perfect I think I’ve ever experienced.

3. Cameron:

The holiday was like fertilizer for Cam. He just flourished and matured and explored and thrived on everything. And it was like pudding for him to have Dad around 24/7 J.

We got him a new video camera with a little side screen that he can see pretty well. It’s small and really light and I think it won’t be long before he will be able to use it himself. It was great to be able to show him the monkeys jumping around in the trees across the road – the zoom and resolution are good – and when Murray came back from a ride I could zoom in on him so Cam could watch him coming up the road (and cheer J). We tried to use it to show him the sea (he’s never realised there’s a big blue out there beyond the sand and the small waves that chase him back up the beach) but that didn’t work so well. He doesn’t really get the ‘out there’ concept, because he has no experience of it, but in time I think the camera will be an amazing tool of exploration and understanding for him.

Because he’s now asking DOZENS of questions (every minute) we’re appreciating more and more how much (or little) he can see, and how it will affect him. For example, he often asks me what someone else in the room is doing, or where they are, or why they’re laughing. He also kept asking if he could ‘touch the bright blue sky’. When Murray explained that it was too high up, he replied matter-of-factly, ‘Let’s go and get the ladder!’ One day on the beach he headed off excitedly to ‘climb the big mountain and touch the sky’. Effectively, he wanted to hike the last day of the Otter Trail and then, well, touch the sky. He can see the green-brown shapes of the mountains and the blue above them, but because of a lack of depth perception, clarity and distance vision, he can’t understand why his plan won’t work…

He is also becoming fiercely independent and yet, paradoxically, he is realising his dependence on others for visual clues, explanations and directions. I was told quite categorically that I was not to accompany him on an expedition across the beach, and yet I had to follow at a bit of a distance because every now and then he would turn around and ask, ‘Mom, where are you?’ When he heard my voice he was happy to carry on. He wanted no help climbing the dunes to leave the beach, but couldn’t find the pathway entrance on his own. We are learning a subtle parental art, the balance of encouraging his independence (with wild cheering and absolute belief in his amazing abilities) while surreptitiously guiding him (with realism and honesty, and hints like, ‘Gosh, I wonder if there might be a purple shiny Easter egg here next to this little bush where I’m standing…’).

A real blessing is that he has discovered the magnificent world of audio books. Up to now he hasn’t been that interested, but this holiday he was held spellbound by the sounds of Alice in Wonderland, The Night Before Christmas, Hansel and Gretel and Peter Rabbit emanating from my laptop… Of course he still asks, every night, for his four favourite books: The Snow Storm (riveting stuff), The Monkey with the Bright Blue Bottom, The Snail and the Whale, and his Bible storybook (though he only wants stories about Solomon, Joseph and Jesus).

He is growing up too fast.

4. Scott:

This was Scotty’s second seaside holiday, and this time he was able to experience the joys of eating wet sand, and getting it in his nappy. Woo hoo!

The poor little man also suffered from a cold, a terrible drooling rash, eczema, and two new teeth. However, he still got terribly excited by all the new sights, sounds and smells, kicking his legs wildly and doing a kind of silent scream – mouth wide open, no noise, absolutely thrilled!

Scott is incredibly patient and tolerant. Murray found Cam trying to shove a drumstick down Scotty’s throat, and the latter only expressed mild discomfort. He endures amazing amounts of tempestuous – though very warm and sincere – affection from his big brother!

He is officially waving (though erratically and without much rhythm), rolling dangerously off any raised surface, and nearly crawling. That’s probably a bit of a stretch. He is not so much leopard crawling as he is performing the death throes of a beached whale; but he does inch forward ever so slightly… He loves his food and gesticulates with some annoyance if we are eating and not sharing.

The biggest thrill of the holiday for me was hearing him say, in a sing-song voice, ‘Ha-yo Da-da!’ (Hello Daddy?). He says it to anyone, but still! And every now and then he issues a ‘Mama’, inadvertently or not.

I’m sure that intravenous dosages of his laugh could cure deadly illnesses.

5. Cam’s comments and questions:

(Every conversation is initiated with a relentless, mind-bending, incessant, super cute barrage of Why?What’s that?What’s that for?How does that work?Where does that come from?)
‘It’s very pleasant here on the beach.’ (I say, old chap…)

‘Where is Thursday? Where did it go?’ (Ask your dad.)

‘Is today tomorrow?’ (Kind of. In an existential sort of way.)

‘When is a gutter a drainpipe?’ (I mean, like, huh?)

‘Where is heaven? Can we go there now?’

‘Why do birds die? What do dogs do? Do they die?’

‘Does [lists names of everyone we know] love God?’

(Leaving Pienaarsbaken at 03h00 yesterday morning)
‘Dad, I’m a bit sad that our holiday’s over…’

6. Pienaarsbaken:

We spent three nights in the Karoo on our way home, at a gem of a farm north of Graaff-Reinet. Pienaarsbaken is a giant, scenic slice of peace and quiet, and our hosts, Jaco and Amy (and baby Benjamin) made us feel like long-time friends. The farm has all the Karoo charm of sheep, stars, sunsets, breath-taking mountain vistas, good chats, quiet spaces, wide open nothing filled with beauty, warm beds, dodgy cell phone reception, and milktart. (Check it out: We can’t wait to go back!

We happened upon a river one afternoon, and Cam’s clothes were off immediately. He was quite fearless, dragging me up and down the stream, over rocks, into pools… He had an absolute ball. Scott watched nonchalantly from the banks, eating wet sand with a slightly different flavour. Quite astoundingly, Lola’s instinctive sheep-herding gene kicked in and she managed to drive a small flock of sheep and goats onto a rocky island in the middle of the river. Then she herded them all the way back to the farmhouse on our walk home. I think she was just showing off. She also showed off by picking a fight with the resident Jack Russell, who, thank God, survived to tell the tale.

Murray cycled to Nieu-Bethesda one morning and I met him there with the boys (and a flat tyre) for lunch with Jaco and Amy at Two Goats Deli (as quaint, peculiar and delicious as it sounds). While Murray was putting on the spare tyre Cam was informing passers-by that his dad was just helping him to fix the car…

7. Wimpy coffee and chatting on national highways in the wee hours of the morning:

‘He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.’ – Ephesians 1:7-8

Thursday, April 14, 2011


We’re off to the sea! Bring on little sandy toes and fists, the smell of wet Lola on the backseat, buckets and splashing and crashing waves to drown out the clamour of city thoughts…  Can’t wait.

Then we’re spending Easter in the Karoo. Nothing like icy autumn starry skies to contemplate the bigness of his love for us.

I’ll be blogging in a week or two… J

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Birthday aftermath reflections…

Cam wandered into our room at 6:00 am on the morning of his birthday. We started singing ‘Happy birthday’ and his face broke into the beam of the century. He immediately asked, ‘Can I have my tumble dryer cake now?!’ He was super excited about his party cake, a Grandpa-carved, ice-cream-sculpted version of his most favourite household item. I’m sure there are folks who think we are the weirdest parents. But we just figured: he’s three. He can have any cake he likes! And for some reason he just loves laundry appliances.

His presents from family and friends were all a real hit (‘Let’s open up the presents and see what’s inside!’), particularly his drum (‘I’m going to take my drum to church!’), his tent (‘Can I hide in it?’), his trumpet, his umbrella and his fireman’s helmet. We’ve all spent a lot of time in the tent over the past couple of days, and all his new things have been dragged into it one by one!

He had a party at school in the morning, complete with a crown and balloons from his lovely teacher, and then his party at home in the afternoon… The fun never sets!?

With Cam, Murray and me all celebrating our birthdays three days in a row, I am utterly caked out! But we had a marvellous, special week. Celebration can be intense, and yet in Scripture God commands his people over and over to feast and celebrate and rejoice – for days on end! There’s something in it. We’re wired to celebrate – warmly and fuzzily. I think it’s part of what makes us human, part of our reflection of God’s image, part of our calling to magnify him and display his glory.

(More quietly, and with less cake, we also celebrated eight hours of neat, undiluted sleep last night. A decadent luxury! The boys slept over at their cousins’ house. J)

Here’s a prayer that a colleague sent to me. Nice for our biggest boy in the week he turned three. 

Build me a son, O Lord,
who will be strong enough to know when he is weak;
and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid;
one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat,
and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds;
a son who will know Thee -
and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort,
but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge.
Here let him learn to stand up in the storm;
here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear,
whose goal will be high,
a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men, one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his,
add, I pray,
enough of a sense of humour,
so that he may always be serious,
yet never take himself too seriously.
Give him humility,
so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness,
the open mind of true wisdom
and the meekness of true strength.

Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, "I have not lived in vain!"