Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tick Tock

Cam is fascinated by time. He constantly asks what time it is, and what time it will be after the time it is now, and if it’s early, mid or late morning, and what time the sun will set, and so on.
I’ve been thinking about time in other ways.

Solomon says,

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
– Ecclesiastes 3

There is so much of God's glory in time. I’m also glad he gave us this explanation of time because it helps to make sense of the season we’re in.

There is a time in life to gym or run for insouciant hours, and there is a time to count carrying grocery bags in from the car as sufficient exercise for the day.
A time for time-out and sorry-mommy tears, and a time to eat Smarties and camp under the sheets.
A time for the whole family to be sick and snotty, and a time to experience a rare, brief outbreak of health.
A time to let your child explore, and a time to stop him from putting his fingers into a plug socket.
A time to wait and allow passion and talent to emerge, and a time to start teaching because your three-year-old is asking you to show him how to play the piano.

There has been a time for Cammy to stay in the Monkey class, and a time (tomorrow) for him to move up to the Tortoise class. This is a big deal, if you're three. We agree and are convinced that it’s the right thing for him to go on with his friends. But still, it’s breaking my heart a bit, because it’s hard for Cam - new teacher, new classroom. He has been acting out his nervous expectations through tantrums and great big sobs over not-such-sob-worthy events. He hasn’t really wanted to talk much about it, and has in fact feigned bravado, but today we had an honest conversation that went like this:

Me: How are you feeling about moving to the Tortoise class? Are you worried or excited?
Cam: Worried.
Me: Why? It’s going to be such fun, etc, etc, yay for the Tortoise class, blah blah, etc.
Cam (with quivering lower lip): But the other children might shout at me, ‘Get out! Get out!’

He is still so little and so vulnerable. He came home the other day with scratches on his face from a little girl in his class. He is positively in love with her and follows her everywhere. She, however, showed him quite clearly that she is not interested in anything beyond sitting next to him at porridge time. It was my Teachable Moment of the day: How To Recognise That Someone Doesn’t Want To Play With You, And What To Do Next.

We’re so aware that this precious time-window of his preschool years is inching closed – this time when his heart is still reasonably supple and acquiescent and open to the truth. And the battle for his heart will only get tougher with time. He is already so astute, so quick to draw associations and conclusions, to bargain and negotiate. (When I commended him the other day for owning up to something, he asked sweetly, ‘What do I get for being honest?’).


It amazes me how God is inside of time and outside of time at the same time, and how he is busy all over, accomplishing his purposes. Two different friends, on different continents, sent me the same link to the same blog post, within a day or two of each other (Four things I've learned about God through my baby who was born blind). We were obviously meant to read it, and I think others would be blessed by it, too. And this is just one example of many incidents, of late. It’s freaky, and fantastically exciting, when events, ideas and conversations coincide in a fluky, divinely serendipitous manner, and you just know: God is at work.

Time now for bed.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bubbles of bliss

I have a ton of stuff I want to blog about, but I also have a ton of English exams to mark. Sigh. Watch this space!

In the meantime, here are just some tiny happy bits from this past week, which made me feel helium-balloonish instead of lead-bootish:

A crested barbet sat on our washing line for minutes and minutes, only a metre away, watching me.

The first jasmine is out in my folks’ garden, which means the first jasmine has found its way to a vase on our kitchen counter and the house smells like hope.

Scotty is saying ‘Bye-bye!’ when he waves, and calling ‘Mama!’ and clapping his hands elatedly and chortling hysterically. And he didn’t even cry when he got his vaccination jab on Wednesday. (He has, however, developed a weird and unnatural fear of bath time, which is not blissful at all.L)

I took Lola and the boys to St Alban’s on Friday afternoon, so that Lola could get herself riotously excited and covered in blackjacks on her old stamping grounds. Cammy climbed up the grandstands – and Scott followed! He (Scott) is always on a quiet stealth mission of his own. He seems to know exactly what he wants, and he crawls after it with single-minded focus. To my great delight, at the moment, I am usually his object of resolute devotion, which I'm enjoying unspeakably, because I know the time of being in this privileged position is fleeting.J

Lola snuck guiltily onto the couch one night this week. She knows it’s highly illegal, but it’s as if somewhere in her golden retriever brain she has figured out that we really love her, and so it’s probably ok to take the risk. It made me happy to know she feels safe enough to manipulate us emotionally.J

Other bubbles of bliss:

Coffee with my sisters.

Kitchen chats with Murray while waiting for the kettle to boil late at night.

Amazing latte art on my cappuccino at Karroo Café on Saturday morning.

Hearing about how a small army of strangers and friends worked tirelessly for hours to salvage things from Derek and Denise’s burning house.

And, paradoxically and amidst the tears, the deep tremors of feeling that have moved with Richter scale intensity through the body of Christ, in response to Dave Crewe-Brown’s recent cancer diagnosis and surgery. How astounding that beautiful, godly lives – Dave and Sam’s – have an unbelievable, far-reaching, prayerful effect on so, so many people. But that’s another whole blog post.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ha ha

Thank God for a husband with a sense of humour.
This morning, in the throes of teeth brushing and face washing, after a night fraught with a sleepless Scott, Murray pops his head into the bathroom.
‘Dee. Have you made your decision yet today to be a sunbeam?’

‘How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before beginning to improve the world.’ – Anne Frank

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Four seasons in one week

Despite consistently cold, sunny days this week, the weather in our household has been somewhat changeable, even paradoxical, leaving us unsure, at the end of this weekend, exactly which season we’re in.

Here’s a climatological analysis of some of the week’s events.

Sunny and hot

Feeding Lola has paid off and yesterday we got Cam his new ‘racing bike’ (which doesn’t race by any stretch of the imagination). He is deliriously chuffed, and though he tries to be suave and Lance Armstrong-ish, he can’t wipe the smile off his face. He’s riding like a champ and it brought tears to my eyes this morning because suddenly he’s a big boy on a real bike. Eish.

Cam regularly prays with me for one of my friends, that ‘Jesus would give her a husband.’ He’s obviously starting to connect the dots, because this week one of my St Alban’s old boys visited (he’s studying at UCT and he comes for coffee whenever he’s in town). Cam was thrilled because they get on really well. Before long, however, the conversation turned serious, and Cam began what I can only think was a screening process of sorts... He asked, ‘Uncle Adam, are you a grownup? Do you have a wife? Is Jesus going to give you a wife?’ I swiftly steered the conversation away from further interrogation, as Adam was beginning to shift uncomfortably. J

Bastille Day this week – Thursday 14 July – marked ten years since Murray and I started dating. We both forgot, and then remembered on Friday night. It’s actually pretty huge. An entire decade of love and adventure, and uninterrupted faithfulness. We’ll celebrate in style when we get a breather, and a babysitter.

Other patches of sunshine this week: very early mornings of groggy coffee and laughter with the boys in our bed, climbing and wrestling and giggling and snuggling. They are immeasurably cute and wonderful and I wish I could time-warp our hugs.

Cold, wet and windy

While being a mom is about ten times as amazing as I ever thought it would be, it’s also about three times as hard.

I remember being in Istanbul one day with my sister, and it was raining. We were soaked through but we knew there’d be a youth hostel and coffee and dry things, which almost made the feeling of being freezing and wet quite thrilling, in an adventurous, delayed-gratification kind of way. I’ve felt like that this week, except with no youth hostel, coffee or dry clothes in sight, which has been dismal and exhausting, and not at all thrilling. We seem quite beaten by the winds and stinging rain of hardly any sleep, relentless questions and tuggings and tantrums and naggings of play-with-me… On Thursday afternoon I just burst into tears. Scotty had a blood nose from slamming the bathroom cupboard into his face. He smeared poo all over Cam’s duvet because I’m not strong enough anymore to hold him down, and changing his nappy can be disastrously, well, crappy. Cam also smacked Scott through the face with a stick. I could go on.

Did I mention hardly any sleep?

Partly cloudy and warm

Scott’s eyes are bitter-sweet beautiful for me every day. I pray and pray that Cammy doesn’t feel the sting of oversight when people stop us in the shops to ooh and aah over Scott’s enormous, bright blue ocean eyes. And yet every day, with a very grateful heart, I ooh and aah over them myself.

Cam has started weekly occupational therapy with Samantha (his Aunty Manty, Murray’s cousin). I wish he didn’t have to, which is the ‘partly cloudy’ part of this weather report. And yet, the ‘warm’ part is that Samantha is a miracle worker, and Cam is making progress in the fine motor coordination stuff. I’ve never seen him sit so still, or concentrate for so long, or be quite so proud of a finished artwork! He made a (weird-looking) man and stuck bits of tinfoil all over it. I said, ‘Oh wow, Cam! That’s awesome! Is he wearing a silver spacesuit?’ He replied, ‘No, Mom. He’s wearing tinfoil.’

Other scattered showers and bits of cloud amidst spells of sunshine:

I had an exciting opportunity to co-lead a staff development session at St Alban’s this week. We had wonderfully positive feedback, but it left me in a state of emotional vegetableness. Then, we shelved our planned weekend trip to Clarens (which we’d hoped would include snow) because of an unpredictable petrol situation – but did still get to hang out with friends, and share in an engagement celebration and a birthday party. Always the bits of sun. J

Overcast with a chance of snow

The toughest, most wintery part of the week was Friday. We’ve had a few conversations with Cam about his eyes ‘not working so well’, but we haven’t been too sure what or how much he has understood.

Last week, Stuart and Tracy sent him the most beautiful book, from the UK. It’s called The Black Book of Colours and it’s an exquisite, multi-sensory expression of how a blind person experiences colour. Cam loves it! He asked me to read it to him over and over on Friday afternoon. We got chatting, and I explained that Thomas, the book’s character, is blind. We’ve never used that term with Cam, and I explained what it meant. The edited highlights of the ensuing conversation (which was scattered across the afternoon, and repeated at various intervals) went something like this (though I was even less eloquent than I sound in the transcript, and my voice sounded super weird because I was crying but faking a crazy, excited, encouraging voice…?!)

Me: You can see colours, which is so amazing! But, you know, your eyes don’t always work so well, sometimes…
Cam (quite indignantly): My eyes work very well ‘cause I went to Uncle Jacobus. (Dr Jacobus Pauw is Cam’s ophthalmologist.)
Me: Ja… But, like, when Scotty was born he could see straight away, but when you were born you were actually blind like Thomas. Then Uncle Jacobus did operations on your eyes, and Dad made you contact lenses, and now you can see very well! Except sometimes you can’t see some things that I can see, but then you can hear things that I can’t hear, and you’re so amazing and you’re so very good at so many things… (bla bla bla – Mom-type speech)
Cam: But my eyes work very well. Except I can’t see so well when I’m not wearing my lenses.
Me: Ja. But we just take them out at night so your eyes can rest nicely when you sleep…
Cam (after a long pause): Am I a bit blind?

And so it went. Snow falling softly on infancy and innocence and invincibility. I think he really knows now. Which is kind of freeing, because it gives us more of a platform to love and encourage and support him, but it’s opened up his heart in a new and dangerously vulnerable way, too. It had to happen sometime, I guess, and how amazing that God planned for it to happen over a beautiful book – a gift – and at home on a Friday afternoon, on our bedroom floor, with Scotty clambering over us and Lola sleeping by the heater. God knows all about the storehouses of the snow, and he is also our fortress where we will never be shaken (Job 38, Psalm 62).

… Earth stirs in her winter sleep
                And puts out grass and flowers
                                Despite the snow,
                                Despite the falling snow. – Robert Graves

Monday, July 11, 2011


Jesus said, ‘I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid.’ (John 14:27)

Having both boys at home with me last week during my half-term was not peaceful in the green-pastures-quiet-waters kind of way. For example, I took Cameron with me to buy a pair of jeans, which he saw as, ‘Yay! Hide and seek!’ This was not a peaceful experience. He hurtled through the aisles of Mr Price and buried himself behind racks of hanging sweaters and t-shirts. Hilarious. At home, he spent hours dragging me, Scott or Maria – or all of us – into his tent, where he concocted various culinary delights for us to sample. He terrorised Scott, in a sort of loving, brotherly, let’s-see-if-cries-when-I-sit-on-him way. Scotty has taken to climbing out of his highchair and crawling across the dining room table. He also tipped out all Lola’s pellets, and seemed to prefer them to whatever Cam was cooking in the tent. Like I said, not peaceful.

Yet still, God’s peace – this gift he left with us – is mercifully woven into all the craziness, as we trust him for wisdom and for the lives of these growing little men who are beginning to push the Eldridge-type ‘wild at heart’ boundaries (and general health and safety regulations).

Cammy had his first theatre experience last week! My amazing Mom took a whole heap of her wriggling, noisy, excitable grandchildren (with me and Coral in tow) to see The Little Mermaid at the Irene Theatre. She’d called beforehand, and they allowed me backstage with Cam, to show him the sets and costumes up close. We sat right at the foot of the stage, and thanks to his video camera, some super bright costumes and fun fluorescent lights, he had a wonderful time. He did, however, have a recurring nightmare involving ‘very strange voices’ – no doubt those of the evil electric eel sidekicks, whom he couldn’t see (too dark) but whose voices left even the grownups a little chilled. We prayed, and God’s gift of peace was real for Cam, too, in the ensuing sound sleep.

I had a moment of peace with Scotty in the garden. We came across Lola sleeping in the sun. ‘Dada!’ he said quietly, happily.

‘Out of the freedom from worry that God's generosity provides comes an impulse toward simplicity rather than accumulation.’ – John Piper (FYI: This is just one of his latest tweets. Follow him if you’re on Twitter! Such insightful, encouraging stuff.)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Of flu and beauty in the world

God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end Ecclesiastes 3:11

On Saturday 2 July 2011, at around 10 am, Duncan Reyburn and Linda Neethling declared before God that they would belong to each other forever. What a stunning wedding. Untraditionally, they walked into the church together, preceded by their parents, bridesmaids and bestmen, all jamming madly to Macy Gray’s hit Beauty in the World  (listen to it here: )

Dunx and Linda are the kind of people who bring beauty into the world all the time, and they inspire others to do the same.

Cam was able to watch all the beauty on his little video camera screen, which kept him fairly quiet (as did a steady supply of sour worms from Aunty Samantha’s handbag). Scott slept through most of the beauty, but one day we’ll show him pictures.

After the wedding, I got flu. I read once that you shouldn’t say ‘laid aside by illness’, but rather ‘called aside to stillness.’ So, I had some weekend thinking time, while Murray diverted the boys, and I’ve made peace with the fact that my list of half-term break to-dos remains un-ticked. Cameron kept appearing at my bedside, all grown-up and compassionate and voor-op-die-wa, saying, ‘Dalene, are you ok? Dalene, do you want some tea?’ He also thought he would help by dissolving four effervescent Supradyn tablets in a glass of water for me. Thankfully, Murray stepped in before I succumbed to toddler-induced kidney failure.

Yesterday I dragged myself and the boys to Pick ‘n Pay, more because I had run out of energy and ideas for entertaining them at home than because we needed the groceries. I stooped to one of the lower levels of parenting and gave them each a sucker, relying on the mess of cream soda, drool and sherbet to keep them happy as clams for at least twenty minutes. It worked. Scotty was transfixed. Cam only tried to climb out of the trolley once.

Scott is unbelievably cheerful, even when I’m reprimanding him in the sternest tones to stay away from something dangerous. Which is kind of worrying. But still insanely cute. He tries to climb out, up and into everything, and he hurtles around on all fours after me wherever I am in the house. Cam continues to have us in quiet hysterics with his random statements, like ‘Nebuliser machines are heavier than snackwicher machines’, which was the very first thing he said the other morning as he sat up in bed. And, ‘I had a small Rice Krispie accident’, which was his way of explaining how his breakfast ended up on the floor this morning.

So much beauty in the world.

Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! – Genesis 1:31

Mini-maestros - a duet...
And now for our winter collection… We have Cameron in a dazzling tea cosy, complete with avant-garde red helmet torch…

Scott – intrepid explorer of St Alban’s College…