Leap Year Day : On the Inside

I have to post today because it is leap year day. In my culture Leap Years are believed to be fraught with difficulties and tragedies. I am having a lot of difficulties at this time, but I am grateful there are no tragedies.

My silent partner is still very much the same. He neither communicates with me nor with his son. I told him yesterday that he treats the baby as if he was his stepson, and I know many fathers who will be more involved with a stepson or even an adopted son. It is rather sad.

Yes, I know he loves his son as much as he is capable of loving anyone, but he is resentful. Somehow the baby will be preventing him from realising this nebulous dream, a dream that has not materialized over half a century of life. I thought that a child would give him purpose, hope and a reason to wake up every morning. Obviously he needs more.

I am silent as well, but I am suffering. My days pass caring for the little one, and I spend my nights staring through the tube of my computer screen. It provides my only window to the world. I read articles on the internet and I type my random thoughts. Maybe the silent treatment will turn me into a writer yet.

Last nights, I turned in as usual in the small hours of the morning, and I was plagued with disturbed dreams: The horror of my teeth falling, every one of them. In my culture this is an ominous dream, it means the loss of a close person. People who interpret it thus usually mitigate the impact of their prophecy, by asking whether there was any pain in the dream. If there was no pain in the dream then it is just a distant relative, they would say. In my experience dreams are largely painless, perhaps I do not have an imagination vivid enough to conjure pain; horror, yes, but not pain. In my dream last night there was only the dread and horror of realising that I am about to spit out one of my molars. I think I even had the faint taste of blood.

The rest of my dreams were about my husband. There, I had the distinct impression that he was seeing another woman, perhaps even having an affair. My pride was the only part of me that hurt in the dream. I don’t know whether I fought with him or not. Two days ago I caught the whiff of another woman in our car. It stuck to the seatbelt on the passenger side. He was out with friends on Sunday, and now I know that at least one of them was a woman. Honestly, I do not think he has the emotional clout to get out and have an affair. He doesn’t need emotional dependency, and he wouldn’t want to deal with the consequences. Still, I can’t help but wonder.

I hope my tooth dream is just my mind’s speculation on losing my husband. I can deal with that.

Leap Year Day : On the Outside

Today is officially the last day of my leave. After the weekend I will be back at work. Robert and I went to the park, and I tried to get the sights and sounds and warmth of leap year day; a day we get to enjoy only once every four years.

It turned out to be special. The sun was warm, and the sky speckled with a perfect flowing pattern of tiny white clouds. Soon after we arrived, the park started filling up with visitors. Nannies, children, moms and dads converged on two different birthday parties. The children, of course, enjoyed the day best, but the nannies came in a close second. They provided the entertainment, singing African songs in their harmonious velvety voices, and swaying their ample bodies to the music. It was the perfect accompaniment to this lazy autumn afternoon.

Robert was taken with the festivities, and ended up with a full dose of visual and auditory stimulation, and it did not stop at the singing nannies and the running toddlers. There was the busy Friday afternoon traffic around the park, and the construction work nearby. We even listened to the rotors of helicopters and a saw a formation of fighter jets whistling overhead. I don’t know about Robert but I had a great time, autumn is here, and it is my favourite season.

Six Months’ Wonder

Happy birthday dear Robert, you have reached the milestone of half-a-year. On this occasion we have scheduled you for a routine check-up at the Paediatrician.

Your measurements on this fabulous day:
Weight 7685g; Length 70cm; Circumference of Head (COH) 42.5 cm.

There is significant improvement from Nurse B’s last measurements (200g increase in weight and 1.5cm increase in length), no real increase, however, in COH. I think you are growing well. You are maintaining your average weight and over average height.
The doctor pointed out that for babies less than 24 months length is measured, and we only start talking about height, at 24 months. This makes perfect sense since infants are not measured standing up. Also, I received some tips and advice regarding feeding, formula and teething. In all I felt that we were doing things correctly; Robert looks healthy and we are all happy with that. I am also happy because the doctor called Robert’s eye colour: Blue eyes, he said, and as of six months the colour is not likely to change.

To end the day, mom made Robert sit for some photo shoots in different locations of the flat. We took our final photo of the day in an avocado box.

At six months you are finally old enough to appreciate the present you received from Jackie when you were born. The chunky little truck is perfect for your little hands and I think that you will have many hours of fun with it. So far, you haven’t discovered the little button that starts the lights and the noisy siren, so mom and dad still think it is fun to turn it on now and then, and watch your reaction.

Mommy’s Separation Anxieties

It has been a busy week, and I have many things on my mind. I am still trying to find a nanny to look after Robert on the weekends when I am supposed to work for full 8-hour shifts. Initially I shrugged this problem off, Scarlett O’Hara-style, and thought I would deal with it later. It proved to be more complicated than I expected.

Agencies that provide domestic help cater only for regular working hours, and want to place people on full-time schedule, not what I need. An Au Pair, on the other hand, will claim more than my salary’s worth. I am also extremely paranoid about handing Robert over to somebody who posted on the notice board, and would prefer somebody who has known references. I am still putting the word out there, and starting to look at possible candidates.

Robert has made so much progress in the last weeks, he is now completely at ease in an upright sitting posture, and I have taken so many pictures to prove it. He can also lift himself up, when there are things around to hold on to. This first happened at the worst possible location; the changing table. He holds on to the side of the changing mat and looks down at me while I fill his bathtub. I no longer trust to be more than a foot away from the changing table.

The weather is starting to change slowly. Last Sunday at the park, Robert and I spent some of our time sitting basking in the warmth of the sun, where previously we sheltered from its blistering heat under the shady trees. For Robert, the park is much more fun than the promenade, because we can sit on and play on the grass in the park. He also meets a lot of little friends. For me it is my main contact with prospective nannies.

Last week we started introducing formula bottles to Robert. It was a struggle initially. He kept playing with the silicon nipple and chewing it, until he figured out that there is actually something to drink in there, but even then it took him some time to get to the taste. Formula milk looks much thicker and more substantial than breast milk, but he is starting to get the taste. Last week I spent almost half an hour trying to talk him into drinking 25ml, now Ron gives him a 100ml bottle in the morning, without much difficulty.

I feel a mixture of pride and sadness at my baby’s growing independence. Soon he will not need me as a source of sustenance, and it makes me a little bit sad. But this is one many lessons that I will definitely need to learn, and the first of many occasions where I will have to let go of my son, and be proud and happy about it.

It is very humbling, to look at my child and know that this little person is somebody I will love for the rest of my life, no matter how or what he turns out to be. He is my heart and my very soul, but he is a person in his own right, and I still need to prepare him for his own life, where my role will gradually diminish while my love remains the same. Bless you my mother for giving me the gift of unconditional love. I only started appreciating it when I looked into the eyes of my newborn son.

Being a mother is a very emotional experience, but I am in good company. Don Mills Diva has a lot to say about the ultimate transformation in a mother’s life, becoming a mother-in-law. And I thought I was the only mother who fretted prematurely about the day my baby will bring along his girlfriend.

The History that Brought us Robert

Looking at my son I cannot help think about all the history that contributed to his presence with me today. I think about all the choices grandparents made to bring him about, and all the mixture of genes and traits that shape his every characteristic.

This post is in memory of my grandmother, who left this world thirty years ago today. If she had survived, she would have been only 85, and she would have been a wonderful great granny.

My grandmother Gerda was born in Berlin. Sometime during WWII she met my Syrian grandfather Abdul, and she made a choice to leave her war-torn country and start a life with him in a foreign land. She lived in Syria for the rest of her life, and was laid to rest there in 1978. Unfortunately, I did not get know her well enough or speak to her as an adult. I can only cherish my childish memories of her; the Christmas treats and bakes, the Easter egg hunt on her terrace, playing tic-tac-toe, and filling up pages and pages of colouring books. My siblings and cousins do not have even these lovely memories to hold on to, she was taken from us all too soon. In her short visit to this world, she touched the lives of many people, with generosity, laughter and integrity. I bet she also had a great mind, and would have been one heck of an interesting person to talk to.

Her mother Anna survived her for a few years. Every year without fail she used to send me a birthday card, with old fashioned pictures of little girls, birds and bunnies. They were inked in her graceful cursive German script. Great grandma married relatively late, her husband Opa Erich was a WWI veteran. Grandma Gerda was their only daughter.

The next generation includes my mother; the middle of three sisters. A Libran by birth, she stands for balance and symmetry. She is definitely the anchor of our family, and neither me nor my sister can hold a candle to her. Again, the paths of my mother’s life have diverged and twisted for decades; we swapped countries and homes many times. Through this all she remained the pillar and the heart of our family. Above all she is a great mother, who loved us and taught us well. Oma Gerda would have been pleased to know that her daughter now lives in Berlin, the reunited city of her birth. In honour to my grandma we all speak German, and I would love for my little son to speak the language too.

One day I will tell Robert about his great grandparents, I owe my existence to their courage and love. Perhaps my grandmother’s adventurous nature filtered down to me, and made me also follow my heart into a foreign land and choose to be with Robert’s father. It is nice to think that part of my grandmother will be left with Robert to pass along.

The chain of women has been broken on our side of the family. My mother doesn’t have any granddaughters yet. My cousin Lara has to carry the tradition to her own daughters and perhaps she will be able to tell them a little about the history of the women who have –directly or indirectly- given birth to her.


The problem with marriage is that you take the power of shaping your destiny from your own hands and give it –at least partially- to someone else. I now realize with certain bitterness that this is where I am at. It is depressing to see my efforts of trying to forge ahead thwarted by the apathy of my husband. He doesn’t know what he wants, he doesn’t know where he wants to go, and I am forced to sit and tread water here with him.

I think that deep down he knows that the situation he finds himself in is his own doing. I did not hold a gun to his head and force him to come back, and I definitely did not have his baby without his consent. It was a mutual decision. Still, he does not know what to do next; he doesn’t have a plan and refuses to make a move in ANY direction. He moans and complains that he is relegated to housework, yet refuses any suggestion of hiring a domestic worker or a maid. So, you can neither walk in front of him or behind him, which is very annoying.

If it wasn’t for him, I would be starting a life somewhere; in a little village in the Western Cape, in Germany or even Canada. Living in a flat is not his kind of life, and not for him is the life in Europe, nor the rat race of Canada. The solution? none, just sit there and feel sorry for yourself. Yet, he has the nerve to accuse me of limiting his lifestyle and pushing him behind.

Face it man. It is always you who drops the ball. You had a wife and children, yet you dropped them and wanted to carry on with your life. You had a job for life in Saudi Aramco but you dropped it and left to go somewhere else. You had a girlfriend who adored you and cooked and cleaned after you and worshipped you like a good servant, yet you dropped her (because the poor thing had baggage and you couldn’t be bothered). Then you chose to marry some unknown quantity, somebody you met over the internet, much younger than you (yours truly) and you almost dropped me right away – I didn’t allow you though. I stuck with my choice, and put up with many miserable years, to see this whole thing through. You worked at IBM, they almost transferred you to Cape Town, again you dropped them and moved to some other company. Then you dropped these people too, although you had a great job and earned a truck-load of money. Then when we bought the gas station, I was with you every step of the way, but you made my life so miserable and pushed me out of working with you, then out of your life. I just had to drop you for the first time! Because you refused to give me an inch of breathing space, you controlled my every move. even my salary you paid into YOUR bank account, remember that? At least you had the grace to pay my tax bill. When you finally dropped the gas station you wanted to pass the buck on me. I was in Cape Town and you wanted to get back with me so desperately, you made me choke. And I choked, and I dropped you for the second time. It was only normal. I was powerless for seven years, and I was about to give you the power again, I was not comfortable with that, it was too early for my wounds to heal. In the end I relented, it was my choice though, I tried to get through divorcing you but found it against my nature and ethics, and I begged you to come back, and you did. I wanted you back because I realized I still loved you, but you came back to me because you didn’t have any better plans. We had a baby because you were so unhappy you thought MAYBE this is what was missing from your life. I had a baby because I knew this is what I wanted more than anything in the world.

The end result for me: I am still happy. I was always capable of being happy, and now my baby is someone I can love for the rest of my life. I will never be alone. My baby gives me so much happiness, yet he is also my ultimate trap. I can’t leave his father anymore, and with that you have the ultimate power over us. You can shape our destiny and our future, and I am not sure I like that.

The end result for you: Still unhappy, you never were, and you never will be. You keep rehashing the past, I dropped you twice, you say, the second time was on your birthday. True, but let’s suppose that I never did that; would things have been any different? I know the answer and you should too. Nothing would have been any different, we would still be here at the same juncture. The problem is not me man, it is YOU. FACE IT !





Sitting Pretty

Robert is now finding it easier to sit for a longer time unassisted. A week ago, it took his full concentration to keep himself balanced, now he is starting to play and grab for stuff from this sitting position. I still need to be around him to catch support him if he flops over unexpectedly, though.

While on his stomach he sometimes pushes up on his knees and arches his back, and then starts rocking his little butt forward and back as if warming up for a leap. A friend told me that this is a clear indication that a little one is warming up his engine and getting ready to go. It won’t be long before he crawls.

Last week we had one extremely hot day, followed by a muggy and cloudy day, then a rainy and cold day. It seems that we are already changing over to autumn weather, but none of us really mind that. Anything is better than the extreme heat.

On Saturday Robert was invited to his friend Demi’s first birthday. We got there a little late because I did not want to wake him up from his nap, but he still had a good chance to play and socialize with some young friends, and a few pretty girls too. My friend Britt organized the party at a kid’s venue, which has the correct toys and activity areas. The hire of the venue includes the use of all crockery, cutlery and the service of the cleaning staff. All one needs is the guests and some food. This is a brilliant idea, because it means that mom and dad get to enjoy the party without worrying about the cleanup afterwards.

Robert was one of the youngest babies at the party, this made his participation a little passive, but he did enjoy some new activities:

For example riding on a yellow snail

Hanging out with auntie Britt.

Pretending to be busy when the guys try to make conversation.

Getting all the attention of a pretty girl.

and chilling in the ball pond

Little Demi was born last year on Valentine’s Day, and she is now a perfect little personality, walking, playing, communicating and munching on popcorn ! They do grow very quickly. It will be still some time before my little one eats popcorn but he is enjoying his rice cereal, and I now give him a daily midday meal of three heaped table spoons.

I am still worried about how we will manage when I go back to work, and I definitely need to come up with solutions for the weekends when I work for the full eight-hour shifts. Ron now realizes that entertaining Robert is not so easy. He is becoming more active, more vocal and more demanding every week. He can also get very tiresome and irritable when he misses his nap time, which happens more often than not. He is also still drooling profusely, and rubbing his gums violently, which makes me think again of teething.

Let’s (not) Turn Him into a Pumpkin

Thirty five minutes left to midnight, and I am tempted to wait up and see whether my husband will come back as a pumpkin. Good for him, this is the second Friday in a row where he has been out. It makes me feel less guilty about the small tubs of ice cream, the Chocolate Brownie Avalanche, and the threesome mint chocolate bars I feast on while pretending to take the baby for a walk in the pram.

What a life, eh? I normally feel guilty whenever I go out without him; I doubt that he ever feels this way about me. Today, is the day after Valentine’s Day. I was never really big on pink hearts and chocolates, and I don’t remember getting any. Last year at this time I got a small teddy with a heart; it was a mass present from work. It still made me feel happy, because by then I knew that I had a tiny baby growing inside me, and the small teddy was going to be its first toy. For months it sat on top of my monitor, and whenever I looked at it I smiled and thought of my little baby. Now the bear is attached to my son’s mobile and he is the one who looks at it and talks to it every morning.

This year was supposed to be great, and it is really going nowhere so far. I am treading water, reading trash, knitting from stash and blogging nonsense. Today I tried to take a positive step and do some freelance work. I bid for a job and ended up doing its proofreading. It was hardly worth the effort, but I thought of it as a marketing strategy, to get to know new clients and break new grounds. I am bidding for other jobs and applying to agencies that are looking for a word-crafter. Hmm, that is actually a good name for a serious blog that combines knitting with writing, maybe one day once I get this nastiness out of my system. Will I ever get that far? I wonder.

Fifteen minutes left to midnight, and still no sign of my pumpkin. Tell you what, I am going to brush my teeth and turn in. I have had this glaring monitor and the humming of my processor fan keeping me company for almost five hours now; I have had enough of this miserable evening. I am going to meet some interesting people, in a trashy novel.

At five minutes to midnight my husband arrived. He said he prefers hiking to doing the rounds of the bars. Somehow I am optimistic that he will find more substance with me than with these false friends. Hopeful.

Making Plans

The countdown is on. I am going back to work in less than three weeks. Today I even received my shift plan, and it is time to make plans for the next phase. I will be working four-hour shifts during the week, and full eight-hour shifts on some weekends. Ron and I agreed that I should find a nanny to look after Robert when I work weekends, and he will try to manage for the rest of the time. It is all tentative at this point, and we will have to see how practical the arrangement is. Robert has progressed from half a teaspoon of rice cereal, and can now finish two tablespoons of it. The bottle is in the cupboard ready for a test drive, and all we need is some formula and water.

On Wednesday we took him for his second (and last) Rotavirus vaccination. It is an oral dose, and I have been dreading it, because he had such an adverse reaction to the first dose. This time he had almost no problems. Baby’s measurements this week: Weight 7460g; Height 68.5cm; Circumference of Head 42.4cm. His weight gain has slowed down as it should and he is now averaging 100g per week. The nurse also noted that he only grew 0.5cm in the last three weeks, but this is probably due to the inaccuracy of the process, but even with this Robert is still in the 90th percentile in height. His head though is getting bigger, he added one more centimeter on the measures since last week.

Thursday I took him to visit my friend Jackie, where we spent the morning. Robert felt very much at home, and even went to sleep in her room, hugging a little pink teddy bear. He was curious about everything especially Jackie’s gorgeous cat. Unlike our skittish Petey, Spliff came close and let him have a good look at her (under my watchful eye of course).

This week I also noticed that Robert is starting to put himself into crawling position. He sometimes lifts his butt up in the air and then pushes his chest off the floor. He also lifts his chest quite high off the floor and then propels himself forward with his legs. Most of the time though he inches himself backwards, and I keep putting him back in the centre of the playmate. He now turns over so quickly, it is no longer safe to leave him on the centre of the bed, not ever for a moment. I am dreading the day, when he will find a way to turn over on the concave changing mat.

The Pharaohs

Egypt won their sixth Africa Cup of Nations championship (AFCON) yesterday. In this country most people would have preferred it to go to Cameroon, not North Africa.

There is a deep divide between the north and south, even here in Africa. The prevailing feeling is that the northerners are not real Africans, and this perception might hold more than a little bit of truth. The North Africans are fair-skinned, live in different climate and ecosystems, and most importantly they are from a race which colonised the rest of Africa centuries ago. Their ancestors traded other Africans as slaves, and prosecuted them as heathen.

In modern times the divide is still clear, as is the mutual distrust between real Africans (Sub-saharan) and the northern inhabitants of this continent.

In my experience the Egyptians think of themselves above the rest of Africa. They are the pharaohs, they had the civilization, and they are not Africans.

I had the questionable honour of taking part in professional African forum in this country, where one of the delegates was Egyptian. The delegate thought that because of my origins I was bound to feel certain affinity towards him. He considered me to be one of his people, and did not bother to hide his disdain to all things African.

He found fault in everything from the travel arrangements, to the flights, the hotel and even the food – which was disgusting according to him. I tried very hard to tone down this negative attitude, and harder still to sympathize or relate to him. But as the hours passed, I started to identify with the African he disdained and condescended and was no longer the Arab he wanted to gang up with. The incident widened the rift between me and my origins and brought me closer to my adopted African identity. Would my attitude be different, if I also came from the land of the Pharaohs?