The Party Post

Robert’s birthday went better than anticipated considering that he had a temperature in the morning.

We first had a party at his school. He was very proud to put on his crown, which Melanie made in green, and I am sure he requested it specifically, because it is his favourite colour.

He blew three (pronounced by him almost like free) candles

I baked the cake and the cupcakes for the schools and prepared little party packets for him and his classmates.

and the best part of the party for all kids including Robert was eating the cake, and here he is doing just that.

We went home after the party and decided against sleep-over with his father today because of his cold/flu symptoms. I took him out of school early and after we bought his present, a box of lego and some Disney DVDs we went to his 2nd birthday party at Britt’s house. There I took the remainder of the party packets and the other cake, which I was too lazy to decorate this time. Britt, Maria and the girls did the rest. There was another lovely cake there, two other friends and Robbie had lots of fun. I never noticed it at the time but he was indeed the only male with a harem of little girls fussing over him.

The day was warm and the kids played in the garden, and when Britt finished teaching for the day we sat down a little with one of the moms and shared a glass of red wine. It was a pleasurable conclusion to a lovely day. I couldn’t be happier and I am sure Robert felt on top of the world as well.

Happy Birthday my son my sunshine. I love you more than anything in my life, you are the reason I take every breath. God keep you for me healthy and happy forever.


After more than a year of taking my son to creche, I am used to the routine of settling him in for the morning which is mostly a difficult process, as I have to deal with clinging, mood change and occasional tantrums. Most days I struggle to extract myself from this, suffering guilt feelings and changes of mood myself, which leaves me emotionally exhausted before my day at work even starts.

Today was a blissfully different experience. Robert was greeted by one of his classmates, and also his favorite friend Gina. She quickly whisked him away towards the playground and they started chatting and running around cheerfully. As I left the school I glanced back at Robert; he was totally engrossed in following Gina around as she pedaled along on a scooter-bike. He was happy and unaware of me watching him.  This is the first time I see my child as a social being, interacting with friends and classmates; he is growing up.

Teething and Biting

Teething starts from six months, and sometimes earlier, and the battle with sore gums and dribble continues on and off thereafter until all 20 milk teeth make their appearance.  Robert’s big teeth are starting to sprout, and it looks like they are hurting big time. Apart from randomly using me and anything else close at hand as teething aids, Robert is also biting his fingers a lot. I once even detected bite marks on the heel of his hand; it was one of various marks and bruises he sometimes comes back with from school.

Twice already his teacher left me a note to explain bite marks on his arm. Apparently one of his classmates takes frustration on others, which left Robert with a couple of bite marks.  When I first received the note I found it quite funny it went as follows:

Dear Mom,

I was bitten today by one of my classmates on my left arm. (Teacher name) put ice and lotion on it. The biter was put in time out and was told not to bite his friends.



When I got one of these notes the second time I thought it less cute, especially if the biter was the same person. But then I thought, I would rather get a note that my child was bitten rather than one telling me he is biting his classmates. At least I know that he shows some discrimination in what he uses as teething aids.

18 Months

On the week Robert turned one year and a half I received the first folder of his artwork from school. I cannot see him becoming a Picasso anytime soon. So far I haven’t been able to develop his artistic talents, because he still needs to learn that crayons are something to draw with, not eat or throw around. It seems that his teachers at school are having a little more success in this respect.

Last Sunday, Robert’s father was looking after him, and he told me something that I did not know (seriously this time): Robert can sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I was amazed and tried to make him repeat this feat, but whenever I started the rhyme he would wrinkle his forehead and say in a little sad voice: papa.  I hope he does not mean that he will only sing it for papa, that would be too cruel a punishment for his poor mom, even for having to leave him with “papa” for a full weekend.

Yesterday Robert gave ME one of these firsts when he recited: one, two, three and later before bedtime : eight, nine, ten. So it looks like he is learning new things at school, which is very nice.

School is going fine for Robert. He still fusses a little bit when I leave him there in the morning, but he is also not too enthused to leave when I come to get him in the afternoon. He still gets himself stuck in the little chairs and “helps” the teachers stack them and carry them around. It is actually a problem to separate him from his beloved chairs (tayss as he calls them).

I am glad to say that at 18 months my son is fully weaned. If it wasn’t for pressure of propriety I would have gladly continued breastfeeding him, and I think my body knows that because I still produce milk. Evenings are still our bonding time and we both enjoy our good night cuddle, so I haven’t completely lost out.

Meanwhile our life at home is terribly busy and disorganized. I am chipping away at a translation project, and the household chores are getting last priority. To add to the chaos, I have a plumbing problem in my flat, which makes my lounge area flood regularly with bath or laundry water mostly from the next door flat, but sometimes from our drain system as well. I have spoken to the landlord several times and he always promises to send a plumber to look at it, but I am still waiting. In the past his universal solution for this problem was to pour a bottle of drain cleaner down the drain in the flat next door. Last Saturday he brought me a bottle of the stuff which I poured in my kitchen and bathroom sinks, it was horrible.  The stuff is DEADLY and I never ever want to handle it again, not with Robert in the same space.  The poison fizzed and did its thing down the drain and there was a terrible ammonia stink for a whole day, but did not do a wit of good for my flooded apartment, so it seems the problem is far more serious this time. Meanwhile, I just mop the floor and wait for the plumber, but in my mind I am already planning to leave this place, I cannot imagine tolerating this in winter.  But for now, and until my translation project finishes, I am stuck here and have to put up with this.

Seventeen Months

My baby is growing into a toddler and his personality is developing rapidly. The re-introduction to school at the beginning of the school year was much easier, but I hope his health will not suffer much this time around. Today I had a scare when the school supervisor called me to fetch Robert because he was not feeling well and had a fever. As I walked to the school I was so despondent and unhappy and started seriously thinking again quitting work. It is really not worth it to make my little one suffer in this way.

Robert’s father is now working full time and I cannot rely on him too much for looking after Robert and even the situation with my nanny Lucy seems a little tenuous as her employer(s) do not like her to come and help me out even in her off time, so I really did not know what to do. When I arrived at school my spirit was somewhat lifted when I saw that Robert was fine and I did not feel that he was feverish. His teacher told me that he perked up as soon as he heard that I was coming to get him. I don’t know what could have been wrong this time, the adverse effects of teething should be gone because his fourth molar cut already last week. He has a little bit of a runny nose but I am hoping that this time his body will fight it out, we will wait and see.

His teachers at school say he is always busy in class especially pushing the little chairs around. This is his favourite activity at home as well and it is quite unpleasant for me and my next door neighbor when he starts at it first thing in the morning. Also I am noting his increased independence; the daycare encourages that, for example at snack or meal time the children sit in on little tables and chairs and start feeding themselves. Robert is starting to get good at eating by himself, but I can still tell what he had for lunch by examining the stains on his shirt. He also insists on “brushing” his teeth on his own. I usually start out the proper brushing then I leave him to bite and suck the toothbrush for a few minutes.

Robert’s verbal skills and his diction continue to improve. Instead of Naah for no he now says noo, it sounds quite cute like a little kitten miau. I still speak to him primarily in English but I encourage German vocabulary sometimes whenever I feel he is receptive.
The most obvious advantage to his growing verbal skill is his ability to tell me what he wants. He names the books he wants me to read “oppodi” (Opposites) and tells me that he wants “gam” (jam) or egg.

It is interesting to note also the way he perceives things and people. His father told me that he exclaimed “dada” when he spotted a picture of George W. Bush in a magazine. I am surprised that my ex even mentioned the story to me because I am sure he was not impressed. I cannot ask Robert why he made this comment but maybe he sees his father as an older person who is not too bright.
One morning he watched me write his name with a marker on his milk bottle and sippy cup as I was preparing his school bag. I pointed to the writing and said Robert, and the next thing I know he surprised his father by pointing to the writing and saying : “bobbet”.

Another area of marked improvements from previous months, is Robert’s appetite. He eats regular meals and does not snub his food after the first bite. The experience of feeding him is still quite messy, because he loves to try feeding himself, and explore the texture and substance of food with his fingers, but most of the food ends up in his stomach rather than on the floor and the furniture.

One thing that I am still procrastinating at seventeen months, and this might come as shocker to my family, is complete weaning. Robert still has a nightly breast milk dose and sometimes he wakes up twice for a little sup.  I believe that it is time for him to move on, but I do not have the heart to go through with it. For one I still enjoy the special loving connection of breastfeeding and secondly I find it easier just to give in to his demand at night, rather than tolerate his prolonged crying. I think I should get some backbone and be firm about it, I do not want to break any records on extended breastfeeding.

Hard to Catch up with Time Speeding By

The first month of they year is more than half gone and “compliments of the season” is getting really old and ratty. I think it is time to can the phrase until next year.

I took Robert to daycare for his first almost full day today. He had the usual crying episode when I left him with the class assistant but he was quite cheerful when I came to fetch him at three. The teachers and assistant love him and keep reassuring me that he is very good during the day and never cries after the initial morning distress, which does not usually last very long.

When I arrived  he was at the gate of the school with Sharon, one of the other nursery teachers. He was making her open and close the gate, his favourite game,  of course. But it was such a pleasure to see his little face light up when I came. As I carried him to the taxi he kept pointing at me and saying : Mummy.. Mummy, and giving me hugs, it was so sweet.

No matter how cute and sweet, the road home is a long one in the heat, and especially carrying an unwilling baby who -praise be to god- is starting to feel a bit weighty, so we both arrived sweaty and tired, and I had no energy to take him out again.  Robert must have been tired as well because he was asleep by seven thirty which is very early for him.

Enough Already

Every so often there comes a time when it feels that things are falling apart and I run out of resources to deal with my problems, yesterday was one of those days.

A few weeks ago I found out that Robert’s daycare will be closed for a full month over the holidays; namely from December 16th to January 16th. During the same time Lucy will be away in the Eastern Cape, and Robert’s dad may not be available either because he wants to travel to Canada. This throws a spanner in the works for me, because apart from paying a month’s fees for the daycare and getting only half a month, I will have to resort to the holiday after-care and pay additional fees for that. I thought I pre-empted the situation by reporting to my planning department early and working out a suggested schedule. I described my predicament in detail and got the usual bland response : “we will let you know”. I wasn’t surprised when I did not hear any feedback from the planners but I was in total shock when I showed up on Thrusday and saw that according to the December roster I was allocated a completely random schedule with a mixture of early and late shifts and with working days on Christmas and Boxing Days. I cannot describe my feeling of anger when I saw that, but the actual slap on the face came when I read the agent briefing online stating that they delayed the schedule in order to give 20 agents vacation over the holidays. I read in disbelief that they actually gave 20 agents vacation over the holiday, and why not me too ? and why the heck did they give me afternoon shifts again when I specifically requested morning shifts? Somebody obviously cares a lot about me and my situation in the ivory management tower. The management team member I spoke with about my problem showed up on the floor and when I asked him what happened there, he just shrugged his shoulders and informed me that he referred my problem to his superior S. and they were still going to speak to me.. This is supposed to make me feel real important, happy and relieved.

Thursday was the day when I made my first really stupid mistake at work, it has been a long way coming. This comes closely after a written warning I received for a safety relevant mistake with the loading of radioactive dangerous goods, so things do not look good for this load control agent. I left the office quickly because I could not stand the place for another minute.

The Global productivity manager or whatever his name is in this company called me on my way home and set up a meeting for Friday after the end of my shift to discuss my situation.

Yesterday was the greatest day of my life. I am awarding management the best accolades for caring and for helping me. I think they just wanted to make a point. Not only did I have the pleasure of Global productivity but also Global team leading on my case. They both started what can be best described as a sermon. Lambasting me because I was not showing flexibility and of asking for stuff that is not practicable. When I tried to point out to them that I have problems and I have no idea how I could make them fit in the scheme of their rules and policies they said everyone had choices. When I said that they did not even come back to me with feedback and just hit me with a computer generated roster, they said they were sorry but they had to get the roster out. When I said that they awarded 20 agents vacation over the holidays why didn’t they consider me? They said my initial request was not for a vacation. Yes, they do understand my problem but company policies and contractual obligations etc. Mr. Global Productivity chirped in by saying that they always helped me before but I did not show any appreciation (was I perhaps being punished in December for my lack of appreciation since April?) I have no idea. What followed was complete breakdown from my side, because I felt I was talking to a wall, while they continued to dance round and around rules and regulations : I can swap shifts with other agents, I can swap three shifts within my roster, I can try perhaps and ask for vacation ( a pathetic two days) and perhaps a few comp days -compensation days for public holidays worked (of which I have a few but I cannot waste since I still owe the company so many working days). Mr productivity did not want even to promise me the possibility of working consistent morning shifts, because they have no ideas what the scheduling will be like. How can they expect 100% flexibility from someone who has so limited options, I have no idea. In all the bosses wanted me to know that I am only one of 170 people, and every one of them has personal problems.
The bosses did not agree with me when I pointed out that the privilege of sitting in their managerial positions entails dealing with lesser employees problems and addressing them; they figured that all they need to do is address the needs of the corporation. I am sorry they have got it wrong. Productivity is not a one way issue from the side of the corporation, it is the people who have to be productive. Productivity requires putting the correct person in the correct place at the correct time. Making the employee happy is also key to productivity, yet this is something that these people in their ivory towers haven’t figured out yet. We have an extremely high staff turnover, and of course it is always the brightest, the most intelligent and those with the highest self esteem are the first to leave. Those who stay are normally the less bright, those with low self esteem, and those who like me cannot afford to leave.

The meeting took almost an hour and I know in my heart that they only wanted to make a point. Lest I forget that they are helping me out and “bending” the rules to do so. The chose the wrong person to exercise their sense of authority, and in the process they made me lose some of my dignity, and I resent them for that. Just before I left I asked them about the new shifts they were planning for part time employees, I was just grasping at straws and looking for any solution. They presented me with a leaflet that had just been made public today. I stuffed it in my bag and rushed to catch a taxi to the daycare to pick up my son.
My resentment towards management grew when I glanced at the leaflet on the way home, to discover that it contained no less than 20 different part-time working options. Couldn’t these people realize that at least one of them would work for me? If they cared enough perhaps, but my guess is that they just did not think about my situation, it is my problem after all. Well, at least productivity is going a step in the right direction by offering people options and modules according to their preference. I am surprised it hadn’t dawned on them before that 170 people would certainly have different requirements and by giving each person a schedule that suits their requirements they end up with efficient planning and real productivity. Not a randomly spat out computer roster. I just wish they produced this wonder somewhere at the beginning of the meeting, it would have helped me keep my composure.

Yesterday’s trials have taken their tolls on me and I succumbed to the flu. Robert is still suffering with it; I had to give him two suppositories for fever last night. He still has no appetite and routinely spits out my food offerings. I am starting to get really fed up with this whole thing, the worry, the mess and the constant nightly vigil. If my boy doesn’t get better over the weekend we will have another trip to the doctor on Monday.