Christmas Day

The holiday is one thing and getting enough sleep is quite another. The situation is not helped when Robert wakes me up every few hours, or when I am second guessing myself even in the subconscious of sleep, about inviting my ex over, and giving him access to my space. As things went though, I shouldn’t have worried.

Robert’s father arrived with his present, a little plastic bike that is so popular with toddlers, and which I suggested as a present for this year. He also brought the large coffee press, since I only have a single cup press.  We had the usual breakfast with some festive stollen. Later Robert got to open his presents, which I had bought from different sources and saved for this day in particular. The biggest hit was a book of nursery rhymes with music.

After breakfast we took Robert for a walk, which he followed by a very short nap.  During all this time and until we returned home, my ex and I talked about general things. No recriminations, minimal talk about troubles, and mostly focused about Robert, I do not mind this sort of interaction at all.  Robert was still asleep when we arrived home, but a  s soon as he woke up, I had to move again to a friend’s place where we were invited for Christmas lunch.  The lunch was a small affair, very much to my liking, and there was only another couple invited. We still managed to get in the party mood,  cracking party favours and wearing paper crowns. The hosts were very generous and included both Robert and me with Christmas presents, whereas I only had a present for their little boy Zach, who is only one month older than Robert. The other guests received funny presents, while Robert got another noisy toy to add to his collection. I will get to enjoy that in the next few months.

Once home we had another visit from Lucy’s daughter and her son Tando. It was the perfect occasion to call Lucy in the Eastern Cape and wish her Merry Christmas. Even Robert got to say something to his nanny for this day,  it didn’t matter if nobody understood what he wanted to say, we just assumed it was a fitting Christmas greeting.

Robert tries to figure out the funny shaped present his father brought him
Robert tries to figure out the funny shaped present his father brought him

With a Little Help from Friends

Jenny was supposed to come join us for breakfast so I baked scones for the occasion, but she never showed up and when I called her at around nine she was still sleeping. Of course she still needed to wake up and have a shower and we ended up arriving a little late for the appointment.

Robert got his hepatitis vaccine and measurements. He still hasn’t cracked the 10kg yet, weighing at 9.94 kg and measuring 77 cm in length.  During the first nine months he was almost on the average 50 percentile graph, now he is starting to go a little lower than the average, of course this makes me wonder -as any other parent- what I am doing wrong.

After the immunization I deliverd my ill PC to my friendly computer guru, and Jen had to drop us off at home, we did not have much time to visit because she had to go to work afterwards and I was to follow later.  For her effort I got her a scone and some of the stew I cooked yesterday. I would be in a terrible state if it was not for helpful friends.

Somehow I still got to go to the shops before I got to work and I had  a feeling that I should go past Jackie’s place to check if there was post for me, and sure enough I collected the police clearance certificates I applied for many weeks ago, it was stuck to the gate and not dropped in the mailbox.

Slowly Getting… furnished?

Today is my first day off since moving to the new place. Apart from my still very dead computer things are starting to get somewhere.

Yesterday Robert and I did not venture anywhere before my time at work, so today was another busy day between the shops and organizing. I cooked my first meal and bought my first bottle of wine.

Robert and the cat are getting used to the place. Robert now runs around in the apartment and even starting to expand his interest to outside, under my careful supervision of course, because I still cannot trust him with the steps and there is the awful sumpy swimming pool with its frayed cover, not the ideal setting for curious toddlers.

I made an impulse buy today, my first expensive piece of furniture for the new place. another round table, from the same second hand furniture place where I bought my previous one two years ago.  I guess I am still sore at losing it to Ron so I bought another similar one, and spent double the price of the old one. But it feels great to start furnishing and to return the landlord’s old cane table, which looked as if it was about to collapse.

I did not mention this before  but a few days before I moved I talked to a colleague, and discovered that he stayed in the very same block where I am now living and he warned me that the landlords are terrible and told me not to trust them on anything, so it gave me a little bit of a start to be moving from under one set of greedy landlords into another nest of vultures, but it was too late to back down after I committed and paid a deposit.  So since I was warned I decided to return every piece of furniture and equipment they gave me,  because I was afraid they would make me pay for it in the end. It wouldn’t do for me to have half-broken stuff, because Robbie would certainly break it completely,  and the new table is sturdy enough for him, and that is great.

Next on the list of problems is sorting out the PC and I have made arrangement with Jenny to give me a lift to take the computer to its father (the very friendly man who built it for me and who still maintains it after almost three years). To make Jen’s time worthwhile I made an appointment at the clinic for Robert’s immunization before taking the computer to maintenance.

So there is some progress, and I was hoping to have dinner on my new table and crack open some wine in celebration, but I was finished as usual by the time Robert settled to sleep and I fell asleep too before opening the wine.

Starting Over Again

Setting up a home from scratch is not an easy feat, and I should know because I have done it before in November 2005.  Back then I had a car, the support of my friend Jackie, and the distant support of my then husband, who wanted me to succeed so that I can provide him with an escape from the drudgery of working a petrol station – I did not know this at the time but back reflection tells me now this was the case.

Today I am traveling the same road with a greater level of difficulty. Now I have a small toddler, no car, a precarious relationship with Jackie and little or no support from my ex, who for some reason resents me, when it should be me who hates his very existence.  I am very aware of the difficulty of my situation, and that is why I try not to arouse antagonistic feelings from my ex or Jackie, and although I know that in the end I will not bend to the unreasonable requirements of either of them I try to avoid confrontation until such a time when I am not so needy of help.

So that is why today I called on both my ex and Jackie. Late last night I discovered that I forgot the keyboard of my computer as well as my desk lamp in the boot of Jackie’s car, so I had to call and ask her if she can get them for me. I also asked her to get me some of the kitty litter because I still haven’t set up Petey’s toilet and I was so afraid that he will start using any convenient cluttered corner, especially since it is still pouring outside.

Jackie promised to get them for me during the afternoon, because she was out for the day.  The matter with the kitty litter was most pressing, and since I failed to get a prompt response from Jackie I had to get Mr. Negativity to help and asked him to buy me a bag.  Soon he came with the smallest package possible, but what can I expect from a man who actually made me pay for the cat food for as long as he kept Petey. I even paid him back the R10 this package cost.

During the remainder of this day I tried to put the place in some semblance of order.  I put together Robert’s crib, and organized the boxes in one corner. Later I went to the shops and started populating the fridge.  The stuff that Jackie gave me went all into the garbage,  that was a final insult from her thinking that I would eat cottage cheese that had gone off. But it seems that whenever one looses something, one gets another helping hand. Lucy came to me today and helped me out a little bit, she even stayed with Robert while I went shopping and as luck would have it I ran into her daughter at one of the shops and she gave me a lift back and this enabled me to buy a little oven / cooking hub unit which would have been too heavy for me to cart back.

I am going to start working tomorrow. I have not written about this before but I am working more afternoon shifts during August and September to bring down the minus hours I accumulated since returning to work last March.  Lucy will continue to help me out on her free afternoons. My fears about losing Lucy proved groundless as she did not allow Mrs L to intimidate her, and as we expected Mrs. L could not put her money where he mouth is.  But little changes the fact that these people expected me to stay there for a year,  and felt utterly betrayed by the fact that I was not prepared to lie down and let them take advantage of me. One of the bitter things Jackie told me during our fight, was that if I could not afford her place (Buckingham Palace that it is) – I should have sued my ex for better settlement, so there you have the logic of the greedy.  And I thought that I would be fighting to get a better settlement for my son, not to pad the pockets of Mrs. L and her daughter, but please that is just my stupid presumptuous reasoning.

I haven’t moved into a great place. Last night Robert and I slept on a lumpy hard futon, and today I feel bruised all over, but no matter what hell hole I live in,  at least it is mine and I do not have to live according to other people’s  rules. I have done enough of that over the past years, I am going to enjoy my freedome at last.

Moving under the Storm

I have been packing my things slowly, obtaining boxes from work and cramming my things in them. The bulk of my things are books, and they fit very well in the A4 paper boxes.

On the 28th I got the key to the new place and in theory I could have moved in right then but I needed help and I already established from Khayyam that he was only available on the weekend. Initially we arranged for Sunday morning but the plans were changed to Saturday right after I finish work.

I picked up the rainiest weekend of the year to move, there was a steady downpour all morning and things did not look like they would be improving the next day and that what made me and Khayyam decide to get the matter over with as soon as possible. He picked me up from work and then we went to Ron’s place (which used to be my place too) and picked up some pieces of furniture that belonged to me – stuff that he couldn’t deny, wrangle out of, or dispute.  I asked him for a duvet cover – I know he has two- and he obliged by giving me one, better than nothing in this cold.

Khayyam tied everything down in an old pick up truck (bakkie). As my luck would have it he had an accident a few days back with his new bakkie, so we had to deal with the old creaky one, perhaps just as good given the ramshackle stuff we were transporting. The next stop was at Jackie’s place where we picked up a few things. Lucy was there today so she packed up the rest of my things in bags and so on,  and cleaned up our room completely.  Jackie was also there and helped pack out all my food things. As a final gesture she cleaned up her fridge and packed for me some stuff that she would not eat – most of it was only fit for the garbage can, a gesture reminiscent of my ex’s generosity.
Sometimes I used to tell Jackie half jokingly that she had more in common with my ex than she cared to know,  I was not aware how inspired the comment was until today.

Next the pick up truck was loaded with boxes and boxes of books and we made a run for it to the new place.  It was great to have Khayyam’s big shoulder to carry these heavy boxes.  We ran up and down the steps under a drizzle that soon turned to torrential rain. Soon the effect was compounded with overflowing gutters, water was pouring over us, but we managed to get things in safely.

After a little rest we hurried back for the second -and last- trip. By then the door to the flatlet had swollen from the rain and we had to use a rock to hold it shut.  We filled up the last truckload of stuff and proceeded to unload it at the flat in a similar fashion then Khayyam returned me to Jackie’s place. I asked Jackie to take me, Robert, and the computer in the last trip.  I thought this would be one of the last times that Robert will sit in his baby chair, he has outgrown it almost. Jackie also found a bag and packed Petey in it, so that we take him along.

Before we left Jackie’s place for the last time, Jackie told me that she paid the utilities and the phone, and according to her reckoning I owed her R400. I managed to wrangle out of paying by saying that I had to pay everything I had on me to Khayyam and did not have money. She did not like it but did not want to push it.  It was nighttime by the time I climbed up the steps to our new place with Robert. I had to run up and down four times transporting Petey, the components of my computer and my reading lamp.

I was dead beat after all that and lay next to Robert on the old futon, part of the furniture that was already in the unit. We made it, we have our own place everything else can be solved tomorrow.

ONE !!!

My dear little boy, today you turned one, and your mother wishes that she could have offered you better conditions to celebrate. But we were still very lucky the way your birthday turned out.

Some of the presents
Some of the presents

Most of your presents came from mom and auntie Britt, who bought you a whole bunch of clothes which will come in handy for summer.  Auntie Britt was so nice she treated you (and me) to a double celebration. First inviting us for breakfast at the Aquarium then later for dinner and a birthday party at her place.  The lesser contributors were unfortunately your father, who came along with a present that was a little too advanced for your age ( the mobile garage with keys).  Your father has a hard time with presents and cards, he cannot relate to a young child, because he has little contact to your half brother and sister, so don’t take it personally if you cannot make a decent father out of him.  From your family in Canada, only your auntie sent you a card, it is the one with Elmo on it.  Oma and Opa in Germany remembered your birthday, but I am afraid that your other granny ignored us, perhaps she and her eldest daughter did not want to appear to kind to me. Today taught me however that it doesn’t take an army of friends to make one happy, just a few really good ones would do, and I am eternally grateful for the few real friends that I still have, especially Britt.

dsc00221We had a great time at breakfast and you had your playtime in the play area. Later during the day your father came and “spent some time” with you and brought you your present. He also brought along a chair he no longer needs. Earlier he told me he was discarding some furniture from the holiday rental apartment and asked me whether I needed it.  He said he would give me the small desk from the and the two dining chairs.  Ironically he still kept all of the things he gave me and some of the furniture that was originally mine. I get to keep his rejects, but that is the nature of the beast, and beggars can’t be choosers.

dsc00231Auntie Jackie still speaks and plays with you, but my relationship with her turned real frosty since our fight. I am keeping my cards to my chest and not telling her any of my plans. Not even that I asked her / our friend Khayam to help me move on the last day of this month. So it was really great for us to have an opportunity to celebrate away from her. During the afternoon we went together and bought party stuff, and I got some cup cakes for the kids then Britt came and took us to her place.

rimg0762You would not remember, but you had quite a ball. You had your ONE candle and you dug into your own cup cake.

rimg0772Later you even shared a bath with two beautiful girls, so you cannot tell me you weren’t treated as a king. While you were having a bath you had a phone call from your nanny Lucy, and her daughter Sophie, they all wished you happy birthday. Sophie’s son Tando even sang you Happy Birthday in English and Zulu. The phone call made you mom very happy too.


rimg0769Happy Birthday Robert. You are my sunshine and the best part of my life.

Another Irrevocable Breakup?

The hardest days for me to work are the Sundays, because these are the days I leave my child into the reluctant care of his father, and today was an extra bad one in terms of work pressure.  As I was nearing home my heart sank further when I saw the car of Jackie’s “boyfriend” parked in front of the house. I simply despise the man; I find him vulgar, impolite and simply stupid.  On one occasion, not even my closed door hindered his imposition, and unfortunately whenever I tell him directly what I think of him, he laughs it off as an attempt to hide my weakness to his physical charm, or should I say his impressive physical attribute which he never ceases to speak about.  I was not looking forward to an evening of listening to his vulgarity, which somehow amuses Jackie.

There was more crap waiting for me behind that closed door, however, but mercifully I did not know that, and when my cell phone rang I took the call just outside the house. I remember looking at the afternoon sky when the real estate agent told me breathlessly that she sold our house in Gonubie. My heavy heart began lifting a little when I asked her for the details. She told me that she brought me the price I was aiming for after her commission, and promised to fax me the offer to sign early on Monday.

I did not get to tell Jackie my good news because when I entered the house she met me with that silly “boyfriend” in tow, there was also another friend of hers present. I saw her smile while she told me that Petey had left a present on my bed, and indeed the room smelled of it. I was just too angry to speak for a few minutes as I raced to peal off the sheets of my soiled bed, and tried to clean up the mess and the smell before my son arrived.  In one moment I knew that I had enough, I have had Petey for three years, and not once had he done this, not even while he was crippled from his fall out of my third floor window.  I just knew that he only did it this time because he was locked in the room, and was not used yet to getting out of the window. As I snatched the dirty sheets, and steeled by the knowledge that my days of penury are almost over, I blurted it out: Look, it is not because of this, but I cannot stay here anymore. I am moving out in two weeks, when she asked me what I meant I told her I am moving out and that she should put that in her pipe and smoke it. Jackie took this very hard and hurled accusations at me, attacking my integrity and implying that I deserved what my ex did to me because I lacked decency. It was not composure or good manners that kept me silent, it was just shock, she went on and on about notices, contracts and money for electricity that I “owed” her.  What about paying these? she said, I just answered we will see, and kept on topping my avocado toast. I marvel now at how cool I remained, but I simply had no recourse against her poisonous tirade.

In the middle of all that my ex dropped off my son,  so we took a break from the fighting, but then I heard Jackie speaking to her mother on the phone and I asked to speak to her after she finishes, because she was my landlady like my dear friend Jackie pointed out. I wish I could say that the mother was harsher on me than the daughter, but it is not true, we only get hurt from those we care about.  Mrs L pretended that she did not know the story, so I told her that I found another place and will be leaving in two weeks.  I was more or less prepared to her line of argument: The contract I signed (the piece of paper I insisted to have in order to apply for my own phone line coming back to bite me), and how supportive they all were of me, etc. The only thing that unsettled me was my landlady’s claim that she gave me her maid Lucy.  She said that Lucy will no longer be allowed to look after Robert, and this was something I was not prepared to think about since Lucy’s help was central to my ability to show up at work.  I was shaken, but I managed to keep a clear mind. I went immediately after this conversation -while Jackie was busy in her room with her friends- and fished out the “contract”. My copy was the only copy available, and I could not trust keeping it in the house, so I just shredded it to pieces and flushed it down the toilet.

Soon after this I took Robert out and walked with him to get the anger out of my system. But before I left I called Lucy and asked her to meet me opposite her daughter’s place. Lucy has been good to me always, I told her everything, and she calmed me down and told me not to worry. She said that Jackie’s mother cannot prevent her from working  in her own time in the afternoon, and if she insisted on preventing her then she has to pay her whatever I pay her. We both knew Mrs. L well enough to know that she would not do that.  Speaking to Lucy felt good and I was calm again.

I remember coming back to a darkened room and having to put my boy to sleep on a blanked on the floor to avoid contact with the still soiled mattress.. As my little baby snuggled against me to have his evening snack I felt so empty, drained and abandoned and the only thing I thought about was phoning my ex.  I had nobody to share the joy of unloading the house, or the pain of losing a friend. As I explained to him what had happened my voice chocked and I cried. I do not know what I expected from him, but old habits die hard, and after the ugly argument with Jackie I had nobody else to talk to.

When Robert slept safely in his crib.  I cleaned up the mattress and washed out the worst dirt from the sheets. I asked Jackie for new sheets and she gave me some. We talked somewhat,  and she tried a more conciliatory tone with me this time.  She claimed she cared about me, and there were a few tears shed from both of us. My tears felt cold on my cheeks, they weren’t the hot tears of remorse and healing.  They were tears of calm acceptance, something has been irrevocably broken.

Bad Omens

I have been keeping mum about my plans of moving out. The timing never seemed right for one thing, and for another I only received a contract yesterday and I am still waiting to deliver it on my off day.

So between Jackie’s tiresome friends and their appearances at odd hours, and my own feeling of guilt, I have been interacting less and less with Jackie, and yesterday I felt really bad when she came home sick as a dog. Apparently she has been vomiting all day, and feeling terrible. I felt sorry for the woman, of course, but later started to worry whether her ailment was something contagious that might harm my child, so I kept myself away from the areas where she was sick.  Her situation did not improve this morning and she managed to drive herself to hospital, taking along an overnight bag just in case she was admitted. She texted me later saying that she will not be back tonight, and was undergoing further tests. Poor Jackie had her fair share of hospital stays as she suffers various ailments that may or may not be a result of her overweight.

Now I have the double guilt of plotting to leave while the woman is sick. And I also have to contend with my uncharitable thoughts and worry that she might have something horrible like meningitis. I keep telling myself that I wouldn’t have minded if I did not have a small baby to think about but I still feel terribly uncharitable. I hope her sickness does not last very long.

11 Months

Robert’s eleventh month has passed by in a state of chaos. Our life at Jackie’s is not perfect and we are struggling within the rules and the limited space.  As Robert grows more mobile, I find that he needs more and more observation and Jackie’s place is perhaps the most child unfriendly space I have encountered so far. At the end of the day I am exhausted by the constantly repeated NO, NO, NO. Financially we can barely afford even Jackie’s place, and my hopes are now on selling the house in Gonubie. The auction is on the 31st and I am hoping for the best.

To mark his eleven months birthday, Robert got a ride today in a supermarket trolley at the Fruit and Veg city in town. As it is clear on the picture, he is not impressed, but soon enough his intimidation of the new surrounds vanished and he started pulling himself up in the trolley. I was glad that we were getting ready to leave by then.  On our way back Jackie took us to a little farm which is located very close to town.  There were chickens, goats and a few pigs running around. I thought it would be nice to show Robert one of the pigs, so we approached a black one and started to examine its coarse hairs. I must have picked one in a bad mood, because the beast grunted and attacked my ankle. I hobbled in pain towards the car to find Jackie hooting with laughter at my predicament. She said that she thought I would drop Robert. In fact I was actually relieved that the animal bit me and not Robert. The casualties : My tan pants were filthy but not permanently damaged and I had a scrape where the animal’s teeth bit on my ankle. I was shocked but otherwise fine. However the episode left me with a little bit of insecurity regarding the state of my luck at this point in time.

What Am I Doing Wrong?

I finally got around taking Robert for his Chicken Pox immunization. The logistics got complicated by Jackie working. I had asked my friend Jenny to give me a lift there on Wednesday, but on the day I first had to wait until Jackie’s mom came with the municipality evaluator. Residential properties were re-evaluated by the Municipal Council last year, and the property taxes were calculated accordingly. Most people found that they have to pay a lot more to the Municipality as a result, and therefore opted to try and re-evaluate. Jackie’s mom is one of these people, and I can’t blame her. Jenny came right after that business was finished and we headed to Cape Town Mediclinic. Nurse B has now seen me twice without Robert’s father, and if she wondered what the story was she never said anything. Robert had his injection and was good as usual. The shocking realization for me however, was his weight.
He did not put on any weight in the last month and is now clearly below average. This trend started already last month, but the difference now is almost one whole kilogram, I was very worried for a second there.
The conclusion that the nurse drew from questioning me was that he was not drinking enough milk. A baby his age is supposed to drink 750ml of formula day and in Robert’s case I would be lucky if he finished 250ml; this excludes the one or two feeds he gets daily from the breast, which are impossible to measure. Nurse B followed with a number of suggestions like sprinkling his veggies with olive oil to add more calories, and feeding him cheese. The main thing however was to increase his intake of formula. She tried to calm my panic by pointing out that his height continues to be above average, my feelings of guilt however remain strong, and throughout the day I kept asking myself what I had been doing wrong in the past months. It is not good enough to make excuses and cite the strange living conditions and circumstances; I am the child’s mother and I am supposed to put him first. Up until now he has been a good child, but feeding him is a bit of a struggle because he is always interested in what’s going on around him, and does not sit down willingly for a longer period of time. I try tying him down on the feeding chair, but my success there is also limited. I will have to dry harder before my next visit to the nurse.

Robert’s measurements for the day : Weight 9400 g; Height 76cm; Head Circumference 45.8 cm.

It was one of those warm winter days today, and Jenny and I spent the day around her neck of the wood in Vredehoek. The area nestles up high below the flat summit of Table Mountain, and is traditionally very windy, but on the calm days like today it affords a great view over the city bowl towards Table Bay and beyond. You can see Robben Island if the sky is clear of fog or haze. We walked around negotiating hiking trails with the stroller, and then Jen took us to an abandoned quarry. We walked through an abandoned tunnel, and once we emerged out into the sunshine, the whole noise and hubbub of the city had disappeared and there was only the peace of the mountain wall and the calm pool of the abandoned quarry pit. Robert found the stones and pebbles fascinating, but Jen and I just hung out in the sunshine, we talked about work, and life in general and it was a very pleasant time.
Later we had lunch at her place, wonderful German bread with Wurst from the German bakery in town. Her quaint flat and the lovely area made me again yearn for a place of my own, where I can start building a life for myself and Robert.

When I arrived home I started what will become a quest for stuffing more and more food into my son. I kept the bottle of formula ready at all time, and tried to give it to him whenever I had a chance. I cut chunks of cheese and gave them for him to nibble on. I even sprinkled olive oil on food as the nurse suggested.

Apart from my feelings of inadequacy and guilt, I had a good day. Jen was recently in Germany and brought Robert a nice present. A soft toy, that can be also used as a sponge for the bath, I am going to call her Patty, although she is a bear ( I don’t understand why all teddies have to be male). She also bought a cuddly blanket, which will sure become a hit with the little one, he snuggled to sleep with it tonight.