Quarterly report. Or 3 months in South Africa

** Editors note: this post was originally written 2+ weeks ago. Lots has happened since then and at the risk of seeming dramatic and cryptic (it’s just that this is not my tale to tell,) right now, life is quite confusing and sad and intense. All that to say that  this feels like an extremely shallow synopsis/overview but it might help to clear up a little bit about where we all are right now, geographically at least.

So! Ella and I have been here for 3 (*and a half) months. And they have been an eventful 3 months.

If you had to tell me one year ago that I would be sitting writing this in a sleek apartment in Cape Town where I was living alone with my 3 year old while the rest of my family resides on the other side of the world, well I would have waited for the alarm to go off . Tres bizarre. What the heck?  Recently my sister (who I now spend most of every day with) and I found ourselves walking through a mall, each pushing a shopping cart with a mewling three year old in it and just started laughing at what  weird turn our lives had taken.  Life is full of surprises.

I’ve got to tell you though, that as unsettled and crazy and often stressful and thoroughly unpredictable and truly painful this journey has been at times, I feel such a sense of triumph that I am on it. I have felt this urging from within or from above or both for years now to break out of the rut. To get out of my comfort zone and do something crazy and scary and follow a dream.  The dream has not panned out the way I hoped so far,  but I don’t feel like the experiment was a failure. It’s tough to express how much one learns by just taking the leap out of comfort and safety. Those two things are really groovy but they can easily lead to stagnation and I was starting to feel so numb.  I wanted to feel ALIVE. Pain et al.  Now to be fair, 2014 was all about the physical pain. I experienced more physical pain last year than in the rest of my life combined. (I’ve had a really physically blessed life). And that taught me a lot.  Like about respecting and loving our physical bodies regardless of what they look like. If you can do what you want to do, more or less, without being blinded by pain,  you’ve got no business complaining about that body. Which is not to say I don’t but I’m making progress.

Speaking of bodies..I’ve joined a beautiful people gym in an affluent area of Cape Town after having spent the last 3 months feverishly stuffing my face with every delicacy South Africa has to offer. (Something I really can’t bring myself to regret. I can lose the weight, but you don’t get to have high tea at the Royal Palace in sun city every day..or breakfast buffet at the Cascades, or your mom’s milktert…or koeksusters or ….ok you get the picture). Don’t you? OK here let me help you out:

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Anyway about this gym. My sister and I want to start filming The Real Housewives of Cape Town there.  It’s quite something. I’ve never seen so many impeccable bodies in one place. Truly, I look like a different species compared to the rest of the clientele.  Like, if it were a game park in there I would be the leopard with the kill up in the tree (not because I am fast and feline and inclined to dragging dead bodies up into trees, but because this would be a very rare thing to spot in a game park.  Also do you see how my analogies have become South African now? Ahhhh…so good to be back. ) If this gym were a game park, people would tip one another off excitedly as they passed in the hallways, “hey if you keeping going past that row of bikes you’re going to find a short limbed obese female on the elliptical. Hair scraped back in a pony.  And she’s not even wearing makeup! Hurry though, she looked like she was about to drop, I don’t think she will be there for long!”

The nice thing about gaining the perspective of a year liberally sprinkled with pain and closing in on 40 years old, is that whereas a year or two ago,  I would have felt apologetic about being there and uncomfortable about what people may think about me and now, I now feel large and in charge. I don’t care what people think about me but if I am honest, I do feel irritated that I have a bunch of extra fat to carry around. Aint nobody got time for that. I am annoyed that my clothes are uncomfortable, and my general oompah loompah appearance is not one I enjoy gazing upon because it just doesn’t feel like ME, so that serves as incentive to maybe reign in the feeding frenzy and up the calorie burn a bit.

Where was I? If  most of last year was a lesson in physical pain and the appreciation of body and health,  these last few months have been a lesson in surrendering control and living in the moment.  I think the most repeated response I have had to any question about my life lately has been, “I don’t know” or “I guess we will see”. I have never felt so thoroughly out of control of my life before. Not in the bad omigosh everything is spiraling make it stop way, more in the, “I wonder what will happen next?” kind of way.  Which is kind of fun to me. I know this is progress because my former control freak would have found NOTHING fun about that but I have become strangely comfortable with this state of  not knowing, waiting to see-ness.  Full disclosure:  My c’est la vie attitude might have a lot to do with the fact that I’m living a pretty cushy life right now. A beautiful locale with great weather, great food, tons of fun field trips with my sister who has been so very good to me...it’s hard to complain too much when you’re living in these circumstances you know?  But it’s not all perfect. I lack independence in many ways since I’m not driving and I’m missing my little family something fierce my friends.

OK A brief synopsis of how I went from living in Ohio to this rather strange state of affairs in three months.

Three months ago-November 1st:  I leave Ohio, 3 of my 5 children in tow. I am leaving prior to the rest of the family as I need to enroll my middle two in school the first week in November or they will lose their places there. My older two and husband will join us in December.

-We experience joy and turbulence (a good portion of both) as the kids adjust to the culture shock, new schools, new home, new climate, living with granny and grandpa and being away from their dad, siblings and friends.  We enjoy tons of cousin/sibling time!

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December 8: My two elder children arrive,

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we prepare to enroll them in schools in Johannesburg. Here are Benj and Gabe posing in front of my old high school. They were supposed to go to this school too..

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I couldn’t resist posing in one of the desks set out for cleaning. They appear to be the same ones I sat in…a few years ago.

-By now..School is out for the middle two and so it is pretty much party time for all. Huge thanks to Aunty Thalia and Uncle Shaun for facilitating a great deal of the good times during this period of time!

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We prepare for Christmas by putting a South African spin on our Christmas traditions. We did the 12 days of Christmas for somebody different every day.  We get a wire baobab tree and commission some beaded ornaments. We were surprised by a South African elf on the shelf by the name of Tokkie…and later by our old friend Buddy who apparently caught a ride with the boys from America…

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December 24th: My husband arrives, to spend the holidays with us and to scout out job opportunities. 

We spend Christmas as a complete family for the first time in 16 years. And New Year too (minus Luke and co)  Sadly my camera ate most of the Christmas pics but here’s a boxing day pic from baby Amelia’s blessing day.  The gang’s all here, apart from Luke’s wife and daughter who were sadly, sick. :( 

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Christmas play written directed producted and performed by the kids. It was a great one.

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-We embark  upon an almost month long adventure of traveling the country, being with family and having fun. It’s the best. Seriously we had the most incredible time and that in and of itself is a lifetime dream come true. My kids got to see and experience so many amazing things. I feel completely blessed.

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Ziplining through the Magaliesburg tree canopy.

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Exploring the cave where the oldest human remains were found

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Camping in tree tents in  the karoo desert with sunset game drives

Waking up to this view in Cape Town every day (thanks Shona and Marc!)

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Helping to bring in the catch of the day on Fish Hoek beach

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Swimming with the shark at Muizenberg beach (!!)

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Hanging with the penguins on Boulders Beach

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Exploring skellies pool in Fish Hoek..

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Enjoying the flora at Kirstenbosch gardens

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Whining from our strollers (but doesn’t she look like she should be on the cover of vogue in this one?)

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Climbing Table Mountain under increasingly less than optimal conditions

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Going to the southern most tip of Africa-Cape Point

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Baboons at Cape Point (have I ever told you my baboon in the bathroom stall at Cape Point story?)

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We tried repeatedly to go to Robben Island but the weather was against us :( Benj pays homage to a hero by letting him wear his hat for a while.)

 Jan 14th return back to Johannesburg for a night and then end the holiday on a high note with a most of the family reunion at Sun City courtesy of Auntie Shona and Uncle Marc.  We  had such an amazing time! We really did it all at Sun city including a beautiful game drive in Pilansberg including up close and personal encounters with giraffe, rhino, zebras and more.

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Zebra crossing.

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These monkeys stole our popcorn.

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Exploring a stone maze

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Recreating a family photo from a decade ago….

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And so, so, soooooo much more.  Truly this is just a fraction of the good times we have had. My kids will be hard pressed to ever have an adventure as good as this one again.  Truly grateful to all the family members who went to such pains and expense to show us all such an AMAZING time.

January 20th: Having determined that a job will not be soon forthcoming (if at all) we make the decision to send the kids back to the States with Aaron who is returning to work there,  so that they don’t get too behind in school. I remain in Joburg with Ella for various reasons with the plan to return in March unless a job offer comes to fruition  before then.

January 24th: I decide to relocate from Johannesburg to Cape Town to be with my sister who has come to South Africa on a holiday and unexpectedly found herself involved in an effort to foster/adopt and will be staying for an undetermined time too.

Feb 1st: I sit to write this to you, paralyzed with the amount of information, experiences, photos, insights, breakthroughs, worries, joys, sadness I want to convey.  If one thing about my blogging career has been consistent, the more I have to say, the less I write. When I’m blogging daily you can be assured that life is pretty boring. Ok so stream of consciousness ahead.  Bumpy ride, fasten seatbelt.

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Right now, I am separated from 4 of my 5 children but it is the one who I am with for whom I most worry.  Which if you know me at all is not that surprising. Aaron is a much better parent. the rest will be fine.

Poor little tyke. In the last 3 months she has slept in 8 different beds, seen two sets of  siblings come and go, started 2 schools and spent only 3 weeks with her dad. She’s a bit of a mess my poor little love. We’ve been dealing with a LOT of whining and a fair number of tantrums. Her adjustment to this last school in Cape Town has been difficult which is of course totally to be expected but so atypical of the way she usually takes to stuff like this that it has broken my heart.  I worry so that I have broken my confident happy little girl. When I went to fetch her the first day I saw that she was starting to panic as other kids left, saw the shuddery little breathing, the wobbling little chin the wide eyes frantically darting around and filling with tears and then…. she spotted me and the sun came out, she smiled joyously and blinked around her tears so that she could see to run into my arms. It was excruciatingly sweet, and unbearably painful to see. I was a very fearful insecure little girl and I could literally feel her panic and relief.  Killer stuff, man. Killer.  It keeps me up at night.

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(This series of pics from Friday where I am happy to say she greeted me with “I didn’t cry today mommy!” )

Anyway enough about all that. How are you? What’s been going on? I’ve missed you, you know.

Just gotta say, I am so dissatisfied with the photo representation here (other than the animal ones).  I have so many amazing pics that you should be seeing rather than the iphone junk that compromises most of this post.  It’s just overwhelming and if I get too much further into looking for the good ones right now I will never post this. However!  I would love to share my actual camera photos in subsequent posts if you will indulge me. ‘Cos there is some really good stuff. And you know that you could have been following me on instagram all this time right? I post there very (obnoxiously) regularly. Momedykirsty is my name in those parts. Follow at your own risk. (No but really, you should.  It is seriously beautiful here). Even in the parking garages.

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