Parenting is not for cowards!

As usual we are up to our normal antics of finding exotic animals to play with. We went to a monkey and bushbaby sanctuary. It was a lovely facility with a natural forest crisscrossed by wooden walkways and bridges to minimalize impact on the environment and to allow the monkeys a natural habitat.IMG_9198 Technically this is a non-interactive facility, however, the guides do not prevent the monkeys from climbing onto you if they want to. It turned out these were very friendly monkeys who are ingenious at opening zippers and sealed packets. They really like phones and snacks so best leave your bags and empty your pockets into a locker before you go on this tour. IMG_9186These rope bridges are fun for humans and monkeys!IMG_9163The mountains in this area are rich in natural metals, especially platinum. It was really neat to see chunks of metal sticking out of the rocks!

IMG_9154The sanctuary really embraces the concept of environment conservation and so has recycled bits of the old mining machinery into the new features on the property.IMG_9150We have been working on a plant unit and D has been learning about roots, stems and leaves. These fig roots reaching down the cliff into the gully as they search for water were a lovely example.IMG_9176‘in the midst of all these  fun experiences we have been doing lots of school with math and our spelling every morning and D is really tucking in to our new routine! (most of the time 🙂 E is delving into a ready-made unit on Nelson Mandela from the What in the World links as well as research on the Voortrekkers (South African pioneers) and reviewing Zulu names of African animals. D is proving to be especially proficient at Zulu and loves using those names for the animals over English.

E’s card for a dear family friend:IMG_9016  She looked in her bible and chose a verse that she thought would be encouraging to him.IMG_9018  We have been looking at plant growth cycles and parts of plants over the past 2 terms and we finally have a measurable experiment to share!IMG_9008  D really enjoys pattern blocks, magnetic letters, peg boards and all other forms of kinaesthetic learning!IMG_8994 And finally a craft kit revived at Christmas allowed for some art time and fine motor skills.Photo on 2014-01-08 at 3.55 PM #2

We have been up to a few other outings as well with  a trip to the zoo homeschool program, ice-skating and  a lovely picnic at the Botanical Gardens with our homeschool group.IMG_5937 IMG_6024IMG_6033 IMG_6035

Today we took a trip to a local farm complete with pony rides and bouncy castle. E met a new friend and D happily chummed around with different buddies and even his sister. The excitement of the day though was when the worker brought out the tractor and a train of little wagons to take the kids for a ride. He brought it up then went to collect money from everyone while the kids started climbing on. Mistake #1) He left  mistake #2) it was running, mistake #3) he parked facing the tractor slightly downhill mistake #4) He either didn’t put the brake on or the brake failed. RESULT: the tractor, pulling all the wagons full of children began to head down the hill with no driver in sight. A couple of parents closest to the wagons started pulling kids off but as it picked up speed it became impossible and so I did what any crazy momma would do, I sprinted for the tractor to try and jump on and put on the brakes. I tripped and fell and was actually run over by the rear tire of the tractor then it hit a fence post and caught so that I managed to jump up and pull the keys and the choke to turn it off! It was a bit harrowing and I can only thank God that no one, including myself, was seriously hurt in the incident.

Life is all about these moments where you find out what you’re made of. Today it was 1 part courage and 5 parts crazy gut instinct to save my kids. Love those babies!

Advertisements

Holidays, Holy Days and Resolutions

Happy New Year! What brave new worlds lie ahead for you in 2014?IMG_8206

We have just come back from a fabulous holiday around the central and east part of SA. December was a whirlwind of activities and explorations. We enjoyed a mini-week at a reserve called the Pilanesberg where game sightings were abundant and our family was able to spend some quality time together. IMG_7692 IMG_7762 IMG_7770 IMG_7772 IMG_7805 IMG_7832Then Christmas was spent braaiing (outdoor BBQ meals), playing in pools and visiting with friends. It was a blur as we returned from the Pilanesberg on the 22 and then had to finish getting ready for Christmas. We began a new tradition this year with the children making their gifts for each other. E found and printed  pictures of characters from a game D likes on the internet. She then painstakingly glued them to cardboard, cut them out and decoupaged them into action figures D could play with. D browsed the internet with me and selected the idea of creating a Horse sock puppet for E. He helped sew buttons on for the eyes and yarn for the hair. It was great practise for his fine motor skills and creativity!IMG_8992 On Christmas Eve the children all acted out the Christmas Story for the adults. They did a very good job with E and her friend C actually creating a script from their bibles that included a portion of the magnificat. E was the angel Gabriel and took her role very seriously. IMG_8109 IMG_8106The boys were sheep and shepherds and although a bit silly they managed to do their part. Boxing day we packed our car and after a delay waiting for AAA to come and give us a boost, we were off to explore the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains. IMG_8214We enjoyed some lovely hiking, gourmet meals, swimming in the Cascades which is a series of natural pools and low waterfalls and capping it off with a night at an historic site from the Anglo-Boer War called Spionkop. This battle is of particular interest as it was a phenomenal failure of the British and a false victory for the Boers. There were also several prominent historical figures present such as; Winston Churchill who was there as a courier and war correspondent, Robert Baden-Powell, a commander, and Mahandas Ghandi who was a stretcher-bearer! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Spionkop)IMG_8307IMG_8342

We spent our last morning in the mountains at the Kwa Cheetah Breeding Project on the Nambiti Private Game Reserve.(http://www.cheetahinteraction.com) The program director explained that Cheetahs are actually more endangered than rhinos. Sadly they are killed for their beautiful fur and are suffering from encroachment on their natural habitats.IMG_8422

There was also a tame meerkat on the property that named Zulu. She was very friendly (especially to girls) and spent quite a bit of time cuddled up with E and I.IMG_8471

The really funny thing about Zulu though, is that she helped foster a wounded cub in the breeding program. The cub, named Yakira, had been stepped on by her mother when she was 4 days old which broke her shoulder. As Cheetahs rely on their speed and agility to hunt, she could never survive in the wild so the program hand-raised her and she is now their tame mascot. I don’t know if there has or ever will be again a cheetah that behaves like a meerkat but this was definitely a sight to behold! 🙂IMG_8477

She was a very calm animal and although we didn’t let little S wander about on his own, she was purring and enjoyed being petted by the visitors. IMG_8480

From the rainy, cool mountain heights in the “Berg”as it is affectionately called, we drove around the edge of Lesotho and descended 1600m to the Indian Ocean. IMG_8519We spent 4 wonderful days with dear friends in Ballito playing at the beach, trying local cuisine and most importantly reconnecting with these special people. We celebrated the New Year with them, eating, laughing, swimming and dancing the night and the old year away. IMG_8546It was a poignant moment at midnight to be with these treasured friends from our past singing Auld Lang Syne together and welcoming the promise of a new year.IMG_8545We reluctantly repacked our car to head out on the final leg of our journey. Our destination was Hluehluwe/ St. Lucia, the oldest game reserve in SA, located in the northern Natal, also called Zululand. Unfortunately, Hluehluwe was a bit of a bust with mediocre accommodation, expensive park fees, and difficult terrain for game spotting. Our final day at St. Lucia, however, was incredible. We signed up for an all- day safari that included game drive through the wetlands, snorkelling at Cape Vidal and finished with a Hippo and Croc boat cruise in the estuary. It was a truly epic day and redeemed our frustrating time at Hluehluwe. St. Lucia is a laid back holiday village filled with B&Bs, self-catering cottages/ apartments and restaurants. It is also a world heritage site with an estuary and inland lake that stretches for 350km and is home to literally thousands of Nile Crocodiles and Hippos. (http://www.isimangaliso.com/index.php) The governments of  SA, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe(?) have agreed to create a new protected corridor by 2020 extending from ISimangaliso Park north to Mozambique and Zimbabwe which will allow indigenous animals to migrate from the dry savannah to the coastal regions and back again. It’s inspiring to hear the pride in the rangers voices as they talk about this ambitious project and I can’t help but be proud of the African people for showing this commitment to protecting their beautiful land and animals!

Painted Reed Frogs:IMG_8614 Giant KingfisherIMG_8685  SnorkelingIMG_8646 IMG_8672 Can you spot the crocs?IMG_8987IMG_8828These are hippo teeth!IMG_8824A gorgeous tropical sunset.IMG_8906My final day in St. Lucia started with a walking bird safari at the crack of dawn. We have all developed an interest in birding since being here and are amazed at the diversity and beauty of the birds we have seen. This is a Southern Red Bishop Weaver:IMG_8239Blue-Cheeked Bee-EaterIMG_8978Brimstone CanaryIMG_8990We are now settling back into our house and routine and are moving boldly forward into whatever the new year brings. We have resolved as a family to keeping better track of our working time and to be more mindful of the way we speak to each other. We also intend to be more disciplined in our health routines and achieve a better lifestyle in the coming year.

Do you make resolutions? What is your greatest success story?