Sunday, February 14, 2010

We're back! And no, we didn't fall off the end of the earth....

I'm back! It's been a while I know, but I needed the break. It's taken a while to get back on line because, to be perfectly honest, I've needed the time to think.

I haven't even blogged about our holiday because we've needed time to settle into life at home again. Add to that two parties to plan and celebrate, a new domestic helper to settle in (and leave and another to settle in!) and the first ballet lessons for Jenna and Play Ball lessons for Michael and you have a lot of settling in time needed-especially if you're like me and you like things to happen slowly! So, I'll have to tell you about our new routines another time!

First let me share about our holiday.

We left on the Thursday 17 December, the day before my birthday. We were all very excited about traveling and although our departure time was a little delayed we left as a car full of happy holiday makers. Jenna couldn't stop chatting-anything along the side of the road that was new was worthy of a comment-it was so sweet to hear her excited chatter! Michael, on the other hand sat quietly sucking on his dummy taking in all the new sights from the comfort of a borrowed car seat which helped him to sit higher and therefore have a better view. As the morning progressed the hum of the wheels put Mikey to sleep and so Jen needed some entertainment. So I whipped out the first activity-a sticker book and note pad with her new Minnie Mouse pen from Granny. A happy little girl spent the next few hours drawing/designing/writing little stories to keep herself occupied.

Driving to our first stop went by very quickly. I love traveling by car because you get to see the landscape change and there's lots of time to just sit and think! (one of my favourite past times) Our first night was spent in a very warm Beaufort West. I really hadn't realised it would be that warm at night. You live and learn! The kids loved exploring our small over night home and also enjoyed an evening walk through the streets in their jammies-sometimes it's great to be tourists, you don't need to worry about what you wear when going on evening strolls :-)

In the morning we tried to leave as early as possible to avoid the heat of the day. Everyone had slept peacefully the night before-which was great as the kid's aren't used to sharing rooms at home and I wasn't sure how bed times were going to go! (Ok, so I did find my little man exploring the room in the dark while his sister slept peacefully after an excited day of traveling ;-) But he settled peacefully.)

We were in the car for five minutes and Jenna was asking for her activity for the day! She didn't even take the time to soak in the scenery. But at least her enthusiasm rubbed off on Michael and he was soon playing with his stickers too. After all, if he got tired of that he knew he could just go back to spotting windmills and sheep!

A typical Karoo landscape

On day two I got a little more trigger happy with the camera and tried to capture as many landmarks as possible (there are too many pics to put on the blog unfortunately)
Traveling took a little longer on this day. And it was also a lot hotter(39c)! The vegetation changed as we moved across the Karoo and closer to Bloemfontein. As we entered Bloem it was interesting to watch the kid's reactions-after sitting in the car (happily, I will add) for so long all of a sudden the scenery around them changed and their conversation increased again.
In Bloem Ray had to pop out to find a spare parts shop for the car-the automatic anti-hijack device had decided it was better for us to stay locked in the car at one stage and so he needed to find new fuses. Yes, it did look rather funny to see a driver who had to climb out his window before being able to unlock the doors! So after supper that night I was surprised by a blueberry muffin covered in candles to celebrate my birthday! Thanks Love, in the excitement of the travels I had actually forgotten it was my birthday, thanks for remembering.
Bloemfontein was also hot at night-can you tell I live near the cool sea? It took us a little longer to settle but we had a good night's rest for our last stretch of the journey.

The vegetation changed as we left Bloemfontein:whispy, greener grass!

Too hot in the car, too hot out! Thank goodness for air conditioners and ice lollies!

As we moved slowly across the country it was wonderful to watch the vegetation change. Everything was starting to look a lot greener compared to the dry Karoo we had already driven through.

The clouds started to change too until eventually, as we entered Pietermaritzburg area, we were travelling in a thick mist-definitely not what I was expecting.

By this time everyone in the car was getting very excited about reaching our final destination-but we didn't have directions yet and we couldn't contact our friend's, everyone was "off-line". So this meant more patient waiting at a garage in the rain. You know how you feel when you are so close but not quite there and the excitement has reached it's peak and then you have to sit and wait..... once again the kids took it in their stride and went to play in the warm rain with dad.

Eventually after a long winding, wet dirt road we did find the farm-ok so we did get "lost" a little. We thought we'd passed the turn off point and stopped to ask directions at a beautiful resort which had a baby zebra for us to oooh and aaah at and helped to take our mind off the fact that we still weren't there yet!
But our arrival was still an exciting event even if it seemed like it had taken days to get there! Actually it had, hadn't it?!
The farm was so unlike what I'm used to. No dry, flat lands, not much dust and lots of misty, rainy, humid weather. Everything is GREEN and hilly!!! What a beautiful sight to wake up to!

there were lots of little frogs in the pool to catch-such fun!

Our week on the farm was spent swimming, walking in mealie fields, walking in rain showers (which turned into hailstones!), celebrating our 8th anniversary and celebrating Christmas with fire crackers and all! The children were in their element. Friends to play with 24/7. Tree houses to climb up into, frogs to catch, motor bikes to ride (both the plastic and metal kinds!), rivers to play in, a new puppy to look after and even a special visit to the theater for the older 3 to watch Peter Pan!

sparklers, in the absolute dark of the farm night, such a thrill for the kids!

James and Jen enjoying watermelon in the tree house

The spectacular Karkloof Waterfalls where we went for a picnic

Michael learnt to swim on his own with a noodle-my fearless little man!

One of the view shots from the farm-wish I could post them all!

I rode my first motorbike on the farm and provided much entertainment for those who were watching as I took off with a wheelie! But I am proud to say I even managed to change gears!

Chalk and cheese: when it rains this is what they wear! (Ok, so it was humid-we'll let Mikey off on this one!)

Jenna and Rachel learning to rollerblade-they got it by the end of the two weeks!

I usually find that after 3 days in one place I'm ready to go exploring again, so when the week was up I was ready to leave.
On the way down to Southport we stopped in at my great aunt Mary (on my dad's side of the family). She's a lovely old aunty who I have fond memories of when I was little so it was wonderful to sit by her side and watch her mischievous eyes sparkle at our children just the way they had at me as a child! After a quick cup of tea we were on the road again.
And that's when everything started going pear shaped!
During our lunch stop I noticed that Michael had pimple-like spots on his hands and feet! My first thought was Foot and Mouth, Oh no! Friends of ours had come into contact with someone back home whose kids had had it! WE hadn't even been in contact with them!

So we arrived at the beach house with a little man who was showing signs of something for which I had know idea of how to treat. Add to that the humidity and temperature increase at night and we had one very unhappy little sleeper :-(
After a trip to a local doctor my suspicions were confirmed-he had Foot, Hand and Mouth Virus. Pretty much untreatable, stays in the system around 6 weeks and then rears it's ugly head in the form of chicken pox like pimples. Apparently it's a strain of chicken pox/shingles virus. So this meant he didn't want to eat much-until I discovered we had brought a mouth gel which helped numb his mouth before eating-a little relief for a little man who usually likes to eat!

Supper at the beach house-this HAD to be their dining place for every meal!

So nights were spent trying to keep him sleeping peacefully and re-hydrated in the heat. Which meant very little sleep for us as we were all 4 sleeping in one very hot, poorly ventilated room! (That is until dad discovered a way to keep the door open at night to let a little warm air in!)
By the end of our second week we were ready to go home, unfortunately it had been quite a tense week. Michael is usually a very happy little man who bounces back quickly when hurt but when sick and miserable he can be full of tantrums-not easy when you're not in your own environment and have other people to consider! Packing our bags was a sad experience because instead of going home with a bag full of happy holiday memories we left feeling like we needed another holiday!

One of the last days on the beach-so different to Cape Town beaches-I missed my white sand and gentle waves.

Having settled in back at home again though, we've had a lot of time to think over what happened in our last week. Although, when we were in the "moments", it seemed like our last week had been a total disaster we realise now that there were many lessons we learnt. Lessons which we hope, as a family, we can live and learn from!

Oh yes, and of course the journey home was great too! Like I said I love to be in the car traveling along the road watching the scenery pass by and as we took a different route home there was an entirely different view out of my window :-) Sorry, not many pics were taken as it rained most of the way back and I tried to catch up on my lost sleep ;-) I am so grateful I have a husband whom I totally trust to drive us safely home, even though he was exhausted too! Thank you Lord for a safe journey.