Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I can officially call them kids!

We're taking advantage of the great weather we're having here and heading for the mountains at every opportunity!

This was the view from our latest hike.
Can you see that little dark car parked in the shade under the trees?
That's ours!  
Yes, we really climbed to the very top of the mountain-well almost!

This is the Steenberg Plateau Hike. 
We don't use a hiking book as our guide-we follow our noses and choose hikes which we've passed by when driving on the roads in our area. 
When we started the hike my first thought was: "Perhaps we should be consulting a hiker's guide! This route looks a little too challenging for our little hikers!"

But they proved me wrong!

 We applied old lessons we've learnt about hiking with children and learnt a lot of new tricks too.....

#1. Share your love for God's creativity:

There were new Proteas to admire.

#2.  Enjoy the spectacular views.

#3. Make up names for rock features: God's Dice

#4. Problem solve survival skills:
It's hot mommy!
What can we do, there's not much shade?
Snuggle up to low lying bushes.

#5. Renew relationships with old friends seen on previous hikes: Ericas.

#6. And when the going gets tough and the top just never seems to come-
the beach (way down there) becomes the goal, the reward for perseverance.

#7. Dad also tried distraction: Just look at that Kangaroo rock!

#8. And encouragement: Wow, we're so high now you can see Table Mountain peaking over the top of this mountain!

#9. And Mom (who was taking strain too), tried to distract dad from walking up so fast by getting him to take photos of all (read any!) beautiful flowers.

And eventually he was convinced to stop when his, "It's just over the next hill" was greeted with......
another hill?
 No, mountain!!!!

So we sat in the shade of the only rock we could find and refreshed ourselves.
It had taken an hour and a half to reach this point with two little hikers who had clambered over every rock they could find-even though mom kept saying:
 conserve your energy, (#10) find the easiest route!

Yes, there had been a little complaining about the heat.....
but never the difficulty of the climb.
So they can officially be called mountain goats (kids).

And when we turned around to head back home.....

I hobbled down the mountain side on wobbly legs,
while they merrily hopped from rock to rock!
Oh, to be young again!
(from bottom to top 1hour 30 min......from top to bottom 30 min!)

On shaky legs-I'm not kidding you, they're still sore today!-I propped myself against the sign at the start/end of the trail and asked Ray to take a picture from the bottom up so that I could get a perspective on just how high we'd hiked.
But this doesn't really give you a clear picture of where we got to.......

so when he was coming home from work on Monday he stopped and took this photo on the highway:

Do you see the ridge in the middle?
We hiked from the start of that to where the two points meet!
Pretty impressive hey?!

And I learnt my final hiking lesson for the day:

#11. Always consulting a guide limits spontaneity and the opportunity to learn valuable life lessons along the way.

And that folks, is your home schooling lesson for today!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A night out at the ballet!

A few months ago when Jenna and I went to the UCT School of Ballet I noticed a poster advertising The Nutcracker Ballet.
I tucked that information away quietly in my memory for some special mother-daughter time.
I'm so glad I did!

And just for some extra special added memories, I invited her granny a long too.

We left Dad and Michael at home, something we hardly ever do, but they had an evening of lego building planned.......boys and their toys ;-)

We shared an early supper with Granny and Grandpa at their home and then it was time to dress up for the performance......

a very happy ballerina wearing her evening attire. (Thanks, Rachie!)

Granny and Grandpa recently returned from an overseas trip to the UK where they had bought Jenna a DVD of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland dancing in The Nutcracker.
She has spent many afternoons on the couch watching them dance!

Ray's mom was so touched to have shared this first night at the ballet with her one and only grand daughter.  They are regular visitors to the theatre, in fact Grandpa has acted on the very stage which we sat in front of!

So when I bought the tickets I asked their advice on which would be the best seats for us to sit in.
Front row seats-they're actually the cheapest and for little ones there's absolutely no obstruction to their view!

I'm so glad I took their advice, because they really were THE BEST seats in the house!
Not only could Jenna see every dancer (and their costumes) up close, but when the mice came out they mischievously headed straight towards her to tickle her toes!
And when the final curtain had lowered and Mr. Drosselmeyer brought the toy nutcracker out, she got to shake his hand good-bye.

She sat through the entire performance in absolute awe of every dancer and costume, excitedly telling me the names to her favourite pieces of music or characters.
I was so impressed with her-perhaps I shouldn't fret so much about her moments of Starfall and DVD watching obsessions after all :-)

When the show was over she asked if we could go back stage to touch all of the beautiful costumes-she's such a lover of all things beautiful!  But sadly that was one thing I couldn't organise for her.

As we were leaving we passed the steps to take you up onto the stage and I could see her feet were itching to walk up those stairs,
but they turned the stage lights off and all went dark telling us it was time to head to the exit doors......

until Granny asked the stage hand-who had peeked his head around the curtain to call up to the lighting guys- "Could we please take a photograph?"

With a quick direction from below the spotlights were turned on again and my little ballerina got to stand centre stage under the lights!

A late night for a little girl, but all well worth it to see the joy on my little ballerina's face as she fell asleep in the car seat beside me while I drove us home from her first night at the ballet.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Nature Club visits Arderne Gardens in Claremont.

We sure do get around with our Nature Club!

Last Wednesday's meeting meant an early rise for our family.  My kids impressed me by being dressed, ready and waiting in the car by 8:30.  A little early, but I guess they were worried we'd miss the train.....which was leaving at 9:30!
The weather forecast the night before had read 25'C warm and sunny.......we left our sunny home in shorts and t-shirts to arrive at the foggy station!!  Needless to say we huddled in a corner of the station waiting for all our friends to arrive.
The excitement caused by our friend's arrival and an eminent train ride, helped to fight off the cold.

On our last train trip this little man sat so still and clung to my arm....

but that didn't last long on THIS ride!
Let's just say-we pretty much had the carriage to ourselves, no one else seemed to want to join this excited group of children in our very noisy carriage.

We walked up from Harfield Station to the gardens in a little train of our own.

This is just the sweetest sight for me to see: Jenna and her friend.
A little more than 30 years ago his mommy and I started our schooling journey together (we ended matric together too).  By the Lord's grace we found each other again and now we get to share our children's schooling journey together too!
Ok, before I get too emotional......on with this journey!

Arriving in the gardens the children discovered a bamboo "jungle".
Arderne Gardens houses "alien" plants to our country.  There is a wonderful history to the gardens-which we learnt all about-but I won't share all the Garden's secrets with you......you'll have to go and explore for yourselves!

Ok, perhaps just one secret: it's open to the public for free!
(a donation box can be found near the entrance for those who'd like to support the group which maintains the gardens)

How many tree huggers can wrap around a tree?

Now this tree you really have to see for yourself!  It's the largest fig tree in the Western Cape.
And it brought much delight to all of our little nature lovers!

Hoots of joy, from this little owlet.

Can you be a tall tree like me?

There are not only plants of all kinds but geese and ducks,

and owls live here too!
(This is an owl house, high up in a camphor tree)

There are lovely bridges to run over, which lead you to different parts of the garden, while you look out for Khoi fish swimming in the waters below you.

We found a whole lot of sawed down trees and tried to count how old the trees were before they were chopped down.

And after learning how to count tree rings we learnt that for each year a bamboo shoot grows you can count it's segments to discover it's age!

And after all that exploring we shared about our favourite tree and why we liked it.

Apparently even Squirrel Nutkin wanted to listen to all that we had learnt-it was fascinating stuff!

And after all that learning there must be time for play and picnics too........

and of course we had to head home....


but before home there was.....

another train ride!

 It's such fun learning with our friends!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Week-ends are for family.....

It's been a while........too long actually!
Week-ends have been full of parties and rain and, well business.....

So when Sunday promised to be a glorious, sunny, winter's day I booked the afternoon for a family hike.
And we headed off to Boye's Drive to explore a hiking trail we'd spied while driving by on one of those busy days.

If my memory serves me correctly this walk is called Ou Kraal.

And this is what you get: spectacular views of False Bay and Kalk Bay Harbour.

I want our family to be an outdoor family. When we first started hiking our hikes lasted 15 minutes tops.  Okay, truth be told they were very young then!  And a two year old's legs can only go as far as they've been trained to walk.
Learning to walk at their pace and to lower my expectations of possible distances to be achieved was my first lesson.
The second: choose a hiking spot with lots of rocks!

It doesn't matter how steep the hill is, as long as they have rocks to clamber over like little mountain goats, up, up, up they'll go!

Children learn from our examples.  If you love to be outdoors, they will too.  If you enjoy hiking and are often overheard to proclaim: "Wow, what a spectacular view!",
You're sure to hear these very words echoed back at you!

This flower above is covering the mountainside as you drive over Ou Kaapse Weg.  I'm not sure if it's a type of protea-perhaps one of my clever gardening friends can tell me :-)

Below is what it looks like on masse.
A carpet of yellow sunshine.

Jenna's favourite find of the day: dried up ferns.  She loved the way they spiraled at the ends.

A leafless silhouette.

Another view of Kalk Bay Harbour.

Everyone enjoyed this walk.  (Even Bunny!)
Jenna repeatedly said it was the funnest hike she's been on and when we suggested turning around to return home we had two very unhappy hikers on our hands.
Well, I guess it's better than hiking with two moaning hikers you constantly need to encourage to continue on up just one more hill! 

Encouraging your children to enjoy a hike can be tiring.
I've learnt to share my joy of all the beauty around us, pointing out a beautiful flower,


ant's nest,

or reminding them of where we've made relationships with flowers elsewhere usually helps distract an unhappy camper hiker.

Erica's-we learnt their names for the first time at Silvermine Dam.

This is a type of Protea (I really need to get a flower guide!).  Unfortunately we chopped off the top of the flower in the picture, but at the tip of the flower are beautiful furry, black petal tips.  The children loved feeling their furriness!

On our way up the mountain we spotted a beautiful bird with long tail feathers.
But it flew away before we could get a good photo of it.
It has a very distinctive call, so as we walked along we listened carefully for it's call.
That was an added distraction for the children as we encouraged them to keep on heading down the path towards home.
Our good listening skills were rewarded when we spotted this one perched on top of some plants near the carpet of yellow we had passed on the way up.

Cape Sugarbird (male)

And our careful bird-spotter dad, spied this bird eating from the proteas.  
{Can you see the black fury tips, on the flowers, here?}

A wonderful afternoon spent with the ones I love.......
doing what I love to do, 
in the place I love best: outdoors!