Musings of a high school mom

If you’re a friend or a regular reader you’ll know that this year Ewan started high school. I posted a long while back about choosing a high school. In the end, we chose the all boys traditional public school. 

It’s only been a few weeks since the new school year started. We’ve dealt with so many changes in such a short time! Looking back, I can’t really believe that it’s only been just over a month. It feels like we’ve been doing this forever. 

The first few days were rough. The older grades asserted their seniority, which was a little intimidating for the total newbie. Fortunately there wasn’t any of the horror initiation I’ve heard about! For the most part, I think it was good natured and just the older boys showing the formies where they fit in this new society that they’re part of. Ewan took it well, with his usual good humour. All the same, he was relieved when it was over and they were left alone to blend in with the rest of the school. 

The bigger shock to his system was having to deal with making new friends in a completely strange environment. He was a well liked kid in his nurturing primary school and he’d made some very close friends in the time he was there. Finding new friends in a new school, where everyone was a stranger took some time. I underestimated how hard it could be for a 13 year old. You know how little kids who’ve just met will just wander off to the jungle gyms and an hour later be best friends for life? Well I had to remember that it gets more complicated when you’re older. He had to find his crowd. Boys that he could relate to.

For the first week or two, he was pretty sure that no such kids existed in his new school. I’m so grateful that his old primary school friends have been around on weekends for hangouts and a sleepover or two during this time. Thankfully, he’s now found a gang! He’s  found his people and he’s starting to feel comfortable in his space.

All in all, it’s been a positive experience. 

I am still finding the communication lines a bit confusing but I guess I’m getting used to where to find out what and I’m also learning to rely on Ewan for info.

It’s strange not to really know who teaches him what. We’re yet to formally meet any teachers. We’ve only listened to them talk at a the parent’s info evening. 

I appreciate the strong sense of respect and discipline the school is instilling in the boys. 

And brotherhood… it’s only been weeks and I sense that Ewan already feels a strong bond to the school. 

They each have a matric mentor and it’s awesome to see the older boys taking the younger ones under their wings. Yesterday, the formies had a braai with their matric mentors and I was really happy to see them actually interacting with the older boys when I arrived to fetch him. And goodbyes were said with fist pumps, elbow bumps and everything, lol!

I love the regular visits and news they get from old boys who have done well. From Rhodes scholars to Olympian medal winners & provincial sportsmen. I really do think it inspires the boys to be all they can be. 

I enjoy our car trips to school. We’ve solved the world’s problems, had silly laughs and driven in companionable silence (and I’ve given a few lectures – I am the mom of course!)

I’ve learned that buttons don’t get sewn on. They pierce holes in their blazers and anchor the buttons in place! Ingenious, I tell you. 

So far, so good, but bring on the holidays!

And for our next trick, we need to figure out where to send Claire!!!

P.S. This post was read and vetted by the subject before I hit “publish”. 

Matric results day: My 2 cents worth

Congrats to all of the 2016 matriculants who got happy results today!

When I was in highschool there used to be a TV ad about a bunch of kids getting their matric results by hanging out in front of a newspaper office at dawn in a beat up old volksie and cracking open bottles of coke (?) in celebration. I seem to think it was coke? I was always quite disappointed that I didn’t do that. I wonder if anyone did?

My dad drove me to my school that day. I’d already landed my first insurance job by then, so I’d taken the morning off to collect my results. The receptionist wouldn’t hand them to me and I had to go into the principal’s office to request them. I was terrified. But it was only because they couldn’t trace one of the text books I was supposed to have handed in.

I passed. My dad dropped me at work. I took the bus home. I’m sure we celebrated but I can’t remember those details. Oh and my mom insisted I sort out the text book misunderstanding with the school myself because I was officially all grown up now. Adulting 101.

The thing that I’m reminded of today is how fortunate I was to fall straight into a job. I often have wished that I had taken more time off, but in retrospect it was probably a good thing that I grabbed that first job. I’d been for the interview while I was still writing finals. When they asked if I would be happy to start mid-December, I said yes. I was willing and eager and took the gap given. Maybe if I’d been less eager to start, they would have been less eager to employ me? That first job sucked in so many ways, but it led to my second job. The one where I met Nick and created a real grown up life.

I was lucky. Not everyone landed a decent job with only a matric back then and it’s even less likely to happen now!

If studying further is not in your immediate plans or beyond your budget then take whatever else you can find! Seriously guys, just do SOMETHING. It all counts toward a bigger picture and you never know where a seemingly menial job may lead you. Who you may meet and impress along the way. Even unpaid volunteer work or interning can lead you to places you can’t imagine. And work hard at whatever it is you find to do. You’re never too good for the job you’re in!

You need to know that Grade 12 is not the end of your education. It’s the end of a phase, just like pre-primary and primary school, but it’s not the end! It will continue. And it absolutely must continue if you want to keep moving forward. Take any opportunity that you may stumble upon to improve yourself. I’ve been fortunate to work for companies that have paid for me to study and I’ve completed a couple of insurance related courses which have helped me in each subsequent job I’ve applied for. I’ve now reached a point where not having a degree has proved to be a huge barrier in my career aspirations so at the ripe old age of 39, I’m one third of the way to getting a Bachelor Degree.

Oh and you may not know what you really want to do for the next five, ten, twenty years of your adult life. I certainly didn’t. I’ve had a thousand career ideas and it’s only in the last few years that I have gained a little clarity. Apparently I’m not a freak and it’s quite common… So while you’re figuring it all out, do whatever comes your way and do it to the best of your ability.

I could ramble preach chat for hours on this subject because it’s really close to my heart, but I won’t.

Good luck kids!

Love

Aunty Hilly 🙂

Back to School Sanity-Savers

Geez – this back to school stuff is expensive! This year particularly , what with the teen entering high school and needing an entire new uniform!

By uniform, I’m not talking white shirt, grey pants and black shoes. I haven’t even done that shopping yet! I’m talking blazer, a straw basher (umm – what century are we in again?), PT kit, house shirt, rugby shirt, rugby boots, tracksuit… the list is literally endless!

And then there has to be new bags and pencil cases for both. We teased the tween and told her that she could just inherit her brother’s bag if hers wasn’t good enough. He could have a new one, because new school and all *evil laugh*!

Seriously though, after a year of hard use, they both need new bags! And then there was the task of convincing the tween that the pretty sparkly satchels that you can buy at “Typo” and “Claire’s” are not appropriate for lugging around a pile of exercise books, text books, stationery and three week old sandwiches and banana skins. I wish I were kidding about the bananas but the tween’s main complaint was that her backpack smelled of banana. I’m sure that it is at this juncture that my mom or aunt will remind me of the time they discovered a couple of moulding peanut butter sarmies in my school bag when I was about 9 – all neatly flattened in-between those cardboardy compartments that all uncool school bags had.

Anyways – back to the shopping. I’ve been doing this back to school thing for a fair number of years and these are some of my top tips for the back to school drill:

  • We have a super awesome little stationery shop in our local mall that make up stationery packs according to individual requirements. I simply emailed them the lists that I got from the school for each grade and within the day I had a quote and by the end of the week the packs were ready and waiting to be picked up and paid for. And price wise, they’re really competitive. I did a spot check on one or two of the more expensive items like the scientific calculator and they were really well priced. So, so, so much easier than fighting your way through Makro or Game or CNA and hunting on hands and knees for a specific 745 page right margined, half quad and half feint A25 work book.
  • We always buy new stationery as per the lists provided each year so that the kids start the year off with some excitement about all things shiny and new. I speak from experience as I can’t get motivated to get going with my own studying with yucky old stationery. I go through all the old stuff and save what is usable for the home work desks. I sharpen all the pencils and test the khokis and highlighters and throw out the broken and almost finished. Spare scissors, glues, sharpeners, compasses and protractors are kept aside for those last minute “mom, I’ve lost …” requests, five seconds before we are due to leave the house.
  • And sticking with glue (see what I did there?) I also buy a couple of extras because they ALWAYS run out! I also always buy a pad of coloured poster paper to keep aside – for those last ditch attempts at projects.
  • If you don’t fancy keeping last year’s used pens and pencils etc – spare a thought for the needy kids who don’t get awesome new goodies!
  • I strip the clean paper out of last year’s partially used exercise books and keep it in one of those clear plastic storage boxes from Westpack. Scrap paper is always useful for random things shopping lists and visits from littlies wanting to draw. That’s about as far as my recycling of school stuff goes. I tried once to melt down a gazillion wax crayons into one big one – but that was a waste of time and energy. Thank goodness my kidlets are past the wax crayon stage!
  • If you do have to buy paper text books and particularly if you plan to pass them down to younger siblings – take your time to cover them with sticky backed plastic. It makes such a difference to keeping them in a decent state so that the younger sibling doesn’t cringe with embarrassment when their turn comes to using the books.
  • And on the note of hand-me-down books, I’ve now dedicated a bookshelf for text books and set works and dictionaries etc. Saves us having to fork out extra ronts when sibling 2 needs a book that you’re 110% certain sibling 1 had and can’t find anywhere until months after it is needed.
  • Get the kids involved in getting all this back-to-school stuff ready. Seriously. If they can write their names legibly, they can help with the labelling! I’d also like to take this moment to thank the stationery gods for slip on plastic book covers!
  • takealot.com has an awesome selection of school bags at good prices. Let’s just hope ours arrive in time for school next week. I left the ordering till today, but online shopping really is the bomb.com

What are your tips and tricks for back to school? And tell me I’m not alone with the mouldy sandwiches, please!

Love,

Hil

P.S. My little local stationery shop has branches in Randpark Ridge and Morning Glen. Find them on http://www.capmor.co.za/ – they didn’t ask for a punt – I just think they’re super cool!

From the other side

I woke up a little stiff this morning, after yesterday’s Adrienne Hersch/Randburg Harriers race. And I didn’t even run. I was there though. My shoulders were a little achy from holding out water sachets for all the runners!

Our Run/Walk for Life branch looked after the 8km water point so a bunch of us crazies woke up early, long before dawn cracked and  a sparrow farted, donned our RWFL shirts to go set up our 10 water tables.

To the non runner, you may wonder why we would get up so early, on Mother’s Day Sunday, in the chilly weather, to hand out water sachets and cups of coke.

Because it’s fun!

We made bacon rolls on a skottel braai and drank coffee from flasks. We worked together. We chatted to neighbours and felt like part of a community. We laughed and joked. We cheered for the thousands of runners as they ran past. Runners who included family, friends and colleagues as well as some of SA’s top runners. We got to see Caroline Wostman speed by, as she tapers before Comrades in three weeks as well as Rene Kalmer, who won the race.

I got to give my hubby a sweaty hug mid-race – he ran the 21k with his brother, Jonathan. And massive kudos to Jonathan who ran and finished the 21 k in a great time, despite having not run further than a 10k training run in months. It was fabulous seeing the two brothers running together.

The kids were with us and loved every minute, hanging out with their mates, cheering the runners on, handing out drinks and stomping on the left over water sachets at the end. Without a doubt, most runners would much rather grab the water from the little ones! I loved my niece’s squeals of excitement every time she “sold” a water to a runner.

Without wanting to sound too precious about this whole running thing, I think that it is really important, if I am to be part of a community, to give back a bit. It’s fun as well as valuable to experience the water tables from the other side. To witness and be a small part of the hard work that goes into organising these events. It gives me so much appreciation  and reminds me that a smile and a joke with the workers and the marshals makes the whole experience more special for all!

And finally, a note on the event organiser, Graham Block. This man is such a hero in our running circles. He organises amazing weekend long runs from Virgin Active Randburg, with refreshments, each and every weekend! He also organises weekday shorter runs from the Boskruin Shopping Centre. He has a heart of gold and never fails to inspire us with his kindness, dedication, humour and warm laugh. Thank you Graham!

So with that, I will leave you with a few photos from the morning!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lousy Little Tale 

img_0676*Beware… This post might make you itch!*

We are almost at the end of the first term of school and I’m about to tell you a tale about something that happened very early in the first weeks of this school year. It’s taken me this long to write about it because I really needed to put some distance between me and the traumatic event. And I’m not exaggerating- it was that traumatic!

So there I was, early one school morning, brushing my daughter’s hair, when she remarked that her head was itchy. Truth be told, she had mentioned it before and I hadn’t really thought much about it – I just assumed that she hadn’t rinsed her her properly after washing. She’s a big girl now and I mostly leave her to do her own ablutions and just check in on what’s happening behind the ears now and then. She also generally ties her hair up herself and it’s only when she wants to do something special, that I get involved. Well this was one @ those days. She mentioned the itchiness and I parted her mass of long brown hair and took a closer look. And there it was… Although I had never seen one before, it was unmistakable. A creepy crawly creature, about the size of a sesame seed, hanging out in my daughter’s hair. She had lice.

My heart sank and I wanted to cry. I didn’t because I didn’t want to freak her out, but I just knew, from the mother grapevine, what a nightmare lice are to get rid off. I told her to not to bother with getting dressed, it was going to be a stay at home day for her. I also suggested, in the kindest possible way, that she stay off the furniture. I left a request for my domestic helper to wash all the linen, on super hot, and tumble dry what couldn’t be washed. I needed to be at work that day, but I don’t think I was terribly productive – I think I spent most of the day googling “how to nuke lice without harming the head on which they’re feeding”. There is an astonishing amount of information on this, let me tell you. From how-to instructions to home remedies like coca-cola, coconut oil and straightening irons.

Besides googling, I had to make the phone call to the school to confess my shameful failing as a parent. I know, I know, it’s a seriously common problem amongst kids, and absolutely no reflection on us, but it just felt so embarrassing! The school secretary was awesome. She’d clearly handled calls like this before and was sympathetic and light and made me feel a little less like a leper.

That afternoon, I drove home via Dischem and stood staring at the medicated hair care range for ages. What to pick? The hippy tea tree stuff or the one with the cartoon louse being bonked on the head with a hammer? And then which product from the range to choose? The dip or the spray? Is the shampoo necessary too?  I chose a couple of products and went home to wage warfare on my daughters head. We sprayed, we combed, we shampooed and we combed. It took hours. And we did it all again a few days later. And in between, I nitpicked, daily, whenever I had access to her head. My daughter has a lot of hair, and picking the nits out felt like an impossible task. Just when I thought I had them all, I found more. And just when I thought we had the situation under control, I found a few live creatures again. Rinse, repeat.

It’s been a few weeks since the great lice infestation of 2016 and I believe we are well and truly clear of the buggers now. I still check her hair every few days, but all she seems to have now is a dry scalp from all the products! I think the checking becomes a bit of of an OCD thing actually.

My top tips for getting rid of lice:

  • Regardless of the product/old wives remedy you choose, the lice comb is your best friend. The best way to get rid of these things is by applying conditioner to wet hair and combing the hair a few strands at a time.
  • You really do need to catch every single nit – and they really stick to the hair. As I combed, I would search for the nits and slide them down the strand of hair. They need to be removed manually, they do not comb out.
  • Be religious about checking. This will not be a once off treatment.
  • Time your big bed linen wash with the treatment – no point in doing a few hours of a lice treatment and going to bed in a lice infested bed.
  • If your child has siblings, cousins, friends that they hang out with all the time, check the other kids out too. Chances are they are also infested and there’s no point waging warfare on your child’s head when they’re just going to pick them up again from their BFF. Check your own hair too.
  • If your budget allows, apparently the best way to go is with a lice clinic, but these treatments are pricey. Although once you’ve done a couple of treatments with the off-the-shelf products, you will have racked up quite a Dischem bill.

Finally a big shout out to my Claire! She was a total trooper throughout the whole ordeal. She rarely complained and sat through the hours of combing with grace and humour.

Choosing a highschool…or letting a highschool choose us!

I thought I’d don the Mom-Blog hat for once instead of the Running-Blog sneakers and post about the big parenting thing happening for us right now…

Ewan is less than a year away from high school and I can hardly believe we are at this point in our lives! When we were choosing primary schools all those years ago, high school seemed like a very distant concern and yet I remember him starting pre-primary in 2008 like it was yesterday. We chose a lovely private school, close to home that had a Cambridge curriculum and a warm, family like feeling when we visited. 10406834_10153853475396565_1838176642647242060_n

Its been a bit of a different thing though choosing a high school. Now the end of his school career is vaguely in sight and we need to seriously consider the future. How do we end his school career in the best way to equip him for university? For adulthood?

At the moment, our options seem to be as either a highly rated private co-ed high school, in our neighbourhood or top public JHB boys school, close to our offices.

If you’re being nice, call me analytical, but honestly I am a great over-thinker. I’ve been talking to Ewan, other parents and teachers, made pro and con lists in my head and on paper, visualised possible outcomes and then thought some more. And seem to I change my mind on a daily basis about what the right choice might be.

Things sure are different to when I was a kid, I just went to the school I was zoned for. And when that didn’t seem to be the best option, my folks told the school that I wanted to attend that we were planning to move into their area, and off I went.

Nowadays, if you want to go the local public school that you’re zoned for, you stand in insane queues, overnight, to apply to get your child in. If you want to go the private school route, or get into a top public school, you get called for interviews, write exams, present CV’s. You wait for acknowledgement and juggle your options.

And then you do it all again when your next child has to make the big leap from primary school to high.

What was your criteria for choosing schools?

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