I do my best thinking while driving. I drive a Fiat Panda.

Archive for the tag “sushi”

A feast of birthdays or a birthday feast?

Happy belated birthday Liam!

I haven’t written for a long time (clearly). Since my close encounter with rock stardom, as described in my last entry, Liam has turned nine years old and we celebrated for what seemed like about a week, although it was really only three days.

The Monday of his actual birthday was a public holiday, so we were able to go out for sushi as a family (the sushi was the birthday boy’s request). I am always so proud when my children use their chopsticks. Such little sophisticates!

On Tuesday, I took a day’s leave and the boys and I went off to Bambanani, where the little gourmands then chose to tuck into spare ribs.

Wednesday was the really big day: another day’s leave for me and I took five little boys to the games arcade and then a third birthday meal. It was a bit like herding cats, only significantly more difficult.

Imagine: I stayed cool, calm and collected throughout. My occasional alter-ego, Shouting Mommy, was nowhere to be found. I am quite proud of this.


incredibles mom and dash

But it was worth every moment, not to mention every rand spent on every ride and electronic diversion. I have never seen such joy on a child’s face as when my birthday boy and his friends came off what I can only describe as the ‘disco-ball bumper cars ride’.

Matthew spinning

For this, you must imagine five little boys riding around on circular hovercrafts, complete with their own individual controls that could move the hovercrafts not only in any desired trajectory, but which could also make them spin on their own axes.


Matthew spinning fast


Matthew spin grin

Add in flashing lights on the floor and loud music, as well as the stated purpose of barging into all your friends as often as possible for five whole minutes, and you can imagine the delighted squeals and giggles.


hovercraft bang


Little boys, when given access to a collective hearts’ desire like this, do indeed giggle and squeal.

I am stating this for the record while my boys are nine and six, and plan to remind them of this fact should they get uppity with me in the future, after their voices have broken and they’ve started shaving.

But back to when Liam turned nine.

Restaurant-wise, the children then deigned to lower their standards a tiny bit and we hit the Spur for a late lunch/early supper, where burgers were the order of the day.

At this point, I’d invited my friend Anne to join me in a glass or two of wine. She accepted my invitation most graciously – even though it was the Spur, where the waiters break out into odd line dances around the restaurant from time to time – for which I was very grateful. I was starting to feel Shouting Mommy stirring in her sleep and I wanted to keep her in her box for the day and not come out and spoil things.



And on Thursday, with the three-day birthday celebration over, I went back to work for a comparative rest. But the look on my little birthday boy’s face will stay with me for a long time.


Birthday boy smiling

Now, if I could only work shorter days and spend more time with my children and more time writing… that would be a dream come true.

Working on it, dear readers. It’s in the three-year plan.


Comfort from the Narnia Chronicles

Well, 2013 has been – in places – a bit rough so far. But nonetheless, those rays of sunshine do, and must, peek through.

A few months ago, I took enormous pleasure reading ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ to the boys every night, skimming over the difficult parts very fast (like the events on the Stone Table with Aslan and the White Witch and her dreadful menagerie), and then we watched the movie all as a family one weekend (skimming even faster over the events at the Stone Table).

So this past weekend, after a satisfying little outing of sushi…

sushi with Liam and Matthew smaller

…the boys and I went to the book store up the road, where I found another Narnia book to read to them (I really do want a complete box set one day).

However, back at home, once we’d begun our bedtime story that night, we all realised that ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ wasn’t the next one in the sequence of Edmund and Lucy’s Narnia adventures after ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. So Liam and Matthew decided that they would rather put reading it on hold until we found the next one that featured Edmund and Lucy (it seems to be ‘Prince Caspian’), and they said we should stay in the sequence. I thought it was very mature of them to exhibit this delayed gratification.

What they don’t yet know is that I have been far less mature myself, because I started reading ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ surreptitiously on my own. (I can’t let them know – there would be howls of outrage!)

Dawn Treader book

And in this lovely book of adventure and philosophy intertwined, I have found some marvellous words of solace springing out at me at unexpected moments. They remind me that through the dark clouds there is always hope of a brighter dawn once more, and that hard work is never in vain.

Thank you, CS Lewis, for these and all your other inspirational words. Now, can anyone lend me ‘Prince Caspian’ until I finally get my box set?

(Some of my favourite words of inspiration from ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ now follow.)


“Adventures are never fun while you’re having them.”


“One of the most cowardly things ordinary people do is to shut their eyes to facts.”


“But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.”


 [When Eustace was turned from a boy into a dragon, and how he was turned back into a boy again:]

“The water was as clear as anything and I thought that if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first.

“…I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snakey sort of things and can cast their skins. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully…

“…in a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for a bathe. But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before.

“…So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe…

“…Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, however many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

Eustace dragon

“Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – “You will have to let me undress you.” I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt.

“…Well, he peeled the beastly stuff off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been.

“…Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that very much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.”


“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are – are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”


Birthday wishes

I was up unusually early on the morning of 21 June, 2012. About 04:30, to be precise. Outside, it was deeply dark and deeply cold.

At 05:50 I was driving through the glossy streets of  Sandton with my four-year-old son strapped firmly into his child seat in the back – just me and him; Frank was at home taking care of our seven-year-old. Matthew and I were on our way to hospital so Matthew could have a minor ear operation (grommets) to clear the nasty build-up of fluid in his middle ear, which, if left unattended, would lead to further ongoing infections and ultimately some degree of deafness. It was a road we had been down before and which we’d hoped wouldn’t have to be repeated. No parent likes to face the prospect of their child having a general anaesthetic.

As I drove past Sandton Cityand looked through the darkness into its bright, well-lit main entrance – completely deserted where normally I see it full of busy Sandtonites – it all felt very surreal.

Sandton City’s Protea Court

It was the morning of the southern hemisphere’s shortest day and longest night: not only midwinter, but the winter solstice – always a significant time in my personal calendar.

My birthday.

I always try to take time, on my birthday, to reflect back on what I have achieved since this turning of the earth around the sun from the previous year; what I want to do differently going forward; what I am grateful for.

It was, I thought, as I buzzed the Panda through the deserted streets of one of Joburg’s most glamorous areas, a very odd start to a birthday.

Later, at about 08:30, I was waiting for Matthew to come around from the mercifully short operation. Before the op began, he’d been – most endearingly – slightly ‘plastered’ from the pre-anaesthetic. He’d amused himself by inventing symphonies of sound in the form of farting noises with his mouth, as well as carrying out lots of shouting to hear the echoes in the long hospital corridor where his mobile bed was parked while we waited for our turn to go into the operating theatre. The ‘conversation’ went a bit like this:

Matthew: “Tttthhhhhbbbbbbbbbbbzzzzzzzzzzzzzzttttttttttttt! Hahahahahahahahaha!”

Mom: “Matthew…. Sshhhhhhhhhh! Teeheehee!”

Matthew: “Hello! HELLO! Echo! ECHO! Hahahaha!”

Mom: “Matthew…. Quiet, little man! Teeheehee!”

Matthew: “Tttthhhhhhhhhhbbbbbbbzzzzzzzzzzzzzzttttttttttttt! Hahahahahahahahaha!”

Mom: “Matthew…. Sshhh now! Teeheehee!”

It was actually quite funny – and at least the little man wasn’t tearful when he was finally wheeled in and I sat beside him as the anaesthetic took hold. Then I was politely booted out, of course, to wait in the designated place while the doctor and his team carried out the procedure.

So there I was, waiting for my child to regain consciousness when my mobile phone started beeping intermittently: my birthday good wishes arriving from dear friends and family. As it so happened, all of them were completely oblivious of where I was and why I was there.

It had all been a huge rush. Matthew had been booked in for the operation by the ear, nose and throat specialist only the day before, late in the afternoon. What with sorting out those inevitable medical aid pre-admission issues, and dealing with a small amount of office necessities back at work, we hadn’t had time to alert most people about the grommets.

So as my phone beeped, and beeped, and beeped again, it all started feeling very surreal once more. I was very grateful and happy for all the phone messages and birthday wishes, but not surprisingly, my main wish at that point was for my child to safely and quickly regain consciousness. Which he did, thankfully, and – despite a short post-op vomiting session a little later – all was well.

Matthew and I eventually drove back through the now-busy day-lit streets of Sandton about 11:00 or so and by lunch time were both settled in my bed for my next birthday wish: a really good nap. Again, birthday wish accomplished.

When we both awoke, much later, Matthew was perky and cheerful – aren’t children remarkably resilient sometimes? – and it was time to go and fetch Liam and have some fun. I decided to take my boys and myself for some sushi. They are both quite good with chopsticks and it usually attracts a bit of attention in the restaurant from smiling fellow patrons as my children sit at the little moving conveyer belt, picking out their pretty gift-wrapped bundles of fishy treats.

Once settled, I allowed myself a glass of dry white wine – it was my birthday, after all! – and I reflected that I was happy.

I remembered a birthday many years before when I’d been living in England as a young adult. On my birthday that year (a Sunday, I recall), I’d done a shift in the busy pub that was my weekend job, to earn extra money for my eventual travels around Europe, and had then gone home on the train to an empty house. My two flatmates were both out and none of my new English friends had remembered that it was my birthday.

That evening, I thought of previous years with my wonderful friends back home in South Africa, who’d always fussed over me and made me feel special, and I felt very alone. I confess I even cried a bit – all I’d wished for, at that stage, was a bit of congenial company and some friendly acknowledgement.

Fast forward to 21 June 2012 and it was a very different story: the boys and I ate satisfying quantities of sushi and I watched their two bright faces and heard their animated chatter. Matthew was fine, Liam was fine and all was well with my world. Very well.

Although slightly strange, it really was a happy birthday, in the end. I counted my blessings and was grateful, and there were no more wishes to be made.

No, Nemos are not sushi…!

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