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“If I had what she had…”

I used to get a migraine when my son was invited to a birthday party. Not when the invitation was given. That would just produce a knot of terror and a nauseous smile. The migraine would fog over on the morning of the party, or sometimes the night before. Usually I was quite grateful because it meant we didn’t have to go.

My migraines were auto-immune. They had everything to do with me and nothing to do with the well-meaning party-throwing mom, her child or mine. I was just deflating the jumping castle for everyone. I was allergic to my stressed-out selfish self.

I couldn’t stop comparing.

I compared my (visually impaired) son to the other (sighted) kids who could see the jungle gym and find their party packs. It just about killed me that he toddled about quietly – listening to the party. (At that stage, he didn’t notice or care that there was stuff going down and he wasn’t part of it. He was as happy as any kid knee-deep in Nik Naks.)

I compared myself (severely disabled in all things artistic) to the artsy-craftsy supermoms. The birthday cake always looked like something featured on Top Billing. This year my husband iced my son’s cake. Go figure. The personalised sweet buckets, hats and freebies would leave me cringing over my lame attempts at a Fizzer, a Chomp and a Liqui-Fruit in a brown paper bag.

Birthday party comparisons made me feel pathetic and inferior. Sometimes I would briefly swap self-pity for arrogance. I would convince myself that these other moms had nothing better to do – nothing nobler – than to create fabulous parties.

Measuring up, crumbling down

Lisa-Jo Baker puts it well: ‘Comparisons will kick you in the teeth and hijack your dreams every time.’ Comparing punctures your confidence. It embezzles your energy and joy. It ruins relationships. It marshals its minions of pressure and tension. It gives the devil a foothold. You find yourself closing up, pretending, boasting, avoiding, seething, making stupid financial choices and so many other totally un-beautiful things.

Maybe you’re okay with birthday parties. But maybe your debilitating comparisons are in another area. Like if you catch yourself thinking:

She’s so much thinner than me.

I wish we could spend tons of money on our home like they can.

The way her husband looks at her… I wish I got that look sometimes.

How come their kids are just brilliant at everything?

Now she’s engaged and I’m still single. What’s she got that I don’t?

Her baby walked at nine months! Mine’s not even crawling.

I’d kill for a job like hers.

Maybe if I had a PhD like her people would take me seriously.

She’s got more followers on twitter than Justin Bieber. What’s wrong with me?

The Bible is littered with the debris of lives devastated by comparison. I’m talking real disasters. Saul compared his popularity to David’s; then tried to kill him. Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons. The others compared themselves to Joseph then tried to kill him. (Like, is there a pattern here?) Sometimes the comparison catfight went both ways. Rachel compared herself to Leah (who could have kids). Leah compared herself to Rachel (who was pretty). The Pharisee compared himself to the tax guy. Epic fail. The disciples were always comparing and competing and jostling to be the favourite. Jesus reckoned they should get over themselves and be like kids.

Solomon (and Rudyard Kipling) said it years ago: comparing yourself to others will make you either bitter or arrogant. Either way, not pretty.

And yet it’s so, so hard not to compare. What do we do?

Please continue reading the rest of this article in Radiant’s Nov/Dec issue on page 15.

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Radiant Magazine November/ December 2012

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Spring flower bunting – kiddies’ craft

Here is how the se7en +1 hoods made these spring streamers:

We started with a sheet of paper to work on and markers, and made our flowers first.

And to keep the flowers small, you know slightly contain the exuberance; we used Post-it-Notes. We drew some invisible flowers with crayons and then drew over them with markers. And then still with white wax crayons we moved on to watercolours.

And finally we did some potato prints.
The trick with a good sharp edged print is:
Cut your potato in half;
Then score your potato about a centimetre from the top and about a centimetre into the potato;
Then cut your shape carefully from the top and the leftovers should just fall away;
And you are done.

Then we needed centres for our flowers…So each kid took a heap of little tiny post-it-notes in very subdued colours, not insect attracting or anything and stuck a bunch on their work page. Then with puff paints and glitter we made a heap of circles – flower centres. And we left everything to dry overnight.

Cut, cut, snip, snip… and we are left with fields and fields of little flowers. And don’t forget the tray of the centres for the flowers.

Finally, we chose some string – I had some left over pretty streamers… and we laid the flowers in stripes, alongside the string… Place a dab of clear glue on each flower and then place the string on top of the flowers. Lastly, put a blob of glue in the center of each flower, on top of the string. Place a flower center on top (string sandwich!) and leave it to dry.

And now we have se7en flowery spring streamers and we are ready and waiting for Spring to catch up with us.

What I love about this craft is that it is easy for all ages, requires very little help and can be adapted for any number of shapes and styles. Butterflies, Stars, Handprints, whatever.

About the se7en+1 team: We are a Christian  home-schooling family with se7en + 1 kids,  living in Fish Hoek, Cape Town and love sharing our life and times… our day to day adventures, travels, crafts, school ideas, recipes and day to day fun on our blog: Se7en

This craft appeared in the Sep/Oct issue of Radiant on page 51.

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Meet the blogger celebrating life and growing younger on the inside…

When and why did you start blogging?
In May 2008 we discovered that our six-week old baby had congenital cataracts and micropthalmia, which means he was blind and the prognosis wasn’t good. Love, prayer and concern poured into our lives from friends, family and strangers on pretty much every continent of the world. My sister suggested I start a blog – the easiest way to keep people updated in terms of doctors’ decisions, surgery dates etc. Writing has always been my catharsis – until I’ve written about something I know that I haven’t come to terms with it, and so blogging was an outlet that brought healing and perspective.

It got quite a reaction. I realised that God was using my blog to encourage people and draw them to himself. I was amazed, excited and humbled to see how he was using the internet to spread our story and to minister to people I’d never met and probably never would meet, from all over the world. I realised he was also using my blog to minister to some of our closest friends and family. I felt more and more compelled to blog. I became a lot more intentional about it. I loved it.

Just before our second son was born, I started a new blog, Celebrating Life, archiving the antics of our boys, and then in September 2011, when I realised there was more on my heart I started Growing Younger on the Inside.

What has surprised you most about being part of the blogosphere?
I’ve been surprised by how much people respond to honesty and vulnerability. How blogging creates magical accessibility between strangers and friends, places near and remote. How even “famous” bloggers (big names with lots of followers) have been willing to interact with me now and then in the blogosphere.

When do you find time to blog? Do you aim to blog a certain number of posts a week?
In an ideal world I would blog every day. (In an ideal world I would also get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.) I try to post at least once a week if I can. Usually my writing happens late at night when the boys are asleep, the house is quiet and my husband Murray keeps the tea coming…

What advice do you have to women wanting to start/build up a blog readership?
Be specific. Make sure you know what you’re passionate about and what you want to say. Be real. Practise. Your writing must be excellent and worth your readers’ time.

DALENE’S TOP 10 BLOGS:

(In no particular order)

Jaci Mun Gavin

Brian Louw

Bruce Collins

Jon Acuff

Tamara Lunardo

Jeff Goins (did his online blogging course – brilliant)

Tom Hamilton

Jamie Wright

Shae Bloem

Clint Archer

This article appeared in the Sep/Oct issue of Radiant on page 55.

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A perfect count of chromosomes

By Carin Bevan

“Congratulations”, the doctor said as he handed Jamie to us, “Your son’s perfect.” And we’ve been amazed to discover exactly how perfect. Now four months old, he’s turning into a little boy with a strong personality and some rather clear opinions: He loves baths, bells and shiny things, but hates the cold and isn’t too fond of tummy time. The dots and stripes on his blankets are the most hilarious things he’s ever seen. He has long and serious conversations with us and probably wonders why he’s only getting silly smiles and animal sounds in return. He tries to copy our expressions and we’re convinced he already says “hello”.

That’s our Jamie – beautiful, wonderful and absolutely perfect.

So when, a few hours after his birth, the paediatrician raised some concerns about Down syndrome, I was far more upset that he kept on referring to my beautiful boy’s “soft features” than any possible disabilities. To me it sounded like he was saying my child had “weak” or “bland” features, obviously not something a mother wants to hear. Nevertheless, when he asked if we wanted to do the blood test, we said yes. He’s the expert, we figured, but without any real worries. Apart from his slightly slanted eyes and small, low-set ears, Jamie showed no other signs of Down’s. He didn’t have low muscle tone (in fact, everybody remarked on how strong he is), he didn’t struggle to latch and there was nothing wrong with his digestion.

Two weeks later, the test results came. Jamie was diagnosed with Down syndrome. We were shattered. Our little boy was not perfect after all. We were in for a rough few weeks: on top of having to deal with little sleep, breastfeeding and hormonal ups and downs, we now had to deal with this new grief and anxiety.

Why were we so devastated? After all, we had made the decision not to do the prenatal tests for Down syndrome, especially since there was no way we’d abort if the test came out positive. I knew this was God’s will and that He didn’t make mistakes. So then why was I so incredibly sad?

The death of a dream

Before Jamie was born, I was convinced that my dream for him was a happy, healthy life and that he could be whatever, whomever he wanted to be. Which parent doesn’t want that for their child? I loved thinking that this is God’s child, that He’s merely lending him to us for a while. To be honest, it’s easy to say that when all the possibilities in the world are still open, when there are still no limits to what he can be or do. But when you’re faced with a chance that he may not even be able to finish school, let alone do well at it and have a successful professional career afterwards, you may realise that your dreams have not been as generous and unselfish as you thought.

I felt very ashamed one day as I looked at the guy packing our groceries and thought, “What if this is all that Jamie could ever be?” Even if he did it with the same enthusiasm and pride as this young man, would I be proud of him? I was shocked to learn this about myself. That despite considering myself a kind and modest person, it turns out that I could be this arrogant.

After reading some articles and blogs written by parents of children with Down syndrome, I learnt that these and other horrible feelings were very normal, that it was not unheard of for parents to have thoughts, however briefly, of “what a waste” or “there goes my own life”. Or “what if I can’t have another child to make up for this imperfect one?” This is apparently all a natural part of dealing with it. But as Christians we know that what is “human” and “natural” can be very far removed from what is godly and just. I wanted to look at my child – no, God’s child – in the same way I knew God saw him: as wonderful and worthwhile. I wanted to have a new dream for my baby: not the selfish, worldly dream I realised I’d had, but God’s dream, whatever that may be.

I clearly needed to change the way I saw Down syndrome, disabilities and the idea of “perfection”.  I realised that I knew next to nothing about Down’s and decided to get educated.

Read the rest of this article, as it appeared in Radiant’s Sep/Oct issue, here, on page 33.

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Lamb kebabs, chunky salad and toasted pita breads

serves 4

For the lamb:

500g lamb leg chunks

4 kebab sticks

For the marinade:

3g fresh mint

2g fresh rosemary

2 cloves garlic

45ml (3T) olive oil

For the salad:

100g salad leaves

half a large cucumber, cubed

250g (about 20) baby tomatoes

*optional* 1 small red onion

4T plain yoghurt

Fresh mint

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

4 pita breads

You can prepare the lamb kebabs and the salad before hand.

When guests arrive you just need to reheat the lamb and toast the pitas.

Lamb:

Crush the herbs and garlic together, add a pinch of salt, and the 3T olive oil to make a paste.

Remove any excess sinew off the lamb and cut into 2cm chunks.

Add the paste to the lamb and leave to marinade (anything from 10 minutes).

Divide the lamb and skewer them (try not to pack to tightly).

Salad:

Cut the cucumber into cubes, halve the baby tomatoes and slice the red onion thinly. Toss with the salad leaves and season with salt and pepper.

Toss with about 1T olive oil just before serving.

Pitas:

Slice the pitas in half, and place in the toaster for a few seconds until they brown very slightly and are hot. Alternatively place in the oven for 5 minutes to warm.

To serve:

Heat a griddle pan or pan on the stove.

Place the skewers in the pan, cook for 5 minutes for rare, 10 for medium rare, 15 for well done (time might vary depending on the size of the lamb chunks, check by looking between the chunks, if still red then it is still slightly rare).

Stuff the pitas with salad leaves, cubed cucumber, sliced onion and chopped baby tomatoes.

Spoon the yoghurt into the pitas and place the skewer on the plate.

You can either leave the lamb still on the skewers for people to take off themselves or remove them and stuff into the pitas – your choice, just make sure the lamb is piping hot for serving.

Alternatives: serve the lamb with mint jelly, or a tablespoon of hummus inside the pita bread. This would also be delicious with some tzaziki (yoghurt and cucumber salad).

Check out some more spring fare in Radiant’s Sep/Oct issue on page 44.

Serve hot.

Lara Demnitz is Radiant’s Food Editor. Having studied as a chef in Stellenbosch, Lara pursued her career overseas, working in London, and Italy. She currently lives at home in Cape Town, dividing her time between cooking and working as a part time Aftercare Teacher. She is also the author of the cooking blog, How to cook an Elephant.

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Spring into vintage

By Nicole Danielle Warr

The term “vintage” has become very popular in recent times but how do we define vintage? Something old? Antique? Second hand? It can be all of those because vintage means different things to different people. To some it means Aunt Matilda’s mothball laden overcoats or some dusty old items of furniture. To others it’s a salute to the past with its classic fashion and décor. I am firmly in the latter camp. Vintage fashion means embracing the essence of bygone fads and fashions and reworking it into a modern context – mixing modern with vintage.

I’d love to share my top five vintage fashion items for spring:

1. The pleated skirt.

Think Marilyn Monroe in her iconic white pleated dress. Dreamy, feminine and fun (especially if the wind catches it!). High waisted pleated skirts look best with a well fitted blouse, a jersey and a statement waist belt. Popular vintage colours at the moment are ivory white, mint green, dusty pink and maroon.

Pleated skirts work well for the fuller figure too, as the movement is vertical and if worn in a darker shade, such as black or navy blue, it will complement the shape in more ways than one. The best part about pleated skirts? They have elasticised bands – in fact, I’ve never seen one that doesn’t have one.

2. The fifties style dress.

Floral print never seems to go out of fashion. One could put together images of people wearing floral from every decade. For this spring however, it has to be the 50s style floral dress. Conservative top, a cinched waist and a wide knee length skirt (the bigger the skirt, the better!). Remember when wearing floral not to overdo it. My advice would be to wear one floral item at a time and to refrain from mixing florals with other patterns such as stripes and polka dots. It’s best to pair your dress with a cardigan for those chilly spring evenings.

3. Vintage style sunglasses.

Some of the greatest vintage style sunglasses have to be wayfarers, aviators, Jackie O’s and cat’s eyes. You might have thought that these styles are modern, but fashions have a way of resurfacing and designers do love to borrow from the past. Remember Audrey Hepburn’s wayfarer style sunglasses in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Tom Cruise’s aviator sunglasses in Top Gun? Jackie Onassis wearing her signature oversized, round sunglasses (this style was named after her), and the cat’s eye sunglasses worn by every housewife in the 50s and 60s?

4. Clip-on earrings.

I have a pair of clip-on earrings that are very dear to me. They belonged to my grandmother and anyone who knows me knows that I wear them all the time. What I love about them is that they compliment any outfit. If you can’t get hold of your grandmother’s vintage clip-on’s, don’t worry too much as many of the vintage stores and markets still sell them. However, they’ve become so popular that many of the vintage sellers are saying that they’ll soon become scarce again.

5. Mary Jane style shoes.

Shoes have a way of rounding off a look. When it comes to vintage, a Mary Jane style does just that. My advice would be to start off with a neutral colour, such as tan, black, navy blue or ivory white. This is to ensure that they’ll match with all your outfits and then, when you’re ready, perhaps start experimenting with bold colours such as maroon, bottle green and true red.

Top tips when buying vintage:

  1. Always try the item on! Sounds a bit obvious but a lot of people just buy items without doing this. Vintage clothing fits differently to the clothes we buy today.
  2. Check for stains, holes or loose threads. Some can be mended, but some are not worth the effort.
  3. Check the label – this will give you an indication of the item’s worth and whether the selling price is reasonable.
  4. I recommend hand washing most vintage items, especially lace. Older fabrics may be damaged in very hot water.
  5. Have fun! Thrifting can soon become a great hobby of yours!Above all, remember that vintage is fun. Vintage is a treasure hunt. Vintage is past meets present. Vintage is versatile, dynamic and rewarding for the lover of fashion. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Good hunting…

Nicole Danielle Warr is the Editor of Vintage Lifestyle Magazine, South Africa’s first online vintage magazine. www.vintagelifestylemag.co.za.
This article appeared in the Sep/Oct issue of Radiant on page 13. View it here.