CHAPTER EIGHTY-FIVE – HO HO HO…….OH NO

GREETINGS SANTAS AND MRS’ CLAUS AND ELVES,

Trust you all had a super time this last weekend with family and friends celebrating this crazy time of the year. Trust your dinners or lunches went off without any hitches and nothing was left in the oven not having made it to the table.

This year with our 3 little ones for the first time as a trio it was a little different. We had running commentary from JM; “its this many sleeps to Christmas and I want this and that for Christmas” and JM would then announce what CG would want for Christmas and poor TJ was a little oblivious to it all, much like both JM and CG last year.

It’s really crazy when one thinks how things change in a year. I mean JM really knew about Santa this year and what he does and how he does it, we as parents didn’t really discuss it and found it crazy how all of a sudden we had to start discussing all this stuff with a 3 year old. It is amazing the level of influence in a little person’s life from her school, yes I know this is all part of her growing up and then on the other hand knowing we can’t wrap JM in cotton wool for the rest of her life.

This did spark the great debate amongst mom and dad aka myself and KM, what do we tell JM, do we tell her it’s a myth or do we play along with the fantasy of some big rather dad looking like character coming down a chimney to deliver presents if one has been good for the year beforehand. How do we begin to explain that chimneys are not part of the modern British home? Then resorting to more fantasy about a magic key. Anyway this debate did cause a stir among the lawmakers of the Botha Household. Obviously as you have probably figured out, it was 1 vs. 1 to begin. In the end I agreed that it was too late, two weeks before Christmas to start the discussion after already playing along with the story about the red fat man. Needless to say the mince pie and Baileys was put out along with some reindeer food!

We made sure that the fat red man was countered with the real reason for Christmas, why do we celebrate and what we celebrate, etc. Yes we celebrate the fact that Jesus was born in a stable and that He had gifts brought to him, much like gifts are brought to us in a sense. Never the less we had a great nativity calendar up, made by my super crafty wife and in each of the days were animals or people who attended that rather famous night Bethlehem. For the record, in our story it was noted that we had Bunny rabbits attending, together with chickens… Ok I know its not Easter yet, but a major shop aka Tesco’s were selling Easter eggs before Christmas… What is this world coming to?

To go back on the whole celebration and birthday of Christmas, our little monkeys will be forever confused about this celebration as we did also wish KM’s mom with a birthday cake and all. So I guess we did sing Happy birthday for two reasons on the 25th. Equipped with cake we sang the tune via skype to a happy Dodo in PE. So those of you out there thinking that explaining this Christmas thing is a piece of cake, spare a thought for those of us trying to explain that their granny shares a birthday with one if not the most influential man that ever walked on this planet.

Back to our celebrations, we did the whole Christmas lunch thing on Boxing day to allow us to celebrate with my mom, gran and Paul, who might I add every year do the noble thing and give meals out on Christmas day to those who are lonely through the Salvation Army. It was great to spend Boxing Day with my gran and our little ones gran-gran. Thanks to my mom and Paul for the drive there and back for this occasion to happen. Needless to say our bellies were full with the normal gammon, beef, brussell sprouts, parsnips, etc. Don’t mention the Yorkshire puddings which stayed in the freezer or the little present boxes with post lunch sweets inside which stayed on top of the fridge. It was great and only a day ago did we finish the leftovers…. probably the best part of Christmas dinner…the leftovers.

We did however do a very normal South African thing on Christmas day, we braai’d. Yes we had Lee and Dave with us and did steak, boerewors, chicken etc on the braai with salad, all done in 13 deg weather. Believe it or not, the hottest Christmas day temp in Britain for some 20 years.

From the present point of view, it was super cool to see the expressions on JM’s face and even that of the speed man of present opening… Mr CG himself. So much so that we had to rewrap Gran-gran’s present twice before it was given to the rightful owner a day later. I must say on the one hand it is nicer to have little ones to see them open their presents and be happy with them then on the other hand not having little ones and opening all ‘your’ presents.

One of the little trips we did recently was going into London where we experienced the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Even though it took us 2.5hrs to do a 30min trip we still had a great time in the cold. It was great to walk around and thank goodness we had a double buggy, which acted as a battering ram as there were hordes and hordes of people. It was great to see the many lights on all the fairground rides, the ice rink, and the little Santa’s grotto. They also enjoyed the singing chickens and the talking tree was a big hit. It was great fun even though we spent more on the car parking in London then we did during the 3 hours at the Wonderland. Only for a friend to tell us afterwards that if we were to walk 5 minutes away it would have been free parking…note to self: Do more research before doing the London thing.

So what else have we been doing, Church is going great and still growing in the right direction. We had over 100 people come to our Christingle Service which was super as well as we were blessed with tickets to our churches first Winter Ball with live band and great food too. It was great to boogie the night away with friends.

Last but not least is to mention that our boy is now a BIG boy, he is sleeping in his big boy bed as noted by his sister JM. She is still keen to tell us in no uncertain terms that she is still the oldest even though CG is now a big boy is his big boy bed.

Well I guess that’s it for another month, I’ll do another one of these next year, sounds a long time away.

Have a super time this next weekend in what ever you choose to celebrate the dawning of 2012.

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Chapter 84: Not a cooking clue

I’ve obviously been walking around blind for the last two months or my ‘usual’ observant self has failed hopelessly.

 Last night was a super cool surprise 30th birthday party thrown by my lovely sneaky lady. It has been truly crazy time at work recently and I can only think that I’ve been too distracted not to notice the crazy things that have been happening. Where do I start to explain all the crazy little white lies that have been told to me in the last couple of months, while Kerry has been planning this party without me knowing a thing.

 I didn’t have a cooking clue what was going on behind me… in theory. The ‘story’ was…Kerry says:  “we are going out for dinner, don’t worry my sister has paid for it, so it wont come out of our non-existent budget for eating out…our reservation is for 8:15pm at a restaurant in Rickmansworth but first we need to go via the church to help Dave put up some Christmas lights up”…that was the rouse. I didn’t think anything of it. Even approaching the church and seeing some of the lads from church cars parked outside nothing clicked. Even going through the door and seeing a table full of ‘booze’, still the brain was still only thinking ‘we’re only going to be here for about 10/15min and then we going to dinner to have a quiet evening. When suddenly… I heard about 40/50 of my friends and family shout SURPRISE… All I could do was turn around to my lovely wife and sob on her shoulder and blubbering something along the lines of…How? Why? And then… Thank you… Thank you. Needless to say I manned up after that and enjoyed my first surprise party organised brilliantly behind my back. It will certainly never be forgotten and heaven forbid I don’t think my ticker can go through that jolt again.

 There are so many little things I said along the way that Kerry thought I knew what was cooking. Even to the point that while we were travelling last night to the church ‘before we went out’ I said to Kerry…’you don’t really hide things very well do you?’ Kerry thought I’d had known for a while and was about to tell her I knew, but I was talking about the shopping bag left on our bed which had receipts in for the shoes she had bought me with my vouchers. Needless to say Kerry’s secret was still intact, even minutes before the actual event.

 Yesterday morning we had a difference of opinion, which ended in tears and tension, about whom Kerry had chosen to baby-sit our 3 little ones while went go out for ‘dinner’. I couldn’t understand how none of our family that we have around us or even close friends would have volunteered to help us out. I said things that have bitten me of the bum like…’she doesn’t have a compassionate bone in her body’, needless to say I felt terrible after knowing that there was a clear reason why no one would baby sit for us due to the fact that they were all waiting at the party. And one of the cherries on the top was finishing work late at 5:45pm and then getting a phone call to go and pick up our babysitter due to the fact that Kerry couldn’t leave the children by themselves… all part of the plan, I now know.

 There are so many other little things that one could mention of how my super sneaky wife planned everything, like hording small amounts of cash (which actually I found a couple of months back, then I hid it and almost scuppered her plans which were the in the infancy and all I got told was ‘trust me!’, just ‘trust me!’). Saving up to purchase things for the party to even storing it at the neighbour’s house while they were away so I wouldn’t notice all the goodies. And the strict budget that we are working on now a day was not affected thanks to Mr. Sainsbury’s and Nectar points which can be used to purchase groceries.

 Kerry in theory had to use an alternative method of paying due to that me being the Bank Manager at home and at work and having the ability to know when Kerry has shopped and where and how much as been spent, so much so that a few months ago I phoned her to check a transaction which only happen in the last 30mins. I know that may sound like I don’t trust my wife’s spending ability, but when one is watching every penny…. anyway enough said on that.

 Anyway after a crazy night last to a crazy couple of days ahead, I turn 30 and then Kerry’s turns 31 years of age. We have both turned the corner, into our 30’s and have our 3 little kiddies.

 Well I guess after all that went above, anything else I write wont really live up to it, all I can say I have new appreciation for my wife and even though she will admit that her romantic side is not the strongest, I think this gesture that she pulled off more than makes up for it.

 Other news is that we have enjoyed having Dodo with us for the last couple of weeks.  Kerry’s mom; Sharon has been with the kiddies and us. It has been great to have the extra pair of hands around and don’t tell my wife but I know where Kerry gets the cooking from…its her mom that’s for sure. We have been eating well…. enough said.

 Another significant event happened in the Botha household a couple of weekends ago, we had 3 grannies in one house. Yes Granny Trish, my step-mom was over from PE after coming over for her boy’s graduation and spending the Saturday with us, my mom popped around and we had Sharon with us too. Needless to say that our 3 little ones were beside themselves, having all the wrinklies in one house…hee hee. Don’t tell them I said that!

 It was great to catch up with Trish and her brother Bernard who also joined her. They spent the night here Saturday en route to Coventry where my step-bros stay and they were doing that funny hat and gown thing. Huge congratulations to them for completing their degrees and wish them well in their careers.

 Quick update on our little 3… Jenna who is 3 going on 33…trying to tell the time and her enquiring mind is always putting things together and if something is out-of-place she will tell you. A note to self is: try not assist her too much! I get told, no daddy I can do it myself. Carter is starting to say more words rather than the animal sounds, and as ever he is into everything but thank goodness that our Good Lord gave me a son to try to deal with these ladies. Our little Tamsin is now an army soldier and is commando crawling and Dodo has help in teaching her to wave and clap…. My oh my are we surprised at how quickly our little Tam Tam is picking up things.

 Kerry has started the crazy journey back to work to make our budget stretch a little more, it’s still a crazy time to see if it is all going to work out, so any extra prayers for that budget will be helpful.

 I think that’s about it for now, it’s certainly been a crazy last 48 hours but I will never forget it thanks to my beautiful wife!!!

 Loads of love to all that read this as you journey through this crazy time of the year.

 Trust all the planning and planning and planning is going ahead according to plan…you know what I mean, and if your loved one decides to go out for dinner and not tell you where you going and you going via another venue first……ask more questions as you might just get a surprise that you will never forget.

 Chow and many blessings, remember the reason for the season.

Chapter 83: THE RUMBLINGS FROM HEMEL

Trust this finds you well and gearing up for a crazy part of the year, yes the time when the shops tell you its Christmas far to early and before you know it, it will a week after Christmas and there will be Easter eggs on those same shelves in the shops.

 

The same time when Christmas Carols are sung in October instead of the ‘normal’ couple of days around Christmas, also the time when every celebrity whose star is waning brings out there favourite Christmas tunes.

 

Well life here in Hemel remains crazy, we have a sitting up TJ with a few teeth, a crazy jumping CG aka Dennis the menace. He is just a typical boy and oh so cute when he wants to be and almost knows it too, just like his Dad I hear you say and then we have JM who continues to forget her ears vs mouth ratio but I guess I also fall into that trap from time to time. Kerry is about to return to work after another 6 month ‘holiday’……….apologies…. maternity leave. And me, well I continue to work as hard as I can; trying to convince people to invest money and buy houses.

 

Well I guess that’s a snap shot of how life is currently going on in our home. I do hope that your homes are less crazy than ours, but then it might be the same but it is always different. I mean to us its normal, to others, having 3 little ones – small little ones, two working parents, involved in church activities, playgroup committees, cricket websites, blogs, etc is a crazy life. But to us its normal, it is LIFE. Life with God at the centre of it all; if He isn’t at the centre then we’ve got issues.

 

One thing is for sure, I’m not sure if Kerry or I would stay sane if God was not a part of it. I mean there are some families out there with the exactly the same situation, ie working parents, 3 little ones, etc, but I wonder how they cope with LIFE with out God. Sometimes it is very comforting to know that God is on our side and looks after us and indeed knows what we can handle and what we can’t.

 

Over the last few years, a few people have told me how negative I can get sometimes, some people like my wife who if Kerry can’t be honest with me then who can. I’ve not always been so negative and over the last couple of months I’ve really wanted to go on a journey of when it started. There are a few thoughts of why I’ve turned inside out but I guess its part of Gods journey He has for me.

 

Apart from a bit of self and soul searching and allowing God to refine us both, we have had some cool days out as a family.

 

The last one being a trip to Willows farm, we were blessed with some bucks and we had some extra hands, aka Kerry’s sister. Willows farm is like a giant kid farm with little animals for kids to pet as well as giant jumping castles, tractor rides, trampolines, carousels and an indoor play area and to top it off we went on the first day of the school holidays. You know it’s going to be a hectic day when the farm opens by 9am you arrive by 10am and they are already ushering you into car park 4. Thankfully the farm had a big enough outside area to not notice all the many people there. Another day out was a trip to the Berkhamsted Castle, this castle is probably as old as all the ages of the people who read this put together. We walked around the castle on the walls and then went into the middle for a snack. This castle is actually a ruin so it was not complete etc. One of the other days out we did was a free trip to the Natural History Museum in Tring (a nearby town). It was a super day out and took us a good 2 hours to walk around and see all the animals that were all stuffed. I know JM and CG enjoyed it looking at the big bears, lions, tigers, etc and even Kerry and I were fascinated at the amount of different species there were there of many animals. The one funny moment was when JM said, hey look mom, there is Dodo, and actually meaning Kerry’s mom they call Dodo and not the old bird called Dodo.

 

Our church life is going well, we continue to be involved in Explore church and its great to see and experience Gods blessing upon the church, God doing some great things in peoples lives and recently the church blessed the worship team with a trip into London to a Worship Conference hosted by Tim Hughes, Matt Redman and Martin Smith, some of you will know them. It was super to go and let God minister to us and also just to hang out with the worship team of Explore.

 

Well I guess that’s about it for this month, we have an exciting time ahead; we have Kerry’s mom aka Dodo and my step mom, Granny Trish coming over. It will be great to see them and pass on some hugs to family back home. Lets just hope those bags have some Bovril in them!!

 

Anyway I do trust that those of you that read these rumblings enjoy it, thanks for your time and know how special you are to us.

CHAP82 – DOING FAMILY…BOTHA STYLE

Well it’s the 2nd October, not long to go to the most crazy time of the year, its been a crazy last month for us doing family; Botha style.

Well our 3 little ones are growing up so fast…from youngest to oldest…here we go.

In Tamsin Jayne’s life,  a crazy 6 months old next week. We are pleased to say that we have two toofs in the ‘house’.  Her little life is taking on a whole new meaning and is becoming such a cutie and always has a smile for the passers-by. The 3rd child syndrome does strike sometimes but not all the time. One thing is for sure though; TJ is never short of entertainment, if it is not Master Carter giving a slobbery kiss on the forehead then its Madam Jenna singing to her. TJ has also started on the solid variety of pureed food, so far so good and now actually started on finger foods, I must say at this point is that my lovely wife is an absolute machine when it comes to the pureeing and the freezer is choko with all sorts of cubed food from carrots, mince, liver, chicken stew, peas, courgette, raspberries, apples and many more.

In Carter Grant’s life, it is sometimes crazy living with the ladies, speaking from experience having grown up with 3 sisters. But hey, to be honest I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Carter loves his sisters, as told above, whenever TJ is up from her nap there is a slobbery kiss just waiting for her and in Jenna’s shadow there is a Carter not so far behind, just waiting to play the pick and run game with Jenna. Anything that Jenna decides to pick up and play with, Carter waits in the shadow and if it is put down for just second, it is swooped upon and is ran off in the opposite direction with a wailing Jenna in tow. Carter has started with the Moo’s, Baa’s and Woof Woof’s when asked about the different animals. He gets loads of help from Jenna on cue. Even though his words are slow, he so understands what is happening around him and loves to point to what he wants.

In Jenna-May life there has been a massive change for her, starting her school life at the age of 3. In the UK they start a little early in one’s life for schooling. Jenna now goes to Nursery every morning for 3 hours and this  is the start of free schooling. As you can imagine it is somewhat different to just going to Play group twice a week and now having to go everyday, it didn’t take long for JM to say, I don’t want to go today, etc. Needless to say it does not take much to get JM motivated again which is good. We are still trying to get JM to give us a little more information when asked what you did today rather than the standard, “we played inside and we played outside”. Another satisfying side to report is the fact that JM is now dry at night about 8 or 9 out of 10. So here is hoping that only goes up and our other two little people follow suit.

So I guess the only 2 left in the Botha household is the two that started the Botha family.

Well in Kerry May’s life, it is starting to gain momentum to another phase that KM knows all to well now, the art of going to back to work and the start of again juggling work, which will be added to her running the house of 4 children, me included I’m told. Having 3 little ones and adding work to this equation takes some skill, but I have no doubt that God will get us through this stage. It is a fine balance to get the required hours KM needs to work to make it all financial viable and the amount of child care hours to be paid for it not be the only thing that Kerry’s salary pays for. Another item that makes be proud is Kerry’s blog, with over 2100 hits in a little over 2-3 months since starting it, it is proving a good outlet for Kerry to encourage and motivate other mom’s with families and sharing our household happenings with people on the web. I’ve noticed at how different Kerry and I are, naturally we are different as in man and woman but one of her blog posts moved me to tears when reading about watching Jenna sleep. It is crazy in this busy life we lead but it take just a couple of seconds to admire and ponder and reflect on something and in this case watching our eldest sleep so peacefully and knowing God made her with our help.

Well last but not least, my life is sometimes a little crazy with all of the above but it is certainly the best life. Got a supportive and encouraging wife and friends and the best 3 little ones, this Dad could have asked for. Work wise, it does continue to be a challenge, however Gods in charge and yes He says, why worry…But I guess it is only natural to worry about all sorts of things from financial stuff to protection stuff to all sorts of stuff.

Our God is good, we have super friends and family (afar and close), we are so blessed by loads of people who impact our family and it is great to do life; the Botha style.

Thanks for reading and it’s been a pleasure to share these thoughts with you, here’s to another 30 days or so in Oatridge Gardens.

Chapter 81

Trust all is well where this finds you and that the last crazy days have gone according to plan for you.

Life in the Botha household has been somewhat different these last couple of weeks, I’ve been on annual leave, which has caused some disturbance in the routine of how a house runs without Dad during the week. To be honest I’m not one for routine and have quite enjoyed being able to ‘relax’ a little, how ever I must point out that although Kerry has enjoyed the extra pair of hands around, it has not gone according to her plan when it comes to breakfast routine and a little matter of drinking ones milk from the bowl once all the rice crispies or corn flakes have been consumed. This has had a double impact for Mom when JM has turned to me with Mom in the kitchen and said, Daddy you’re the boss hey, and when I’ve answered yes, the bowl is lifted to her lips and the milk is consumed, while mommy gives me the death look…I was ‘deeply’ concerned when this matter even further when CG decided a few seconds later to follow suit, naturally I started laughing but the looks from Mom just got worse. Needless to say for a few days JM would always say daddy is the boss before ‘Milk –gate’ happened. Kerry would then add and JM has followed suit with daddy may be the boss at breakfast time and not for the rest.

To complete that story it did not surprise me that the morning where mommy was in charge of breakfast, they had toast for breakfast.

Well as I’ve said I’ve been on annual leave, 2 weeks out of the suits and the office and yes got a big few weeks when I go back but why worry, God’s large and in charge.

What else has we been up to, it has been a bit of a blur these last two weeks and as I’m sure you can relate when ever a holiday starts you start by thinking of what needs to be done, only then to think why stress I’ve got two weeks off and it can be done whenever cause you have loads of time and before you know it time has past…crazy moment of slight panic when I used to do that with school projects back in the day…..Kerry will say it still happens.

Although I’m pleased to report that all the major DIY stuff was done in the first couple of days, putting up a shelf, fixing the door to CG’s room, fixing TJ’s cot, putting a hanger thing on the side of JM’s cupboard and mowing the lawn. The main things were done, Kerry does always have things on the list, but after asking for a list to be drawn up it wasn’t, which I’m thankful for.

We did discover a Pick your Own farm about 10 miles away from Hemel Hempstead. We went back today to do it again, its great fun for CG and JM to get out and run and collect all sorts of things from Blueberries, Blackberries, raspberries, Strawberries, Potatoes, Carrots, Beetroot, Onions, Cauliflower and loads more. It’s a big 100 acre farm with orchards and fields and literally you take a wheel barrow and then you can take bags and containers to pick your own fruit and veg. You then walk around for about 2 hrs and then get it weighed and hey presto you have £20 worth of stuff for £8. A super cost effective way of fruit and veg shopping and the kids are knackered after running around which is the added bonus on the ride home.

We’ve also been to a safari park, called Woburn Safari Park. Not like we saffers think of a safari park, we know Addo Elephant Park, Hluhluwe and Kruger to name a few, and you can drive around for hours to find the animals that the park has. Well we drove for 10km around the enclosures and saw Tigers, Bears, Lion, Monkey’s, Rhino, Giraffe, Deer, Buck, Ostridge, Wolves, Elephants and loads more. It was nice that they weren’t in cages like a Zoo but in effect it is all the same, animals living in artificial homes. Needless to say the kids loved it, especially when we had then lose in the back of the Zaffy with no car seats. It was crazy fun for the monkeys to be climbing on the car and for the lions to walk right past car while Kerry holding her breath. And for the record when it says, please close your windows and doors and stay with your vehicle when going through the enclosures. Yes happy to report that the doors remained closed but how can you take some cool photos through the windows, much to Kerry’s annoyance and JM’s little chirps too.

It was truly a super day out in ‘safari’, starting at 9am and finishing at 6pm. Happy to report we didn’t leave our little monkey’s behind and they were all fast asleep on the way home. Huge thanks to mom for savings us a packet on foods, we packed a huge a picnic for lunches and dinners for us all. The whole day cost us a massive £5, should have been £55 just for entering…..

The trick to it costing us next to nothing is shopping at Tesco’s (just like Pick n Pay or Spar), every time you shop you earn points and these points can be saved up and is turned into days out for the family. We have another day out coming up soon and a meal out for us 5.

This last weekend something strange happened, I played cricket. Speaking of points meaning prizes. Being off for the first week, I earned enough brownie points to redeem for a cricket match. It wasn’t a great day at that office and we lost the game but it was nice to swing the ball again and swing the bat for a meaty 4 runs. Also had some points left over to escape for a couple of hours for a game of Top Golf with Mr. H, it was great to swing the club too. Top Golf is like a driving range sort of game with points scored for hitting targets up to 240 yards away.

On the church front, we had no formal church these last couple of weeks, but we’ve had some cool socials, we won the car treasure hunt, you may say it was unfair to say we won after only having one other family competing and we had several weeks to look over the clues, etc. but with our church mates we’ve enjoyed a couple of BBQ’s over the ‘summer’ and a good few parks and sprinkler runs during the hours of church on a Sunday.

You may have noticed the word ‘summer’, interestingly this day being the first day of autumn for us Brits and all our saffer mates enjoying the first day of spring. This summer the British have just had is the coldest on record with a average temp over the summer being 15 degrees C. Crazy if you ask me, you don’t call that a summer, it would be an average winter in good old PE.

The Wasp story is short but sweet and a little sting in the tale of it. Last week, up earlier then usual, going down to the toilet as one does, I noticed this rather pesky wasp and being half a sleep but wanting to deal with it because of course I’m a man. On grabbing a ‘over the shoulder boulder holder’ and trying to swat it, it landing on my well contoured tum and promptly stung me, swatting it down again and then letting it meet its maker and flushing it down the loo. Then having to complete the wake up process to realise that it actually stung me was not to pleasant having to go back up stairs and asking Nurse KM for some help and advice on what to put on it to prevent me from becoming a balloon…needless to say Nurse KM called me a buffoon and had loads of “sympathy” for her wasp killer.

Anyway from that ‘big’ fish story to actually factual stuff and full of truth and having some pride in telling you that KM has had some 1500 hits on her blog and many friends have commented on how well it is written and how it is great to read and can’t wait to tune in for the next blog etc.

We’ve had some cool crazy fun over the last couple of weeks and have so much else to say but I need to try and keep these short.

Keep praying for us5 as we pray for you guys out there.