Proud.

I don’t have a Facebook account or an email address for my son. I have this blog, and from time to time I write only things about my son. This is one of those times.

You always think that you will remember every single second of your child’s development and life. But honestly, you don’t, and even though he’s only 15 months I’ve already forgotten the exact age he was when he walked, talked or hit a milestone. I don’t know what his first words were – everything in the early vocabulary stages sounded like ‘mom’ and suddenly, before I knew it, he was learning so much that it was hard to keep up and make notes of everything new he was doing.

What I do know for certain is that he is awesome, and my physical love for him is so large I feel it might suffocate me. He is funny, like really funny. He mimics and jokes and goofs around that sometimes I wonder how I made this great little kid. He eats non-stop – from sandwiches to snoek and kefir milk. He has this way of walking, while carrying a handbag that makes you snort laugh and he is interested in absolutely everything. He watches birds and ants and when not trying to eat miniscule grains of god-knows-what off the floor he is wobble-running and exploring and marveling at his surrounds.

Fiercely independent, he often drives me mad with his insistence of doing everything himself – from manually eating rice, to (badly) brushing his teeth and washing his face. He tells me what he wants and how, and lord help us if we don’t agree.

I enjoy spending time with him so much, but bedtime is still my favourite occasion. He’s become my number one photography subject and I fear I may need a million terabyte hard-drive to save every memory I’ve every captured.

I still walk in his room every night before I go to bed to kiss his little face, untangle arms and legs and cover him with a duvet that he never keeps on.

He’s my reason for wanting to better myself.

It’s not his birthday, or a special age, but it’s been a week – where big changes are happening as I’m leaving my job after three and a half years – where I’ve had a lot of time to think and count my blessings, and Carter James is by far my biggest.

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#ShieldItsYourMove

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Ok, so I am pretty damn excited about this campaign that I’m taking part in, starting today, and running until the end of August. Firstly, because I’m revoltingly competitive, and secondly because its something I do everyday, and now theres a competition associated with that something I do every day – keeping active.

Shield have challenged me, and a bunch of other bloggers to a #ShieldItsYourMove campaign. The basic idea is to ‘just keep moving’. There are mommy and lifestyle bloggers (me), sports bloggers, food bloggers, fashion and beauty. You name it.

We all have the month of August to move as much as we can, and track our daily steps on our jawbone Up2 devices. We all move for different reasons – for me it’s training once a day and working off that office stress, as well as chasing a busy toddler round the house. Im not sure how the other bloggers spend their movement time, but all will be revealed during the coming weeks when we post our updates using the #ShieldItsYourMove hashtag across various social media platforms.

Moving and keeping busy is easy when you feel confident – which is where Shields new MotionSense technology comes in. It’s the words first anti perspirant with unique micro capsules activated by movement. So, the more you move, the more it keeps you dry, and the more you move the more Shield MotionSense releases fresh bursts of fragrance. And I’m not just saying that. I have been a Shield user ever since my wedding in 2013, when I trialled several antiperspirants in the build up to the big day and Shield came out top. Let me tell you, there is no sweat like wedding sweat!

So, follow my journey here, on Instagram, Twitter and on Facebook as I try to out move the other bloggers for the month of August.

Why don’t you join me?

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{Interview} Devin Lester. Dad, Photographer and Capturer of Magic.

I am so excited to have my very first interview from my still-un-named interview series up today. Also, it would seem I need a name for this series if it’s going to become ‘a thing’. I was thinking ‘The Finger” (because I’m gonna probe you real deep) but that’ pretty disgusting, right?

Any name ideas?

Anyways, my first interview is a really cool one. Its with career-man turned professional-photographer Devin Lester. I have know Devin for many many years and can honestly say he is one of life’s nicest and most genuine guys. He even photographed Carters newborn shoot (under much stress from his side I’m sure, because I kept telling him to ‘make me look thin’ and ‘hide my double chin’!) Poor guy.

This interview was also slightly selfishly motivated. I have always wanted to get in to photography, and watching Devins success and beautiful images over the last two years has really re-ignited my passion – so for me this was also the perfect opportunity to pick his brain a bit.

{RA} Tell me a bit about yourself. Who are you, what do you do, and what makes you tick?

{DL} My name is Devin and I have a beautiful family…my wife, Megan and I will be celebrating our 10-year anniversary early next year and we have two beautiful children, Paige and Matthew.
I have a few too many weaknesses including wine, whisky, coffee and gadgets! Getting to ride my bike everyday & skip the crazy Joburg traffic is a definite plus!
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The lesser spotted man behind the lens, Devin

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{RA} What made you want to get into photography?
{DL} I’ve enjoyed taking pictures since I was really young. In those days it was a terrible point-and-shoot film camera – the kind where you’d snap a photo of the lion you spotted in the Kruger Park but then have to convince friends that there really was a lion there when you couldn’t actually see anything on the film you developed.
When I got my first digital camera (a compact little Sony point-and-shoot) I started learning about all the cool new features and practicing various techniques. This habit continued as I kept upgrading my kit to a Panasonic superzoom and then to an entry level Canon DSLR. With each new gadget I’d be really keen to learn about what it was capable of and what I could do with it. I practiced A.L.O.T.
I’d pretty much always be carrying a camera around and enjoyed being able to look back at the good times captured (especially since in those days you pretty much had to print photos because your Nokia 3210 screen wasn’t exactly a spectrum of vibrant colours).
My initial move to take my hobby more seriously came about so that I could justify spending more money on fancier gear. Not particularly romantic but I didn’t really expect it to take off in the way it has either.
I enjoy being able to create beautiful images for people! Taking these images requires some know how, some decent gear and also time and while people would really love to take these themselves they aren’t always able to invest the time (or money) into it.
I’ve also realized that photography gives me an opportunity to meet interesting new people and go to places I otherwise wouldn’t have known about.
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{RA} What is your main day job and how do you fit in photography while working an 8 to 5?
{DL} I work as an associate actuary at a reinsurer in Johannesburg. I’m responsible for the capital modeling for their life insurance treaties. Definition of a desk job! The company is great and was flexible enough to accept my request earlier this year to move to a 4-day work week so I could dedicate more time to my photography and try catch up on some family time.
I spend many evenings working late into the night to do my editing and admin. It’s not conducive to getting up early to get to the gym!
{RA} How do you juggle being a family man and all the weekend and after-hours work that photography brings on?
{DL}I think when I started out 2 years ago it was pretty manageable. I’d have a couple of shoots a month so it was easy to keep on top of things.
Now with the number of bookings coming in it’s proving much more difficult. I have a very understanding and patient wife! I’ve recently brought in an accountant as well as an editor to help spread the workload and regain some balance.
{RA}You started off as mainly a newborn photographer. Recently you’ve moved into lifestyle, portraiture and now weddings. Why the move?
{DL} Actually, initially I was too scared to take on newborn shoots J I figured newborn shoots were second-only to weddings in terms of “Don’t f&^* this up”. So I’d started with maternity shoots, parties and families.
Only once I felt I could a newborn shoot justice (watching & reading many tutorials) and had a client who was willing to take me on did I start down the newborn route. Most importantly there are safety precautions that need to be followed and also some special Photoshop skills can come in handy too. Even though newborn shoots can seem quite chaotic I enjoy the challenges they present and nailing a tricky pose makes it all worth it!
Similarly with weddings there was no way I wanted to take a wedding booking without being confident I could deliver a polished product. I first attended a workshop run by the brilliant Ett Venter, put together a styled shoot with another photographer and have assisted / second shot a few weddings now. I’m really looking forward to my first ‘solo’ weddings in October and December.
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{RA} Take me through one of your worst shoots
{DL} Well I once arrived at a shoot with no memory cards whatsoever. I’d taken the card out of the camera and my extra cards were sitting on my desk too. And this shoot was 40km from home. Luckily my clients were running rather late so I rushed down the road to an electronics store and was able to pick up a spare at the last moment. Needless to say, I double check these things now!
{RA} Let’s talk newborn shoots – who are the hardest to photograph, the baby or the parents?
{DL} Haha, I guess the baby since they aren’t really interested in following instructions…and there’s the ever present dangers involved once the nappy comes off (although I have been quite lucky in this regard)  😉
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DLP My first newborn shoot
 
{RA} What advice do you have for someone wanting to start out in the industry?
{DL} Just keep learning – there are so many great resources out there from Youtube videos, online tutorials, helpful Facebook groups and workshops run by talented local and international photographers. And carry your camera with you on weekend outings – knowing what settings to use and being able to change them quickly needs to become second nature.

{RA} Have you ever lost anyone’s images after a shoot? And if so, what happened?

{DL} No! Thank goodness. Immediately following a shoot I backup the images. I have, however, had to re-deliver images to a client who had lost hers but since I never delete old shoots this wasn’t an issue.
{RA} How would you describe your style / what do you hope to capture?
{DL} I try to produce the kind of images that my clients want to print and frame on their wall. And, of course, capturing emotion is something most photographers strive for. Grabbing that special moment between a couple or a shared laugh between a parent and child is priceless! Natural light can be used to great effect but I also love bringing in extra lighting for a subtle effect or sometimes not so subtle WOW factor!
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DLP Maternity 1
DLP Maternity 2
DLP Family 2

{RA} Who or what would be your dream subject to shoot?

{DL} I love photographing my own kids (yes, cheesy) but the pressure is off, I can try things out and they’re surprisingly patient for a 3 year old and 6 year old.
Then I hope to be able to shoot some amazing and beautiful weddings for my clients…and have fun doing it!
Devin with wife Megan and children Paige and Matthew... I can understand why they are his favourite subjects!
Devin with wife Megan and children Paige and Matthew… I can understand why they are his favourite subjects!
and lastly…
{RA} What would be the first thing you’d buy if you won the lottery, for:
 Yourself: {DL} A new car, mine has just done 100,000km
 Your business: {DL} Hmmm, a studio would be nice
 Your family: {DL} An overseas holiday and house by the sea wouldn’t hurt!
 A charity: {DL} Something sustainable like a bursary scheme
DLP Family 1 (my first newborn client 1 yr later)
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DLP Newborn 2
Im really please I decided to ask Devin about photography, rather than his day-job. I still have zero idea what ‘capital modeling’ is. Sounds like something you make with plasticine. Good thing we have other interests in common, like photography and wine…and coffee…and gadgets.
Thanks again, Devin, for agreeing to be my first interviewee! If you would like to find out more about Devin Lester Photography you can find him on his website, on Facebook or on Instagram. Tell him I sent you!
If you would like to be interview on Rupert Approves, or know of someone who you think would be great – leave a comment or pop me a mail.
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Photo credit: Alon Cohen
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On This Sickness Thing.

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Everyone is a perfect parent when they don’t have kids. Then you have kids, and everything you thought and said pre-spawn files right out the window and hits some poor unsuspecting low flying duck in the face.

When I was a non-mom, one of the biggest ‘my child will never be like that’ thoughts I had was around sickly, snotty kids. Everywhere I looked there were babies and toddlers with runny noses, unwell children, coughing children and people bailing on social events due to said snotty coughing unwell children.

When Carter was born I handed him around to everyone within sight like a bad scene from the Lion King. “Touch him” I would screech, “hold him” I proclaimed “let him be exposed to all the germs” I yelled. And he did, and he was, and he was fine.

Even when I sent him to crèche at the tender age of 119 days I was met with disgust from most people, people horrified at just how many germs he would be exposed to. Steadfast in my belief that my child was a Kearney, and therefore healthier than a pot of organic yoghurt, I insisted that crèche would be the best thing for him. “immunity building” I think is what I said. And for the next three months it was great. I had a healthy, happy contented kid. Until one day – when he was seven months old – school phoned. Carter had a temperature. I was more panicked than Trump on a windy day, I raced to the crèche, fetched my utterly miserable child and spent the rest of the day wondering how he could have gone from farting and happy to 40-degreed and miserable in the space of a few hours. A few days later he was A-Okay, back at crèche and everything was just dandy. Except his immune system seemed to have been activated – like breaking that wee seal at a night club – and suddenly the crèche calls were more frequent. Not to say he was always sick (in-fact, he’s more healthy than not) but if there was a bug or virus doing the rounds, then my kid was bound to catch it.

We had our fair share of colds, eye infections and UFBD (Unidentified Filthy Baby Disease). In June he got gastro turned dysentery and in the past week he’s been off school with sinus infections and semi-bronchitis. Yes, that’s a thing.

He’s not alone, kids are foul creatures, and all the spitting, drooling, toy swopping and face touching means that germs will spread faster than a gossip session at ladies night. So, is my child more healthy or sickly than his peers? Absolutely not. Around 98.7% of my phone data is used up on mommy chats discussing our small humans bloody stools, projectile vomit and gunky eyes.

I already have game plans for illnesses that don’t exist. His medicine box is stocked for everything from a sore toe to a tsunami, Life hospital will be my destination of choice should he ever need to be admitted (they have beds and food for parents!) and bedtime vitamin administration is a mini assembly line.

Not that any of this will work, because they’re kids, man. And their small little bodies mean that they have much weaker immune systems. What might make us sneeze four times could cause them to need an antibiotic drip and a 5 hour nap. We have to remember that essentially they need to get exposed to everything at least once – so whereas you and I are revolting tainted grownups, our pink footed little munchkins still have a long way to go.

So, whilst Winter may be a hell pit of sickness and snot, at least I know his immune system is getting an excellent workout, and slowly building itself up to Kearney standards.

PS – If you are looking for a list of medications to stock up on for your little one, for those ‘just in case’ moments, may I suggest using this handy list I’ve complied, below.

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A Family Photo Shoot

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A few months ago I was lucky enough to win a shoot with Robyn Davie photography, through the Rattle and Mum blog. As most of our weekends then were spent training for Half Iron Man, we decided to push the shoot out to July when we had a bit more free time. And I’m so glad we did – even though it was rather chilly – the light, the grass, the crisp air and the gold leaves were all perfect for the relaxed shoot in Delta Park.

Robyn is awesome – she is all about capturing the lesser spotted family in their natural habitat – relaxed, un-posed and roaming free. I adore how our photos have turned out, and am so glad she captured Carter’s cheeky grin and toothy smile.

You can find Robyn on her website, Facebook or Instagram.

Tell her I sent you!

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The Interesting Interview Series.

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I was driving to work this morning and scrolling through Facebook (naughty, I know). Apart from the usual rubbish that fills my newsfeed – cat videos, food videos, videos of videos – there were also a couple of really awesome posts. Someone I know is going back to gym after a 6-month hiatus (been there!), someone else was posting their professional photos of their latest shoot, and someone was commenting on how much they love Mondays ever since deciding to quit the corporate world and start their own business. Basically, there are rad, interesting, inspiring people all over who are doing amazing things with their life.

With that in mind, and because I recently had my very own Oprah ‘aha’moment, where I realised what I wanted to do with my life (well part time atleast), I’ve decided to start a weekly series where I interview and chat to inspiring people.

So, if you know of anyone – or think you could fit the profile – please let me know. It could be someone who quit the 8-5 and became a professional dog walker, someone who lost a lot of weight and started a new health journey, someone who ran their first race after leading a sedentary life, someone who took up a hobby and made money off of it, someone who has left the country and is trying to make a new life for themselves, a single mom rocking it or someone who has a fascinating career. It could be anyone!

Please pop me a comment below and let me know who you think I should chat to, and why.

PS – You may or may not have noticed, but I recently migrated (and almost broke) my blog in the process. What this means is that for several months there wasn’t a ‘Follow’ option on the new site. I’ve kinda, sort of maybe managed to fix it, so please do me a favour and re-follow Rupert Approves. You will need to do this even if you were a previous subscriber. Following means you never miss a post, posts are delivered fresh to your inbox, plus you’ll give me a bit of street cred in the process. You’ll see the ‘Follow‘ box on the home page and next to all posts.

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On This Sleep Thing.

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I had a conversation with a friend last night who is keen to start trying for a baby. His wife is (naturally) very nervous. Amongst other things (gaining weight, finances and hormones) she’s worried about the lack of sleep a new baby will bring.

And I don’t blame her. Carter is perfect in many regards, but when it comes to sleeping, he’s a bit of an under achiever. And he’s over a year. So it’s not as if I haven’t given him a fair chance to prove me wrong.

Lack of sleep is 100% guaranteed when you have a child. Your newborn might sleep through from 6 weeks, but like any wild animal they can turn on you at any time. I know friends who smugly told anyone they met that their newborn slept through. And then said newborn turned one and never slept again. I know moms whose eleven-year-olds have sleep regressed, and I know my story – a baby who naps beautifully during the day, falls asleep on his own within minutes, but who sleeps through the night only 30% of the time. He’s 14 months. Which means that I haven’t slept through the night in 5475 days. That’s a lot of no napping, a massive rest respite, a sad RIP REM.

Now, before you dash off to your nearest Doctors office and swallow a box of birth control, I do have two pieces of good news: 1. You don’t actually need that much sleep and 2. It gets easier.

The only way I can liken coping on little to no sleep is to compare it with fitness. Have you ever trained for a race? Let’s say you have, and let’s say it was for a 10k. Let’s also assume that you were starting at a zero base – couch potato level. Your program starts you off gently, maybe a 2-kilometer run/walk the first day. Your heart rate spikes, you’re out of breath and you finish sweaty and exhausted. It’s possible that you may wake up the following day fucked. Your head foggy, your body swollen and battling to function for most of the day. You wondered how you could ever do more. But then the following week you have to run a solid 3 km’s, and it’s bloody hard, but you didn’t walk once, your body is a little less stiff, and you feel slightly happier. Within 4 weeks you are cruising a solid 5k’s and possibly beating your time. When race day approaches you’ve got this 10 k in the bag. You finish, tired but unbroken, and suddenly you start thinking about another race – perhaps a 21 k this time?

Lack of sleep is a bit like exercise fitness. If you happen to be a parent, think back to a time when you were kid free. If you are currently kid free then, well, damn you, you well rested bastard. Right, so thinking back to BC (Before Children) – you were used to long nights of unbroken sleep and a routine that was all yours. Now imagine you went out on a bender, got home late after a wine-fuelled dinner party or were babysitting a small human. All of these actions are guaranteed to result in less and broken sleep. Remember how you felt when you woke up the next morning? Fucked. Your head was foggy, your eyes swollen and you battled to function for most of the day.

But then you had a child of your own and that first night back from the hospital meant no more nurses or staff to help you. And then your baby had to wake up for a feed every 3 hours and – like a blind drunk – you stumbled from room to room, boobs exposed, bleary eyed and tried to do what you needed to do. You’d wake up in the morning, and how did you feel? Fucked. Your head was foggy, your eyes swollen and you battled to function for most of the day.

This goes on for a few days – you’re probably still so used to not having a kid that you’re sleeping through some cries, your 2-am alarm and the baby monitor beeping. You wonder how you will ever get used to the constant waking up. And then a few weeks pass and suddenly you wake up without needing an alarm, feed the kid with military skill and it all starts feeling easier. A few months in and your baby is going through a sleep regression, teething,

Fast forward a few months and your baby is going through a sleep regression, teething, colicky or in pain. You sleep less and less but function better and better. By now you might be back at work juggling deadlines, demands and clients. On 18 minutes of sleep you’ve put together proposals, dominated meetings and finished budget forecasts. You are acing this. You are running your 10k.

Turns out, the less you sleep the easier it becomes to not need sleep, and little rest no longer means you can’t function the next day. Our bodies are amazing things, and simply adjust to help us cope with this change in our lives.

That being said, combining the two can often be dangerous. I went out on a wine fueled bender last night, and also happened to be on baby duty. I am fucked today, eating McDonalds at my desk, my head throbbing, my eyes swollen, wondering how I’m ever going to function again.

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Oscar Pistorious, Mob Justice And The Frying Pan.

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Several years ago I broke up with a long-term boyfriend. We were living together at the time – in his house – and I was renting my house out to tenants. The breakup was innocuous with relatively little drama. I wasn’t happy, he wasn’t happy, we decided to part ways. He left for the weekend while I packed up my things – including all the items I had brought in when I moved in –  furniture, art, accessories, utensils, crockery etc. I had two friends come stay with me over the weekend to help, and on the Sunday I left, the place was spotless – I even left a vase of flowers and a note reading something along the lines of  “I didn’t know how to split the gym we both paid for, so I took the boxing bag. Please take care of the fish, and yourself. Goodbye”. I do remember, in the rush of that weekend – which tends to happen when you have 48 hours to pack up your entire life – that we had run out of toilet paper. I think my friends and I used serviettes and Carlton roll-a-towel for those 2 days. We were drunk on wine and emotions, and didn’t really care.

Fast forward a few days and I was living like a nomad, sleeping at friends, my brother and my parents. I was exhausted, sad to my core and had zero stability. Then my phone beeped, and my world seemed to crumble even more. “You little lying bitch”Thief” “Fucking robber”. The messages poured in, relentless. Then they started appearing on my Facebook wall, on my email, and on my voice mail. I had no idea what was going on – perfectly nice people, albeit now considered my ‘exes friends’ had started attacking me in the most vicious of ways, attacking who I was, my character, my feelings and my heart. And I had no idea why.

I made contact with the ex – we hadn’t exchanged one word since the split – and asked if he could shed some light on what was going on. “My mom says you stole my pots and pans” he said.

Excuse me?

Apparently this (grown) man’s mom had come to Joburg after the breakup and had inspected the now emptier (naturally) house, and deduced that I had stolen everything from under her son’s nose (I don’t think she realised, or cared to understand that I had simply taken with me what was mine, and left what was his). Spurred, obviously by her maternal concerns he then decided to jump on the bandwagon and mentioned that I had also maliciously stolen the toilet paper.

I realise how ridiculous this sounds, and even when I relay the lead up of events I can’t help but wonder how something as petty as a mom’s assumption and finishing the 2-ply could have resulted in what happened next.

Shit escalated. Badly. Friends of his jumped on the bandwagon. Friends of mine did too. Turns out that they weren’t very nice people, and my world is better off without them, but the several months of abuse, bullying, defamation and character assassination that followed was nothing short of illegal. I didn’t know what to do. Suddenly a toilet paper issue and supposed missing pot had turned into the theft of the century. Suddenly I had ‘robbed him blind’ ‘taken everything he owned’ and ‘left nothing behind’.

I kept my mouth shut for weeks, sobbing uncontrollably. I thought if I let things die down then it would simply blow over. I didn’t want to go out and shout my innocence from the rooftops. It was all simply too bizarre. What would I say? “Um, hey guys, sorry about the loo paper confusion. Also, that mirror was actually mine’? The thing is, after weeks it hadn’t stopped, in fact my new reputation preceded me and I had random people stopping me at social gatherings asking if ‘I was that girl who stole from X’. After weeks of silence I phoned my mom in tears – I told her I wanted to find a lawyer and sue. I wanted to fight back. I have many, many flaws, but honesty and integrity are my strengths. I’m the person who hunts down owners of lost wallets and who always defends the underdog. I hated what was happening to me, how people were attacking me, and how low and close to suicide I was feeling. My mom told me to hang back, to not say anything. She assured me it would all blow over. During this time the friends who had helped me pack up (my) things didn’t say much – I wanted to shout at them, ask them why they weren’t helping to defend me. I don’t think they ever realised just how bad it was. I wanted to die. I was broken, devastated and absolutely stunned at the ferociousness of human nature.

It’s been years, many years, and I never spoke up, never called a lawyer, and never caused a scene. I’ve never really even spoken about it, until now. And then yesterday Oscar Pistorius was sentenced to six-years in prison, and people reacted. I witnessed again the brutal force of mob justice. Of people forcing their opinions on to anyone who would lend them half an ear. I saw just how brutal a mass of bored, angry, internet police could be, and it shook me.

This story is not about Oscar, nor is it about the verdict. This story is about people who – without fact, evidence, reason or proof – believe that they have the right to character assassinate another human being.

I was there for many years – without trial, without defense and without a voice – I felt mob justice first hand. And for what? For finishing the loo paper. For something that – in other cases – would have made quite a funny story had I bumped into my ex several years later, when we were both in different stages of our lives.

“Hey Kate, remember when we broke up and you moved out, you know you finished the toilet paper?”

 “Yes, how funny, the girls and I were wiping our bums with pink scented tissues”

“I know, I had a shit and had to wipe with a kitchen towel. Oh, by the way, I also found that frying pan I thought you had taken. LOL”

And we would laugh, wish each other well, and go our separate ways.

That’s what should have happened. Instead, people who I knew and loved decided to forge an opinion based on feelings, not fact, and ruined a solid chunk of my life.

I’m good now. I’m married to a guy who would never actively hurt someone he once cared for. I have the right friends in place and I’ve learnt a major lesson: Empathy can go a very long way in today’s society. So, until you are 100% affected by something, and until you have 100% of the facts in place, shut your mouth and don’t cause a scene. At the end of the day, the person on the receiving end of your opinion is a living, breathing human being.

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The Devil Is In The Details. Jokes. The Devil Is In The Sippy Cup.

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Being a parent is hard, right? So why manufacturers of children’s products must now go and make things for parents to use even harder, blows my mind.

Take this here sippy cup. A pretty innocent looking device, right? Wrong. This here cup o’ Satan was bought en route to Clarens a few months back, when we realized we had left Carters one at home. The easiest part of using this plastic shit storm was taking it out of the packaging. From there it was all downhill. No matter who I called, what I Googled, or how many times I read the instructions (and I mean really, a sippy cup that comes with a ‘how to’ guide should have already raised some red flags) I just couldn’t get actual liquid to come out the straw. Husband, driving, scoffed at my red face and angry neck vain. Except then he tried to make the fucking thing work and also failed, miserably. Upon arriving in Clarens my mom and dad rolled their eyes at us, but they too succumbed to the devil that is this cup. Not even trying to cut or burn a hole in the rubber straw of death would result in actual liquid coming anywhere near my child’s mouth.

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He looks like he knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t.

Apart from the cup that now resides at the bottom of a landmine somewhere, other ridiculously difficult parenting items I’ve encountered are:

  • Car seat buckles. Is it just me or is getting your toddler strapped into one of these the equivalent of trying to put a bra on an octopus?
  • Speaking of car seat buckles, what about the actual car seats? If prompted with a million Rand or a full nights sleep, I still don’t think I could get the thing strapped in properly. There have been multiple times that I have broken down sobbing in a car park, on the side of the road and even in my garage because the car seat had been removed and had to be put back in. When Carter was 6 weeks old I went away with my folks to the bush, as my husband had to work. This meant moving the car seat and base into my dad’s car. FORTY minutes and several YouTube tutorials later the thing wasn’t even remotely stable and we had to drive to a neighbours house in the hopes that they could help.
No babies were harmed during the making of this very dramatic attack on infant car seats.
No babies were harmed during the making of this very dramatic attack on infant car seats.
  • Battery operated kids toys. I mean really, who has time to now find a battery, a screwdriver and a PHD to try get Thomas the fucking tank engine to actually engine. Not I, sir. Not I.
  • In-ear thermometers. We splurged on a Braun device that nearly cos us our home loan. The thing has never given an accurate reading. One time my child, the pot plant and a mug of coffee all clocked in at the same temperature.
  • The spoon dispenser that comes in a formula tub. People, if you really need NAN to give you a leveler to level some powder, then I feel you probably should never have had a child. I’ve assembled a dining room table faster than I have this ridiculous spoon.
Just complete this quick puzzle, and the spoon is all yours.
Just complete this quick puzzle, and the spoon is all yours.

 

Luckily, not everything made for babies is adult proof, and some clever companies out there have actually realised that a parent generally has about 1.3 fingers available to do anything, and have actually helped cater for this. So, credit where credit is due. I present to you: baby products that don’t suck.

  • Colour coded onesies. Oh, you think you don’t need these, until your child learns to move. And then you wonder how you ever lived without them. The geniuses behind this brand know that changing a baby is like standing one-footed on a bucking bronco whilst holding a tray of fine china. Impossible. These onesies come with colour coded pop rivets, so you get it right the first time. Happy baby? Check. Potential of mom keeping her sobriety that night? Double check.

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  • Dummy straps. Again, in Clarens, we forgot ours and panic ensued. I resorted to buying some ribbon and a safety pin (excellent mothering, I know) to make an impromptu one. If you have a dummy loving baby, you do not want to forego a dummy strap.
  • A sippy cup that does actually work, and won’t leak everywhere. Meet your NBF. It’s adult still proof (I know because I’ve tested it on several family* members with no luck) but the kids love it. Did I mention its spill proof?
These are from Munchkin and are available from any and all good bottles stores. See what I did there?
These are from Munchkin and are available from any and all good bottles stores. See what I did there?
  • Tupperware. In any shape or form.
  • Toys that require no setting up, switching on or batteries. I’m talking plastic balls, rubber dinosaurs, building blocks and the contents of mom’s makeup bag.
As long as you'e not standing on it at 2 am, then building blocks are the perfect no fuss play solution for your little angel.
As long as you’re not standing on it at 2 am, then building blocks are the perfect no fuss play solution for your little angel.

Disclaimer: It’s taken me hours to think of anymore. Surely not all baby things are adult proof? What kid device has changed your life?

*I’m beginning to worry that maybe these products aren’t at fault and that perhaps I just have stupid family members?

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Why I’m Left Feeling Bitterly Disappointed By Half Iron Man.

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Three years ago I took part in, and completed my first ever Half Iron Man in East London. Upon crossing the finish line I burst into tears. I was elated, so proud and felt like I had achieved the impossible. (Turns out, it’s the 2nd hardest course in the world, so my feelings were justified I suppose). Fast-forward to 19 June 2016 when I crossed the finish line in Durban, and all I felt was a heavy heart and bitter disappointment.

It’s been a few days since finishing the race, and I’ve been trying to understand why I feel so ‘let down’ about the entire experience.

The weeks and month leading up to the race were not kind, and as mentioned here, the odds just seemed to be against me. When I did the race for the first time three years ago, I had a lot more time to train, people to train with and it was I Summer, which meant Winter with its debilitating cold, dark and sickness wasn’t an issue. Back to back bronchitis, chronic anemia, no sleep, shin splints, planning a first birthday party, a resignation from work and massive stress in my life left me feeling seriously fragile for most of my training.

We arrived in Durban on Thursday – to give us enough time to register, chill with the friends whose house we were staying at, and acclimatise for the race. The big rule before any event like this is easy; REST UP. Unfortunately, the Monday before, Carter had started with some severe gastro that was so bad we did what we have never done before and actually panicked enough to take him to the hospital. There, they declared a viral gastro infection and asked us to ‘wait it out’. On the Saturday before the race (having waited it out for 7 days) he was only getting worse; there was blood in his stools, he wasn’t sleeping, had a raging fever, was as miserable as sin and we were exhausted. We took him to the hospital in Durban and within twenty minutes he was admitted for dehydration and on a drip. Emotional doesn’t even begin to cut it, I was devastated for two reasons – one for my poor sick baby in hospital, with a now bacterial dysentery (the guilt!) and two, for the race in less than 15 hours time – which Barry and I had both trained so long and hard for, sacrificed family time for and had been planning for, for the better part of half a year. Barry insisted I still race – knowing that after this 70.3 I was probably going to give up triathlon for a bit and focus on finding some balance in my life. With a heavy heart I left the hospital to go and pack my transition bags and rack my bike. If it wasn’t for my friend Eryn who we were staying with – who had just completed the Full Iron Man – I probably would have given up there and then. Thankfully she got my mind right(ish), helped me pack my bags, nutrition and bike and helped me get to the race to set up. She also took me down to the race the next morning at 5 am and stood on the cooking hot pavements, with her hubby and son, and supported me the entire day.

On the same Saturday that Carter was admitted – before we took him to the hospital – we had the pre-race training swim. Normally the pre-swim is a free for all where athletes get to play in the water, get a feel for the waves, the current and the ocean. This year the ocean was not playing ball, and the race organisers seemed uneasy. They made it a swim where you had to queue up and head off 10 at a time, with the organisers checking people in and out using our timing chips. Alarm bells were ringing in my head, and as the queue got longer and longer and more and more swimmers were coming you the water looking less than happy, I was in full blown panic mode. After about an hour and a half of waiting to go in, they abruptly cancelled the pre-swim. The water was just too dangerous. My heart sunk a bit further into my chest. The swim was my Achilles heel and mentally I had been preparing myself for this single discipline the entire time. Distracted by a very unwell baby though, we left and took him to the hospital, as above.

After a last visit to see my baby and Barry in the paed ward, I went home to Eryn and Greg and slept surprisingly well (could be the red wine or Xanax..or both). Up to this pint I had also picked up a tiny bit of Carter’s gastro, which meant an upset tummy and zero appetite – also not great before a race).

Race morning arrived and I was up at 4 am. For those who take part or spectate in triathlons, you understand its not as simple as arriving and running in to the water. It’s a mammoth task of logistics, planning and time. Even though your bike and two transition bags are packed and racked the day before, you still have to get down to transition the morning of the race to pump tyres, stock nutrition and triple check you have everything you need in the relevant bag. I did this all and left the transition area to find Eryn. It was dark and fresh and a beautiful morning. My tummy was feeling better, Carter seemed to be on the mend, and I suddenly had a bit more optimism about the race. Then the race organisers made the announcement: The swim had just been cancelled.

3000 athletes went in to panic mode. This was the first time in 20 years that the swim had been cancelled – which meant that the ocean really wasn’t in a good mood. Many people were angry and quick to judge. I was gutted. The biggest challenge for me, and one that I finally felt ready for had been pulled form under me. Which meant we technically weren’t doing a triathlon – we were doing a duathlon. I, along with 2999 other athletes felt cheated.

The race, instead of a well oiled slick machine now turned into disorganised chaos. The pro athletes (only about 16 in total) still had to do the swim, and the rest of us plebs would start on the bike once they were done. We walked down to the swim, my mind now completely unraveled and watched them start. ‘The waves aren’t that high’ I thought to myself as I looked down. Then the gun went and the pros went off and the only thing I can liken it to was confetti being tossed into a gale force wind. Swimmers were everywhere. Some immediately got pushed several hundred meters to the left, others got pushed to shore and some just could not get past the surf. Two ladies had to be rescued and many of them (remember, all pro athletes) said they thought they were going to die. To give more context – take a look here.

It was while watching the pro swim that I realised the organisers had definitely made the right call. I can guarantee that several people would have lost their life that day should the swim not have been cancelled. However, that still didn’t stop the thoughts banging in my head. People just aren’t going to respect us now. People will say it wasn’t a real race.

Now, this is where I think I started feeling like a loser, and why the race has left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The bike start – instead of happening as people came out of the water – ie a staggered approach – but still relatively in line with your age groupers happened with all 3000 athletes at the same time, but actually not at the same time at all. Which meant a 2 hour queue as they let people off, five at a time every 15 seconds. I happened to be one of the very last in the queue, which meant that by the time I eventually started my bike, other athletes had already been out there for almost 2 hours. That does a lot for ones psyche, and even though your time only officially started once you had got on your bike and started cycling, mentally it felt like you were already behind. As an example, if athlete A started at the front of the queue and cycled a 4 hour race, and athlete B started at the back of the queue and cycled a 3 hour race, athlete A would still finish the bike first and start the run while athlete B was still riding. This is what happened to me, and even though I feel I had an OK’ish bike time (for me anyways!) I came off the bike and started the run when pretty much everyone had already started. Because of my late start, and the mentality of the organisers and volunteer staff being that of a normal race (ie cutoff times after swim and bike), by the time I turned around at the 40 km mark, people had already started packing up cones and aid stations and cars were flying past me on the freeways. Not cool. That, coupled with a really bad stitch in my shoulders made me a glum chap.

I got off my bike in transition and looked around in dismay – it seemed as if 90% of the bikes had been racked – which made perfect sense when you thought about it logically, but totally threw me, because even though I was well within my cutoff time, it felt like I was coming stone last. I started the run when most people were on their second lap, and so by the time I started my second lap, I had marshals rushing me along – again forgetting that I was making decent time and that time on the clock wasn’t an indicator of athlete performance. “I started 2 hours after everyone else!” I wanted to scream.

The run was shitty, and I will never again underestimate a ‘quick 21km’ again. Because it was completely flat I assumed it would be the best and easiest part of the day. It wasn’t. Flat means no hard uphill, but it also means no lovely downhill to relieve your legs. It was also 1 pm by the time I started, and 36 degrees.

I just felt the spectators at that point were disinterested, and I felt lonely for most of the run. Even my parents, who had come all the way to see me race, looked bored. I think it had been a long day of waiting, and due to the slow start, there wasn’t much excitement in terms of masses of athletes all competing at the same time. I could see them thinking ‘really, is this it?’

About 8 kms in I started running with a girl Siobhan who I met along the route and who mentally helped me a lot. I left her after a few kms as I was feeling a bit stronger, and she needed to walk a bit more. (I hope she somehow stumbles across this blog and makes contact – I never caught her last name, but we did commit to having lunch in Joburg together to celebrate not dying). The last 10 kms were much better than the first, and I kept a very slow but steady pace (race day goal was a 6:45 and I was managing between 7:30 and 8. I was hurting and the tummy cramps of the previous few days had flared up.).

On those last 10 kms, again due to the lateness of the day and mentality of how it’s usually done, a lot of the aid stations had closed up, sponges and water had run out and the promenade had been opened properly to the public. I ran into 2 people, was hit by a wayward soccer ball and had to dodge more than one child running in and out the crowds. By then I was close to despair and started going in to a very dark place.

Eventually, I finished, in my slowest 21 km time ever of 2:44. I crossed the finish line happy, grabbed my medal and T-shirt and made my way back to the supporters area. It was completely empty. That kind of (un)welcome does a lot for this already battered ego, and I felt so sad and despondent.

The positive to the race was that my baby boy was discharged that afternoon so he and hubby at-least got to see me on the route, which was a beautiful sight when you are empty and broken inside.

Sadly, I don’t feel as if the organisers handled the delayed start well, and I’m bitterly disappointed by how I was made to feel like a B grade athlete out there – at no fault of my own. I think the organisers had been prepped for a 7:30 am start and a cutoff by 15:30 – so when the plans changed and the time got pushed out, they weren’t aware that it was OK and athletes competing were not a bunch of losers. I also definitely know that having had the swim portion cut out – which actually made the race harder for some reason, has made me feel like a 2/3 Iron Man.

Does that mean I have unfinished business, and will be coming back next year to see it through? Probably not. I’m feeling a massive sense of relief that this race is over, and that I can focus on some other aspects of my life right now. Nothing that looks or sounds like a swim, bike or run… although, that’s what I said straight after my very first Half Iron man in 2013…

CJ was less than thrilled as well
CJ was less than thrilled as well

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I took this photo when the pros went out on their swim. You can see the lifeguards rushing in to assist a swimmer

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Carter in hospital with bacterial dysentry
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Race registration with Eryn
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Finishing in a time of 6:26
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On the Friday we did a team swim. The water was harsh but not unmanageable.
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