SOUTH AFRICA: Interview with Karien Potgieter of Running the Race

SOUTH AFRICA: Interview with Karien Potgieter of Running the Race

Karein PotgieterWhere in the world do you live? And, are you from there?

I live in Kimberley, the diamond capital of South Africa.  Kimberley is a smallish, dusty town that gets extremely hot in summer – living here sometimes requires a good sense of humour, ha!  I was born and raised just a short distance from here – in Bloemfontein in Central South Africa.

What language(s) do you speak?

Our home language is Afrikaans, but I’m fluent in English as well.  South Africa has 11 official languages, plus a number of unofficial ones, so I’m really far behind as far as that goes!

When did you first become a mother?

I was blessed with a beautiful, peaceful little girl at the beginning of 2012 at the age of 34.  My son, a busy, happy little guy, was born 22 months later at the end of 2013.  It’s been an overwhelming, busy and blessed two-and-a-half years – what an amazing adventure!

Is your work: stay-at-home mom, other work at home or do you work outside the home?

I’m in the very privileged position to work from home as an ecologist.  I feel extremely blessed to be able to be here for my kids all day (we have a nanny who looks after them while I work) and be able to do a job that I love.

Why do you blog/write?

Writing is my passion – I love, love, love it!  Combining writing with my other passions, namely my kids, running and healthy living, is pure bliss.

How would you say that you are different from other mothers?

I’m quite a health nut!  At the age of two-and-a-half my daughter has never seen or tasted something like a soda and very rarely eats junk food – we just don’t keep it in our house.  She and her brother both love fruits and veggies – perhaps because it’s all they know?  I also love running with both kids in our double jogging stroller – it’s one of our favourite things to do!

What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?

There are so many!  Keeping them safe in a country known for its high crime rate; teaching them to value and accept themselves in a society where pressure is immense to be and look a certain way; teaching them to respect others in a world where respect for others is on the decline; teaching them to be active and take care of their bodies in a world where technology makes everything so easy…  The list goes on and on.  Only by grace!

How did you find World Moms Blog?

I love reading about other mothers’ experiences on this crazy adventure called motherhood.  An online search led me to World Moms Blogs, where I’ve found so many inspirational stories about moms from all over the globe – I love it!

This is an original, interview post for World Moms Blog from our new writer in South Africa and mum of 2, Karien Potgieter. You can read more about Karien’s running adventures through life at her personal blog: Running the Race

Karien Potgieter

Karien Potgieter is a full-time working mom of two toddlers. She has a master’s degree in ecology and works in the conservation sector in beautiful South Africa. Her other big passion, apart from her family and caring for the environment, is running. To date she’s participated in races on three continents and in six countries and she dreams of travelling to and running in many, many more. You can follow her and her family’s running adventures on her blog, Running the Race (http://www.runningtherace.co.za).

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TEXAS, USA: Fair Is Not Always Equal

TEXAS, USA: Fair Is Not Always Equal

2879457068_45cc8b3d7c_zIf you will have, do have, or have ever had a nine year old boy in your life, you have probably heard this ever common, often blood curdling statement, “That’s not fair!” I hear it multiple times a day from my own nine year old son. I thought it was a phrase which would never end, and apparently even, we, as adults, struggle with perceived unfairness in our own lives quite often. (more…)

Meredith (USA)

Meredith finds it difficult to tell anyone where she is from exactly! She grew up in several states, but mainly Illinois. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana which is also where she met her husband. She taught kindergarten for seven years before she adopted her son from Guatemala and then gave birth to her daughter two years leter. She moved to Lagos, Nigeria with her husband and two children in July 2009 for her husband's work. She and her family moved back to the U.S.this summer(August 2012) and are adjusting to life back in the U.S. You can read more about her life in Lagos and her adjustment to being back on her blog: We Found Happiness.

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In Transit: Waste Not…

In Transit: Waste Not…

waste notMy family and I have just returned home to the United States after living in Laos for the past two years. We’ve been back in the States for 1.5 weeks and the highlight of my day today was a successful trip to a clearance sale at the local used children’s clothing store here in Denver, Colorado.

For $200 U.S. dollars, I bought 50 pieces of clothing for my 4.5-year old boy and girl twins to last them (hopefully) for the next three years, when we will be living in Lesotho.

No, you’re not reading typos (WMB editors are awesome). Yes, that’s $200 for 50 pieces of clothes including: jeans, pants, shorts, collared shirts, t-shirts, cute shirts, dresses, skirts, leggings, pajamas, and swimwear, sizes 5 – 8. All are like new, and many top quality brands,  which some of you might recognize: Gymboree, Hanna Andersson, Mini-Boden, Garnet Hill, Gap, Carter’s.

I’ve been shopping for used children’s clothing ever since my kids were born. Heck, they’ve been living mostly in hand-me-downs from relatives and friends and this store’s used clothing.

They’ve been happy. I’ve been happy. And we’ve all received compliments on their cute clothes. I really wouldn’t do it any other way.

Sure, I see loads of advertisements, storefronts and catalogs filled with great stuff I’d love to buy, and can afford to buy. But my practical sensibilities and appreciation of value for money mostly always stops me…

”They grow so fast.”

“It’ll just get dirty or torn up.”

“Hey, those are adult clothing prices!”

As they say, “Waste Not Want Not.” Or, “One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure.”

When I was living and working in Singapore as an investment banker, single, no kids, I was a spendthrift. Not a care in the world, except to ensure I saved for my pension.

I used to give my housekeeper handbags and shoes from the back of my closet that had gotten moldy in the extreme humidity, and she would always be delighted to receive these items that I thought were in state of trash-worthy grossness.

Weeks later, I would compliment her on her great purse or shoes and she would say, “These are the ones you gave me Ma’am.” Seriously. I felt like a fool. All I had to do was wipe them clean and put on a coat of leather polish. Silly, young, spendthrifty me.

Now I make sure our belongings are well cared for so they can last, or so they can be passed on and re-used. In Laos, used items purchased or made in America were highly coveted and sold fast. Everyone from our housekeeper, gardener, guard, colleagues at work and folks on a “buy & sell” Facebook site, gobbled up everything that wasn’t typically available locally or across the border in Thailand. Mostly because it was either cheaper, or better quality.

Consumer products sold throughout Asia tend to be of very low and questionable quality, and often not available at all in Laos.

Coming back to the land of plenty and choices, I still try to maintain the same mindset. Things can be valued for much more fundamental reasons than merely being new, or beyond the marketing image of “need” or status or image.

Sure, we can bring in the extreme perspective of the garbage dump cities all of the world where people and children actually live off of, and even earn a living from garbage. And our gut reaction is to think about how we can help them and change their situation, and feeling with a passion that something must be done about them, when in fact, it starts with us.

If we can change our habits and our mindsets, if we can demand less, if our values can put a limit on the things we accumulate versus things we re-use, then…

Who knows? Who knows what the solution is to uber-consumerism? Everyone all over the world seems to want it. Our demand for it makes it thrive. It’s not completely wrong, yet somehow it doesn’t seem right.

What does seem right to me is $200 for 50, and I’ll stick with it for as long as I can.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our mother of twins writer,  Dee Harlow, currently in transit to live in Lesotho. You can also find her on her blog Wanderlustress.

Photo credit attributed to Mark Frauenfelder. This photo has a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike license.

Dee Harlow (Laos)

One of Dee’s earliest memories was flying on a trans-Pacific flight from her birthplace in Bangkok, Thailand, to the United States when she was six years old. Ever since then, it has always felt natural for her to criss-cross the globe. So after growing up in the northeast of the US, her life, her work and her curiosity have taken her to over 32 countries. And it was in the 30th country while serving in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan that she met her husband. Together they embarked on a career in international humanitarian aid working in refugee camps in Darfur, Sudan, and the tsunami torn coast of Aceh, Indonesia. Dee is now a full-time mother of three-year old twins and continues to criss-cross the globe every two years with her husband who is in the US Foreign Service. They currently live in Vientiane, Laos, and are loving it! You can read about their adventures at Wanderlustress.

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BELGIUM: Bah Bon

BELGIUM: Bah Bon

Bah BonI’ve  yet to meet a mom who is not monitoring her kid’s eating habits. Some might even be obsessed over it, others just make sure their kids eat enough or don’t overeat. Food can be filled with cultural, health or moral values and seems an important subject in most families I know.

Every single one of the moms I know, seems to have her personal truth about food, or is at least searching for it. I know quite a few moms who vouch for strict vegetarianism, sugar free, all organic, low-carb, macrobiotic, low-fat or a mix of those. Others cook without lactose, gluten, sugar, eggs, nuts, soy and other allergy or intolerance boosters, by necessity or by conviction. But there’s also quite a number who just like to stick to their grandmothers’ favourite mashed potatoes with pork chops and piccalilli, because that’s what they were raised with.

Myself, I mix quite a bit of the above. My life is all about compromises. As a student, I used to be vegetarian, but now we eat vegetarian for only about 3 days a week. I also restrict the amount of lactose, because of my daughter’s (mild) intolerance. I make sure they eat at least one piece of fruit per day, but most days it’s two or three. And because we are Belgian, we have our two-weekly take out of ‘French’ fries, which originally came from Belgium. Or maybe even from Flanders.

I would not call myself obsessed, but I do keep a detailed mental track of what my kids eat in a day, and try to compensate by the 80/20 rule I adopted from a fellow World Mom: if they eat healthy for 80% of the time, that will make up for the 20% they eat junk.

When a mom has found her personal truth about food, obviously she wishes for her kids to eat by it; which they aren’t likely to do without a struggle. Not after they’ve tasted the Belgian fries, they won’t.

When my oldest was younger, I used to think I had it all together though. He ate whatever vegetable I gave him and his favourite dish was Brussels’ sprouts. I even recall quite some occasions on which I, the former vegetarian, bribed him into eating his meat by promising him an extra stem of broccoli. After a while, even the meat didn’t pose a problem anymore. He would eat whatever I served him.

Those good old days are over now.

It all started when our daughter arrived, age 2.5. She came from Ethiopia and was not used to our diet, not mentally, but also not physically. The first time I served her something green, she just threw it on the floor. Not out of a whim, but because she was clearly convinced it was not edible. She even tried to take it out of my mouth. Having been fed mashed dishes all her life, she was also not used to chewing. She did like bread and she did her best chewing it, but we had to take her to a physiotherapist to sooth her jaw pains. So we customized our cooking to her and introduced new stuff every once in a while. The one dish that never posed a problem was, indeed, our Belgian fries.

Meanwhile, our son, then 5, seemed to finally grasp that there was such a thing as rejecting food. I don’t know whether it was his sister’s example, the TV shows he started watching, his classmates or just normal evolution, but he started getting more selective each month. He also ate with his hands more often, just like his sister was used to. I went from having one kid with excellent eating habits to two picky, messy eaters.

After two years of convincing myself it was just a phase, this year I started implementing some strategies to get them to eat more balanced. Ultimately, what they were eating wasn’t all that bad but I was getting tired of the drama and the struggle to get them to eat what I believed was good for them. And most of all, I wanted them to develop the discipline to choose healthy by themselves, and not just because I ordered or rewarded them.

First, I tried the Yucky List. A colleague of mine had it at home, and it worked perfectly for her family. The idea is that it is only natural to have different tastes and that you don’t need to like everything. The concept is that each family member can have three dishes they really don’t like, on that list. When it is served, they are allowed to refuse it and have bread instead. Or hope for a mom who cooks two different dishes in advance. Of course over time, you can change your preferences but when a fourth dish you don’t like is served to you, you have to eat it, before you can put it on the list (replacing another).

It seemed promising but after a few weeks, the kids started to change their list about every other day. Way too many family dinners were filled with  ‘I will put this on my yucky list for sure!’ and a lot of moaning and struggling, which didn’t really lighten the mood as I had hoped it would. We might pick it up again when they are older but for now, it doesn’t work for us.

After that, I changed my strategy to handing out a Yucky Coupon, Bah Bon in Dutch. I borrowed the idea from a friend who used to do cooking for youth camps. At these camps, each of the kids was given one Bah Bon for the duration of the camp.  They could hand it in if they didn’t want to eat one of the meals that was cooked for them. Of course, they only could do that once. And the ones who still had the Bah Bon at the last day of camp, could hand it in, in exchange for ice cream.

So that’s how we do it now and it works like a charm! The kids both have their weekly Bah Bon, which is very conveniently posted on the magnetic wall next to the dinner table. Whenever they complain about dinner (or lunch or breakfast), we just point to their Bah Bon and remind them they can hand it in if they wish. No strict words, just giving them a choice and a visual reminder. Our son hasn’t missed his Sunday ice cream once. Our daughter has, once, and she’s not likely to miss another.

Of course, this will only work if ice cream is really a treat for your kids. Mine don’t really get candy or other sweets that often, so for them this works perfectly.

And of course, it’s still kind of a bribe. But I like it much more than the daily ‘If you don’t eat it, you can’t have desert’ bribe. For one, because we don’t have desert every day. Second, because they have to manage the discipline to work all week for their ice cream, rather than getting an instant reward. Third, because I don’t exactly sell the ice cream as a bribe or reward but rather as an interpretation of the 80/20 rule: if they eat healthy and balanced all week, it is all right to have something unhealthy every once in a while.

Most importantly, I like this system because the kids themselves really like this system. They like being in control of what they (don’t) eat without any pressure from us, and most of all they absolutely love our weekly ceremony when they officially hand in the Bah Bon they saved in exchange for their well deserved treat.

Do you have a personal or cultural take on the food you serve your kids? And do you need similar strategies to convince them about it?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.

The picture in this post is credited to the author.

Katinka

If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

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TEXAS, USA: The Court Jester

TEXAS, USA: The Court Jester

CourtJester1Summer break is upon us once again.  With summer, comes sleeping in, summer vacations, and eating sweet watermelon every day. However, there is something else that sneaks its evil little way into summer as well…. (more…)

Meredith (USA)

Meredith finds it difficult to tell anyone where she is from exactly! She grew up in several states, but mainly Illinois. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana which is also where she met her husband. She taught kindergarten for seven years before she adopted her son from Guatemala and then gave birth to her daughter two years leter. She moved to Lagos, Nigeria with her husband and two children in July 2009 for her husband's work. She and her family moved back to the U.S.this summer(August 2012) and are adjusting to life back in the U.S. You can read more about her life in Lagos and her adjustment to being back on her blog: We Found Happiness.

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NEW ZEALAND: Matariki

NEW ZEALAND: Matariki

NASA MatarikiIt’s mid-winter in New Zealand. The air is crisper than I’ve felt it for a while, the leaves have pretty much fallen and we have had the shortest day of the year.

This week also saw the appearance of the star cluster, Matariki, (The Pleiades), which heralds the Maori New Year.

This was not a festival I had ever heard of growing up but it has been revised and reinstated and there are now celebrations being held all around New Zealand. While different tribes traditionally celebrated Matariki in their own fashion, now it is universally marked by the new moon and rising of the Matariki star cluster with festivities running from 1st June to 30th July.

Traditionally, Matariki was a time of celebration, important for navigation and the timing of the seasons. It was particularly relevant to the preparation of the ground for the upcoming growing season and offerings to the gods, and specifically, Rongo, the Maori god of cultivated food.

Only a few New Zealand schools consistently mark mid-winter and Matariki but for our boys’ school, festivals are an important part of the culture and I have two mid-winter events to attend this coming week.

On Wednesday evening, my youngest son has a lantern walk through a public garden. Imagine a waterfall and a large pond with a bridge over it and a stream running throughout. Imagine 30 or so small (3-6 year-old) children clutching a paper lantern with a candle in one hand and a parent’s hand in the other as we meander through the park in, otherwise, pitch black. We will wander past tiny grottos of handmade gnomes and crystals, we will attempt to sing (although for the children, it’s enough that they manage to walk and stay upright!) and we finish gathered together, munching on a star shaped, ginger or shortbread biscuit.

On Thursday evening, my older sons have their mid-winter festival, beginning with a shadow play performed by their teachers. After the play, the children who are between 10 and 14 gather in small groups amongst the trees at school and the youngest children, guided by their lanterns and teachers, meander from group to group and hear the older children entertain them with a song, or a poem or a tune. The 10 year-olds then follow behind the youngest to see the older children’s performances and the 11 year-olds follow them, and so on. They will finish with their classmates and a biscuit and warm drink.

The magic in these events is heart-warming and the children just seem to absorb the atmosphere; they appreciate the small snippets of light amongst the darkness, the companionship, the quiet musicality of the ’entertainment’ and especially the sharing of food at the end! (So do I.)

Do you celebrate mid-summer and mid-winter? How do schools where you live mark these seasonal events?

Sources: NZ Ministry of Culture and Heritage; Wikipedia

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our writer and mother of three boys in New Zealand, Karyn Van Der Zwet.

The image used in this post is credited to Wikipedia images with editing from Dayne Laird (Ministry for Culture and Heritage, NZ)

Karyn Wills

Karyn is a teacher, writer and solo mother to three sons. She lives in the sunny wine region of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in the city of Napier.

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