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Katie’s 10th Birthday Day

The morning of the 3rd FINALLY arrived.  Katie has been counting down the days, full of excitement at the thought of finally turning 10.  We feel that 10 is pretty special and since Ms Kiera got a lovely bike for her 10th, we thought long and hard about a special gift for Ms Katie.

After much deliberation, we got her…

Cadbury’s Mint Bubbly!


She also got a rug for her room and a tablet.

Now before my future self reads this and shrieks, “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” let me explain our reasoning.

We were going to get her an mp3 player.  She finds it so much easier to get on with chores and schoolwork if she’s listening to music (Kai?!) – her own mp3 player would facilitate that nicely.  But, then we’ve been umming and ahhing about computers and tablets, because the kids all rely on my iPad for a lot of their educational apps like Spelling City and Maths Drills.  Katie doesn’t have a computer, so she has to wait to use mine or one of the netbooks in order to write emails and do research online.  When we looked at mp3 options and computer options, we realised that it would be cheaper and make more sense to get a Samsung tablet for under R2k that she could use exclusively for school work, music, research and all that jazz. 

Of course, we did discuss it a lot and finally decided to go with it.  We loaded a special app that only allows access to pre-selected apps and presented her with the biggest surprise birthday gift ever!

Also known as a birthday contract.


She wasn’t super happy about all the rules (only 2 hours’ a day max?!) but the prospect of no tablet vs limited tablet was a no-brainer.  She signed.

And when her Granny and Grandpa gifted her with a cover for the tablet, she was A for away!

Selfie time with the family.


As is always the case with Ms Katie “Gadget Girl” Hayes, she has the entire thing figured out and knows all the shortcuts and is already making movies, downloading apps (with permission) and so on.  The tablet is loaded with K9 web protection and she only has access to the K9 web browser – to protect her from stumbling into the shadier neighbourhoods of the Internet.  And the app we’ve got loaded protects her from herself – not so necessary now, but a precaution that we prefer to have in place as a precedent.

Another “being 10″ bonus is that they get to taste their first coffee.  I’m not big on kids and coffee, so the idea is that once in a VERY blue moon they can have.  Such a blue moon that Kiera has actually never had her first coffee yet and she’s almost 12.  Yes, I’ve been delaying the 10 thing. 

So, with Dad at work and unable to do his Daddy date with Katie until the weekend, and the boys at their friends’ house, I got to take the girls for a coffee date.

Katie all smiles before her first coffee latté.


Yeah, not so much.  Neither of the girls were particularly thrilled with the taste of coffee. Sorted!


We had grandparents around for tea and cake.  And then dinner was Katie’s great favourite – SUSHI!  Yum.  Plus, mint choc ice-cream with kit-kats:


All in all, she was thrilled with all the birthday buzz!  Happy 10th birthday, Kates!

Katie is 10!

An entire decade! From this:



to this:


Katie was born on a warm, sunny winter’s day in 2004.  I remember that day well – walking around the garden taking photos of our house to send to my sister in Israel.  I was fairly sure that I would be going into labour that day.  And so I did.  While it was a short labour in total (7-8 hours) it was near on 3 hours of intense pushing and Katie almost needed intervention to make her way into this world.  But, instead, she not only decided to take her time, she chose to come out when she was well and ready and very much in her own way.  After her birth I was absolutely spent – physically and emotionally.  But, the love that kicked in for this little girl who had caused so much pain and fatigue was indescribable. Not much has changed in the last 10 years!  Katie still arrives at milestones in her own time and ways.  Invariably, she does pretty well, despite not liking the effort required!    

Right from the word “go”, Katie has loved all things stereotypically girly – pink, accessories, dress up, make up and, yes, even phones.

2014-03-31 - Susie Leblond Photos

Dresses and fashion and all things pretty are her thing.

2014-03-31 - Susie Leblond Photos

And pretty much have been for 10 solid years. 

2014-03-31 - Susie Leblond Photos

But, despite all the girliness, she breaks the stereotype in other ways – like being a tree-climber of late.  She dives into imaginative play regularly with her siblings, never shying away from sword fights or gun battles.  She’s our gadget girl, as past posts have pointed out. She’s the one who has all the technology in the house figured out before anyone else.  Thanks to her, our old iPhone, which we use mostly as a music player and school app provider, has received a new lease on life.  Its home button is temperamental.  But Katie figured out how to create an onscreen home button.  I never figured I’d be the mom who turns to her kids for techno help, but she sure is threatening to surpass me!

This past year has seen some surprising changes.  Sometimes it scares me – especially when I see glimpses of teenage attitude from time to time.  But, sometimes I catch myself in mid-mommy-meltdown and realise that the child before me is not reacting in the way she normally does.  The pattern for years has been Katie doing wrong, Mom eventually losing it, Katie digging in heels and reacting badly still.  Lately, when I find myself going off the deep end, she’s still there on the side, calmly accepting her wrong-doing and willingly choosing obedience over defiance.  It’s quite revealing of my own misbehaviour when I find myself splashing alone in the waters of angry outbursts.  Ah, nothing like a kid or two to expose one’s own sinfulness!

One of the areas of huge increased self-control is in her school work.  In the past month, she’s been diligently completing her school work with much less pushing from me.  “School” has never been her favourite thing. Anything that involves writing, thinking hard or prolonged intensity has her frustrated and angry.  Well, it did.  Nowadays, she’s persevering harder than ever.  She’s embracing difficulties and the results are awesome.  She is a walking advert for “better late than early” – my prayer is that all the pushing and worrying from me for the past few years has not ruined her potential.

When it comes to science, however, I doubt anything could suppress her enthusiasm!  If it weren’t for Ms Katie, half the science experiments in our home would not take place.  She’s the one who rummages around in the science kits and ropes her brothers in all sorts of fun experiments.  Over the years, the balance between successful and unsuccessful / abandoned projects has begun to swing in favour of successful.  For me, it’s all been an experiment in independent learning and personality types.


Katie continues to be a child who feels deeply and loves wholeheartedly.  These days she is grappling with the nuances of popularity and friendship, superiority and compassion.  She’s well-loved by friends – an intoxicating feeling – and so she struggles with the war between compassion and popularity.  Her honesty means that not only does she recognise the war, but she hates that it exists within her.  She mourns the loss of the deep sense of compassion she knew she once had – a compassion that feels somewhat dulled by age, sin and experience. 


It’s an ongoing conversation with her.  Sometimes I wonder if it’s one of those trade-offs that happens with age – with the benefits of greater self-control comes the loss of intensity of emotions, both good and bad.  That she’s aware and grappling with it, is a good thing, I suspect.  One way or another, it’s a prayer issue for sure. 

She’s still a child who loves, however.  And that was reflected again this year at her party.  The list of friends to invite was long.  And inclusive!  This year, she wanted a Movie Party.  I relented on the numbers, for the movie party means less craziness in our house.  Even then, we had to cut the list down and long after the invites went out, she remembered more children she would have loved to have had at the party. The children that came ranged across her circles of friends and in age – many sibling groups and all great kids.  From 5 to 13, they all had a ball.

Spiritually, Kates is showing a great desire to live her life pleasing to Him.  Quiet times are now more of a desire than a burden, although she still struggles with regularity and discipline.  She talks more about Jesus and asks deeper questions than ever before. It’s as if we are seeing the awakening of ownership of spiritual maturity.  It’s a journey I look forward to being a part of.

And now, to my sweet Kates – how incredible this journey has been.  10 years of watching a beautiful flower unfurl and grow, stretching its face towards the Son – what a privilege.  And then looking into the face of that flower, I discover a mirror to my own soul; reflecting the depth of my own sin and need for Jesus.  My prayer this year is that you continue to grow in maturity – maturity in discipline, understanding and love.  But I pray too that your love will continue to be deep, your compassion strong, your care continuous and your enthusiasm for discovery and life to grow bigger and brighter with each new day.  I thank the Lord Jesus for the gift of you!  Happy 10th birthday, my sweet girl!

Katie’s 10th Birthday Party

This year, Katie wanted a Movie Party.  She had so enjoyed her sister’s movie party the year before – the novelty of a movie, the fun games and the night-time element were all draw cards.  She also has dozens of friends from all over.  So it was quite a feat to organise numbers.  Eventually, I decided to loosen our “10 kids only” precedent and allowed for 10 families only.  She was delighted!  It meant 22 kids in total.  But, what a jol!


Epic was the chosen movie.  And so pre-movie games were along that theme.  Starting with a version of “Who Am I?”

Each child had a leaf with a bird or a bug on it.  They had to go around asking the other kids questions that could only be answered “yes” or “no” – am I a bird? do I have wings? am I brown?  It was great fun and the kids had a blast!


Next, we did Broken Telephone – mime version.  Instead of whispering the sentence, the kids had to act out the sentence.  Loads of laughs from beginning to end!2014-05-311

Then – movie time!  22 kids fit into the playroom quite well!  And after an hour of noise, Craig could relax and enjoy prepping supper in peace.


Break for supper…



Sticking to the theme – floating bugs in the water! Smile





Back to the movie – while Craig finished the cake.  I suggested he used the kitkat cake idea that’s been circling around Pinterest.  He took the idea and ran with it.  Katie wanted ice-cream (mint) and chocolate mousse – so I suggested that for the cake and, well, Craig ran with it! 



The slug from Epic and a couple of leaves.  My only contributions to the cake were ideas, making the fondant icing (from marshmallows – so cool!) and the leaves.  Craig did the rest – including modeling the slug from Epic out of marshmallow fondant.  So cool.


Dessert about 3/4 the way through the movie – cake and candles! 


And – wow – this was by far the most successful cake from an edible perspective.  The kids devoured it and came back for more.  Craig was super chuffed!


Can you see the excitement!?



Yum yum!


Parents arrived shortly before the movie ended – most came through the front door along with the wind and the rain.  Rather them than me!  The kids had an absolute blast.  Holly got to stay for gift opening and by 9pm they were all in bed.  I followed suit – exhausted after a day of people and party. (No pictures of the gift-opening, but a little before gift-opening picture – my crazy girls.  I love it!)


March 2014 – a month of family

Finally!  The month we’d been waiting for since flights were booked in 2013.  March!  The Ozzie family were coming.  Last time we saw them was Christmas/New Year 2011/2012.  And, BOY, did we miss them.  2 1/2 years means kids grow a lot and life marches on with birthdays missed and absences-of-the-heart that are sometimes more achingly hard to bear than we’d like to admit. 

But, 5 1/2 blessed weeks lay ahead of us and come the last day of February we were more than ready to welcome the Newills home to SA.

Waiting with GREAT anticipation at the airport…



Look!  Look!  I see them!


First batch!




Second batch!




Arriving home and climbing into food.  Yum yum!



Lunch (would you believe it – Craig and Kerry arrived and then off they went to Coricraft to sort out their couch covers!  Yup – vintage Newills straight off the plane and I LOVE it!)


Saturday saw us in one of our favourite places on earth – Skye Cottage, Onrus!  Ah!  Kerry brought glo-sticks for the kids, so guess what they did that night?


The next day, we were in the pool at H&A..




Well, Dads were in the pool and moms were yakking by the poolside.


(and a certain dad was teasing a certain daughter…)


Dinnertime in Onrus – crazy kids!


Swimming at Mermaid’s Pool – aka Dawie’s Pool



Mesha was VERY perturbed by her human mother swimming with those strange goggles on!


This was one little girl with a very sore foot – she stood on a sea urchin and managed to get about 10 spines embedded deep into her foot.  Poor thing!




This picture cracks me up – it’s another “vintage Newill” shot.  My brother teasing me.  That smile on his face is all brother-teasing-sister-delight!


We left Craig, Kerry and the kids in Hermanus for a couple of days alone with Granny and Grandpa.  Hard for me to do!  I didn’t want to share! Smile  But they had a lovely time – riding horses, visiting friends and so on. 



When they returned, they spent time with us, the VBs and then with us again.  We were the official train station!  Craig and Kerry know just about the entire of Cape Town and so breakfast, lunch and supper dates were par for the course.  It meant we got a little more school work done.  And sometimes it meant babysitting for us.  But, thankfully, it always meant that I got to catch snatches of great conversation with them in the early or very late hours of each day.  Blessed conversation.  What a blessing it is to have them in my home when I can grab these moments. 

Not the most flattering photo on the planet – BUT – a picture of some of the evenings we got to share.  Ah!  I miss these so much. 


Thankfully, they didn’t gallivant every second of every day.  We managed to squeeze in a few touristy things with them, too.  Like a visit to the Castle of Good Hope:


We were supposed to have this guide for our Cape Explorers visit to the Caste last year, but things got confused and so we didn’t.  So, the fact that we managed to secure him for our impromptu walk-around was awesome.  He was great with the kids!


Woah!  Big boy!


Kids in the dungeon – thanks to flash photography we can actually see them in what was a pitch-black room!



After the castle, we went to the Company Gardens for a picnic.  The kids spent a good 1 1/2 hours playing, playing, playing…



And sometimes being filmed by random Asian tourists – we felt a little like safari animals.




Aw!  Love this cousin photo.


We got to see these theatre students come by – we’d seen them spotted around town, doing mime statue acts. 


Another day, we went up Table Mountain on the cableway.  It’s been some years since we last did this – probably a good 4 or 5 years, when Micah was still a baby.  What fun they had.  Here: a shot of the castle from the Mountain Top.


Lion’s Head.



Kerry and the cutest 4 year old in the world – little E-K.



Sam made friends with the rock lizards…



The Cape Town Stadium:



On another sunny day, we headed to Robben Island – Nelson Mandela’s former prison, now a museum.


Let’s just say that the ride over was not my favourite activity.  I can do speed boats crashing through the waves at knots, but not the lilting crawl of a charter boat.  Blergh.  Apples kept me from hurling over the edge on the way there, and vinegar chips on the way back. 





Our tour guide was a former prisoner – imprisoned for organising a government protest at his school.


Walking the halls of the prison cells…


Taking photos of Nelson Mandela’s cell…



The VBs joined us – and here is a photo of us all taken rather begrudgingly by a fellow tourist. (Spot the sun-safe Aussies in the party!)


Headin’ Home!  Oh so glad to be on terra firma, I was!


Despite visiting dozens of people in both the Northern and Southern suburbs, there was still a looong list of people they wanted to see.  So, Open Day at our house it was!  Here are some shots…







Dinnertime at our house, meant kids in the dining room and parents around the kitchen island.  And, boy, it’s noisy in that dining room!  Can you see the respect on my son’s face? And how about Jesse?


Jesse is clearly a product of his parents!


I loved the times the kids had together – so very sweet!  They played and played and played.  Here Bex is reading in the early morning to her sister and cousin Micah.


Saying goodbye is always the hardest thing.  Last photo of the Newill-Tubmans.  Smiles for the photo, tears for the goodbye. Sad smile


But, between the two – crazy family antics!


The last Cape Town weekend was choccers – A morning photoshoot for the family (taking Jesse and Katie away from camp to make it happen). Then the afternoon Open Day.  Then a Sunday pick up of kids from camp, followed by a wonderful, WONDERFUL theatre experience of The Sound of Music.  Ah!

First: photos on the beach.  Susie Leblond did another great job!



Those photos are just a few I randomly selected from our hundreds!  More can be seen at Susie’s blog: Hayes-Newill shoot.

After the shoot, my 67-year-old mommy wanted a swim.  So, she borrowed my swim dress and off she went.  She looked amazing!  Seriously hope I look as amazing at 67!


And – evidence!  Kerry does iron (if she absolutely has to!) – this was night before the photo-shoot stuff:


Sunday afternoon’s experience of Sound of Music – some very excited kids who couldn’t wait to enjoy the show!


PACKED theatre – fully booked!


(photo source: artscape)

More random family-around-the-house photos:



On some of the babysitting nights, Craig spent some time entertaining kids – iPad time…


And storytime ….


When the Newills weren’t with us, we had a fair bit of other-life stuff going one.  I ran the GWC Fun(d) Run 10km with Russ and his son Liam.  That was lots of fun.


Kiera has been plotting and planning a movie for some months now and saving up her money in order to afford filming it (location, props etc).  This was such a woeful expression as she worked on her budget that I snuck a sneaky photo.


Jesse came to SA along with a recently acquired game.  It was a throw-out from a friends’ house.  And a total trip down memory lane for us oldies.  The kids were hooked immediately and soon we were yelling, “switch it off!” for that annoying beep every time the spider ate the flower.


Our tree got a good trim in the time that the Newills were here.  It’s been needing one for years and I figured that just before it shed all its leaves was as good a time as any.  At least that way we can skip an autumn of leaf-raking. Initially, the kids were dismayed.  Their climbing tree!  But for some reason, it seemed to make it more scalable and just about every kid has made his/her way to the very top.  Like Ms Bexter here:


The Newills arranged things well – the last week of their stay in Hermanus with just family.  FINALLY, I had them to my selfish self!  Well, I did have to share with the rest of the family, but at least we were all in the same place.

My first morning was not so hot tho – this is who I woke up to in the morning:


Shudder – I don’t do spiders.  Even rain spiders.

One evening, the kids put on a dinner theatre show, with programmes and rehearsed acts.  Here Sam does a special comedy-cum-lego show. 


Too funny.


Kiera gave us her much-practised version of Matilda, the Musical’s number “Naughty”.



The others also did a few items – Micah and Jesse did a shoot-out scene.  Bex did a beautiful dance and Katie and Emma-Kate did a make-up session.  Then, Kiera and Jesse entertained us with a rendition of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?






Beautiful sunsets in H&A:


My mom pulled out her old gramophone from when she was a little kid – much to the fascination of the kids and Uncle C.  And yes, Jesse is at it again!


One of the many meals together – corralling this lot is quite an achievement.


And some court time for the kids…


One of the days we all headed out the beach for most of the morning until lunch.  The kids had an absolute ball on the beach – absolute! 


Even Mr “I hate surfing!” got fully into and announced with great delight that “surfing is my favourite thing!”



These three little girls had been to the market with granny earlier – scoring these sweet hairdos, courtesy of another homeschool girl’s little R10/hairstyle stall.



And here’s the “I just got dunked by a big wave and I hate surfing again!” photo


Kirsty came out for the last weekend and brought our dear friend Liesl with her.  What a treat for us to have some good long conversations with Liesl.  A treasure, indeed!  Here she shows off her lego earrings.  She really did come wearing lego earrings!  And the boys had a ball adding all their lego blocks to her earrings, as evidenced in this photo.  All I can say is, “poor earlobes!”



It was also Kelly’s birthday that Saturday, so we all got to Skype her via the TV.  What a jol!  It was noisy and chaotic but so joyous too.  This photo does NOTHING to back up my previous statement! Smile  By that time, all our noisy people were standing behind me and all Kelly’s noisy people had been banished to another room. Smile


Dinner together.  It was really delish, but when two kids woke up simultaneously at midnight and starting puking, with two adults following a couple hours later, well, we began to suspect the chicken kebabs!


Love it, Kerry!  This here is evidence that Kerry actually ate FISH.  And she enjoyed it!


This was a couple of hours before the Big Puke.  The girls were booted downstairs to make room for Aunty Kirsty and her friend Liesl.  Everyone was super excited about sleeping in the same room.  But around 12am Becky awoke with the vomits and Micah did too.  It was quite an interesting night for the adults – first, cleaning up puke and then second, me coming down with the bug and granny Sally too.  Ew!


This would be a better night:


And another better night in terms of health, but maybe not in terms of sleeping space for poor Jess!



Makhulu and her babies!  To think that Veronica has been loving Newill babies since I was 8 years old.  Look at all her grandbabies!



We went driving to De Kelders for some cave-finding one day – we didn’t get to the caves but we did get to see LOADS of these guys:


We spent a lot of time by the pool.  This was one of those times when Craig and I looked after the 7 kids.  The best was telling Kerry that Jesse almost fell off the roof of Craig’s car – how the kids were all sitting on top, but Jesse let go of the roof rail and almost slipped off.  All the kids lied like experts and Kerry’s face was a picture of uncertain disbelief.  She handled it with good grace, despite thinking, “What!!?!!?!?!?”


Another sunset – love it!


Our very last breakfast together. 


And, always one of the saddest sights: saying goodbye.  I hate it.  And here they are, heading back to the airport.  Back to another continent – 6 hours of time zone and a gazillion miles away.


Every time it is hard to say goodbye.  But honestly, it really does seem to get harder each time.  This time, it took me a good month to start to feel like I could tackle life again.  Life outside of my head and heart, that is.  In fact, as I write this, there is so much in my heart and mind that I’ve been pondering on for the last few weeks.  So much impacts in so many ways.  But, so many of these thoughts are still very muddled and need so much more time to reflect, pray and grow. So, for now, I’m slowly getting back into it all again  – “it” being “life”.  School is picking up in intensity and frequency.  Blog posting happening again.  Life continues.  And I am so very grateful for this visit.  This visit and Skype.  Very grateful for Skype.

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