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September Surprises

Another busy month has just whizzed by!  And what a lot of fun we had with surprises aplenty: like Katie’s gymnastics contest where my little girl faced her fears head on and made this mommy heart proud.



I surprised the kids with some spelling variation one day during the month – our Banagram game came in handy and the kids all enjoyed spelling at the same time but at their own level. 


Micah was surprised numerous times on his 4th birthday.  First with his pressies…


….and then with all the party goodies including this piñata King Pig from Angry Birds that Kiera and I made from paper mache.


He had a great 4th birthday that we all got to enjoy!


We received our up-coming Give Away copies of Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology books in the mail – oooh, talk about palpable excitement in this house.  Never thought Katie, in particular, would be so excited about a school book that required some kind of writing from her!  More on that in the week ahead so keep posted!


Sam continues to surprise me with his spelling and words.  He often dishes out pictures with annotations in his signature style: “Sam To Mom” or “Sam To Dad”.  But lately he has been trying his hand at other names and words.  This picture was for Granny Sally and Grandpa Peter.  Love how he spelled their names!  In his head, as long as he uses a capital E then it’s the long e sound.  Too cute!  I love this early stage of reading and writing when the words are spelled according to his 5-year old logic and he has no inhibitions about how it all fits together!


We received our last cultural exchange parcel!  More on that soon!


Great excitement about this surprise!


Including the surprise of popping candy!  Always a hit with kids (and moms!)


Kiera surprised herself by doing very well at her last gymnastics competition for the year: South Zone Champs.  She had been really sick all week and wasn’t sure if she’d cope on the day, but cope she did.  She scored a gold medal and a 4th place overall out of the 4 provinces competing.


The girls had their drama Showcase performances in the middle of September.  Katie’s group did a dramatisation of Julia Donaldson’s Jack and the Flum Flum Tree.



While Kiera’s group did an adaption of the book The Boy Who Touched The Moon.  Kiera played the lead role and giggled her way through it!  She had memorised the entire play and without realising it found herself mouthing the words of all the other parts – we had such a giggle at that!  But, overall, they all did so well.  I love drama for the confidence it gives kids and all the other skills it teaches them.  Debbie, their teacher, is such a gentle and encouraging teacher – she really gets the best from our kids!  I highly recommend Debbie’s drama school Spotlight.


I got a surprise email from a national women’s magazine here in South Africa.  Liz from the Fair Lady called and… long story short: they’re doing a feature article on homeschooling families and wanted to interview us.  I didn’t realise that it would include a fancy photo shoot with lighting equipment galore and “hair and make up” for me!  I don’t think I’ve ever had so much make up on, and that’s saying something, since I wear some most days!  But, I was assured that the flash and lighting would bleach most of it away.  Sam insisted that photos be taken of our family with our own camera – so here is one. 


And then Sam took one of our photographer – Anele! 


We enjoyed having Anele, Lyndall and Liz in our home for a morning. Liz interviewed me between hair and make up and all the photos. Kiera had made chocolate brownies that morning, so we stuffed our faces with those while chatting about homeschooling. At first, I was a bit reticent to partake in the interview, as most South African articles on homeschooling that I’ve read have portrayed homeschooling in a negative light, using odd sources and bad examples. But Liz was a breath of fresh air! How wonderful to be interviewed by someone who, although without children of her own, seemed so intuitive about what it must be like to homeschool. She asked insightful questions in her quest for a story of authentic homeschooling. Yay! I look forward to reading the finished article – coming out in the November 2012 issue of Fair Lady.

Next up in September was our Homeschool Market.  What a blast!  The kids did well with their Tombola game and Jumble Sale + Juice + Milkshake + Ice-cream store!


September ended with Micah’s class singing on stage at church for the All Age service – well, this little guy wasn’t letting mom out of his sight, so up I went too.  For all his insistence that he wanted to go on stage and he wanted to sing, Micah then dissolved in a puddle of embarrassment and spent most of the time on stage clinging to me and staring at the audience.  He perked up once when he saw Uncle Frank and said loudly to me (with great excitement) “There’s Uncle Frank, mommy!”   Thankfully, his words were mostly drowned out by the antics of the other kids, like Sarah R who had taken the mike idols style and belted out the verses loudly, much to the church’s delighted laughter!


As I write this, we say goodbye to September and hello to October 2012.  This year has sped by so quickly and I feel left behind with a very long to-do list.  But, then again, that is always the case with me!  October holds 1 more Hayes kid birthday, Gaa’s birthday, a few decisions about school and extra murals next year, lots of planning and organisation, a fair bit of maintenance work on our house (urgh) and then the big Welcome Home to my folks and the Tubman family who will be home after their respective trips to Oz!  Yay!

Gymnastics– South Zone Champs

This past weekend was one busy one for the Hayes family – starting off with a 5:45am wake up call for me on Saturday morning.  Urgh!  All this in order to get 8 people to Mitchell’s Plein to the Swartklip Sports Centre for Kiera’s South Zone Champs competition.

We are new to the whole world of gymnastics competitions.  Slowly, but surely, we’ve been learning how it all works: the scoring systems, the technical points, the required scores in order to represent one’s province etc etc.  It’s been a fun, if not a little nerve-wracking, learning curve as we’ve watched our kids conquer their fears, get back up after falling down and achieve in areas they’d not expected to achieve.  It’s taught me a few things about myself and a few things about my kids. 

This competition marks the last of the competitions for Level 1 gymnasts in South Africa.  Across the country, kids first compete at club level in regional contests.  Then they move onto provincial trials (state trials) and finally they get to represent their province at “zonals”.  Simply, South Africa is divided into zones.  In the South Zone, the zones represented are Western Province, Eastern Province, Southern Province and Boland (WP, SP and Boland are all in the Western Cape).

We were a little concerned for Kiera this week – she’s had a strange virus that manifests itself in extreme fatigue, headaches (in her case, tummy aches) and quite a bit of emotional upheaval.  She’s been knocked sideways most of the week, skipping both gymnastics practises and waking up on Saturday morning not feeling 100% yet.  But, she was determined to try and so off she went.

And she did great!  It’s been fantastic watching her progress over the year as she’s grown in control and skill.  So this final contest was a rewarding experience for Kiera and the rest of the family too.

Beam: 8.85 (personal best at Oudtshoorn 9.05)




Floor: 9.15 (personal best)


Bar: 9.35 (personal best: Club Contest: 9.50)


Siblings passed the time playing on the iPad and eating kitkat – which one do you think is the most obvious?


Kiera did very well in total.  Even though her vault didn’t work out too well (8.6 on box vault, but personal best on skill vault with a 4.00 out of 5), she was 1st out of the U10 girls in her club, 3rd out of all the Western Province girls and 4th in the South Zone contest with a total score of 39.95 (she missed a platinum award by .05!)  Well done, Kiera!  Hard work paid off!


Conquering her fears…

On this blog you’ll find all types of posts – snippets from daily life, ponderings, shared blessings, theological thoughts and, yes, the odd unashamed mommy boast.

Today, I write about one of those moments that makes my mommy heart almost burst with great pride. Not in anything I’ve done, mind you. Oh no. This boast is, I hope at least, something along the lines of Paul’s boast when he tells the Thessalonians how he boasts about their perseverance and faith to all the other churches. It has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the growth and maturity of a little girl called Katie.

My Katie is a bit of a conundrum. While she is a spirited child with wide-ranging outbursts of emotions, she is also fairly even-keeled when it comes to the things that typically bother kids. It doesn’t bother her a wit that she doesn’t achieve in the competitive sense. She isn’t fazed by the nitty-gritty problems of friendships and seldom analyses why so-and-so said such-and-such. And, despite suffering from a very real condition called gravitational insecurity since birth, she doesn’t get hung up on the fact that it means she is an 8-year old who is terrified of walking up stairs with gaps, going on roller coasters and still struggles to do an independent forward roll over the bar at gymnastics, despite having done them for three years. It simply doesn’t bother her. Until last week.

It was their club’s competition time for the preparation groups. It’s a fun contest to give the non-competitive groups an opportunity to shine and to experience a competition, with all its skill and character-building factors.

The night before, Katie came to my room: her usually bright, uncomplicated smile was nowhere to be seen. Her downcast face; her glistening eyes, pooling over with unshed tears; her anguished expression spoke of her fear. Her concern? She was so terribly nervous that she’d not make it over the bar the next day at the contest. She can do it as long as the teacher touches her, but, if she’s on her own, she is just not confident that she can do it. Her fear was palpable and my heart went out to her. We talked, we prayed and off she went to bed, with a little more confidence.

At the contest the next day, I was again amongst the spectators at a gymnastics competition. All the gym contests this year have revolved around our eldest daughter – a competent gymnast who works hard and has enough talent to see her through to the next round. Usually, my eyes are trained on her routine, watching for errors and delighting in her achievements. Usually, my nerves revolve around her performance. Usually, my mommy pride is in her sporting achievement. But, this gym contest was different. At this contest my eyes were trained on my second eldest girl’s face. This contest, my nerves fluttered at the thought of her nerves. And this time, my mommy pride burst forth at the look on my daughter’s face when she completed her bar routine with a successful forward roll over the bar.

I can’t begin to explain my joy that day. Katie had prayed the night before so sweetly and sincerely. She had sought out my face in the crowd just before, remembering my promise to look for me as a reminder that I’d be praying for her too. When her eyes locked on mine, she had beamed with such joy, despite her rampant nerves devouring her tummy. She had held her hands together in the universal sign for prayer,nodding at me with our shared secret. Then it was time to approach the bar. A frown of concentration replaced her smile as she faced her nemesis head on. Within seconds it was all over. She had done it! My gravitationally insecure little girl had conquered her fear! Her joy was as palpable as her fear had been. She raised her fists in triumph, all while grinning from ear to ear.

Our world celebrates achievement and rightly so. It is exceptionally rewarding to see the beauty that talent can produce. But, unfortunately, the achievements we celebrate more readily are those that are produced only by talent. Seldom do we celebrate perseverance, unless it is attached to a gold medal. Seldom do we recognise bravery in the face of fear, unless an exceptional summit is reached. Seldom do we give credence to accomplishments of character, heart or spirit. I am just as guilty of that as the next person. But, on this particular Saturday, my little girl taught me a little something about celebrating accomplishments of character and faith. From afar, I watched her trust Jesus. I watched her take a deep breath and persevere. And I held my own breath as she faced one of her biggest fears: and conquered it.

Her joyful triumphant smile echoed in my heart.

That afternoon, as we all walked back to the car, I marvelled to myself how I felt a similar sense of deep pride after Katie’s contest as I have after Kiera’s contests – for completely different reasons.

Yet, it is only now, on deeper reflection, that I realise the reasons aren’t too dissimilar: my heart overflows with joy for them because they accomplished what they had set out to do. No matter how brilliantly. No matter how hard. No matter the mistakes. At the end of the day, they each get to shake the hands of the judges in acknowledgement of their completion of the task at hand. Yes, some get golds and silvers, but all get to stand up and celebrate their completion.


It reminded me of a passage in the Bible: Acts 20:24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. And it made me wonder if the Lord feels a similar sense of great joy when His children tackle the things in this world for His glory – whether their God-given talents enable them to shine the gospel brightly as great teachers or preachers, or whether their circumstances cause them to stumble and yet persevere towards the end…. I wondered – perhaps His Great Joy in His children is reflected in some small way in our own joy for our own children. And I rejoiced – so very thankful that He gives us such a blessed common grace of being able to celebrated joyfully in our children’s growth. And so very thankful that it causes me to think upon Him and His Great Joy!

Katie’s Brawns Club Junior Group Gymnastics Competition:

Katie on beam…IMG_9805



And her great nemesis: bar…


She did it!


Receiving her medal of participation…


Such joy! This little girl was beside herself with excitement – she sailed home on a great big high for conquering her fear! What joy!


Holiday in Oudtshoorn Day 2

A morning walk and an afternoon gymnastics contest…

We expected the holiday to be freezing – it is the middle of winter in the Klein Karoo after all.  But with the rain and the cloud cover, temperatures were similar to Cape Town and walking in the mornings was a pleasure.

This is us – setting off on our first morning together.  You’d think it was super cold the way we were bundled up!  It was cold.  But not below 10.


The cold cloudy morning meant less exciting photographic conditions.  But with great scenery, it’s hard to mess it up.  Even the girls, who recently were gifted with my old point-and-shoot digital camera, got some beautiful shots…



We visited cows nearby…


And a nursery selling granny Sally’s bush …


In case you can’t read the label in the photo above, here is the zoomed in version…


For all my non-Safrican friends, “Deurmekaarbos” is “Deurmekaar” bush.  And “deurmekaar” is one of those beautiful Afrikaans words that is just about untranslatable.  Literally it translates as “through together” but it means confused.  A good English equivalent is “discombobulated”.

We enjoyed the beautiful photo opps of farm life …



I love this photo – so typical of so many farms – the rusting castaway machinery of yesteryear and yesterday.


The sensible shoe wear…

Home again, home again…



to have some tea and biscuits – and a bit of schoolwork. We’ve been working on some fun books that we will complete next week – the reveal will have to wait until then!  Biscuits and tea was accompanied with a change of clothes and some fire-side warming up….


Granny Sally kept us well fed with yummy bits and pieces to eat…


Including a delicious pea and bacon soup for lunch.  Yum yum!


And then – it was time for a gym contest.  Level 1 girls under 10s was due to begin at 3pm.  So, we dutifully arrived, in the pouring rain, at 2:30pm.  And then everyone, besides Kiera and I, dutifully left, in the pouring rain, at about 2:40pm and returned home.  The hall was packed and the competition was running late by two hours.  Kiera’s portion of the contest would begin by 4:30pm only and she would have to stay and wait, in case they were called earlier.  Ah!  Fantastic.

So, Kiera and I chatted away with Rachel and her parents, while the others returned home for some TV time on the coach and an early supper.


Eventually, the judges were ready and it was time for the Brawns U10 girls – all two of them, Kiera and Rachel – to do their thing.


Every rotation starts with a practise round on the apparatus.  Here Rachel shows her stuff – she’s really good, especially since she’s only been doing gym for a year, according to Kiera.


The lighting in the hall was really bad and no flash photography is allowed – hence the below average photos.  But, at least we caught some of the moments.  Like this pensive moment just before her vault performance.  She scored an 8.65 – the same as her previous contest.  Some extra work needed, but not a bad score.

getting ready with assistant coach Shannon

Grandpa Peter and the rest of the family missed her first exercise – the floor routine.  But I did manage to capture almost all her performances on video.  While Grandpa caught most of the photo moments – like these great practice shots on the beam.  She was as steady as a rock and did herself and us proud.  A 9.05 on the beam, up from 8.5 last contest.

practising on beampractising on beam

Look at that joyful face when she heard her score!

such delight on hearing her 9.05 score (no flash photography allowed hence the blur!)

Her strongest apparatus is bar.  It was also her last one for this contest.  But the poor girl had a false start, losing her point 8 (0.8) off her total score.  She would have scored a high score of 9.2 had she not fluffed it up in the beginning and probably would’ve placed in the top three as a result.  But, we live and learn.  She will probably slow down now!

second attempt on bar after a false start lost her .8 points.  She still scored a 8.5.  Without the false start she probably would've placed in the top three.

Such concentration!

such concentration after that false start!IMG_5891

Despite her bar bomb, she kept positive and was really excited to hear her name being called for Beam – second place!


Congratulations Kiera!



Rachel came third for her beautiful floor routine.  Great work, girls!  Here Ashley, co-owner and coach at Brawns, congratulates the girls.

Ashley, their coach, congratulating Kiera and Rachel

Grandpa, mom, dad and sister take lots of photos of our girl and her medal…


showing her grandparents how it's done!

We headed home for a supper of sausage hot pot and an early night.  I was doubly grateful that mom and I had precooked all our supper meals, for supper was ready in a jiffy and tired young bodies headed to bed, ready for another day of fun!

For the family and anyone interested – here’s a short 2 minute video of some of Kiera’s gymnastics…

Links to all posts in our Oudtshoorn Holiday series Smile

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