Up to the end of 2015, my lovely husband and I had lived mostly alone for the previous 5 years. Apart from the odd visits from children and family of course – a weekend here or a week there. Well, us two, the dog and the cat that is. We ate what we liked, went out when I did not feel like cooking, swapped drinking shitty wine for more decent stuff… were starting to hit an almost level financial footing after divorces, retrenchments, sick dogs, houses that would not sell etc.
My C.V. states that I have two girls (Lauren and Emma) and shares in a son (Luan).
After finishing matric, Luan had a gap year on the farm which extended to two years whilst he decided in which direction he wanted to study – so apart from varsity related obligational visits he had not been back to visit very much. (Luan loves all aspects of farm life with a passion – he’s now studying animal science.)
Emma had been living in Cape Town since 2009, alternatively with her boyfriend and sometimes her father – depending on what the situation was. Lauren, my elder daughter is long since married. Hell – I’m a granny and Isabella is four already. She’s settled and not a problem.
We always knew Luan would be coming to live with us one day – when he finally decided what he wanted to study and started attending University. This was scheduled for early 2016.
Then the shit hit the fan with Emma (aka Igz – whose art features prominently in many of my previous posts). At 25, her life was not really working out perfectly in Cape Town. She’d been giving… wait for it… hula hoop fitness lessons to ladies in the USA via skype for a living. This had worked well for a time but she was experiencing difficulties finding a location to work from, had broken up with her long-time boyfriend a few months previously and was stressed beyond belief. But she had also just met Charl… was starry-eyed and had no plans to leave Cape Town.
Come home, said I in a moment of madness – you can bring Charl with you. (Karma is a bitch I tell you – payback for Emma living with Sean all those years!)
And so it came to pass…
By the beginning of 2016, three 20-something “children” had taken over our house. We live in a complex – three bedrooms, two and a half (thank goodness for that half too) bathrooms, kitchen-lounge-dining room and our sanity-saving lovely biggish under-roof stoep with a lovely braai. Oh… and a double garage – half of which is filled with stuff like lawnmowers, wheelbarrows, spare beds and other stuff from when we had our house in Springs.
I work from home and had already given up my “office” upstairs the previous year when darling Fudges was sick and could not climb the stairs. It just seemed easier to camp in a corner of the lounge. But I soon realised that having a house teeming with people, I’d never get any work done. Eyed out all the vacant spots in the house… not that many. Eventually decided that “sanctuary” be damned – I don’t sleep well at the best of times – I’d relocate to a corner of our bedroom.
Once more my desk was humped up the stairs and stuff was rearranged. Fortunately our room is relatively nice-sized and there is a balcony – I can open the door and have fresh air all day. Of course, I also have all the complex kids screeching and playing and waving at me from outside too.
What a shocker! Somehow it seemed as if there was never enough anything. Two litre bottles of milk disappeared in a wink. Bags of bread got devoured, cheese flew out of the window and worst of all – I had to cook dinner for five freaking people – every single night because who can afford to go out often with so many people? Other meals people had to fend for themselves.
I had to quickly double my dose of Brewer’s Yeast (commonly referred to as my bitch pills) to avoid losing my shit. YES PEOPLE! This stuff really does work.
Let’s not even talk about the internet – Chris had to tootle off and upgrade chop-chop to stop us all from killing each other over gobbled up GB’s.
The first rule we made was that we all eat supper together at night. We eat on the big table on the stoep outside. No excuses. If you are not hungry – you still pitch up and sit at the table. More than a year later this still works well.
The second rule was that the kids (and I use that term loosely) take turns with the washing up. No, we don’t have a dishwasher – there is no space for one.
Next came the kitchen cat. My mom had given me this flat black cat which used to perch on my notice board back in the day when I had a whole room as an office. I was never very sure what to do with it and all too often it would plummet down, narrowly missing decapitating either Fudges or me. That cat got painted with blackboard paint and stuck to a kitchen cupboard.
Rule number three – whenever anybody finished something – they had to write it up on the board so (a) I knew there wasn’t any and did not bank on using it for some or other meal and (b) I could replenish said item. I’d try to remember take a photo of the cat before I went shopping. (Or else there would be a frantic call home to ask what was on the cat?) This also still works well today.
I have discovered that things like tomato sauce and mayo seem to have holes in the bottom of the bottle as well as the top. Such things used to last Chris and myself months and months. In fact I took to buying the smallest possible size because they took forever to finish. Now the stuff swooshed out of the bottle in mere days.
Rule number four was “the drawer”. You know that piss-willy little cheese drawer in the fridge? Well that became MINE. All mine. Anything in there was out of bounds. Nobody was allowed to even think about opening it. At least this ensured that I knew for sure there was something to put on Chris’s sandwiches each morning. Not a task I love much in the first place – and just horrible when I have to forage around looking for stuff.
Rule number five – very important for menopausal sleep-deprived me to stay alive…. I only share wine with the kids on the odd occasion. That rule got a temporarily bent out of shape when my mom landed up being critically ill only three weeks after we had been invaded and I went off to Cape Town for the next three weeks. My lovely husband is very generous and happily shared with the boys each night. Em smokes but does not drink. That’s another thing we had to get used to. Smokers! There is a dedicated smoking bench around the corner – but somehow throwing away cigarette boxes seems to be very challenging and they pile up. This drove us mental in the beginning.
Rule number six was that cheese always gets grated on the second smallest side. Somehow that makes the cheese last much longer. The spare blocks get stashed in MY drawer. No touchie!
Rule number seven – in order to stay sane I had to learn (very fast) not to sweat the small stuff. Who cared if the house was messy. Honestly. Really? Well to begin with I did. Desperately! I was always taking things to rooms and putting things back where they belonged… but then I figured what the hell. When you’ve just finished cleaning the floor and boots stomp dirt all over them… or coffee gets spilled – your first reaction is murder. Then you start thinking – it’s just a bit of dirt. And really – who cares if the toilet roll magically falls off it’s rolling perch downstairs all the time. Seems boys need to wind the bog roll round their hands instead of pulling. (I now just go to our own bathroom upstairs – which NEVER gets invaded.)
Of course, feeding five people instead of two tends to be a shitload more expensive. Chris and I learnt to shop in different places, found that we had to buy quantity instead of quality half the time. In the beginning I also misjudged and made a good few meals where there was barely enough for everybody and definitely no seconds.
On the upside – I have lost all the weight I picked up when my thyroid died (another blog)! Chris is looking much slimmer too these days.
Charl was busy searching for a job. Luan seemed to have more free time than lectures and it felt as though the house was always full of somebody. I think it was only in May – for the first time – that I had an hour of being totally alone in the house. From being alone all day to being constantly surrounded by people – took some getting used to.
To make matters even more interesting, whilst I was away in Cape Town keeping vigil in the hospital with my mom, my darling Fudges started having epileptic fits. These continued until she sadly left us as the end of 2016. Emma also managed to adopt us an extra kitty – that turned out to be not such a kitty after all.
Emma – a creative soul – was going crazy without any space. Eventually she and Chris got stuck into the garage and dug out a hidey hole for her to work in. Charl (a handyman and wannabe plumber by trade) knocked her up some working surfaces and hospice was scoured for packing space bookshelf type things.
Because it tends to hail in the summer – we still like to have space for at least one of the cars in the case of such a storm. (We almost lost my lovely Getz to golf-ball sized hail a few years ago.) This meant that while Ems could stretch out and use the whole half a garage when she needed to – she had to be able to pack it up very quickly if necessary and disappear into her half-a-hidey-hole in the occupied half.
Emma would retire to her dungeon during the day and started creating stuff like her lovely dolls. Body parts littered the house. I’d find bits of faces, arms legs and torso’s stashed in odd places.
Needless to say the electricity usage more than doubled.
Rule number eight – no heaters, no electric blankets… dress warmly instead! Better for the environment anyway!
Charl got a job – well he got several – but he settled down to one after a few months. This meant one less person in the house during the day. Em and I settled into a routine of having coffee and brainstorming each morning before we’d repair off to our various lairs and get stuck into work.
I can bake again and the goodies like cheese straws get snarfed up quicker than it takes to bake them. I really like this. We hardly ever waste anything. Chicken carcasses get recycled into soup. The odd leftovers get gobbled the next day (boys are lazy and the less effort the better). I have become very creative using pasta and mince in a gajillion different ways. Some meals are more appreciated than others. Every now and then we venture out on a Monday evening and take advantage of the Spur special – two burgers for the price of one. Chris braais on the weekends.
To our credit we have not had a single serious blow-up in the entire time – now more than a year.
Luan is a darling and gives up his room on the odd occasions when necessary – for example when his grandparents were on their way to Australia and stayed over for a few days. Or when my mom came to visit over Christmas (although they only overlapped one night because he’d been away with his mother.)
Chris and I are the parentals – but we all respect each other. We have fun. We talk. We laugh. Yes – we also want to kill each other on the odd occasions too.
Best of all I totally adore having my crazy creative daughter on tap. For however long that may be.