We finally got a puppy! Does a Laugh & Learn pup count?

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So our kids have been begging for a puppy for the longest time but it’s just not going to happen for them right now – we live in a complex with a no dogs rule and to be honest, I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for the barking and constant poop scooping that comes with the territory. Enter a special delivery from Fisher Price to save me from their constant nags and voila, my kids are overnight pet owners – to a Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Puppy! (And this particular pet is cute and fluffy and has an off button.)

Our much loved Laugh & Learn pup has been given the name ‘Puppy’ and is the toy of the moment in our house. He’s not only teaching our kids colours and parts of the body but is teaching them how to SHARE too. I’m a long time Fisher Price fan as their toys are educational, durable, built to last and there is definitely a degree of sentimentality attached to the brand for me. This toy is no different and just see how much Kira loves playing with Puppy:

Want to see what our new @fisherprice Laugh & Learn pup can do? #fisherprice

A post shared by Jules Kynaston (@heartmamablog) on

 

Puppy is for kids from 6 to 36 months and has three different age appropriate stages (there is a button on the left foot to switch between the stages) and you can also press and hold puppy’s heart to play all 20 sing-along songs in a row. Even though Kira and Ilan are both over 36 months, they still love taking turns pressing the buttons and singing along with their pup. Judah who is two and half is beyond besotted with Puppy and when the novelty of the new toy wears off with the others, I think he will claim it as his own.

These are the Smart Stages of the Laugh & Learn pup, with learning content that changes as your baby grows:

  1. Explore 6 months + – Teaches first words, colours and parts of the body.
  2. Encourage 12 months + – Teaches counting and colours with sing-along songs.
  3. Pretend 18 months + – Baby enjoys roles play fun with songs, phrases and music
  4. Sleep – You can switch your pup to silent so that there are is no sound or lights.

Why I love this toy for my kids: You can select high or low volume (um, you can guess which one I chose!) and the sound is not grating at all. I generally avoid toys with batteries, but Puppy get the thumbs up from me. And because Puppy makes learning fun – it’s the sweetest thing to hear your kids singing together first thing in the mornings. We’re loving our new pet!

What’s your favourite Fisher Price toy?

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If you’d like to find out more about the Fisher Price toy range, follow them on Facebook.

This post was sponsored by Fisher Price.

Meet the Mama – Naomi Botha, a Heart Mama surprised with twins!

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Naomi is a local-living, British-born Heart Mama who started the adoption process soon after gaining permanent residency in South Africa and was surprised with twins – double joy! We met online in the Passionate about Adoption Facebook group and have a couple of mutual friends but this is the first time I’ve heard her adoption story. Thanks for sharing it with us, Naomi!

Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.

My husband, Troskie, and I have been married for 9 ½ years. I’m from the UK and he’s South African. We met in England in 2006 and moved to Cape Town in 2012, where I immediately felt ‘at home’.

In August 2015, after 9 months of waiting… we found out we were to receive a double blessing; not just the one baby we were expecting and were all set up for, but we got ‘the call’ and discovered we had been matched with TWINS! To our even greater surprise we were asked if we could pick them up in two days?! So, we went from being ‘just the two of us’ to a ‘family of four’ virtually overnight. We celebrated Esther & Josiah’s Homecoming, a year ago, on 19 August 2015; undoubtedly the happiest day of our lives! The twins were almost six months old when they came home to us and their Homecoming Day was exactly 1 month before my 40th Birthday!

We had wanted to adopt two children and loved the idea of having a boy and a girl, so these two precious munchkins have completed our family perfectly and have turned our world upside down. We find it quite incredible how well matched we are to our children, as Esther’s character and personality are so much like her mama and Josiah is just like his dada in so many ways! We know without a doubt that God has chosen us to be their parents and them to be our children.

Did you always know that you wanted to adopt?      

Adoption has always been on my heart. Ever since I was a young girl and was personally adopted into God’s family, I knew that I would one day adopt and that adoption was part of God’s plan for me. Interestingly, a couple of years later my parents adopted my older brother. This was not without its challenges, as I was the eldest of three daughters and was nine when my parents adopted my brother who was eleven. Although it is now not recommended to adopt out of birth order (and I completely agree that it has significant implications for both existing children and adoptees), I do believe God chose my brother to join our family.

When I met my husband, we talked about adopting one day and although he had not really considered adoption before, he was in complete agreement with the idea and shared my heart to open our home and family to children who were in need of a loving home. When we got married, we both decided we wanted to have children by birth and adoption and always said, “Whatever happens first!” Unfortunately, we soon discovered that I had a severe gynae condition which was not only physically debilitating but which prevented us from conceiving. So, when we moved to South Africa and I gained my permanent residency, we decided to start the process of adoption.

As adoption was a relatively new concept for my husband, I wanted to be sure that we were on the same page and that he was 100% certain about adopting before we proceeded with the process. We attended the Arise Conference in 2012, soon after we arrived in Cape Town, where Troskie found he gained all the information he needed to know and understand, as well as the space to process the questions he had about it all. It was a very valuable time for us both.

Did you use an agency or did you adopt through Child Welfare? What would you recommend?

I always like to gather as much information as possible so we can make informed decisions, so we attended the Arise Conference and I contacted a number of different adoption agencies and Child Welfare here in Cape Town. I also joined a couple of adoption groups on Facebook and spoke to friends who have adopted. Having all the information and approached a few different social workers, we both felt at peace that Abba Adoptions were the right people for us to pursue our adoption journey with. They are wonderful people and their adoption administration fees are extremely affordable, as they are government subsidised and offer a sliding scale depending on income. We were really happy with the service, love and support we received by Abba Adoptions on our adoption journey and the care they took in matching us to our precious children.

We highly recommend Abba but I would recommend anyone who is interested in adoption to contact a few different options and find who you feel most comfortable with. Also, if you can, do attend the annual Arise Conference (happening in November 2016 in Cape Town and PE) as it’s incredibly informative and answers so many of the questions you are burning to ask and even those you didn’t know you had.

What was the hardest part of the process?

The waiting and uncertainty of when to expect our baby was most definitely the hardest part for us. Especially the months of waiting to be matched, after we had completed the interview stages and been approved as adoptive parents. We had waited so long to start our family over the years and had dealt with much pain and heartache together, and this final stage of waiting during the months after being approved seemed to go on forever! In actual fact it was only 5 months and incredibly it took 9 months altogether, since we first handed in our adoption application.

It was amazing that as soon as we heard the news that we had been matched and all the waiting was finally over – all the frustrations and anxieties we had felt about ‘when will it happen?’ melted away – we were suddenly going to become a family of four and our lives would never be the same again! When you hold your precious baby (or in our case babies) in your arms, all the waiting and angst pales into insignificance and you know it has all most definitely been worth the wait!

What was your first night together as a family like?

Bringing our babies home was so incredible, if a little surreal! Was this REALLY happening?!

The minute I saw Esther & Josiah in the baby home, I knew that they were my son and daughter. My daughter’s little face lit up with the most beautiful smile when she saw me smiling at her; it was such a precious moment! And my son clung to me so tightly, smiled happily as I cuddled him and let me feed him… Driving home with them strapped into their car seats on the back seat of our car, it suddenly dawned on us that they were actually coming home with us and that this was forever! I think we both felt a huge weight of responsibility and fear in that moment! Hoping we could be all that they needed us to be as their parents.

Just before we met the twins, we had been given a whole lot of information at our meeting with the social workers and baby home staff so it was all a little overwhelming, but I was immensely thankful that the babies had been so well cared for and had a great routine in place, so we could just continue to go with the routine when we got home and this certainly helped them settle very quickly. I was amazed that they were not at all distressed or anxious when we got to our home. It was almost as if they knew they were ‘home’!

We bathed them, fed them their bottle and put them to bed (following their usual routine) and they went off to sleep really well… Then, our first night of very little sleep began, as Esther woke up 7 times, needing to be fed and comforted!  A year on, she still wakes 2-4 times a night! Thankfully her brother is a much better sleeper. Yet, for me, even the wake ups were such a joy; as I went in and held my baby girl, I was filled with so much love and adoration for this precious soul who had been entrusted to me, it frequently made me cry!

What is your funniest adoption-related family story?

Not sure if this counts but probably the funniest thing that regularly happens for us is people’s reaction to realising they are twins! We often go for walks and have an inline stroller for two kids. So, people walking towards us will see the first baby (whoever gets the front seat that day) and will smile and think how cute they are but then, as they pass us, they spot the foot or hand of the second baby sticking out from the seat behind, and they look so surprised, and often exclaim, “Wow, are they twins?!” It’s become quite funny for us to see people’s reactions.

Do you celebrate ‘adoption day’ with any traditions?

We celebrate their Homecoming Day: 19 August. We read their adoption story book together and look at the photos and also give them a small gift to open. Their Xhosa names (which we have kept as their middle names) mean ‘gift’; we explain to them that they were not only a gift from God but that their birth mom chose their Xhosa names and also chose us to be their parents and for us to be a forever family and so they are a precious ‘gift’ to us from her.

Our final adoption order was received in June this year! It is a day we acknowledge but don’t really celebrate as we became a ‘family’ the day they came home!

Advice for the screening process?

As I said before, I think it is wise to gather as much information about adoption and the process as possible before you choose a social worker and start the screening process. Joining a group like the ‘Passionate about Adoption’ Facebook group and reading blogs like this one, to hear stories from other people who have gone through the process, can be really helpful in order to ask questions and process your thoughts and fears.

It is essential that you and your partner (if you have one) are both on the same page and in agreement with adopting before you start the process. You want to be sure you are informed about what to expect before your start the screening process, but just know that you also learn so much on the adoption journey and your feelings and preferences can change during the process… Finding the right social worker to walk that journey with you, who hears your hearts and understands you, is really key. Don’t rush that part. Take your time and know that it will all come together at the right time!

How can friends and family best support those adopting?

Although we live far from both sides of our immediate family (my family all live in the UK, and Troskie’s are in Johannesburg, Mpumalanga and Kwa-Zulu Natal), we knew that my parents and all our siblings were supportive of our decision to adopt. It was something we have talked openly about for some time and so it was not really a surprise to them all. We also openly shared the information and advice we had been given by our agency to prepare our family and friends for the imminent arrival of our babies. Because this was a transracial adoption, it was important to talk openly about issues of race as well as how we would not be sharing their personal story as that is their story and not ours to share.

Being far away from immediate family, we are hugely thankful for our loving community of friends around us and their support of us as a family. Some of the best supportive things were:

  • Organising a meal rota for our first month of being a family (as we do for families expecting a baby by birth). This was incredibly helpful as you just don’t have the mental energy to consider what you are going to eat!!
  • Arranging a baby shower to celebrate our new arrivals.
  • Showing interest and asking questions about the adoption process and being emotionally involved in the process with us.
  • Accepting and reading the information we shared about the realities and complexities of adoption, especially transracial adoption, and being willing to listen and learn and consider the words and language they use when discussing adoption.
  • Being excited with us and supporting our decisions.

Top tip for doing life as a rainbow nation family?

  • Get to know other families who have adopted and share your adoption journeys and life.
  • Be intentional about living in diverse areas and growing your friendship circles to include people of your children’s race and culture.
  • Be intentional about learning your child’s birth language and encourage them to learn the language, as well as understanding and connecting with their birth culture.
  • Be intentional about learning to care for their beautiful natural hair and celebrate their differences (I have found a fabulous Facebook group who have been inspirational in learning how to nurture and care for both my children’s hair and learn protective styles for my daughter’s hair: Chocolate Hair Care).
  • Be intentional about finding similarities in your child’s character, physical qualities, personalities and interests, to you and your family that will really connect them to you and their forever family and help with bonding.
  • Be prepared to attract attention!

One thing we really were not prepared for was the ‘lime-light’ of being a transracial family! I used to enjoy going for a walk and being anonymous, that is no longer possible as you attract so much attention wherever you go. Babies will generally attract attention anyway, I know (as people enjoy coming to coo over and admire your little one). Having twins also increases the attraction (with frequent questions like “Are they twins?!” and “Are they identical?!”) and the fact that we have twins who are clearly of a different race obviously adds yet another level of fascination (“Are they your children?!”)

Most of the attention we receive has been very positive and encouraging, as people seem genuinely intrigued by our family and we have been greeted with many smiles which is great. Occasionally you meet someone who insists on asking quite intimate questions. It is good to be prepared for this and have an answer. For the question, “Are they your children?” I simple answer, “Yes!” My standard answer to questions about their birth mom or their adoption is, “I’m afraid we are not sharing that information, as it is not my story to tell.” For questions about fertility (and you’ll be shocked just how many strangers will ask, “Can’t you have your own children?”) I simply say “That’s personal information [and really want to say “That’s really none of your business!”]

Most people are simply intrigued and I want to be a positive advocate for adoption so I do take the time to answer any questions that I can answer and help educate the world around us… I am conscious that as our babies grow up and hear these questions from others, how I respond is really important in how they will ultimately see themselves and understand their adoption. So my answers need to be carefully considered in this light…

So, do be prepared that you will lose your ability to just quietly ‘pop to the shops’ or ‘go for a walk’ without having a conversation with someone, somewhere! But I have chosen to see this in a positive light and as an opportunity to help open people’s eyes and minds to accepting and embracing difference.

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Homecoming day 2015
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Homecoming day 2016

Tasting adventure with Spur – All about the new #SpurGoggles

Are you looking for a great way to spend R20 and entertain your kids at the same time? Well, next time you’re at Spur (as if you need another reason), make sure you purchase the new #SpurGoggles which are now available with any Spur meal. It’s a simple virtual reality viewer that can offer a great deal of entertainment – both for the kids as well as any adult that is watching their kids experience virtual reality for the first time!

So, how does it work?

  1. Purchase a pair of Spur goggles and make sure that your phone is compatible – Samsung: Galaxy S4, S5, S6, S7 and Nexus; Apple: iPhone 5, 5s, 6, 6s; Google: Nexus 4 and 5; Motorola: Moto X
  2. Download free virtual reality games or videos – go to www.spurgoggles.co.za from your phone or take a look here for more details.
  3. Put your phone into the VR viewer and close the flap.
  4. Look around, explore and play!

Our favourite game so far is the VR Roller Coaster – Ilan says ‘It’s like going on a roller coaster for real life!’ And I’m telling you this game can make your stomach flip but it’s amazing how kids don’t seem to get queasy the same way us grownups do. Click play below to see Ilan in action:

The virtual reality #spurgoggles in action – 'round and round'! You can get yours for R20 from @spursteakranches.

A post shared by Jules Kynaston (@heartmamablog) on

 

Let me know if you’ve tasted adventure with Spur yet and share your pics to social media with the hashtag #SpurGoggles so that we can share a giggle or two in the name of entertainment.

Sponsored by Spur.

Listen up, Cape Town Dads: How to Dinner Date your Wife at Dash Restaurant & Bar

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This post is especially for the dads who may like some insider info from a mom who thinks it time for you to spoil your lovely lady (and mother of your little treasures) with a posh dinner at a fancy restaurant. Because you love her, obviously, and because she deserves a night off and a night out with your handsome self every now and then.

As we were recently treated to a date night at Dash Restaurant & Bar and loved it so much, I recommend you add it to the list of restaurants you’d like to try. This spot is at the Queen Victoria Hotel (from the Newmark Hotel group), close to the Waterfront in Cape Town.

Anyway, now here’s a guide to dating wife at Dash:

  1. Book a table at Dash – by phoning 021 418 1466 or booking a table online.
  2. Take a look at the menu and get excited (and perhaps start saving – this is fine dining! Main courses range from R140 to R295). Take a look at the new 4 course tasting menu option.
  3. Organise a babysitter. This can be an added stress for a mom, so be a man and make a plan.
  4. When it’s date night, sort the kids out and get them ready for the babysitter so that your wife can have a few minutes to get ready in peace. She will love you for this.
  5. Clean your cab so that you can arrive in style and then double check directions and where to park – the Dash entrance can be a little tricksy to find if you park on the wrong level. FYI: It’s is opposite the Watershed, above Cave Golf but you access parking from Portswood and take the ramp UP (not down which is what we did.) Or you could call an Uber and save yourself the hassle.
  6. Make sure you arrive in time to hear the live music from the piano man in the bar area. You will feel like you’ve walked into a movie and the tinkling of the old ivories definitely sets the tone for a romantic night out.
  7. Order a glass of bubbly at the bar and celebrate that you have managed to leave the house in one piece and feel those frazzled parent nerves fade away. (Confession: We cheers-ed our glasses more than once.) Enjoy feeling like a tourist in your own city as you hear the foreign accents of the hotel guests who are seated beside you.
  8. Appreciate the sophisticated decor and art that adorns the walls as you are lead to your table.
  9. Have fun browsing through the menu. (If your wife is vegetarian like me, there won’t be much choice for her but this won’t be an issue at all because the veg option on offer is incredible!). If you want to avoid order envy, here’s a heads up on what we ordered and LOVED:
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The souffle starter with biltong shavings.

 

My order: Starter: Asparagus, olive toast, nut crush and parmesan snow Main: Vegetable terrine, smoked red pepper coulis, artichokes and hummus Dessert: Banana parfait, butterscotch sauce and banoffee

Husband’s order: Starter: Double baked gorgonzola soufflé, biltong shavings and hazelnuts Main: Lamb loin with pearl barley, beetroot puree and roasting jus Dessert: Hot chocolate fondant with orange ice cream and bitter sugar brittle .

 

What’s our verdict? We loved our unhurried dining experience and the beautifully presented food – each course was a complete work of art and almost too pretty to eat (almost). Thank you for having us, Dash!

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This post was sponsored by Dash Restaurant & Bar. 

WIN one of three copies of ‘The Lemon Tree’, an African story about pancakes & ubuntu

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‘How often do we read about bluebells and foxes and beavers to our children instead of things that are familiar to them?’ says author Katherine Graham. Her latest book, The Lemon Tree, is a really sweet story about making pancakes with Gogo with beautiful illustrations by Wendy Patterson.

It’s pouring with rain the day that Gogo decides to make pancakes. But she soon discovers she is missing several important ingredients. Helped by her two grandchildren, Sipho and Lungi, Gogo devises a clever plan in which the lemon tree comes to their rescue.

Our family loved being at the launch of The Lemon Tree at The Book Lounge
last month and I listed it as one of my ‘Best Buys for my Black Kids – Heart Mamas’ Guide for Adoptive Families.’ I was freshly reminded that representations matters when Kira looked at the cover pic and said, ‘Mom, that’s me!’. We also have a little lemon tree in our garden that has started bearing fruit and so I think it’s time for pancakes…

You can buy this book from Exclusive Books for R83, click here for details OR enter below to win! Here’s how:

  1. Like & Share the pinned Facebook post on Heart Mama Blog with the hashtag #TheLemonTree
  2. Tag a friend on the Facebook post to share the love!

The competition closes on Friday 9 September at 12h00 and the winner will be selected via Random.org. The winner drawn must have followed all necessary steps above in order to qualify for the prize. This competition is open to South African residents only and delivery of the prize will be made to your doorstep. Good luck mamas!