A special day

This photo is one of my favorites  – taken in 1966.

It’s me and my dad.

(No comments about my big head, lack of hair and teeth etc. please.)

Today is a really special day for me.  It’s my dads birthday.  Last year I was lucky enough to spend the day with him. He was very ill at the time and I was very worried that it would be the last birthday I spent with him. Doctors said we didn’t have much time.

Through answered prayer and with the help of some alternative medicine and a lot of commitment to his healthcare (and amazing support from my step-mum) my dad is doing so very well. He seems like a new man.  Well, nearly new :)

 

Update on Tristan Smit

For those of you who have been following Project Tristan (see link on the right hand side of this blog page) here is a letter from Tristan’s mother.

From Mommy Helen:

Hi all. Today was Tristan’s last proton therapy. I can not believe that 32 sessions just flew past. Today he graduated. It was a great moment. My angel just always takes everything in his stride. He loved going to proton therapy.

Today we ate cake and he hit the gong. I was so proud of him…

We are still collecting funds for his treatment.  If you are interested in donating please follow the links on the right.

Thank you so much to all who have already donated and also for all the prayers and good wishes.

Less food for more food

My trip down the “slow and sustainable living” pathway is going really slowly, which, in itself,  is probably good because I am learning to do things at a slower pace, however, I am getting impatient with regards to the food side of things. I want to be able to produce as much of my own food as possible. My plans for my veggie garden are in place and should be up and running by winter time as most veggies in our region are grown in winter.  I also have plans to build a chicken coop and plant some fruit trees.

My” little” job with a matching ” little”  salary has forced me to pace myself and do things slowly as I can only do what I can afford to with minimal savings.  In an effort to speed things up and get cracking (see me trying to up the pace again – this slow thing is really hard :)) I need to allocate more funds towards my food production. A large portion of my salary buys food and normally one just jots that down as essential and moves on to look for other areas where one can save.  As the rest of my budget is really tight I decided to see where I can make savings on buying food. I need to spend less on food in order to grow my own food.

Once I put my food glasses on and started to look at our buying, eating and cooking habits, as well as doing a little research I discovered some interesting facts.

Worldwide, from the farm to the table, we throw away about 50% of our food.  If we don’t grow our own food, not all of this waste is under our control, as much is thrown away at farm, market and store level. At those levels I will only be able to make the savings once I produce my own. However, we do waste quite a bit of food at home.

People who practice  “sustainable living” often talk about how their waste goes onto the compost heap and back into the food they grow and so doing make savings that way.  This does not help me right now though because I am not growing my food yet (although I do need to get a compost heap going). So how can I make savings now – before I produce my own food.

When one thinks about recycling which I discussed in this post, we sometimes only concentrate on glass, cardboard, and metal items but the same principles of reduce, reuse and recycle also apply to food.

  1. Reduce – buy only essential food items,  shop around for lower prices, eat out less often, limit junk foods and unhealthy snacks. Buy fruit and vegetables from local farmers.
  2. Reuse – save leftovers, freeze portions that can be eaten as another meal and use the parts of fruit and vegetables that you normally throw away (ie: celery leaves for soups and stews, pineapple skins to make your own vinegar, potato peels for a crispy snack (fried), bones to make your own stock etc)
  3. Recycle – compost only what you can’t eat using a compost heap and/or vermiculture (composting worms) for fertiliser and compost.

I think the areas where we can save most right now in our home are:

  • freeze left overs instead of popping them into the fridge where they eventually grow jerseys and get tossed out
  • find novel ways of using left overs (the same meal for 4 days in a row becomes a little tired)
  • buy fewer “easy foods” for quick lunches and dinners
  • make our own snack foods ie: biscuits, humus, crisps etc.

By following only these 4 points I should be able to save 30% of my monthly food budget.  That’s a huge saving.

Last night I made a pie using left over beef stroganof from the weekend as a filler.

 

It tasted delicious, even better than the original meal, and it will last us a few days too.  It looks rather rustic but then that’s how we live – rustically.

Now all I have to do is use my incredible selling skills on the Bean to get her buy-in regarding the snack foods. Wish me luck…..

Photo play

My Bean has always been interested in photography but has not had too much opportunity to play.  Her boyfriend has lent her a camera for a while and she has been following everyone and everything – just like the paparazzi.  Here are a few of her first efforts.

She enjoys manipulating her images too.  You can take a look at some of her work here.  I think she is doing rather well already. Don’t you?

Thank you

Thank you to all the kind folk who have donated clothes to Hlengiwe and her friends.  Another delivery went in on Wednesday.  The children were so excited!

We are still short of smallish baby clothes, and we have one older girl (around 13)  that also needs some clothes. I will be doing one more drop off before Christmas. Anything you have would be most welcome.  Also looking for toys and picture books.

To the Johannesburg donors I will be there to collect all your goodies just after Christmas.  Again, thank you to you all!

 

Something nostalgic for the holidays……

First delivery

My apologies for not posting yesterday – my blogging time was spent taking our first delivery of goodies to Hlengiwe and her friends.  The children’s mothers have arranged for a caregiver to look after the children during the day at their homes. For now, that is the best we could do until such time as these women get birth certificates for their children and identity documents for themselves.  Our delivery was small but most welcome – a few girls clothes and some toys and a little food.We want to also supplement their protein intake so will be providing some eggs, cheese and meat.  I took a few pictures so that you can see the pathway that Hlengiwe constantly escapes down as well as the conditions in which she, and the other children and families live.

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Above you can see Charlie and Fanuel ahead of me.

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This is Thandiwe. She is a little chatterbox and seems to be the most confident of all the children – although she does not speak English she is the one the other children look to, to communicate with us.  She is as bright as a button, is usually the cleanest and best dressed child there.

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Despite all of this, these kiddies are so happy and full of laughter and fun.

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Hlengiwe was in a really bad mood when we got there as she is no longer allowed to run away.  She was sitting on a little stool scowling at the wall. She was in the same clothes that we left her in on Friday and she had a wet bottom (no pampers/nappies here.) This is the first time we have seen her with shoes on.

Thank you to all of of you who have committed to helping these children.  It is greatly appreciated.

 

Baby blues..

Last Monday morning, on my way to work, I found a little baby girl walking alone on a sandy farm road in the middle of the bush.  She was crying and scared – dirty and only had a shirt on.

I stopped my car and called out to her – she was terrified. I got out and opened my arms and she came to me.  I called out to see if there was anyone around in the bush but no one answered. She was probably about 18 months old.  I put her in my car and took her with me to work.  We cleaned her up and borrowed some pants from one of the labourers on our farm.  She seemed well fed and was not too interested in eating anything. Our foreman told me that there was a farm compound reasonably near to where I had found the baby so we went in search of the mother.

We eventually found her picking mangoes about one and a half kilometers away. She was young and could not speak English or Afrikaans. Luckily I had our foreman with me so she translated.  The baby was left in a house like this one – all alone while her mom went out to try to earn some money.

Photo: http://www.trespassmag.com

We managed to find someone to baby sit for the day, but there are no guarantees that this little one is not home alone today.  Unfortunately this lady seems to be an illegal immigrant so for now, we can’t even get the baby into a nearby crèche as they need proof of residence etc. to be able to take the baby on.  We are waiting to hear about another place of safety for her during the day.

These are the harsh realities of living in Africa.  This little girl is one of thousands of children in similar situations. I really wish I could do more for her.  I was so tempted to just take her home and keep her – but then I would be in a similar situation as I have to work and would not be able to look after her during the day. She would also not be with her mom who she needs and loves and she would lose out on learning her language and culture. If we hand over money to the mother, there is no guarantee that it will be used for the baby.  I am going to help out with baby food and clothes where I can.  I just hope she stays around long enough for us to help – I am scared the mom may take off in fear of being reported.  If they get taken in by the authorities, they may even be worse off than they are now. It’s a tricky and very sad situation.

More about Tristan

Further to my posts on Tristan Smit which you can find here and here,  we have received this great news.

As you know Tristan is now in Texas under the care of the MD Anderson Cancer Center.  He was declared terminal by doctors here in SA.  After many tests and scans the doctors in the US can find no evidence of the cancer in his spine (which had supposedly spread there from his brain tumour).  This is such great news as he now has an 80% chance of survival after he has a course of proton radiation which is not available in South Africa.  Unfortunately this is going to cost a tremendous amount of money.

Here is a message received on my friend Mark’s blog written by Tristan’s mom Helen.

Hi I’m the mommy of this little angel. We are in Texas at the moment. In SA dr ‘s told us Tristan is terminal and we must let him go with no pain. We found a hospital in US Texas, M D Anderson. They diagnosed him correctly and can treat. Will get 31 sessions op proton radiation, it s not available in SA. Dr told us 80 persent chance of never coming back. Better than terminal or what do you say! Only problem, proton is $80 000, and believe it or not annestetics $80 000. Then still dr’s costs. My baby has got a chance now. He will live and survive!

Further to this, we got this news on the weekend. It must have been terribly frightening for his parents.


Cancer takes a person on such a roller coaster ride. We were on the top of the world a couple of days ago with the good news and then yesterday the tracks just took us back down to earth….
Tristan has got a VP shunt in his head. After the first tumour was removed a shunt was placed into his head to help with the drainage of brain fluid. Without the it the brain fluid builds up and causes intense pressure in his head. This leads to headaches, vomiting, eyes not dilating and can even cause seizures. Very serious if not treated as soon as possible.

Little Tristan started vomiting yesterday morning before sun rise. At this point we thought it was just baby feeling sick and nothing serious. He went back to sleep. Pierre and myself woke up later and got ready, but Tristan was still sleeping. Eventually I went into the room and picked him up, but He really did not want to wake up. He’s eyes looked very funny and later turned wild and really big. He was very lethargic. I was in tears because I expected the shunt was blocked and it was not part of the plan!!! If he got operated on would this could set back his proton therapy, as the proton dr wanted to start as soon as possible with the mapping and we were fulled with what if’s?

As we were still with our friends Mike and Wendy in Austin, Wendy then raced us off to ER room see a specialist at the DELL Children’s Hospital (built/sponsored by the DELL computer company). To make a long story short, after the Neuro surgeon saw the CT scans that were taken, Tristan was rushed into the operating room before we could even proses anything. The shunt starts in the head and ends in the tummy. I did not want my baby to go through another operation on the head. But like my friend Wendy said: “God has got Tristan’s back”.

The Dr came out and told us that the blockage was only at the bottom of the tube that leads into the tummy and he only had to open Tristan’s stomach and not his head. Thank God again! As this was an emergency we are hopeful that our medical aid should cover this procedure, because it is an emergency of a pre-existing condition. We have overseas cove for emergency’s. They want to observe him for another night and hopefully we will be discharged tomorrow if all goes well. This little setback will not influence anything. Not us coming home or Tristan starting his proton therapy. Which he really needs urgently especially now that we know that it has not spread and we want to prevent it from spreading anywhere!

Please pray for Tristan’s quick recovery and that the pressure in his head goes down quickly. Will keep you all informed.

God bless.
Lots of Love.
The Smits.

If any of you are in a position to make a donation please click on the link below.  No amount is too small.

http://jacarandafm.amazee.com/node/20542/sponsoring

or his bank account details can be found on this website.   http://www.tristanagainstcancer.com/

Birthday time

Tomorrow my Bean turns 18

Party preparations are well underway – it is going to be a little different to any of her other parties.  Friends will meet at the farm and then go on a sundowner game drive and spend some time at the river.  When they return the dinner will be set up outside under the huge Marula tree next to the swimming pool.  The colour theme is black, white and red.  We will have candles and fairy lights.  The meal – Italian starters, Japanese main course and something oozing chocolate for dessert – the Bean’s favorite foods.  There will be a bonfire burning all night and they will be sleeping around the fire weather permitting.

Happy birthday my angel

Project Tristan – update

Thank you to all of you who kindly donated to help Tristan get the treatment he needs for his cancer.  (For more information on Tristan’s plight please click on the image of Tristan to the right of this page.)  Please note that the donations listed on the donation site are purely those that were collected online.  The community has really pulled through on this one and there have been benefit concerts and also many donations made directly into the bank account set up for his treatment.  We are still some way away from collecting the funds needed for his costly treatment, but because of what has been collected, Tristan is now in Texas and will be getting his scan results today.

Below is an email from Tristan’s mom – I have not edited it in any way.  Please continue to pray and send healing thoughts Tristan’s way.

Hi all.

Today is Friday.  I would be lying to you if  I said that I  had a good day.  I actually think it started yesterday.  We are setteling in nicely and we are getting to know other famillys.  As we exchange names it is always followed by a very suttle how long have you been here and then the big quistion:”Why are you here, what is wrong with your child”.

You reallised all the faces you see around you carrie so much pain with them.  Each and everyone.  The kiddies here in the Ronald Mc Donald house are really sick or have something really seriousely wrong with them.  Most of them have been here for months and you can see it is killing the parents to be spilt into two.  In Houston, fighting for the life of their child and at home, the other kiddies, mostly emotionally neglected.

They are tired of fighting the system, which they even have to fight here at M D Anderson, which is so supperior to the rest of the world.  And where even I had to experience it today.

Wednesday the dinner was sponsered by Ronald Mc Donald.  I think all the famillys came out of their rooms because Mc Donald’s really makes it so special for the kids.  As we qued up for dinner there were so many children in wheelshair’s and their mouths covered by a mask.  No immune system…. Chemo!  It was such an eye opener.  We were actually shocked and had to pretend that we are so use to seeing this, like everyone around us.  Our baby looks so amazing. The reason, he has not started his chemo yet.  We still have to walk the road that they have walked. My heart was broken being surrounded by reallity.  My favourate saying these days seems to be “reallity sucks”.  It sure does.

We met a familly here that has got the exact tumour as Trissie, but has not spreaded down the spine.  He’s one eye does not react well because the tumour is pressing against the eye nerve. This mom has been fighting for her little ons’s life since he was seven months old. They did the run and is still fighting for her son.  Another little boy has also got a brain tumour, you cant believe how many of them are here.  He gets proton radiation theraphy.  The same as which Tristan would get.  It looks like he got bad sunburn on his head and spine. But that is it.  Just bad sunburn.  I will include a photo of the 2 boys standing next to each other.  He is actually one of a twin.  He got it, brother did not.  If we only had the answers.

We went to the hospital today.  Little Tristan got anesthetics for 2 hours.  They did  head and spine MRI scans with and without contrast.  Shoe, you sure can take a lot of scans in 2 hours.  When my angel woke up we took him to the cafteria where he just loved a piece of piza.  At least no more noodles! It was once again so sad seeing all this sick people.  M D Anderson just treats cancer patients, so can you imagine all the cancer patients around you. My hart just broke for all these people and everyone has got a story, a life. So, so sad.

Our appointment to see the dr was 13:30.  At about 3 the resaults of the scans were still not available.  We were told to come back on MONDAY…….
I know we have a long, long difficult road ahead of us. I wish I could tell everyone that we got the resaults right away and we got our miracle that we asked for.  I wish. We just got to wait.  I think I just got to prosses everything of the last few days.  Realizing that we are also part of them. The victims of the horrible disease known as cancer.  Denial worked very well for me for a very long time.

We decided to leave Keagan with my mom and dad.  He’s tickets were booked and we were ready to take him with us.  My mom pleaded with me that we must first settle in and she will keep him in our routine.  She will fly him over later.  I was so confused.  Everyone had very valid reasons why I should do a or b.  I decided to leave him behind.  He actually thought it is Christmas now.  Staying with Ouma and Oupa where he is king.  I really thought it was the best but I have so changes my mind.  I miss him so much and he would have been so good for Tristan.  It feels like I am oxygen deprived without him by my side.  I feel the pain that so many mommys here are living every day.  I need both my babys by my side.

We have a weekend to get thru.  Today was my off day.  Luckely it was a good day for Pierre.  He lifted me up and I do forget sometimes what is happening. Its great. It is like he said:”They can not tell us anything worse than what we have already heard before.”

Thanks for everyone’s prays. Thank you very much. Please keep on begging the Lord.

Love.
Smit family

 

Tristan now has his own website where you can get more information.