30 November 2009

Our Family's Secrets to a Successful Vacation

It is already a month since we left for our annual vacation, but I thought I will share with you our family's secrets to a successful vacation. Obviously this is very specific for our family, but maybe you can benefit from one or two ideas.

The Place:
  1. Since we are a family of nine, with 4 children six years and younger, our main concern in planning a vacation is what will work for the little ones. When they are happy and in a save environment, we have a relaxed and restful vacation.

  2. For Christo and I, a vacation means getting out of the rat race, not rushing around from one activity to the next to entertain children and keep them busy. We want to take a break from the normal activities of home keeping. We don't want to drive a lot, clean the house, and do dishes and laundry all the time.

  3. For the children a vacation means to be on the beach as much as possible - a wide open beach for kite flying, golden sand to build sand castles and have imagination trips and lots of waves for boogie boarding.

  4. Brenton-on-Sea Cottages at Knysna's only beach, is an answer all the above expectations.

  5. Green grass in front of the cottage, provide a safe environment for little ones to play; I know the three bedroom cottage is big enough; the kitchen is equipped to our needs; the bathrooms are in good condition; the cottage is fully serviced once a day and clean towels and linen are supplied every day (my expectations are met and my little ones are happy and safe);

  6. By now, we know the best Laundromat in Knysna and we drop our washing their every second day (another expectation of mine is met);

  7. We don’t need to brainstorm every day to entertain our children; we don’t even need to drive the children to the beach every day. We just walk down to the beach (Christo’s expectations are met);

  8. The nearly 7km beach with only a few scattered rocks meets the children’s expectations.

  1. As a family we believe in healthy, good food - no junk food, which results in low energy and cranky MSG and sugar-high children. Therefore we draw up a menu for every day. This way we have the least effort in food preparing at the vacation;
    We took along our bread machine (and 10kg spelt flour!), the espresso machine (and organic coffee beans) and our water filter.

  2. On our menu we plan everything. The food we eat with every meal, when we need to put ingredients in the bread machine for bread or buns or when we need to take meat out of the fridge to thaw for our daily braai. With small children we cannot afford to return back to our cottage, after 2-3 hours on the beach to find we don't have bread for lunch or the meat for the braai is still in the fridge (we don't use any microwave ovens).

  3. With a detailed menu it is so much easier to plan what we need for our vacation (I cannot function without lists). From the menu I made lists for buying groceries and what to pack. It also helps me not to pack unnecessary stuff. To pack a bus and trailer for nine people is no easy task and my husband trust me for only taking along the most needed stuff.

  4. We pack all our groceries in 25 l plastic containers. Christo finds it much easier to fit and handle the plastic containers into the bus and trailer, than cardboard boxes.

  5. I prefer to take everything we need for the first 3 days meals’ from home. We know from experience that the children don't want to make a trip to the supermarket on the first day of our vacation; they want to get to the beach!

  6. When we arrive at our destination, the menu is the first thing we stick up against a cupboard where everyone can see it. This way every family member (who can read) can check the menu and have equal responsibility to keep us to the menu.

  7. We enjoy spoiling the children with eat out once or twice, during the vacation. Since we don't eat junk food (MacDonald's, Kentucky or even the Spur - remember we don't need hyperactive children on our vacation, we want to enjoy our children and relax!) we are very fussy when choosing a restaurant.

  8. We've learned a few important things when choosing a restaurant. Firstly we prefer an Italian restaurant. The Italians just know how to prepare good food (without MSG and other junk) and we never have indigestion after real Italian food. You always receive good service at an Italian restaurant (very important to keep my husband happy and enjoying his food - he hates bad service!). The Italians know how to prepare real espresso (another preference from Christo) and a nice cappuccino (my preference). And last, but not the least, never go to an empty restaurant. So we've discovered a real Italian restaurant at the Knysna Waterfront six years ago. At Mario's you always have to book - for lunch, dinner as well as coffee, otherwise you will be disappointed with no seats available. They serve excellent coffee and the best pizzas. (Not to mention the owner, Mario’s always friendly face)

Preparation before leaving:
  1. I try to plan and sort out vacation clothes at least two weeks before we leave. If we do need any clothes for the vacation, I make the trip at least the week before we leave. I don’t need the extra stress of discovering one or two of the children don’t have swim suits or proper sandals the day before we leave.

  2. Four days before we leave, I start to focus on our vacation. No extra outings for that week, no visits, only the bare minimum in extra murals for the children and I plan to take only one trip to the grocery store.

  3. During the first day of this “four day focus time”, I make sure we have enough bags, suitcases and plastic containers to pack everything we need. I also plan who will share suitcases – Heidi-Mari and Danika; CJ and Josua; Christo and me; Andrew, David and Daniel.

  4. On the second day of my ‘focus time’, I finish all food that needs preparation. We have the tradition of taken along lamb kebabs (leg of lamb cut into cubes 2.5cm x 2.5 cm – 1 inch x 1 inch – marinated for 4days in a curry and onion marinade and then put on a wooden kebab stick) to braai for dinner on an open fire. We also take along a chicken pie and mince pie (convenient meals to just put in the oven for a quick supper or lunch).

  5. The third day we make sure all our vacation clothes are washed and ready for the next day to be packed in suitcases. From this day the children need to wear their oldest clothes – I don’t wash again before we leave; I also start to pack non-perishable products in our 25l containers.

  6. The day before we leave we pack our clothes and prepare the food we eat on our trip.

  7. The morning of departure we pack all the perishable food and frozen foods (meat, pies and kebabs).

Planning for our return:
  1. The day before we leave we clean the house. I certainly don't want to return from a relaxed holiday, only to walk into an untidy and dirty house. We vacuum the floors, wash the tiles and clean bathrooms.

  2. The night before we leave, I wash all dirty clothes in the laundry bin and towels and put it in the tumble dryer to dry. This way I only have the dirty clothes from our vacation when returning home, giving me a head start.

  3. The morning of our departure, I make sure we put all dishes in the dishwashing machine and switch it on.

  1. At home we take daily supplements and the same on our vacation. This is Christo’s department and he would take extra care to take make sure he packs enough of everything we take daily and also some supplements that we may need, including his specialised first aid kit.

  2. Supplements is essential to keep our bodies healthy and at the correct pH, this way vitamins, minerals and amino acids can be absorbed and especially help our brains function at an optimum level. On vacation we need to organize 7 very active, inquisitive children, in a foreign environment. We cannot afford losing it, because our brains cannot handle the pressure.

  3. We will also take extra supplements to help digestion of dairy and wheat products when we spoil the children with ice-cream, milkshakes and pizzas. We don’t want sinus due to the wheat and diary products.

The Trip:
  1. The moment we are all strapped into our seats, every one gets a turn to ask God’s Hand of protection over our vehicle and trailer, over Christo for safe driving to our destination and for the children to be patient and helpful with each other during the long drive.

  2. Seating the children is very important. Older ones, next to little ones, to keep them busy and help them with eating and drinking, to limit making a mess in the car and me playing musical chairs with a pregnant tummy, trying to keep every one happy.

  3. Regulating the children’s blood sugar levels are essential to happy, content children. The food is chosen, keeping in mind not to make a mess. That will be raisins, nuts, apples, buns, dried sausages – traditional to South Africa.

  4. I need to be prepared to help a little one ‘potty’ when there isn’t a stop in sight. Thus I will have a strong zip lock bag at hand, which is easy for boys to use in the car.

  5. Stops, either to fill up the bus with gas or go potty, is a real challenge since we have to balance the children’s need to get rid of build-up energy, with little ones’ needs to sleep as long as possible, when they do fall asleep.

Daily routine on our vacation:
  1. Although little ones enjoy a vacation due to the more relaxed atmosphere, it is not the safety of their home and unexpected surprises can upset them. We as parents cannot enjoy our vacation with stressed-out children.

  2. We do not plan a lot of activities per day, we keep the routine simple.

  3. We try as far as possible to keep the daily routine the same every day. This way the little ones know what to expect.

  4. We stick to our regular meal times, with healthy food they are used to.

  5. We keep the little ones to their nap times in the afternoon and to their normal sleeping time at night.

  6. While the little ones have their nap time, we plan special activities for the older children.

  7. As far as possible we do things together as a family.

  8. We will have breakfast, go to the beach, have a bath to wash off the sand, have lunch, nap time for little ones, go for a coffee and/or laundry/grocery trip, light up the fire for supper, braai, put little ones in bed, play a game with older children.

Returning home.
  1. This is never an exciting day.

  2. To keep the vacation atmosphere as long as possible, we only pack the day of our return.

  3. We will make sure the children don’t have sugar treats the day before our return home, leaving us with seven hyperactive children in an eight passenger vehicle for six hours;

  4. On the day of our return we will get up early and have a light breakfast.
    Then Christo and I and each of the older children will have a ‘department’ they are responsible for. Christo and Heidi-Mari will pack the kitchen, I will pack and sort out clothes, Josua and CJ will pick up everything in and around the cottage and clean the bus, Danika will look after the little ones and tend to their needs while every one else are busy.

  5. On vacations I have the habit of using pillow cases for dirty laundry. The boys, girls, baby, Christo and I each have a pillow case in our cupboard for dirty laundry. The day before we leave for home, I will already have sorted out the dirty laundry in the three piles that I’m used to for my washing at home – light colours, mixed colours and dark colours – and will put it in different pillow cases. Thus we only put clean clothes in our suitcases.

  6. While Christo and CJ pack the vehicle and trailer, Heidi and I will prepare sandwiches for our trip.

  7. After everything is packed into the bus and trailer, we will have a last walk on the beach – only half an hour, but long enough to say goodbye to the waves.

  8. We try to leave still in the morning; it is a 6 hour drive home, less we have to drive into the dark evening, with tired, hungry children.

  9. I will plan again for food on our trip and unexpected potty needs.

  10. When we are all strapped into our vehicle, ready to leave, we will thank the Lord for a blessed vacation and ask for His protection on our journey home.

Making the ‘returning home’ as pleasant as possible:
  1. Arriving at home after a nice vacation is not pleasant for any one, let alone for Mom. I therefore plan to make it as easy as possible, with the least stress possible.

  2. When we arrive at home, I immediately start to put washing, from the pillow cases, in my washing machine. This way I don’t dread the next morning of sorting out clean clothes from dirty clothes and take days to unpack suitcases.

  3. I make sure there is a dish in the freezer, to pop into the oven (NOT the microwave oven!) for a quick supper.

  4. Christo and CJ will unpack the bus and trailer and Heidi-Mari and I will start to unpack the plastic containers with kitchen stuff. Josua and Danika will put the little ones in the bath.

  5. After supper and with the little ones in bed, I only need to put the clean clothes from our suitcases, back into each one’s cupboard.

  6. The next morning almost everything is unpacked, and we just need to put away the plastic containers and suit cases and life can go on as normal.

  7. The worst part, for all of us, is to see dad drive off to work again….!

26 November 2009

A New Hobby for Heidi-Mari and Me

For Heidi-Mari’s ninth birthday I enrolled us for four basic scrapbook lessons. I could never have imagined how many memory making and creative evenings we would have from that day onwards with our scrapbooking. Here I’ve shared how our Once-a-Week-Scrap-book-Evenings changed our relationship into a deep Mother-Daughter-Friendship.

Over the past three and a half years we’ve made the most beautiful scrapbook pages during hours of relaxed conversations.

One of our first pages!

Heidi-Mari invested a lot in her scrapbooking. A year after we started, during her tenth year, she had saved enough money to buy herself a Scrapbook cutting machine – the Silhouette.

With the Silhouette we entered a new level of scrapbooking. We could cut words, shapes, borders and many more! We once bought these paper dolls on-line and made the most beautiful cards with the paper dolls we cut with her silhouette machine.

A few months ago I followed the link to a card making blog on a friend’s blog. I showed Heidi-Mari and we started looking into some more card making blogs. We where hooked! There were the most beautiful, creative ideas for card making. There and then we decided to make a little shift in our scrap booking and try our hand at card making.

One of our first cards – a Welcome-Baby card for a friend

At this blog Heidi-Mari spotted the Sugar Nellie stamps for card making. After careful investigation we bought 10 Sugar Nellie stamps from Scotland. No supplier for these beautiful stamps in South Africa. We searched the internet to see how to colour these beautiful stamps and got hold of watercolor pencils at a local shop in Durbanville.

Now Heidi-Mari is painting to her hearts desire and supplies us with the most beautiful stamps for our hand made cards.

Here are the first two cards we made on Monday night, using the Sugar Nellie stamps.

The oval scalloped shape we designed ourselves on our silhouette. I am foreseeing hours of fun and creativity with this new hobby of us!!

22 November 2009

Countdown and Another Birth Story

I am now 30 weeks pregnant! This is always a special milestone in my pregnancy. A time to celebrate! From now on it is downhill. I can still remember my first midwife drawing my attention to the countdown in single digit weeks. She told Christo to take me out on a date and celebrate it! She was such a special lady.

Since I'm in the countdown zone, I'm thinking a lot about the births of my children. Here I've shared a bit about Josua's birth. He was our 3rd baby, but first home birth with a midwife and what a blessed, God-honouring experience.

The birth of Danika, our 4th baby was an even more God-honouring experience, but not nearly as easy and relaxing. But let me start at the beginning.

After Josua we thought our family was complete. I desperately longed for a 3rd baby, but shortly after his birth our business went nearly bankrupt. We had to down scale radically and ended up living in a small 2 bedroom granny flat.

When Josua was 2years and 1month old, my dad died of cancer. It was a very traumatic time in my life. Because of the stress and pain of my huge loss, my hormonal cycle went out of rhythm, our natural family planning plan failed and I got pregnant!

It was traumatic! People crucified us! How could we be so irresponsible? We just started surviving our financial disaster, but still needed another year or two to get back on track again. Christo's health shop was two years old and showing the potential of reliable, consistent income, but he still had to work very hard, we still had to live on a very small income and we still needed lots and lots of prayer to pull us through financially.

I was devastated. There was nobody I could turn to for support. I felt like I've dropped my husband in our attempt to financial survival. With not one of my previous pregnancies did I ever suffer morning sickness or fatigue, but from 5 weeks I had severe pregnancy symptoms. This continued for 4 months. Then one day (in the middle of February) as I was lamenting our hopeless situation with Christo, he told me that he believed as soon as I made peace with this baby, my symptoms would stop - he was at peace with this baby since day one. He trusted the Lord for financial provision and he glorified the Lord for blessing us with another baby. I knew Christo was right. I made the decision to praise the Lord for this baby and stopped taking notice of people's negative comments. Children are a blessing, a reward from the Lord.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.

Ps 127:3

Almost immediately my health improved. With the knowledge I’ve gained since then to my current pregnancy (#8), I now realise the stress and bitterness lowered my body's pH and caused all the problems with my health. The moment I chose to live in praise and trust of the Lord, my pH improved.

A merry heart does good, like medicine,
But a broken spirit dries the bones.

Pr 17:22

A few days later I had a revelation from the Lord. The Lord revealed to me that He didn’t want His people to blend in, to be ‘balanced’ people. He wants us to be ‘off balance’ – we must stand out. If I’m seeking His will for my life and longed to walk in His ways, I will not blend in with the world and in most areas I will not even blend in with the average Christian.

Within 2 weeks (!) our financial situation improved. We didn't have a vehicle of our own up till then, a friend's dad gave us a vehicle to use for as long as needed, but we needed a seven passenger vehicle when baby was born. At the end of February a friend gave us a loan for two thirds of the money we needed to buy a seven passenger vehicle, interest free, and gave the remaining third as a love offering. We were also financially able to rent a 3 bedroom house.

It was during this triumphant time that I unfortunately started to experience a terrible fear for my life, when giving birth to this baby. I've never before experienced such fear and had no reason to fear, since the last birth was so relaxed. I had the same very experienced midwife. Still I had this certainty that I was going to die, while giving birth to this baby. After a few days I had to share the fear with Christo and we started to pray for God's hand of protection on our baby and myself.

Financially, the Lord blessed us abundantly during the next 5 months, without any extra work or effort from Christo's side. But I was experiencing complications in my pregnancy. Baby was laying breach and we needed to plan for a caesarean or at least a hospital birth, since our midwife wasn't sure if I would be able to give birth at home with baby laying breach. We prayed for weeks and had a prayer network over the whole globe. Then at 35 weeks, 3 days before my appointment with a gynaecologist, during which we would discuss a caesarean, baby turned into the right birth position! A miracle in itself, since I was already 35 weeks pregnant!

But only days over after this victory I all of a sudden, in the middle of the day got very strong contractions. I immediately contacted Christo and my midwife who both arrived within an hour. I was in early labour, 3cm dilated and progressing. Being only 36 weeks pregnant, she suggested we get an ambulance to wait out in front of our home to take us to hospital as soon as baby was born. She didn't want to transport me during that stage.

In the meantime Christo got hold of a homeopathic remedy that apparently could stop contractions - Spascupreel. He gave me one tablet every 10 min and within an hour my contractions stopped! For the next 3 weeks I took it almost every day and finished 2 bottles! By now I knew there was a serious battle raging over the birth of this baby and we intensified our prayers!

At 39 weeks my water broke around 9 o'clock the Friday morning, but all of a sudden there were NO contractions. My midwife visited me at 18h00 and suggested I take castor oil, lemonade and ice cream (for the taste!) in order to try speed up the contractions. I didn't know it then, but once your water had broken you have to give birth within 24 hours, less you may get infection - endangering the babies' life. By 23h00 I still had only mild contractions about 30 seconds long, 10 minutes apart and serious discomfort of diarrhoea due to the castor oil. By 4 o' clock the next morning the contractions had become stronger with shorter intervals, but still not strong and long enough to put me in full labour.

I was so caught up in labour and didn't notice the stress of my midwife. By 8'O clock she broke the news. I'm not progressing and we need to get to a hospital for a caesarean. She made the necessary calls and by 9 O'clock we were on our way to Mowbray hospital with the gynaecologist and theatre waiting for us. I remember my exhaustion after being in labour for hours already, the pain of the contractions now 2 minutes apart, but I was at total peace with the rest of the situation.

As we got into our Kombi, she suggested that I go down on all fours on the middle seat, with her kneeling in front of me, supporting me with her body during the trip. She was afraid I would give birth on the highway and standing on all fours would slow down the labour. I remember holding both her hands while taking the 30 minute trip to the hospital, counting the contractions (there were exactly ten) and her urging Christo to stay within the speed limits.

As we stopped at the hospital (a state hospital - in SA not in a very good condition) they brought, what was in my opinion, one of the oldest wheelchairs to fetch me. As I sat down in the wheel chair, it felt like I fell right through, but experiencing another contraction, I didn't even complain. Within minutes I was laying on a bed, ready to be pushed into theatre. It was during that few minutes that my body went into a stress and I immediately recognised it as the same reaction I had with Josua minutes before he was born. Christo and my midwife recognised it too, and gave me Rescue drops. At the same time I also felt the distinct urge to push! I told my midwife (it was still only the three of us in the room) and she immediately examined me, only to discover that I was fully dilated and ready to give birth! Baby’s head was ready to crown!

The next few minutes was like a scene from ER24. The midwife making calls to the active birth unit (at the opposite side of the hospital) informing them, she was on her way with a mother who needed to give birth immediately, while grabbing her bag with stuff, Christo getting me back in the wheel chair, grabbing the baby’s bag. The midwife was pushing the wheelchair, while calmly giving Christo instructions to pull the chair in front, to prevent me from falling out of the chair, due to the speed they are running with me and giving directions to the birth unit. I just had to breathe in and out, listen to my midwife’s voice: "don't push", while experiencing another one or two contractions!

Within minutes they rushed me into the most beautiful room (I remember it so clearly, because the rest of the hospital was in a terrible condition) and put me on a large queen sized bed. Our midwife was in and out of the room, fetching monitors, oxygen and everything else baby or I may need during and after the birth. Only 5minutes after arriving in the room with the soft pink walls and pastel colour curtains she informed me she is ready if I'm ready. There was a huge birth pool in the corner, but no time to fill it.

I just squatted next to the bed, Christo supporting me from behind and I gave birth to the most beautiful little girl! It was 10h05, only 15 minutes after arriving at the hospital!

After giving baby Danika some oxygen, our midwife filled the birth pool and we had a relaxed bath.

Christo had the privilege to dress her the first time, but halfway had to ask the midwife’s help, while I was still recovering in the soothing water of the birth pool.

Four hours later, still in the Active Birth Unit of Mowbray Hospital, the children could meet their little sister. We were dismissed half an hour later and could go home.

Our midwife with Josua and Danika, our two babies she caught. A year after Danika’s birth she quit the midwife profession and left South Africa. A huge lost to us.

Afterwards our midwife, confessed that Danika’s natural birth was a miracle. The reason that I couldn't fully dilate at home was because baby went into the birth canal with a flexed head, preventing strong enough gravitation pull to fully open the birth canal. I would not have been able to give normal birth to a baby in that position! The trip to the hospital, with me standing on all fours, caused baby to move back, out of the birth canal (a total miracle, since it is unheard of). As I got into the wheelchair, almost 'falling' right through due to its bad condition, baby moved into the birth canal at the right angle and from there I just needed to push!

I can still imagine God sending His angel to make sure the oldest wheelchair, would be the closest wheelchair available for me!

God is so good and He answers prayer! The only thing we need to do is to ask Him in faith!

Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart

Ps 37:4

18 November 2009

Weeding, Fertilizing and Mulching our Vegetable Garden

The last 3 weeks we were so busy preparing for our vacation, enjoying our vacation and getting back in routine after our vacation, that we only did the bare minimum to keep our vegetable garden going. The last week’s ongoing rain also didn’t give us a change to get into the vegetable garden. On Sunday the sun was shining again and Heidi-Mari and I headed for the garden! It really needed a proper weeding.

We had a wonderful time weeding the beds, enjoying the soil under our hands and adoring our vegetables that start to show promise of fruit! We are so excited about our little tomatoes!

We are already enjoying our delicious lettuce, herbs and strawberries.

To think we are tending the soil and little plants, and within a few weeks we will be able to enjoy the fruit on our labour. Tomatoes, beans and carrots.

After we weeded the beds, we poured some liquid fertilizer, from our Bokashi bins on our young plants.

We have two Bokashi bins in our kitchen. All the organic kitchen scraps from vegetables and fruit, goes into the bins. After every layer of kitchen scraps, we sprinkle a layer of bokashi.

Bokashi is micro-organisms that actively decompose your kitchen scraps and eliminate any smells. Every 4-5 days I am able to harvest at least a liter of liquid fertilizer from my two Bokashi bins. As soon as my second Bokashi bin is almost full, we empty the first Bokashi bin on our compost heap and start to fill up the first Bokashi bin again.

The soil in my vegetable garden beds consist mainly out of horse manure, peanut shells and a small percentage of clay soil (the only soil we have on our property). Over the past month we observed our herb and vegetable leaves have a pale yellow colour due to lack in Nitrogen in the soil. It appears that the horse manure wasn’t mature enough and depleted the soil of Nitrogen. As soon as I added two to three shots of the Bokashi bins’ liquid fertilizer the leaves turned into a deep green. I’m now revamping my outside compost pile, to ensure the soil for the fourth raised vegetable bed (we currently have 3 raised vegetable beds and I desperately need more) contains better compost. I need a better balance between carbon-rich material and nitrogen-rich material in my compost pile, to create the kind of soil in which vegetables will flourish. Carbon-rich materials are called brown compost and are dried leaves, bark, twigs, straw and sawdust. Nitrogen-rich materials are called green compost and are grass clipping, fresh garden clippings and kitchen scraps. I’m aiming for about two-thirds brown to one-third green compost, in my compost pile.

I’ve also added the liquid fertilizer on the side to my lemon, fig and oak trees. The result in growth was astonishing!

Christo bought me Jane’s Delicious Garden – How to grow organic vegetables and herbs in South Africa. I’ve only read part of the first chapter on Organic Gardening and already learned so much! I’ve also added our used organic ground coffee (CJ collected it over the last few days) to the soil in the beds to enrich the nitrogen content.

After a weeks rain, we also had a lot of snails on our lettuce. We broke egg shells and scattered it between the lettuces.

We also covered part of the beds with mulch in the form of hay. The mulch will regulate the temperature of the soil, keeping it cooler and reduce the growth of weeds. We could only apply the mulch were the seedlings are 5cm and higher. Thus between the tomatoes and beans.

That’s all for now, I need to get back to my compost pile and do some more reading. The secret is all in the soil!

15 November 2009

The Parcel

While we were on our vacation, a parcel arrived from America for CJ. On Monday evening Christo brought it home.

Look at the smile on CJ’s face! He could hardly wait to open it.

It was his first prize for the Apologia Science Question of the Week.

Since the beginning of the year CJ has participated in the Apologia Science Question of the Week. In July, CJ was a Co-winner for the 27th round of this competition. He won a Rocket set, which he had to build from scratch. But since it was winter, with lots of rain and we still have “winter” with even more rain and strong winds - part of our climate for this time of the year - CJ hasen’t sent up his rockets yet!

In October, CJ was a Co-winner again for the 28th round of the competition. For the first time in the history of the Science Problem of the Week contest, the same two people won back-to-back rounds! This time CJ won the Khet Laser Deflection Game – National Competition Winner by MENSA Select.

It's a game that combines lasers with classic strategy. Players alternate turns moving Egyptian-themed pieces having two, one or no mirrored surfaces. All four types of pieces (pharaoh, obelisk, pyramid and djed column) can either move one square forward, back, left, right, or diagonal, or can stay in the same square and rotate by a quarter twist. Each turn ends by firing one of the lasers built into the board. The laser beam bounces from mirror to mirror; if the beam strikes a non-mirrored surface on any piece, it is immediately removed from play. The ultimate goal is to illuminate your opponent's pharaoh, while shielding yours from harm!

With this game you really have to think strategically.

CJ and Josua playing the game. CJ also challenged Christo and Heidi-Mari. I normally love playing these kinds of games with CJ, but I decided to rather keep my dignity (keeping in mind I’m pregnant and losing some brain cells…) and stay on the sideline, watching!
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