Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thankful for....

I am a bit in survival mode this month. A much loved young mother, wife and friend in our street has passed away and she has left a very big hole in our lives. I know if she were here she would want me to pass on this really important message. WEAR YOUR SUNSCREEN!!! And have your skin checked. Queensland has the world's highest death rate from melanoma so be aware of our hot hot sun.

So....I am trying to live in the moment and suck up all of life's goodness because that is how Helen lived and she has inspired me to try and do the same.

So...here are some of my favourite things from the last week or so.....

Glorious glorious jacarandas. This is my favourite time of year and always makes me high.

Coming home from lunch with my old nursing buddies and finding these three laughing on the trampoline

My little girl finally getting the hula hoop moves

My wondrous hollyhocks finally flowering

To get some idea of their height (over 2 metres), the wire fence is about as high as my chest.

My new petunias. I have a tendency to be morose in the mornings so I go and open the front door and drink in these colours in the morning sunshine. They always put a smile on my face.

The flower garden outside our study. I tried to get Kip to pose for this photo but he had a fat juicy new bone and wouldn't cooperate.

I hope everyone is having a lovely week.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Joy pockets

For many months, I have read just my favourite 4 or 5 blogs - the ones that feel like old familiar friends that I miss when I don't drop in to see what's been happening. Tonight I rediscovered the delights of just hopping from blog to blog via the favourites of my favourite bloggers, attracted by a name such as "milkmoon" or "dreamfarm girl". What an amazing thing blogging is - to be able to peek into the lives of other women (for I never seem to end up at a man's blog, with the exception of "Quilt Dad"!) and read their thoughts about life, love, mothering and the rest of the universe. Sometimes, I check out a blogger's profile and read their lists of favourites books and music and think "Ooh....she loves "Room With A View" AND "Cold Mountain" AND "The English Patient" AND Fleet Foxes!!! Will I send her an email to say I love them too? No....that is like stalking my inner shy blogger says to herself.

Anyway....I know lots of my favourite bloggers like to list what they are grateful for, and I do mean to do it, and sometimes do it the old fashioned way with a pen in a little notebook my big sister gave me earlier this year, but often I forget to do it for weeks at a time. I should definitely be at least thinking of what I am grateful for as I tend to be a glass half empty person and dwell on life's little and big difficulties. I came across a thing called "joy pockets" which is a lovely idea, but trying to do the links and copy the html code thingy etc was all too hard so I shall just make my own little list of things I am grateful for today.

- Watching "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" on DVD with my two girls who love Narnia as much as I do and letting them stay up late to see the ending. (And then having a quick, painless bedtime as it was an hour past their usual time for lights out).

- Having my husband rub cream into the knots in my back and shoulders while I watched "Grand Designs Revisited" on the TV in our bedroom instead of on iview on the computer when I get a spare few minutes.

- Making biscuits with the girls and cutting out all sorts of shapes and then icing them with pink and white icing and hundreds and thousands.

- Watching my hollyhocks grow taller every day and their spires of buds uncurling. Oh...the anticipation!

- Living in a street with lovely neighbours who look out for each other and happy children who like to chat over the fence.

- Waking up this morning and feeling spring in the air and not needing to wear slippers on my feet.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Time with my big girl

My big Squidgy Girl and I have been trying to get some special time together for weeks. Finally, on Sunday morning we headed off to the Petrie Markets, just the two of us. The Petrie Markets are a happy place for me. I used to go them with my big sister when they were the rough and ready Closeburn Markets near Samford and we would scoff home made ginger beer and dutch pofertjies (sorry - can normally spell quite well but that has defeated me) and buy little antique blue and green bottles from the "bottle man". Later in the 1980s, when the markets moved to Petrie, my sister and I were both renting rooms with a guy in a lovely cottage at Clayfield and on Sunday mornings we loved to head to Petrie and buy ourselves a second hand book to read, a few avocados, a bunch of roses, some fudge, some strawberries and maybe a bottle from the Bottle Man. Then we would go home, enjoy our flowers and food and lie around reading our new books for the rest of the day. When my sister married and had a little boy, I used to steal him and take him to the markets and return him asleep at lunchtime, thinking she was such a generous sister to share him with me. Now I realise it was probably a gift to a tired mother.

I have gone to the Petrie Markets with so many friends, a boyfriend or two, and now I take my own family. Once, I was there with my close friend, Suz, our little girls and a pregnant belly when I ran into my ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend. We chatted under the sunshiney blue sky and enjoyed seeing each other happy. Gee....that wasn't what this post was going to be about.

Anyway, big girl and I needed some time together and we made the most of every moment. When we arrived we were in awe of this amazing bougainvillia.

Then we spent some time at an artisan's shop with a man doing traditional Japanese weaving. I forget what it was called but he said it was a traditional pastime of Samurai warriers waiting for battle (or something like that). My girl was entranced and wanted to try it. I said I didn't think she could but on our return visit a bit later, the nice man must have noticed her longing glances as he offered to let her have a go. She LOVED it! One of the things I love about this girl is her zest for life, for meeting new people and bonding with them, for trying new things and having new adventures. She sucks up life like a little anteater devouring ants.

There used to be pony rides (and sometimes camel rides) at the Petrie Markets years ago and then they disappeared. I was told the insurance cost became too high. So we were delighted to see a lovely horse and two gorgeous tiny Shetland ponies giving rides for just $5. Can you see the tiny white dog watching the horse and girl go by?

For some reason (they said it was the gorgeous weather) there were heaps of lovely stall holders with antiques, vintage wares, collectables etc so we had a lovely browse. My Squidge spotted this lovely painted parasol for $10 at the stalls of Julie and Pam. After the price was kindly knocked down to $8, she parted with some of her pocket money and was a very happy customer. Apart from looking beautiful, the parasol was very handy for balancing on tree roots.

Julie and Pam had some fantastic things for sale. I had only $20 of my housekeeping left and had already bought food and some vintage tablecloths so was being very strong. I loved this wooden box full of old pegs and lace.
I also fell in love with this funky red china jug which I think looks sort of '50s and would go in our '50s house but, even after it was knocked down a couple of dollars to a very affordable price, I still didn't have enough cash. Do you take layby, Julie? You can't quite tell from my photo but it doesn't have a handle. Cool, hey?

Here are the two secondhand tablecloths I found at another shop selling oodles of old linen. They were in the "seconds" basket as they had some small stains. They were $2 each! I really love the pink and white one. It was all beautifully ironed so I put it on our table when we got home and my little girl promptly splashed chocolate milk on it. C'est la vie! Now I know why my mother got annoyed with us every night at teatime and said "All over my clean tablecloth!!!" when we spilt our milk. Sorry Mum!

So, that was our lovely mother-and-daughter morning. Weren't we lucky? And the weather was extra gorgeous. Blue sky and sunshine after a freezing, windy Saturday. We think we should have some special time together once a month.
(Photo by Squidgy Girl)

Special love to all the mothers and daughters out there, especially to my wonderful friends who help me mother my girls and to the amazing woman who has changed my life and is soon to leave this life behind. You are an awesome mother, my sweet friend, and have made me a better one than I was before.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

This and that

Life has been marching on as it does since I last made a post, several weeks ago. Things are pretty much back to normal as we don't have to have my girl reviewed by our various medical teams now until September/October. It has been lovely getting up in the morning and not having to keep medical appointments.

I still think a lot about our experience in hospital and what it has taught me and how it has changed us. I feel more like a grown up - finally - at 45 going on 46. One change has been a superficial but symbolic one. I had been talking about letting my hair go grey for months and months. I was finding it really hard to let go of my inner twenty-something self who had thick long dark hair which made me feel feminine, and on a good day, pretty. Since I turned 40, it has been shorter but still dark - thanks to regular dyeing. When I was in hospital with my girl, I stopped caring about what colour my hair was. I was actually glad it was short as I didn't have a comb for a week. I finally felt good about letting my hair be the colour it actually is. I still didn't like the idea of grey regrowth, so I have just been cutting it shorter and shorter with each haircut. When I went to the hairdresser last week, she suggested going really short - "If it's grey, you want it to be edgy, not mumsy" she said. So here I am with short grey hair. I like it - it feels liberating and my husband loves it, but I did shed one last little tear the other night (when feeling fragile about other more important things that are going on) as I bade farewell to my youth and said hello to the next chapter of my life.

I also learnt how important it is to be truthful with my children, especially about really important things like pain and love and fear and sadness.

When coping with a sick little girl, Scott and I learnt that truest of all truths - the importance of living in the moment and sucking up all the love and joy you can. So...I decided to take extended leave from my historian's job so that one of us can be home with the children instead of both of us juggling work and home like a crazy circus act. Even though I only worked two days a week, those two days were so rushed and busy and I felt like I was always thinking ahead to whether there was a clean school uniform ready and enough bread to make a vegemite sandwich for a school lunch. And we both had less patience, less energy and less time to do fun things, or even to do nothing occasionally. The universe has kindly stepped in and made my job disappear in a work place restructure so I may not even have a job to go back to anyway. Normally, this situation would have caused me considerable stress, but in the light of what has happened, I have been content to go with the flow and look for the good in however things turn out. I took G into the city this week to attend a the launch of a website I was working on for the year before G got sick. I had noone to leave her with so she came along and was beautifully behaved. I felt proud of her for sitting quietly on my lap during the two speeches and letting me catch up with my colleagues and other people from the heritage field that I hadn't seen for ages. She was a bit disappointed though that there was no game of Pass the Parcel. It was nice to pop into my work world for an hour and then nice to leave it again. Then we went and said hello to the kangaroo sculptures in King George Square.

My big girl just gets bigger every day. I swear her legs grow longer every night while she is sleeping. Here she is dressed up for "book week" at school. She is dressed up as Lucy from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" as we have been reading the Narnia books at bedtime together. Is there anything more lovely to do than to reread your favourite books with your children? She is holding her magic cordial that Aslan gave her to heal the wounded in battles. I was stuck for a suitable potion bottle but then we found the bubble bath the girls gave me for Mothers' Day and added a few drops of red food colouring.

Not working has given me the time and energy to get more involved with our local school. We love hanging out and getting to know the other families and helping out with fundraising etc. I have met such lovely parents who have a real sense of community. Every day when G and I arrive to meet E after school, there is always a mum who is keeping an eye on someone else's children because they are running half an hour late. I love that. The kids play on the playground and the parents sit around and talk and then we wander off home. One of nicest things is that I have met some crafty mums who meet regularly for what they call "Yarn Night". I went along this week and we sat around, drinking tea and eating cake and knitting, sewing or crocheting and talking about life, school, birth and who bought some of those ruby grapefruit that were on special at the local fruit and vege shop last week. It may sound a bit boring but it was just lovely - very relaxing and nice to feel like I belong. I really want to spend more time with the women I know who I can relate to, who feel the way I feel - that we are meant to live in villages and share our food and our sewing machines and our childcare. I hope that doesn't sound really po faced.

Obviously, not working means a tight budget but I'm hoping we'll manage ok and can find ways to spend less money. I have resolved not to buy any new clothes for six months (except maybe at fetes or thrift shops!). And I think having more time will make up for having less money. Well...that's the theory. And if I can cook more meals and iron the odd shirt, that makes Scott's life less stressful and busy. He has cooked the majority of our meals for years (I cook most of the children's as he gets home from work late) but I think it's time I relieved him of some of his duties.

Our dog pog was sadly neglected for the last few months and had become very very shaggy. He had a dreadlock in his tail and big knots under his colour. I finally got myself organised and took him to the vet as I was tired of sweeping up dog hair from the floor. He now looks so tidy and puppylike that I have a whole new love for him and don't mind him snuggling up to me for some cuddles. He came home with a smart red scarf tied around his neck and looked like a doggy pirate.

I hope all my bloggy friends are well and happy. I haven't been posting but I have still been peeking at your lives as always.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Belated birthday celebrations

Three days after our girl came home from hospital, she turned 5! We were so grateful to be home and be able to celebrate together. As with all good birthdays, the celebrations spread out over a week or so. (The photos are out of order sorry as I was a bit disorganised uploading them).

Some special friends organised a little private birthday party with some sand art. We all did some and I have to say, it was great therapy for Mum and Dad! Thanks for all your efforts, H. We had a lovely time!

Some pattycakes for an impromptu birthday cake and candles. (Made by Nana - thanks Nana! and iced by the girls)

Opening presents on the birthday morning.....

A long anticipated visit to Cold Rock with some special friends to celebrate our girl's birthday. Aren't they gorgeous? And look at that little baby girl taking off her party hat! Such a cutie!

After Cold Rock, the friends came back to our house so the girls could blow bubbles. We threw some rugs on the front grass and sat in the winter sunshine having tea and biccies. So good to be alive and happy and in the company of good friends.

There's probably more posts coming re adjusting to life after the hospital drama. I think it is helping me process what happened. Just as I thought life was getting back to normal this week, our girl had a temperature last night and was whimpering in her sleep. A flash back to a month ago when the ear infection which caused the clot must have been grumbling away despite the antibiotics. Back to the GP today to have a check up but can find no source of infection. Just a little temperature but I ended up crying in the GP's office for 15-20 mins while my girl was in the toyshop with my mum, reliving some of the events of the last few weeks which I thought I had dealt with. We are so lucky to have had such a good outcome so I keep reminding myself of that when we have little setbacks.

Hope all my bloggy and real life friends are well and happy. Hope to talk to you soon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Grateful for....

After purging some of the medical details of the last few weeks on my blog, I think it's time to try and count my blessings.

Grateful for.....

seeing my girl home with her doggy pog

hanging out the washing myself in my own backyard in the sunshine

seeing how my garden has grown and picking a posy of flowers

being able to wash my brave big girl's hair and let her watch an "Avotar" movie marathon

Friday, July 8, 2011

Our girl doing well

It's been a tough week and I couldn't find the heart or the time to post anything. Finally, this afternoon we had some good news about our girl. Although she had been improving and was full of beans, the twice daily injections of anti clotting drug into the cannula in her leg were causing her a lot of pain to the point where she could barely lie still for me to safely administer it (and both parents were in tears). On Wednesday, we had a day at hospital for a CT scan which involved going via the Emergency Dept to have an IV cannula in her hand for the contrast to be given (Pretty traumatic, needless to say). The CT scan was to check on the progress of the blood clot. To top it all off, she became sick the day before the proposed scan with tonsilitis and had to start on penicillin mixture which was making her gag. Today, after hearing that the clot had improved but was still there, we had to go back to hospital to change the cannula in her leg (the existing one was bruised and bleeding) in order to continue with the anti clotting drug. We had the numbing cream on ready to insert the needle part when the neuro registrar came in and examined our girl to check how she was going. He went off to talk to the haematology team and then returned and said we could stop the injections. I was ecstatic! Joyfully, we jumped in the car and came home. The girls stayed up late to celebrate no "medicine in the leg" at bedtime, Scott and I had Thai takeaway and all was right with our little world. We go back to the hospital on Monday afternoon for a proper "review" with the head neurologist. The other drugs are continuing for the present and there may be another scan in a few weeks but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. No more waking up and feeling sick at the thought of facing another painful injection for a brave little girl. Yippee!!!

Thanks again to everyone for their support and love. We feel very lucky to be surrounded by such caring friends and family (and bloggy mates!). A special thank you to Melissa for all her tips on minimising the physical and psychological trauma for little people and being a strong advocate for my little girl. You really helped me get through the last few days.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sudden onset of squint

(A few days before going to hospital. The squint is not that noticeable here as it was coming and going. )

This is a quick note to update you on our week. I'll be doing a longer post about it soon as it will be therapeutic for me to write about it but here is a shortish version.

About 13 days ago, our little girl suddenly developed a 'squint' - by that I mean that one of her eyes started turning inwards so that she looked cross eyed. I immediately knew that this was potentially a very serious medical situation and took her to a hospital to be assessed. To cut a long story short, it took six days, two hospital visits, two GP visits and a visit to a paediatric eye specialist before she was properly assessed. The specialist found that her optic nerves at the back of her eyes were 'swollen' indicating that she had increased intercranial pressure. This means that the pressure in her brain was rising for some reason - possibly a brain tumour, haemorrhage, abscess etc. It then became an emergency sitation and we rushed to hospital. After 30 awful hours that included an emergency MRI (for diagnosis) and lumbar puncture under general anaesthetic (to check for infection and relieve some of the pressure on the brain) they found a 2-3 cm blood clot had blocked off one of the veins that drains the cerebral spinal fluid from the brain, causing the CSF to build up in her brain - causing raised intercranial pressure which caused the optic nerves to swell. She was given (and still is on) serious drugs to reduce the brain swelling and stop further clotting and this has worked very well. After 7 days in hospital, we came home last night, still on the drugs which include injections twice daily to reduce the risk of further clotting. She is out of danger and the brain swelling has mostly gone but her optic nerves are still swollen. We went back to hospital today for her to be reviewed and they were very happy with her. She needs another brain scan on Wednesday to see if the clot is gone yet.

The clot was caused by an ordinary middle ear infection which caused inflammation in the vein near the ear which drains fluid from the brain - a very rare complication.

Obviously, it was a very serious condition but as we were facing the very very real possibility of a brain tumour diagnosis, we were absolutely ecstatic that it was 'only' a blood clot. We had an absolutely out of this world medical team taking care of Greta - well, actually - several medical teams. We had a team of eye specialists looking after her eyes, a team of neurologists looking after her brain (they were in ultimate charge), a team of ear, nose and throat doctors making sure the underlying infection in her middle ear/mastoid bone was cleared up and a team of haemotologists supervising the drugs for the blood clot and clotting issues. We actually saw one of the top neurologists in Australia soon after we arrived, who has been working in neurology since the 1950s and retired this week. So we were extremely lucky to have him in charge. He was an expert long before the technology of MRI, CT scans etc and was able to tell us what he thought the most likely diagnosis was based on her symptoms/history before it was confirmed by the MRI. (The longest 30 hours of my life while we waited to rule out brain tumours).

I want to reassure everyone that she is doing really really well and say an enormous thank you to all our wonderful family and friends who have been supporting us with love and meals and visits to hospital and helping take care of my big girl while Gret and I were in hospital.

I am veering from elation at being home to exhaustion, but it is all good. She is safe and sound and in a few more weeks, we can hopefully be finished with the drugs and procedures and back to normal life.

If anyone out there happens to google "sudden onset squint" (as I did) and finds this post, PLEASE if this has happened to your child (or you), get an immediate medical assessment as it is potentially a symptom of a life threatening condition. One of our neuro specialists described it as a "red flag" event.
Will post more soon including a photo of my girl with the turned eye so you can see exactly what I mean. Her beautiful eyes now look normal again and her vision does not appear to have been damaged. The swelling of her optic nerves is going down and should continue to go down over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Weekend at O'Reilly's Guesthouse

Back in May, we had a wonderful weekend at the famous O'Reilly's Guesthouse in Lamington National Park. It has a quite a history as it was established by the O'Reilly family on their dairy farm as a guesthouse back in the 1920s. Lots of lovely historical photographs on the walls of the guesthouse for the historians in our family to pore over. The reason we went was to celebrate my Mum's 75th birthday. My sister and her family went as well as my parents and it was the first time we have all had a holiday together since we were children. (Only downside was that our brother and his little family couldn't come as well). Luckily, we all had our own accommodation and space and couldn't drive each other nuts!

Our girls were so excited about going away with their cousins and seeing the rainforest. It was a two hour drive from our place and the last half an hour or so was going up quite steep winding hairpin bends which I found pretty hair raising. It was a relief to get there and have our first walk in the rainforest.

The guesthouse is quite a big complex with a central lodge type building with a restaurant, cosy bar, games room, fireplaces, shelves of books etc etc. Then there were separate buildings for accommodation all of which had gorgeous views of the mountains and valleys. The most wonderful thing was no phones, no TV, no computers and no proper mobile reception (though we did manage to be text each other and say things like "What time are you going to breakfast". It was SO peaceful! Speaking of breakfast....it was an absolute feast. All you could eat from the menu or the smorgasbord. That's my kind of breakfast! The second morning, breakfast was outside, complete with chefs cooking eggs etc and all the other breakfast goodies you could wish for. It was chilly but we rugged up and just ate extra to keep our bellies warm.

The rainforest was just magical.

Here's my big girl communing with a mossy boulder. She was in seventh heaven and got completely hooked on birdwatching. She soon knew the names of the local birds flying about and their habits and was especially fascinated with the bower birds and their nests fall of blue treasures.

Although not ecologically PC, O'Reilly's has special permission to feed the local birdlife as it has been done for so many decades that the birds are dependant on it. The crimson rosellas were another special favourite of my big girl.

My little girl was not so keen and preferred to stay outside the feeding enclosure with her Daddy.

My big girl even got to hold a barn owl which was an exciting experience.

Even though the weather was sometimes overcast and misty, the view was just gorgeous. So relaxing to just look at it, breathe in the clean mountain air and listen to the birds.

It was extra special to be with my extended family. Life is so hectic for everybody, it was wonderful to just talk and walk and eat and laugh and play board games together.

Thanks for having us, O'Reilly's. Hope we come back soon.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lemonade stall

I've been very slack on the blogging front lately. Sometimes life takes so much effort, there's no energy left over for blogging about it. Life has been extra busy with jazz ballet, giving history talks here and there, school working bees, friends coming to play. All good stuff.

One of my favourite things we have done lately was have a lemonade stall one sunny day during the Easter break. It was my little girl's idea. She asked her Daddy to help her make lemonade for a stall, so lemons were squeezed, juice and sugar were boiled on the stove, a table, jug and cups were taken out on to the footpath, a quick sign was made and we knocked on some neighbours' doors to invite them over for free lemonade.

Soon we were joined by our favourite families in our street. It is one of my all time favourite things to sit in the sunshine, chatting with our lovely neighbours, watching the children entertain themselves.

Mmmmm.....so good!
Time to queue for seconds.

Kipper joins the party. Unfortunately he has to stay on the lead or he would gallop off and explore the neighbour's gardens before heading down the laneway to the nearest busy road.

Our girls had watched "The Sound of Music" for the first time the night before so my big girl fetched her pop-up "Sound of Music" book to show her friends.

The book was a big hit and the girls are still singing "Edelweiss". (Makes me cry every time I see it)

Moving on to other games.

Thanks for coming along everybody. See you on the footpath soon.