Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tis the season to be germy

I have now been sick for 29 days.

Yes you read that correctly. Twenty nine days and counting.

It started with a throat virus kindly passed on by Elliot, who is going through the daycare initiation of catching every last bug on the planet while his little immune system builds strength.

We then tag-teamed for a couple of weeks, alternating between feeling better and feeling rubbish. It was at that point Damien stepped in and firmly told me I was to stop accepting Elliot's sweet, wet, germ-infested mouth kisses. But I love his sweet, wet, germ-infested mouth kisses!
However I reluctantly agreed, because by this point I was feeling fairly run down and over it all, and I had a house to pack up and move.

Aaah yes, moving house. The great undoer of every attempt at regaining health.

I spent weeks sorting and packing, sending things to op-shops, posting things on Freecycle, cleaning inside cupboards, washing down walls, pruning trees, having a garage sale, and preparing for the removalists to come on the Saturday just gone. Moving weekend was, as always, hectic.

But we got in with relatively few dramas, and thus began the great unpack and the final bits of cleaning at the old house.

I pushed it too far. I did not sleep properly. I did not eat properly. I overworked my already tired and run down body. And as a result I got sick again.

My lovely doctor has prescribed rest. Nay, he has ordered rest.

This is difficult. I have a toddler. I work part-time. Damien works late and away a lot. My house needs unpacking. There is Christmas to prepare for, and holidays to pack for.

But these must take a backseat. I have a tendency to overdo things, to deny myself rest in order to complete tasks, to do things for others at the expense of my own needs.

But really the figures speak for themselves. Four relapses in 29 days. How much more of a sign does my body need to give me before I listen to it? One of my commitments to myself I made recently was to be more present and mindful in all areas of my life, and I have already blatantly ignored the loudest call of all.

So today I have taken the day off work. I have sent Elliot to daycare to play with his friends, and not be burdened by a mum who has no energy and no motivation to make the day fun. I am ignoring the boxes and bags and mess and unwashed dishes. The jobs on my to do list can click on over to tomorrow.

I am armed with tissues. Panadol. Honey and lemon drinks. Olive leaf extract. Kiwi fruit and home cooked chilli beans, spinach and hot buttered toast. Episodes of Peep Show and The Walking Dead. Cats curled up on the end of the bed.

I will sleep.

And I will heal.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Water World (More fun than hanging with Kevin Costner on a boat)

It's Spring! My favourite time of the year.

The jasmine hanging over the wall at the bottom of the street is perfuming the air at dusk, it's T-shirt and sandals weather, and the days are long enough to enjoy a walk to the park after work.

It's also a time when thoughts turn to the first ocean swim of the season, weekend bike rides and picnics, and early morning bush walks.

And making waterholes on the deck for the rare jungle beasts of Brisbane.

Water play is an awesome activity to do with Elliot as it is:

a) quick and easy to set up
b) cheap, as it uses things you can find around the home
c) entertaining for at least 15 minutes, which is a long time in a toddler brain

For this water play we used a flat, shallow biscuit tray for the waterhole. We added some plants and animals from E's collection, then poured in a small amount of water, which we had coloured blue with food colouring from the supermarket.

We also used a saucepan as a deeper pond - the variations on depths lead to variations in hues (deeper water is darker than shallower water) which is a good learning activity for kids a bit older than Elliot. This has real world learning applications for things like beach safety.

Add a variety of kitchen utensils, such as a whisk, spoon, measuring cups and other implements to stir and pour, and you've got yourself a wet and happy toddler.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Creating lifelong readers

I'm a word geek. I devour text and think the smell of a freshly cracked book should be bottled and sold as perfume.

*edit - Apparently I am not the only one

Some of my earliest memories are of snuggling in bed with Mum or Dad and reading our favourites - OK admittedly they may have stopped being my parents' favourites after the 300th read. But those times, nestled in under a doona with the rain beating on the tin roof, the room lit warmly from the dusty pink gooseneck lamp that was clipped to the end of my pine bed, are held close to my heart.

We had library cards from a very young age and when I close my eyes I can still smell the slightly musty scent of the Lismore Public Library. Or the thrill of book club day!

Reading as a child and early teen was an avenue of escapism and growth. Of playful jaunts up Enid Blyton's magic faraway tree, perilous adventures with Gillian Rubenstein's Space Demons, and angsty, emotional navigations through puberty with anything by Judy Blume.

Books were my friends. They were comfort on a sad or lonely day, and a giggle on a good one. I have always struggled with letting books go, and my old favourites with their yellowing pages now sit proudly beside new besties I have acquired over the later years.

My husband is also an avid reader. And so fast! I borrow books from the library for him and he is done and searching for something else to read in a matter of days. He re-reads books like he fears they might one day disappear and he must indelibly imprint their words and themes onto his brain before they become a puff of smoke.

It was not even a conscious thought to pass on this love of books to Elliot. Reading to him was something we simply considered as imperative to his survival as providing him with food, shelter, warmth and comfort.
From the first day he arrived home with us, we have read to him.

Of course when babies are little they don't understand the words, but they do latch on to the lyrical, musical quality of well-crafted kids' texts. As they grow your intonations teach them how to steer around punctuation. How to pause at commas, for longer at ellipses ... and how to convey enthusiasm or surprise at the drop of an exclamation mark!

Other early literacy skills can be as simple as learning how to hold the book up the right way, and learning that the pages turn from right to left but that the words read from left to right. These are simple things we take for granted, but that had to be learned at some point.

Which brings me to my point.

Kids aren't learning this before school any more. Their parents aren't reading to them, their vocabularies are not growing, they start school at a disadvantage, struggle to catch up, and then the blame gets laid at the feet of the poor teachers who often have 28 kids in their class, next to no funding, and a hell of a time trying to get kids to reach benchmarks that put them among their peers around the world.

Early Development census data in Australia showed only 48 per cent of parents to three to eight year olds regularly read to their children. Kids are starting pre-school with just 100 words in their little brain boxes. Which is not enough. Not enough by half.

A love of reading needs to be tended as you would a seedling, which needs help to develop, to reach up to the sun, to grow wild and free and strong.

We have a number of favourite kids books which are good starting points for anyone.

Our favourites include:

The Very Hungry Bear
Where is the Green Sheep (I have actually put this away for a month or two to give myself a break from it as Elliot brings it over for reading eight or more times a day. The bloody green sheep is under the bush. Asleep. Still. Aaaaargh!)
Hop on Pop
The Feelings Book
Poo Bum
Little Blue Train
The Giving Tree

Your local library is an excellent place to ask for help. Let your kids be involved in the process and choose their own books. Don't make judgments about their choices. If they want to read a book based solely on its colourful picture of a puppy, then let them. This is one time where it is OK to judge a book by its cover. You can, after all, pick some out yourself to read together. Books with rhymes and repetition are always popular. Elliot loves books with flaps, and he takes delight in the anticipation of the reveal. A hot tip for young and enthusiastic kids is that flaps can be reattached with some sticky tape. Be sure to tape the flaps on both the front and the back for extra stability from future grabby hands.

Other good places to find quality books for kids of all ages is the Children's Book Council of Australia which each year publishes the best the country has to offer our young readers. We have decided to buy E the winning book each year.

Oxford Owl has some lovely ideas for reading with kids of different age groups.

Scholastic holds annual sales of cheap books to help build your family library.

If you don't have a kid but want to help foster a love of reading in someone young, The Pyjama Foundation is a fabulous organisation which places "Angels" with kids in foster care. These angels spend an hour or so a week with their child, reading to them and helping them build literacy and numeracy skills.

Do you have a favourite kids book from when you were little? Any current faves?

Friday, April 4, 2014

One, two, three...

My heart is a wee bit heavy today.

After considering many, many things we have come to the conclusion that a second child may not be in our future.

Thoughts of money, job prospects, mortgages, space, and emotional fragility (mainly mine) have tornadoed around in my head for the last few days.

I cannot possibly see how we could afford another child.

"You'll just make it work," I can hear coming from my Mum's mouth. But things are very different to when she was having babies. Mortgage to income ratios are astronomical, and we have not, by any means bought big. We "own" a modest unit in a modest suburb. We rent it to people who pay on time and haven't trashed the joint, while we rent across the road in a falling down Queenslander that has character peeling from its rusted roof down into its jungle of a backyard.

We love living here but would have to move if we had another baby. Probably while I was pregnant. We did that last time and it was not ideal. I was fat, emotional and over it. At one point we thought we'd lost the cat and I made everyone stop and look for her around the neighbourhood while I cried. Turned out she was in a kitchen cupboard. Also moving is expensive. There is bond to cover, strong men to organise, and - oh god - the packing and unpacking. A bigger place means more rent. It means moving further out. It means Damien would have to drive further to work.

Other considerations like school fees, uniforms, food, clothes, books, entertainment etc go without saying. Kids are expensive. Day care for two children would ruin us. We have no familial support nearby. I envy those people with grandparents close at hand.

We're wiped out after the IVF. Physically and mentally and financially. It stripped us bare in many ways. Can I go through that again? I don't know. Am I prepared for another potentially traumatic labour, followed by the sleepless nights, the difficulty feeding, the return trip to hospital with an infection etc etc? I am stuck on an emotional pendulum, swinging from "Oh lots of people do it and they just cope" to "Why would you put yourself through that again?".

Of course then there is the argument about the only child syndrome. Would a child without siblings be lonely? Would they learn to share, and play nicely? Would they be selfish?

My heart wants another child in many ways, but I doubt my strength to cope emotionally with two. Infertility robs you of confidence. I don't want to spend my life scratching to make ends meet.

I know many IVF couples never ever even get the chance to have a conversation about the possibility of a second child. I understand this. I am grateful, eternally, for Elliot. He is a blessing. He is a joyous, sunshiny little boy who makes our existence richer. He is a clown. A social butterfly who is still learning to use his wings. And my husband is right when he says our lives will forever be better because we have him.

Seriously. Look at him. He is awesome.

I feel utterly lost about what to do. I know there is still some time to make a decision (and in honesty the decision may be taken out of our hands if we do not succeed again with IVF). Elliot is not yet eight months old. But infertility also robs you of time very quickly, And I know we need to at least be thinking about what we want to do.

Until then, I must take a deep breath, find joy in what I have already, and trust the universe to reveal the right path.

Monday, March 31, 2014


The sun is out, but I am still dreaming of rain.

Clouds in Rainbow Drops Poster by Seal and Friends

Serving Bowl Set by Belinism

Raindrop Sterling Silver Necklace by Kimono Reincarnate

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Where I'm At - 001

Making : Easter and Mothers' Day Eye Pillows
Cooking : Sour Pork Curry from the Women's Weekly Slow Cooker recipe book (love this book)
Drinking : Real ginger tea
Reading: Louie Theroux's article about Fred Phelps
Wanting: A pineapple tea cosy
Deciding: When to go to Lismore to see my mum
Waiting: For Damien to get home from Melbourne... again
Loving: Indisposable Concept (Created by a Brisbane guy!)
Watching: The final episode of Girls, Season 3. Cannot get enough of this show.
Needing: To stop eating so much crap
Smelling: Freshly picked mint
Wearing: Old jeans - hello autumn. Note to self: buy new jeans.
Following: Little Lambs on etsy
Thinking: About the Science of Thinking through UQ.
Sorting: Through recipes
Buying: A roof rack awning for the Pajero so we have shade on Moreton Island at Easter wherever we go
Bookmarking: The Guardian's Oz website.
Disliking: Tony Abbott. For reasons.
Opening: Bills. Electricity over $550 for this quarter. Thankfully summer and the need for aircon is nearly over.
Giggling: Andy Samberg's speech at Harvard
Hearing: Badly Drawn Boy and thinking about Manchester

Go to Meet me at Mikes for Pip's much more comprehensive list of stuff.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A country show in big sky country

There's nothing quite like an Australian country show.

The sleek, muscular cattle, the well-groomed horses trotting the ring, the smell of fried dagwood dogs, hot chips and sausage sizzles, the shining glint of the tacky prizes hanging from the games in sideshow alley, and the call of the carney.

We did a trip last weekend to visit Damien's family at Jandowae, west of Dalby. It was a long drive, given we had to make multiple stops to feed ourselves and Elliot. But overall it was nice to be on the road with my little family, and Elliot spoiled us by actually sleeping part of each way and not screaming constantly in the car like he used to when he was younger. Apparently he never read the part of the baby manual that said kids love cars and often drop off to sleep in them. Not my boy. We went through a stage from about 2-4 months where he would unleash all hell for even short trips to the shops. I would grit my teeth, turn the radio up LOUD and press down on the accelerator just a wee bit harder.

But we made it to the country unscathed. It's big sky country out there. Dalby and Jandowae are incredibly flat - the only hill Damien could use to practice hill-starts when learning to drive was man-made - and the oceans of fields stretch to the horizon, which shimmers in the heat before exploding into the pale hammered sky. A lot of crops were ready for harvest so we passed thousands of acres of rusty coloured sorghum and fluffy cotton.

The best, of course, was sent in to the show...

... along with heaps of other produce and plants. Question: How does one judge, say, sorghum? They all looked the same to me... Obviously I don't know much about grain.

Big pumpkins... the winner was 80kg. I wanted to sit E on it for a pic but thought some of the hardcore competition peeps might get a bit annoyed, especially if he decided to use his new teeth to take a chunk out of it.

He also adored the baby animal nursery.

But one of my fave parts of any show, big or small, is the arts and craft section. The Jandowae Show did not disappoint.

It was classic, it was country, it was kitsch and it was creative genius all rolled up into one.

My fave was the pet rock display, but the lego was quite incredible too, given the age of some of these kids.

I guess that's the beauty of these shows. Once a year the whole community comes together to celebrate individual and collective talents. To race pigs. To sit in the dust and eat dripping hamburgers while watching fireworks. To admire the jam drops. To ride on the whizzer. To agonise over which crappy show bag to take home. To meet friends and chat over a cuppa (lots to talk about in country towns - everyone knows EVERYONE else's business). But mainly to forget about the day-to-day trials of life and enjoy simple things like fresh air and community spirit. And pinwheels, obviously.

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