Monday, March 26, 2012

Then the rain came tumbling down

It always seems that life is going well and things are just as you would like them, then a bomb drops that disrupts it all. Suddenly everything you have worked hard to get just right is up in the air.

I have had this experience a few times.

Each time I had such an experience, I ended up on my knees praying, mainly because I didn't know what else to do.

Just prior to Christmas 2010, I had a blood test for exhaustion. It was some of the worst fatigue I had ever experienced (and I'm a mother, we are a tired people regardless). I felt the way you feel the day before the flu. All my muscles ached constantly. I eventually dragged myself to the GP and she gave me a blood test.

That evening we went to a friends for dinner. We arrived home about 9pm and almost straight away our neighbors rushed over. Apparently a Doctor from our local hospital had been trying to call me and luckily one of the hospital staff recognized our address and figured out she knew our neighbors and called them. She was on the phone when we pulled in. I went over and they said my potassium levels were critically low and that I needed to go straight to the Emergency Room.

I went and was put on a drip (IV potassium is a horrendous thing to have pumped into you - it HURTS like crazy!!). They ran all sorts of tests and found a grape size lump in the side of my neck. I was admitted as it would take several days to get my potassium levels up high enough.

After the potassium levels were sorted, they were concerned about the lump. I had scans done and countless blood tests, but in the end they did a fine needle biopsy to check for cancer cells.

Later that afternoon, the specialist came into my room and sat on the edge of my bed (not a good sign). She asked if my husband was around or if I wanted to wait for him to come in for my results (bad sign #2). I said that's fine, I'm ok to hear them myself. Then she put her hand on mine (alarm bells ringing now).

I was told my biopsy showed abnormal cells that were consistent with lymphoma. They planned on removing the entire lymph node first thing the next morning.

Obviously it wasn't good news. So I just prayed to feel peace. And I did. It was almost as though I couldn't even force myself to worry. I was just completely at ease and knew that regardless of the outcome, all would be ok. Seems stupid considering the news I had just received.

I had my lymph nodes removed and was left with a nice scar along the crease of my neck (to add to my collection). We had to wait to receive the results and was told I could go home and be with my family.

On Christmas Eve, I went to the specialist for my results. He had them faxed over while we were in the waiting room and as we sat across his desk, he read them while we waited. With obvious surprise, he said;

"Wow! I was really expecting to be making Oncologist appointments for you and booking further surgeries... but according to this, your lymph node was benign."

Regardless of the impending change ahead, I am so thankful I can be blessed with peace. The feeling that regardless of the outcome, everything will be alright is all I really need.

Friday, March 16, 2012


I know throughout my blog I often mention my family. I talk about Anthony and my two boys. I also refer to my family when I talk about my parents and my siblings. But I wanted to devote this blog to the family I in-laws.

When I chose to marry Anthony, I like to think that I also chose his family too. Coming from a big family, it was important to me that the person I married was close to their family too. When our relationship was getting serious and I was considering whether Anthony was a person I could see a future with, I also considered his family. I considered them as potential parents and siblings in law. I considered them as potential grandparents and aunties and uncles to my future children.

I like to think that as much as I chose Anthony, I also chose them. They, on the other hand, didn't get much say in the matter when it came to me (although I hope they were happy with Anthony's choice).

Anthony's Dad, Tony, is Anthony twenty years down the track. I see photos of him at the age Anthony is now, and minus the moustache and mop of curls, they are nearly identical. I used to go to Anthony's little brother Shem's rugby games some weekends and was always amused watching Anthony and his Dad pace up and down the side lines. They walked the EXACT same way, hands behind their backs, pacing slowly.
My father-in-law places his family as his highest priority and there is no mistaking that. Everything else in life comes second. Our two boys are the first grandchildren and boy have they been spoilt by Papi. I love to see the way they light up his face when we go down for a visit.

Anthony's Mum, Amor has raised eight children - a feat I didn't fully appreciate until being a mother myself. She has devoted so much of herself to her family and she still does. Whenever we have a dinner for someones birthday, she is always the last one to sit down to eat because she is making sure everyone else has their food and everything is all laid out.
One quality I really admire in her is that she puts her heart into her work. Whether it be decorating the house during the holiday season, or paid employment, she doesn't do anything half-hearted. If you want to know ANYTHING about Costco, she is the lady to go to. She also hooks us up with not-so-little surprises from Cosco now and again so we get to sample the produce without making the trip there.

The eldest of all eight children is Gene. I never had the privilege of meeting him as he passed away, but I feel as though I have with how often he is talked about and remembered. Any eldest brother would be lucky to be spoken of so fondly.

I don't need to tell you about Anthony, I think I have covered him :)

Drew is third in line. You know how in some cultures the tradition is if a husband dies, the brother marries the widow? Well if that happened to Anthony, I think Drew and I would have the most silent marriage in history. We trade "hello's" and "goodbye's" and not a lot else. But, I know there is much more to Drew than that. I know he has a quick sense of humour and is a deep thinker who holds his cards close. I hope he knows that in my books, I think he's a really good guy.

I think Llaine is the Bush I relate to the most - she might not agree but this is my blog so tough! I think if I went to high school with Llaine, I would have wanted to hang out with her. I like her taste in movies and books and her sarcastic sense of humour. She too is a deep thinker and I think she likes to really suss people out before opening up, but you couldn't find a more loyal friend once you are in. I'm pretty sure she took a while to warm up to me (don't deny it Llaine!), but hopefully eight years down the track she has taken a liking to me. Either that or she has just accepted she is stuck with me ;o)

Paige is on a mission for our church. She is an open book with her emotions and is a friend to anyone who would seek her company. She wears her heart on her sleeve a little, but to me, that is one of her most endearing qualities. If I were to describe her in one word, it would be "warm".

Kellen always surprises me. Whatever he puts his mind to, he does. He makes a plan, then he makes it happen. He has a lot if determination. He is quiet in the way he goes about it, but he keeps at something til he achieves it. I think there is great success in his future because he is willing to put in the work and put himself out there. Plus...he made a cameo in "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" so he has to be cool.

Teylor has always been older than her years since I have known her. She is one of the most confident people I know. I'm sure she has her insecurities like everyone else, but she doesn't let them stop her from being who she is. She just has a spark, I don't know how else to explain it.

Shem is what I think Anthony would have been like eleven years younger. He is a real boys boy, but I like that he is happy to show some emotion too. I have been able to watch Shem grow up since we moved to NSW and he has grown into a stand-up young man. He knows who he is and won't be easily swayed.

I know there are many in-law jokes and horror stories, but I think I chose pretty well. So sucked in're stuck with me!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Not just man's best friend

We had many pets growing up.  I clearly remember my parents saying;

"After this one, no more pets."

I am quite sure this was because of how difficult it was to say goodbye to them.  But like magic, one would appear again.  One Saturday, my Dad went to the local hardware store, Mitre 10.  I think he was building a pergola at the time and needed some supplies.  He came home with a cat.

The poor little fella was wandering around the car park badly sunburnt (who knew cats could get sunburnt??) and obviously lost or abandoned.  Apparently the staff had called around to see if there had been a cat reported missing and he still hadn't been claimed.  Lucky for them my Dad happened to come at that time and when they offered him a lost cat, he couldn't resist.

We acquired the  pets of people who moved and couldn't bring their pet with them. We had injured birds that we found and looked after and they never seemed to leave.

My own personal history with pets is not so good.  My first was a cat. I was very young.  One day my poor Dad backed over him in the driveway.  With the brutal honestly of a child, I reminded him regularly;

"Hey Dad, remember when you ran over my cat?"

I'm pretty sure he will still remember.

We all went through a guinea pig stage in our house.  I got a big black guinea pig called Suzuki.  The vet told us she had a medical condition that meant if she got pregnant, she would die.  Needless to say we made sure the other guinea pig we bought was a girl.  She belonged to my sister, Jade, and she named her Laura.

Not too long after, I went to Suzuki's hutch to find she had died.  Turned out Laura was a male and was later renamed Chocolate.  I suspect he wasn't the least bit remorseful.

Years later Jade and I went to the pet shop one school holidays and we set our sights on pet rats.  They were great fun, aside from the weekly cage cleaning.  Jade's was a little grey rat called Theo, and I chose a little black and white rat called Patches.  Patches began gaining weight rapidly.  After checking (and rechecking) that he was indeed a male, I found out the cause for kilo's (or grams more accurately in a rat's case) piling on.
As I was feeding them one day, I watched them eat.  Theo would grab some food, run off to the corner and sit and eat until he had run out, and he would then  run back to the middle for another piece .  This would continue until the food was all gone.
Patches, however, had a different strategy come meal time.  He would run to the middle, grab some food and take it back to his corner.  He would then run back to the middle and grab another piece and take it back.  After all the food was gone from the centre, he would go to his corner and devour his stash.

I believe it was his love of food, combined with his dislike of his running wheel, that ultimately led to his demise.  He was a guts.

Thirteen years ago, we got a new puppy.  He was a beautiful Golden Lab that we named Astro.  He was an EXTREMELY playful puppy, but grew into a very loyal, gentle dog.  He would let us dress him up and carry him all around the place.  When we would come home from school, Mum had often made cakes or muffins that were sitting on the bench.  As we all filed in the door, we would grab one on the way to our rooms, and Astro would be sneakily at the end of the line waiting for the right moment to jump up and grab one for himself. When we moved over to Sydney from Adelaide, we had to leave a cat behind.  There was no question as to whether or not we would bring Astro.

Once I got married and moved out, I obviously saw much less of him. When my parents moved to NZ, my younger sister and her husband took him in and he has been there ever since.  He was much older  by then and no where near the playful puppy he once was, but I know that whenever I went to visit, no matter how old and slow he was, he recognised my voice still and made the effort to get up and give me a wag of his tail.

Like many Labradors, Astro developed severe arthritis in his legs and hips.  He also had tumours growing on his head and legs.  His quality of life had gone down hill greatly and after consulting with the vet, they said the kindest thing would be to let him go peacefully.

Although sad, I am glad he is at peace.  He deserves it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Parenting 101

Yesterday was a good day.

I get to speak to a lot of parents who, like me, have young children. I get the feeling that generally speaking, there isn't a great deal of 'success' felt by parents of these little people. Yesterday I realized that, for me, this is no reflection of my children, it is dependent upon a whole range of

If I get everything on my "to-do" list done for the day, I feel good. If marking off all the items on that list meant I dragged my son all over the coast and snapped at him while I did it, it just wasn't worth it. I feel like I failed.

Parenting is hard to measure. In fact, perhaps it is immeasurable. There are no boxes to check off that let you know your child is complete.

I have worked full-time as a teacher for a little while. During this time, I have had days that I was just plodding along, and others where I felt like a success. I completed everything I had hoped, I saw enjoyment on the faces of the children I taught. They were engaged and interested. The measuring stick was so clear to me of when I was teaching with success and when I was not.

The measuring stick for me as a mother is not as clear. Does a successful parent have well behaved children? Do they wake up cheery and go to bed happy? Do they have clean houses and nutritious meals? Do they go to the park and have regular family outings?

From the outside, if I saw a mother who ticked those boxes, I would initially think they must be doing a pretty good job as a parent. But if I measure myself this way, there will be many days I feel like a good parent, and even more that I won't.

I have decided to change my focus and feel successful in the little things. The things that bring me joy. Yesterday, I felt successful as a parent.

Carter and I survived the shops without any tantrums or scolding. He enjoyed the trip, and as a result I did too. I didn't even need to use bribery!

Tony got his homework and reading done quickly after school and had plenty of time to relax.

Tony and Carter played trains together and drew pictures for each other without needing any prompting from us.

We played a game of charades together and there was no meltdowns.

Dinner was made, served and eaten early and without any fuss.

Both boys were read stories and tucked into bed happy.

I dropped Carter off at preschool and he waved happily and blew kisses as I left.

They are not remarkable achievements, but when I look at them all I feel like yesterday was a success.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

If I knew me at seventeen

I was thinking about what I would want to tell my seventeen-year-old self. After some thought, this is what I came up with.  I would tell myself:

About ten years from now, you are going to feel the same.

You will still be insecure, still get the odd pimple or two (which you still won't leave alone even though you know you should).

You will still not know a thing about styling your own hair, and still be wanting a bag of Skittles for breakfast.

You will still be intimidated by outgoing, confident girls. You won't know what style of clothing suits you. You still won't have a clue how to carry a tune or dance.

You will still be feeling not pretty enough, not smart enough, not skinny enough, and not as talented as those around you.

BUT I would tell myself that I have learned that  ten years from now you will know pimples come and go and no one notices them on your face as much as you do.

You will know your hair doesn't need to be perfectly styled everyday. With young children and a busy life, simply having clean hair is enough.

You will know that wanting a bag of Skittles for breakfast and actually EATING a bag if Skittles for breakfast are two very different things. And when you do, at least go for the snack bag, not the family size.

You will learn to get to know those women who intimidate you and that you have nothing to lose by being friendly. Some will become great friends, and you will realize what intimidated you was simply qualities you admired and wished you had.

Your sense of style won't change a whole lot. You will stick with what you are comfortable with, but still have a few "weird" items. Those shimmery, purple Docs with still be there, but thankfully the jeans with all the safety pins up the side will not.

You will learn that even if you can't sing or dance, your children will love you for your effort. But don't mistake their enthusiasm for indications of improvement, or you WILL get a wake up call and asked;

"Please no more singing Mummy, it enough now."

You will know pretty is different for everyone. That looks change and that good, lasting, loyal friends don't stick with you for your appearance. They stick with you because you are comfortable with each other, with the bond you have formed. You know your appearance may attract a man, but after about five minutes your personality, intellect, and sense of humour is what will keep any man worth loving.

If you don't feel smart enough, you can change that. As much as school feels like a burden that will never end, you will eventually miss that constant learning and progression and seek other ways to continue your education.

No matter what size or weight you are, you will still feel the same. Your thighs will always seem a bit chunky and your stomach never flat enough, but you will know it's how you are supposed to be, and you will remind yourself you are not just a skeleton, nor should you look like one.

You will know that you have talents you don't recognize as talents as they have always been there. You will know that when you feel like you are not as talented as those around you, rather than feeling envious of them, you should make a goal to develop those skills you admire in others. Any skill you really want can be learned. It may come more naturally to some, but you will learn that if it's worth it to you, you will put in the hard work.

You will be surrounded by wonderful people who love you and who carry you through the day to day hurdles of life. They will be your sunshine.

You will still feel the same as you did at seventeen, but you will know better.

And that is good enough.