Sunday, 25 March 2012

The weekend wrapped up.

The weekend started with a perfect Autumn day- sun shining brightly with a crispness to the air. A good day to be out and about. We made a quick visit to the Children's Hospital at Westmead on Saturday morning (quick is the way we like our visits to the hospital). This time it was nothing more than a social visit- how lovely and novel. Eric and I were both really touched when Campbell was asked to appear in a special video for a retiring doctor. This lovely doctor has looked after Campbell since he was a baby and we are all sad to see him go. Campbell was a bit nervous about the idea, but more than happy to be involved. His practise runs were fabulous and heart felt with a touch of Campbell's unique humour- just what the doctor ordered! However, the nerves got the better of him and he managed a very brief farewell message. It was very special for Campbell to be involved and I know that the doctor will always remember him for his amusing discussions about a vast array of random topics.
 Andrew and Jonas went to see 'How to Train a Dragon' with Nanna and Poppy on Friday night- lucky ducks!! Campbell doesn't enjoy stage shows that don't feature Rolf Harris, so we got to enjoy some yummy Thai takeaway while the boys were out. I also made a visit back to school for 'Family Fun Night'...without my family. Campbell was tired after a big week and not keen to join me, so I left him at home to hang out with Daddy. I didn't intend to stay long but managed to find lots to chat about with kids and parents. I am very fortunate to have found myself in my little school, and it really was a nice way to pass an evening.
Joe and I decided to cook up a pizza feast on Saturday night. We made the dough and the sauce ourselves, and it was delicious! Jonas made a 'boys' pizza with prosciutto and mozzarella, and I made a vegie one with caramelised onions and fresh basil from the garden. Joe really loves cooking and it is lots more fun when we cook together.

A cheerful glass of wine while I cooked and my cheerful view from my kitchen window :)


Joe and I set to work on Saturday night to create some delicious pizza. Here is our process in pictures:

Joe picked herbs from the garden and rolled out his own dough.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Campbell's far.

Our beautiful big boy is 13! He loves being a teenager and always has new ideas for great stuff he should be able to do now that he is a 'teenager'. Stuff like read rude jokes, watch 'Benny Hill', swear and drink beer!!! He is always terribly disappointed when these requests are rejected but he is beginning to cotton on. Campbell is funny. He loves jokes and comedy, and makes people laugh all the time. Sometimes not intentionally though- he is very quirky and says exactly what comes to mind, which is usually very funny or a bit embarrassing. We love him more than my words today will ever be able to express. He is our first born boy who fulfilled our dreams, but also taught us more about ourselves and human nature than we had ever hoped or expected.
We thought it was so sweet that our first baby was due on our 4th wedding anniversary- it felt significant and special. After a miscarriage and warnings about fertility issues we were terrified that having a family might be something we would never realise. For Eric and I, family was everything, we had always wanted children and had always dreamed of having a big family. Falling pregnant after a long period of horrible,  invasive treatments and surgery was so unbelievable and joyous. We were filled with fear that something might go wrong, but as my belly grew so did our confidence. 
The day Campbell arrived in the world was really hot. It nearly always is on that October long weekend. Photos of his birthday parties always show rosy cheeks and sweaty brows. I felt unwell all day. We did the final decorating in the nursery, even though we had not really thought about a cot, pram or car seat yet. I was so tired that I had to keep sitting on the floor to rest while Eric put up the wallpaper. As the day progressed so did my lethargy. We didn't think anything of it- it was hot and I was 25 weeks pregnant. It seemed to be quite natural that I was a bit tired and squeamish. 
It was election day and I remember feeling more and more unwell while John Howard was gaining ground. It really wasn't anything to do with John Howard :)
I decided to have a soak in the bath because I had pains in the stomach and it was still so hot. It was then that I became really uncomfortable. Not long after I got dressed Eric started to push me into the car. As completely stupid as it sounds I had not realised I was in labour until my waters broke in the car. I was only 25 weeks- how could I be in labour?
As they ran to fetch a wheelchair the contractions were thick and fast, and Eric was in a bit of a panic. He could not remember our health insurance details or even our address- in between contractions I was passing over all the necessary information. I can't help but wonder why they would have made me do all of that when I so obviously needed urgent medical attention. Poor Eric was such a wreck and was trying really hard to hold it together to support me- he did a very good job.
It dawned on me as I lay on the hospital bed with a nurse asking me not to push, that my baby was probably going to die. I hadn't even been to antenatal classes yet and knew nothing about the NICU or survival rates for babies born at 25 weeks. As they rushed my tiny little baby boy away, my doctor asked me what had happened. I had only seen him days before and all was well. I had hoped that he had the answer to that. He looked very concerned as he told me that my baby was very sick. I still remember my shock. Sick....Alive! 
I must have gone into pretty severe shock after that because as my doctor was yelling at the nurses to get more blankets on me I couldn't stop shaking and I could not get warm. The midwife who had ended up delivering the first half of Campbell (very much against her will I suspect) chatted with me as I recovered. It had taken a while for my doctor to arrive, and it was all pretty rushed. I am pretty sure she wasn't prepared for so much excitement when she started her shift that night. I am so lucky to say that the midwife is now one of my dearest friends and Campbell's godmother. She has supported us through many of the trials we have faced and is always there when we need her. We all love her dearly.
So we got a crash course in NICU protocol. Our handwashing technique was perfected fast and I could slip on one of those bunny printed hospital gowns like a pro. There are medical terms that will be forever imprinted in my brain and I can't believe that I no longer dream about beeping machines.
Nurses became my closest friends. I knew their children by name and could ask about their weekend sporting events on Monday mornings. I can recall the smell, the sounds, the coolness of the air and the heartbreaking sight of my precious boy fighting life. The initial shock of seeing such an incredibly tiny baby, with tiny little fingers and toes, will never leave me. It was very, very hard to connect with my tiny little boy. We couldn't do much else but stare at him. So that is what I did. I got there at 7am and stared at him until it was time to express milk. This became the highlight of the day in the first few weeks- it was the only pathetic thing I could do to look after my baby. I couldn't cuddle him, I couldn't change his nappy, I couldn't complain about having to get up in the middle of the night to feed him. I was exhausted because of the sleepless nights of fretting for my baby and the constant expressing to keep my milk supply up. This was not what I had signed up for at all! I was so embarrassed when I asked one of the nurses for one of his dirty cot sheets. I wasn't very assertive back then. I wanted something to take home that night that smelt like him- even though that smell was a bit clinical. I didn't have the luxury of that delicious, chubby baby smell. That is something that I inhale with vigour whenever I have a baby to hold- it is divine. Still, I treasured his little cot sheet and held it close when I struggled to find sleep at night.
After expressing and a cup of tea I went back to stare some more until it was eventually time to head home for a quick dinner before bringing Eric back for the evening visit....of staring. When we returned home for the night we did the ring around to our families who were waiting on every indication of progress. The prognosis was 50% chance of survival at that time, but Campbell kept slipping up and down the scale, often several times in one day.
Eric started dropping in before he started work in the mornings, as things were becoming less stable. One morning he came home to tell me that he had a quiet chat with Campbell and asked him to please hang in there. Campbell's blood pressure was very unstable and the staff were really starting to look worried. By the time I arrived at 7am- he was stable. I can't help but think of that and wonder if Campbell knew how badly we needed him to fight. We find it very hard to be too critical of his stubborn nature- I doubt he would be here without it. We have to be grateful for that fighting spirit, even though it regularly tests our patience. 
It was a true roller coaster ride from there on- a ride that we sometimes feel like we may never get off. I did get a bit sick of hearing that expression, as well as 'there will be 2 steps forward and 1 step back'.  Sometimes that was a big, fat lie. It wasn't always steps forwards and backwards in that order. Some days we just kept going backwards into a darkness I would rather not remember. There is never any private moments in the NICU and being taken into the isolation ward with the doctor was never a good sign. We would see the concerned faces go past the window, other parents always fret for the other babies too, we became like family in there. All of the things we were warned against, we faced. Campbell marched on through it all, but we were never completely sure if it would eventually become too much for him. We wouldn't have blamed him for giving up- it was cruel and so painful. Everyday I wished to carry his pain. I felt guilty that I couldn't. Every thoughtless comment tore through me and added to the mountain of guilt. Was it all my fault that he was here? What did I do wrong to put him here? How on earth can ever make it OK? That's a Mummy's job isn't it- to make it all better. All I could do was stare.
There is so much detail in the months that spread out ahead of us. There is so much medical stuff that now seems so irrelevant, even though it was so vital at the time. I longingly looked down through the windows from Bay 1 (for the really sick babies) to the light at the end of the tunnel- Bay 4! I really doubted we would ever get there. I fact we didn't. We left Bay 3 for the Grace ward at the Children's Hospital for a new phase in the hospital road trip. 
Campbell was lucky to have avoided the gut problems that keep threatening surgery. He avoided the surgery on his eyes that they were so sure he would need (even though he has a fairly significant visual impairment now) but the biggest threat of all continued to hover over us and refused to go away. The bleed that Campbell had suffered when he arrived in such a hurry had caused fluid to build up around his brain. The less serious surgeries were tried, but failed. It was going to have to be a shunt, on a baby who was still supposed to be safely inside my womb. This became a very rocky road and a very long stay in hospital. At least I could sleep by his side at the Children's Hospital and be a real Mummy. I gave him his regulated feeds around the clock and slipped away for a quick shower while he slept. I even got to have cuddles whenever I liked for some of that time. Unfortunately the shunt proved to be far more complicated than we had hoped. By the time was 12 months old he had 12 surgeries. Every time he went in we were told that he may not make it. Every surgery was dangerous. I understand that it can be hard to know what to say to a parent feeling that sort of fear, but seriously some people didn't seem to think it through. It is never helpful to tell someone that they would be better off without their baby. It is never helpful to jokingly tell a Mum that maybe it is her fault (NOT funny). It is never helpful to suggest that another baby will come along one day. It is also very unhelpful to laugh at a parent who is sick with worry, about how stupid they look staring at a TV which is turned off. (That woman was an absolute dill) I was hyper sensitive and probably a bit of a pain to be around. I think I deserved to be- I am still even tempted to apologise for saying that! I was so polite about everything then. I am so mad at myself for some of the things that happened but I thought it would have been rude to mention. The stupid nurse who pulled out Campbell's central line one night while I was getting him his bottle. When I went into the room she was holding him while the drip soaked into his sheets. The line was stitched into his chest!!! No wonder he was crying. The surgeon was furious when he came in the next morning. Me? Well I didn't want to be rude and cause a scene. Even though I was sick to the stomach with rage. I lost more weight than I know in the 12 months from Campbell's birth. I had never really weighed myself before but when my clothes started to hang off me I knew I had lost a lot. Every surgery had me rushing to the bathroom, repeatedly, until he was safe. One shunt revision was taking ages and we knew something had gone wrong, because we had waited through so many that we could time them. While we paced the floor thinking the worst, the surgeon had made a mistake and pushed the shunt tubing through Campbell's neck. His skin was still so fragile. That image still turns my stomach (sorry if it also turned yours...still, I can't help but apologise). Did we make a fuss and complain about the extra scars along his neck? Of course not. That doctor was keeping our son alive and that silly stuff up seemed pretty minor in the scheme of things. In hindsight we should have done more than say "thank goodness" every time something had to be patched up, but we were terrified- constantly!
Things have changed. I am quite prepared to speak my mind these days. I find that most of the time I can still be reasonably polite about it, but I sometimes don't care either way. Campbell is pretty good at standing up for himself but sometimes he needs an advocate to fight the battles along side him.
All of that seems like ancient history now, except that I remember all of that and a lot more. There could be chapters of this stuff, but really who would want to read it. It is a scary, sad story about a baby who had to face a very difficult and unfair start to life. Babies should know nothing but love and security. I can only hope that Campbell always knew how much he was loved. I have to believe that he did- it makes me feel better.
He is an amazing boy! There have been hardships along the way since his long awaited arrival to the home we went and bought for him while he was in hospital. That is another story and far less important than the fight he fought to survive. It is all about ability not disability when it comes to Campbell. My god he is stubborn!!
I am off to force my teenage son to give his Mum a big hug- he will do it with complaint, because that's what teenagers do. I love that and I love him.

Friday, 16 March 2012

So many reasons to smile :)

I have had another wonderful week of being me. My class is just getting more gorgeous every week. I love them to bits!
I have every reason to smile when I think about the children I teach but more importantly the boys I brought into the world.  My goodness my children have made me proud beyond belief this week. In fact my eyes are welling up as I think about it- I am the biggest sook!
Starting from the oldest:
I have had several things come up this week which have made me reflect on the miracle that Campbell is. There was a NNICUPS reunion last weekend that we were not invited to. I guess because we have moved since I was involved in this very special support group for Nepean Neonatal Special Care Unit, we did not get our invite. I was so sad when I realised we had missed out on the opportunity to meet the other incredible kids who had beaten the odds despite arriving too early in the world. I am grateful that we were missed and I have now had a chance to make connections again through Facebook. I also had time to remember what an amazing boy we have. We were warned so many times that he might not make it through so many set backs. Poor Cam faced just about every possible issue that premmie babies usually face. Despite it all he continued to fight on. He was 6 months old before we could bring home and even then he had to face more surgery down the track. The funny thing is that I had decided last week that I was ready to tell his story. It is something I had been tossing around since I was involved in NNICUPS but I really struggled to face it. I was asked to write it all down for the newsletter but could never bring myself to do it. At the time I was still so focussed on the medical side of things- I had repeated it to health professionals so often that it became my mantra. Now that I have forgotten the technical stuff and only remember the emotional stuff I think that I am ready to face the tears and heart ache that will come with putting it into words. Then I had all the old friends appear on Facebook and I realised that it was all meant to be. He is such an inspiration to us and nothing makes us happier than seeing him visit his old Primary school to be treated like a pop star. There are kids and teachers calling out his name while he waves and asks if they have been crying because they miss him so much!!! He is hilariously funny with a wicked sense of humour. He is has gone to respite this weekend. It is not our respite from him at all- it is his respite from us! He asked us 2 years ago if he could go to weekend respite with his mates from school. They all talked about the fun they had together at school on Monday and he felt like he was missing out. Eric and I found it really hard to let him go, in fact it took us 2 years to agree to it. Cams loves it! This weekend is his first proper weekend and he was so excited to get there on Friday night. Meanwhile we can't wait to pick him up on Sunday afternoon to see how much fun he had. I will get back to that story soon.

Our Andrew is our brilliant middle child. He is the perfect big and little brother. This week he has been presented with his precious SRC badge. He has coveted this prized position since he lost out last year and was heart broken. He was elated to be selected this year. I am a bit sad that I had to miss the badge ceremony because I had my class to look after but we will still celebrate his successes. He so deserves it. I also had feedback about Drew from others this week. His former Kindy teacher think that he is a lovely boy and thoughtful big brother, and told me about what a special boy he is. One of his good friends has a Mum who also thinks a lot of him. My Mum sent me a message today to tell me that she dropped Drew off at his mates place for a party (Mum has the boys this weekend while Cam is at respite to spoil them!) and was told that Drew is a lovely, caring boy who is gentle and has a 'beautiful soul'. This Mum said she was grateful that Andrew is friends with her equally lovely boy, who has faced lots of medical difficulties of his own. I can't wait to give him the biggest hug and to tell him how proud we are of him for everything he is.

Our little Jonas! I had a parent/ teacher interview this week with his teacher. Not only did she tell me how awesome her previous kindy boy Andrew is, she had more to say about our Jojo. This is a teacher who I relate to so closely. She lives and breathes her class and her own children. She even dreams about Joe talking to her! She is amazing and knowing her makes me a better teacher. It was lovely to sit and chat with her and have her tell me what a happy, bright boy we have. He is making great progress in every way- there was nothing but praise for Joe's progress. I loved to hear about her own 'Mother Hen' confessions about her own kids and it makes me feel so much better for also being a bit of a 'mother hen'. Jonas, despite his extreme shyness, is a very adaptable and social little boy. His teacher has no concerns about his social skills, even though he is still too shy to talk to the kids in his class. Funny but true!
I had to laugh about the celebrity status I had at Professionails at Winston Hills today when I went in. My Mum booked me in for a manicure and pedicure when I was on long service leave and today I went in for  my follow- up appointment. They were all passing on the message that I was 'Robyn's daughter'...and that I was the one with the cute son. Mum sometimes took Joe with her on Friday when she had her nails done. He is also a bit famous apparently. How sweet is that? I have a lovely Mum and a cute baby boy to help me get the VIP service in the massage chair- fabulous!
Do you see why I have so many reasons to smile?
Now I have another night alone with my husband who did a nice thing today at the Castle Hill show and gave a lovely boy the chance to lead the cow. This boy is in Campbell's class and he is a very, very nice boy with a very, very nice family. I married a lovely man.
I know I am a shocking skite and terrible show- off but it really does make me feel so good to think about my good fortune. I am smiling again today because I took the time to focus on all the good things. It is such a wonderful thing to do.
P.S. I also had my haircut again today. I said I wanted it is certainly is! I don't think Eric likes it much, but he is being very polite about it :/

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Fun and games.

I had another thoroughly hectic but wonderful week. I feel like I have finally found my groove and I now feel like I am organised for the rest of the term. My class is an absolute delight and just getting better everyday. We have done some lovely things this week but also managed to get into a steady routine with literacy groups. I especially love their disco dancing dinosaur collages we made for 'd' week- we just need to some glitter to make them 'divas' too.  I am excited about some new projects I have got planned. I loved the balloon and thread easter eggs I saw on pinterest but decided to try some cool wool I found in Big W instead of crochet thread. It worked well and will be much easier for little people to manage. I also found some cute seed packets in Big W for making grassy heads in egg shells. They will make for some fun Easter craft and I will tie in procedure writing too.
The family all had a great week too and Drew enjoyed the school disco to cap off his week. Joe decided that he wasn't ready for this one, but after tagging along to collect Drew I think he will be ready for the next one. Campbell was finally fitted for some new AFO's at the Children's Hospital this week. He is growing so fast at the moment and has outgrown his wheelchair and orthotics. He also got to have a lovely day off with his Dad.
The sunshine has been gorgeous this weekend. We made the most of it yesterday by going for a nice, long walk to Winston Hills shops for sushi. We managed to cross paths with lots of lizards sunning themselves on the paths through the bush. In the excitement of seeing a mother duck with about 8 ducklings we almost missed the baby Red Bellied Black Snake lying in the garden!! I didn't manage to capture photos of either in all the rush.

I had a lovely visit with my Nanna and Poppy today. They have both been unwell in the last few weeks but they are on the mend and looking forward to one of Mum's baked lunches for Nanna's birthday next weekend.
We have also had some fun pottering around the vegie patch. We have some very yummy strawberries at the moment and heaps of spinach. The herbs are thriving and the beans are well on the way to a healthy crop. The fig tree seems to be an regular evening treat for the local bats and possums- we could net the tree but we really don't mind sharing.

We have 2 little friends over to play this afternoon and although they usually entertain themselves well when they are all together, Eric suggested we plan an activity for them. I struggled to think of something that would keep them all happy with 4 years between the oldest 2 and the younger 2. My step mother planned a treasure hunt one year for my birthday- I think it was my 11th and I always remember it fondly. I decided that it would be a fun, non- competitive activity that they could do in teams. I made up written, rhyming clues for the older boys- some were slightly cryptic to keep them on their toes. Although the clue that read "Head to the shed and look inside. Can you find where the clue doth hide?" had them totally confused and they were all set to head inside to google 'doth' to see what it meant. Jeez, kids these days!!
For the younger boys I took photos of things around the house for them to go to and search for their next clue. I was trying to run between the two groups to enjoy the hunts. They were all so cute and excited. The big boys were yelling and cheering and running from clue to clue.
They all whooped and shouted when they finished their 'amazing races'. The prize was simple and thankfully appreciated. I baked some Brownies and put some little prizes in a zip lock bag- a chocolate milk, a little snack and a cheap toy. They also got a voucher for a DVD with popcorn. They are all happily watching the DVD now :)
Another wonderful week being me and sharing it with mine- lucky me!
The clues.
The Hunt.The victory!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Busy, busy, busy...

My last week of long service leave passed in a blur but I did make the most of every minute. Lots of lunches, chats over coffee, visits to the gym, another morning with Jonas' class (lovely) and the more practical things like having the carpets cleaned. So many things on the list didn't happen but I did make myself a very comprehensive list.

I was apprehensive about getting back into the work routine. When I thought about the frenetic pace of life during the school term I admit that my chest does tighten a little and I feel my shoulders tense. It is not that I don't like my job- I truly love what I do. I love it so much that I am not able to switch off at the end of each day or over the weekends. I am so often chasing new lesson ideas, new ways of doing things or better ways to make an impact. There are so few hours in the day and so many ways I want to share them.

I am very happy to say that all of the boys have settled into school for the year with a smile and a positive attitude. They are all happy and show me constantly how resilient and flexible they are.
Jonas has faced some tricky situations since starting kindy but has adapted quickly, without any concern on his part to address the problem. He now has a little group of friends he loves playing with and he is content.
Andrew has realised that a year without his best mate is not the end of the world and he faced the challenge of selection to SRC (Student Representative Council) with dignity and pride. When he stood up against one of his closest friends he still voted for his friend rather than himself. Being chosen was so much sweeter knowing that he remained loyal to his mate. We are so proud of him.
Campbell is loving the variety a Highschool day offers and the new things he can experience. Reports from teachers suggest that he is an amusing addition to the class and is giving everyone an education in BBC comedy.

We all survived my first week back at school and I am actually a little bit disappointed that they barely even missed me- like I said they are a flexible and resilient bunch.
I have thought about nothing else but my lovely little class all week. Once dinner is cooked, eaten and cleaned up, it is straight into programming, resource making and seeking fun. My week felt totally chaotic while I tried to get to know them all, but also keep them busy and establish routines. I loved our 'Very Hungry Caterpillar' theme this week- mainly because I had the perfect excuse to wear my caterpillar skirt. Our wish flags were also a lovely thing to share, and they all loved their 'star' crayons as a treat for making me so welcome on my first day.

I am so excited about all that this year has to offer for us all. The term is well under way and will be over before we have even had a chance to plan for our next family adventure...hmmmm where to next?
Lunch with Mum by the lake on my last day of leave. This was followed by coffee with some lovely friends, a play date for Joe and a dinner party for Daddy's birthday!

Star crayons for my little stars.
Don't know why this is upside down!
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