First of all apologies for not blogging for so long. A lot has been happening with Ashley’s medical condition which has taken up a lot of my time and I have been too darn tired to write.
On a much brighter note – yesterday was my birthday. 42 years on the planet! My mum and dad came and babysat the little one, who charmingly kept saying ‘happy birday mummy’ all day and my second eldest daughter took me out for a surprise outing.
First she took me shopping and bought me a new lipstick and some perfume (hope this doesn’t mean that I need brightening up and I smell bad as I’m getting older?) then she took me our for high tea at the restaurant where she works.
The restaurant overlooks the beach and is very funky. We sat in high back chairs and enjoyed a selection of savouries and sweets. The staff had a good laugh at serving Jessie because she is the junior there. We took a ‘doggy bag’ home because there was way too much for us to finish.
My family all got together and got me a fantastic camera so I will warn you now in definitely showing signs of becoming a photography nerd! The baby is already sick of me and as soon as she sees the camera she holds her little hand up and shouts ‘NO!’ at me.
All in all it was a lovely day.
We had originally been scheduled to have further tests and consults for Ashley on Wednesday but these were cancelled by the hospital which left us with a free day. We decided to take the kids to Ballarat, a gold fields city about an hour out of Melbourne.
Ballarat is known as the birthplace of the nation, a place synonymous with the Eureka Stockade, Ned Kelly and the gold rush. It’s a beautiful historic town. They have a pioneer town there – a replica of what the town was like originally and you can have a try panning for gold. Mind you India was the only one really interested in this activity.
Ballarat is also the home to a memorial for all Australian prisoners of war. Both Steve’s father and grandfather are listed on it so we took the kids to visit. There we had a drama. As Ashley’s condition is deteriorating she is having a lot more falls. As we were looking at the memorial she suddenly pitched head first into what would have been a shallow pool, but mercifully was empty, narrowly missing hitting her head on the stone. She went into shock, shaking, vomiting and momentarily losing her memory. Not quite the ending to our trip that we were hoping for. She’s all ok now though and looking forward to coming home.
Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital is amazing! The foyer is more like a luxury hotel than a children’s hospital. There is a huge aquarium, a giant wall mounted iPad and even a meerkat colony.
After our consult we took the kids to Melbourne Zoo which is just down the road from the hospital. The zoo is so well designed and easy for the kids to view the animals, even from a wheelchair. We’ve been pretty lucky with the weather and had managed to dodge the rain but as we finished our zoo trip the heavens opened – not rain but a deluge! We took shelter outside the cafe but unfortunately so did every available pigeon in the area. Here’s the problem with this – I’m scared of birds.
Completely illogical but I hate the sound of their wings flapping and the touch of their feathers. As we sat there some people got up and left the remains of their food on the table and the scene that ensued was like something from Alfred Hitchcocks ‘the birds’. Feathered feeding frenzy, wings flapping, round my feet and even touching my hair. At this stage picture grown woman curled, fetal style, into plastic chair. Rain be damned – I was out of there! Much to the amusement of my family and most onlookers. India even crowed ‘mummy funny’ at me.
We’ve come to Melbourne for a consult with Ashley’s surgeon. It’s the other side of Australia to where we live – about 3 hours flight. India managed to scream and tantrum for all but 15 minutes of that flight. If you really want to alienate 250 people in a short space of time then a screaming toddler is definitely your best bet. With a child who hates to be restricted and boycotts all forms of child restraint, this was never destined to be pretty. My other five children have all been good travelers – not this one! She finally fell asleep as we began our descent into Melbourne airport.
The next day, as we trekked the pavements searching for some way to amuse our offspring in a big city, we came across the community gardens in St Kilda. Originally a bowling green. The area has been sub-divided into allotments. There was a mix of flowers and vegetables being grown, chickens and guinea pigs, and lots of quirky art work interspersed amongst it all. There’s a small lawned area and a community kitchen here too. The perfect place for our ‘free-range chicken’ to stretch her legs and play.
It was such a lovely spot to spend some time and I ran into a girl I went to school with 25 years ago! What are the chances of that? It gave Steve and I a chance to relax (briefly) and watch our peace loving hippy child in her element!
Ashley and I got to go to the ballet last night. WA ballet company are performing Pinocchio and our friends had some spare tickets. Ashley’s little friend Talia also has cerebral palsy and has had the same operation that Ashley is about to have. They are so similar in many ways and Ashley was very excited to have a ‘grown up’ evening out with her friend.
It was a fantastic performance. Quite the best I have seen in a long while. A mixture of ballet, puppetry and song. Whoever was responsible for costumes was really to be commended. It was a late night but well worth it and any evening at His Majesty’s theatre is always a treat.
I am so very blessed with my father. I really couldn’t have asked for better. Given that my father’s childhood was far from idyllic, and that his father certainly didn’t spare the rod or spoil the child, it could have turned out very differently. I’m so grateful that my father was the polar opposite of his.
I remember when I was about four or five years old my dad had a jumper that had a suede front and knitted sleeves. It always retained a faint leather smell and this, combined with traces of pipe smoke and aftershave, created a comforting cocktail of ‘Daddy’ smells. There are times when I wish that I was still small enough to crawl into the crook of his arm,and rest my cheek against the soft suede, and know that Daddy would keep me safe.
My Dad has brought so much into my life. He has boundless patience, imagination and a wicked sense of humor. Dad would always go the extra mile for us. We used to go on one family holiday a year to a friend’s cottage by the river. My dad would save all his small coins for the year and then divide them into two exciting parcels. He would make a treasure map for my sister and I, staining it with tea and burning the edges just to make it more exciting. When we arrived at the cottage dad would go off and hide the coin parcels and then present my sister and I with the treasure maps that would lead us to them. That would be our spending money for the holidays. I still remember the excitement if that treasure hunt. And with two little girl’s who dreamed of being prima ballerinas he even had to don tights and pretend to be Rudolph Nureyev – and yes Dad I still have the photos!
Throughout my adult life my dad has been my calm constant. Even in the rough seas of life’s troubles my dad has been like a lighthouse. Always there for me, shedding light to reassure me that there are safe waters close at hand. Always his ridiculous sense of humor was close at hand or a reassuring hug that needed no words.
He has also been an amazing grandfather and I’m so grateful that my children have had such a wonderful role model in their lives. The epitome of a true gentleman, a father and a friend.
Today I am broken. All it took were thoughtless words and a lack of care and the walls of resolve, that I had built up to help me deal with the hard lessons life was dealing me, came tumbling down. The tears flowed and flowed – until in the end I couldn’t even explain why I was crying. I had stockpiled tears. Kept them inside until the space was full and they had no choice but to spill out. Once the dam was broken they didn’t stop and now, as the day comes to a close, my eyes are dry and scratchy feeling. My heart is sore and just for this moment I have to lay aside this heavy backpack I’ve been carrying and allow myself to feel broken and depleted. Tomorrow I will pick it up again, strap it to my back and carry on. There is no one else who can carry it for me. No time for self pity. Tomorrow I will put myself back together and once again look for the joy in my life. I will be there once again to keep my family together, to keep everything functioning as best I can. I know I have a lot to be thankful for and I can recognize that the tears are healing and necessary. The pressure valve has been released. Tomorrow I start again.
So spring is officially here. Not that you would no it if you looked out of the window here today. Winter is definitely having a last hurrah. We have had some beautiful spring days with gentle sunshine though, a taste of warmer days to come.
This is my favorite time in the garden. Abundant flowers, buds forming on the fruit trees and promise everywhere you look. I love that Spring is the season of hope. The children are enjoying time in the garden and the baby has discovered the delight of picking daisies when she’s at the park.
On the subject of hope – the support we have received from our local community to help with raising funds has been overwhelming and we now have enough to pay for the first part of Ashley’s operation. We will be heading off to Melbourne soon for a consultation with the surgeon. This whole experience has really affirmed for me that most people are inherently good and want to help others in need.
Meet Winnie our five year old black Labrador. She is an extremely spoilt and loved fur baby. Her girth has expanded since the baby arrived (ours not hers) due to the plentiful supply of dropped food. Labradors are supposed to be water dogs and when it comes to swimming she’s true to breed. Just don’t mention bath time to her.
With all the enthusiasm of a member of the aristocracy being taken to the guillotine, she is half coaxed half dragged to the bathroom. Even warm water and a fluffy towel to dry with aren’t enough to convince her that baths are a good thing.
She is currently on her bed recovering from her ordeal with a few doggie treats to cheer her up.