Monthly Archives: May 2014

Lucky lucky me

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Matching nails after my pre-school pampering session, thank you gorgeous Edward.xx

Matching nails after my pre-school pampering session, thank you gorgeous Edward.xx

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day here in Australia, a day when little fingers fumble with unfamiliar domestic tasks to spread jam stickily over toast, and little mouths pucker up to give extra kisses.  It is also a day of sadness for so many without their darling mums.  We always think of Granny Heather and keenly feel her absence.  I mourn her especially for my boys who she so adored.

Granny Heather with William, who turns eight tomorrow, on New Year's Eve 2007.

Granny Heather with William, who turns eight tomorrow, on New Year’s Eve 2007.

The most poignant moment of Sunday was following a family in the Mother’s Day Classic who wore on their backs a variety of messages for one person; ‘Mum’, ‘Mother-in-law’ and ‘Grandma’ scribbled in a childish hand.  The atmosphere at the event struck me again, the hope and determination of everyone there palpable.

MDC 'selfie' with Carm, remembering her Mum.

MDC ‘selfie’ with Carm, remembering her Mum.

Dressing gowns, big hair, loving the sea of pink.

Dressing gowns, big hair, loving the sea of pink.

 

We bumped into some friends of ours, a family who, like us, has three boys who are being asked at the moment for bravery such as is asked of too many as they support their mum through her treatment.  Seeing them walking together (Mum too) was inspiration indeed. My love to all those I know who are fighting this dreadful illness.  You are all, without exception, unspeakably brave and I am proud to be your friend.

Setting off - the boys were not in the mood for photos at 7.30 am!

Setting off – the boys were not in the mood for photos at 7.30 am!

My friend, a fellow supporter of the bumbling Scottish rugby team, was at the forefront of my mind.

My friend, a fellow supporter of the bumbling Scottish rugby team, was at the forefront of my mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was also the very lucky recipient of some thoughtful and beautiful gifts…

William was persuaded by the best year 6 sales patter to purchase some night cream - "you put in on before you go to sleep Mummy and you wake up beautiful"...oh for the hope of youth.  Thank you my divine eldest child!

William was persuaded by the best year 6 sales patter to purchase some night cream – “you put in on before you go to sleep Mummy and you wake up beautiful”…oh for the hope of youth. Thank you my divine eldest child!

Luckily I get a yes whenever I need a hug, but just in case... (By the way, I did get a pressie from Sam - a bag of delicious choc chip cookies, eaten before they could be photographed!

Luckily I get a yes whenever I need a hug, but just in case…
(By the way, I did get a pressie from Sam – a bag of delicious choc chip cookies, eaten before they could be photographed!

Edward's teacher made much of the attention to detail he showed when composing this portrait - a little too much for my liking since he insisted on some brown as well as yellow for the hair.  Time for a touch-up of the old roots!

Edward’s teacher made much of the attention to detail he showed when composing this portrait – a little too much for my liking since he insisted on some brown as well as yellow for the hair. Time for a touch-up of the old roots!

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Running – and even walking – for cancer.

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cancernuts

 

GO AND MAKE A CUP OF TEA – this will take five minutes…

This weekend will see me take part in the Mother’s Day Classic for the second year.  Last year it was officially a BIG DEAL and I raised well over $1000 for a gorgeous wee boy with Neuroblastoma (Darcy has just had an MRI check up and things are looking really good, hooray).

This year, despite giving up the vino again (and no-one is paying me this time!), I am going to power-walk it as running hurts my poor old joints suffered too much (and yes, I didn’t start training soon enough, at all in fact).  But I have made sure my jaw muscles are in good working order as I am walking alongside a friend with whom I could talk the hind legs off the poor proverbial donkey.

But I thought to get everyone in the mood and to highlight the huge importance of events such as this in raising awareness, funds and support for those battling this hideous disease I would post my memories of my run last year, it was such a high.

Thinking of all those this weekend for whom Mother’s Day (and every other day) is about so much more than breakfast in bed and bath salts – hold your families close everyone.

Memories of MDC 2013

When I committed to participate in the 2013 Mother’s Day Classic around the Domain in Sydney I had no idea what to expect or whether I could even manage it.  My goals though, were reasonable:  to get around the 8KM run in under an hour and to raise as much money as I could for Darcy, a little boy I know who was fighting Neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer.  All this was to be done after a month of intense training while also foregoing alcohol.

I had never been one for setting myself rigid goals so, in order to keep me on the straight and narrow, I started a blog, meaning I was publicly accountable.  That, and the interest and encouragement of my three young sons (the eldest of whom is Darcy’s age) kept me going through some tough times.  Probably worth mentioning is the fact that I am practically allergic to organised sport.  The last time I had seen the inside of a gym was before getting married (eight years before), when I employed the slowest setting on the X-trainer in order to read (and flash around) my bridal mags.  Before that was the half-match I played for the U14 hockey team at school (such a novelty my darling Dad made a six hour round trip, really).  I run around all the time in daily life but as far as real fitness goes I was definitely at the wrong end of any scale.  Also, while I’m not ready to check into rehab, I do, like many people probably imbibe a little more than the guidelines recommend, so a whole month without was definitely daunting.

I started confidently, walking early in the mornings before the getting-ready-for-school-rush began.  I commended myself on my energy and knew this was in large part due to teetotal early nights.  I enjoyed a casual Friday evening dinner with friends on nothing stronger than lime and soda and the next day to celebrate my clear head I got up early and ran, using my snazzy new watch to note time (long), distance (short), number of stops (too many).  Despite the stats, I was thrilled, this summed up the new me – focused, energised and committed.  At a boozy Sunday lunch my craving for a G&T was strong but while everyone else got stuck in I meekly sipped mineral water and drove my merry husband home.

Monday saw me undertake my most serious run yet.  I ran for almost half an hour, half my target time.  I was elated upon arriving home as a red, sweaty mess; I believed for the first time that I might actually make it round the course without requiring the attentions of the lovely people at the St John’s Ambulance station.  On my blog I published a map of my route, my time, my feelings of jubilation.

On Tuesday morning disaster struck.  When I woke up my left ankle was the size of a balloon and it hurt, it really hurt.  It reminded my six year old of an elephant’s leg; “You know Mum, how they go all the way down the same size?”  Yes, I know.  I wept, I railed against the unfairness of it.  I hadn’t twisted it, missed my footing or done anything out of the ordinary that I was aware of.  My husband gently applied ice and comforting words, going in late to work having taken the older boys to school.

I felt idiotic and, more importantly, really worried that I was going to let people down.  I had been making much of my self-imposed month of wholesomeness and the money had begun to roll in.  I was getting as much of a kick out of every dollar donated as I had from my evening tipple.  I was making a difference, and for that to be taken from me felt cruel.  The only thing to do was to apply the RICE technique (rest, ice, compression, elevation), easier said than done when you have a household of boys to look after.  I hobbled onwards; I played on the challenge of abstinence.

In the remaining three weeks I managed only one more run of significance and that was not pretty.  People were kind; it was for a good cause, I was still sticking to half the battle, as long as I made it round, even crawling, it would count.  I exceeded the fundraising goal I’d set which only served to make me increase it.  My boys asked almost daily ‘How much have we raised for Darcy?’  Were it not for their involvement, excitement and pride I doubt I’d have made the starting line.

The day before the run I felt sick, I iced my ankle (once back from the boys morning activities, having made lunch, hung the washing out, you get the picture), laid out my running uniform complete with attractive new tubi-grips.  I tried not to snap at the kids.  I tried to sleep.

I saw the dawn on the morning of the run and attempted to go along with the cheerfulness that was affecting the rest of the family as we embarked on this fabulous adventure.  I wanted to shut myself in the loo and hide.  We caught the bus and began to sense the atmosphere.  The smattering of pink increased as we hurtled towards the city.  Once there the rush was intense.  The emotion was palpable and tears were never far away.  Just reading the tribute cards pinned to participants’ backs was enough to set me off.  I’ve always been a crier when nervous but weeping while in the queue for a portaloo at 7.00am was not something I had predicted.

I found my friend who was running her third Mother’s Day Classic in memory of her Aunt and who was hoping to improve her record of 50 minutes.  She propelled me to the start.  I was shaking, afraid and utterly convinced that I could not do this.  I hadn’t said a proper goodbye to my boys.  I looked for them amongst the sea of faces but couldn’t find them.  All of a sudden there was a hush and a countdown and we were off.  I was running, I was there, it was happening whether I liked it or not.  About 30 meters beyond the start I heard ‘Mummy, Mummy, go Mummy!’ and there they were, in a cleverly found gap.  I gasped, I grinned and I galloped.  I could do this; I would do it for them.

The collective noise of thousands of tapping feet provided a metronomic effect.  We were an army marching against an awful, strangulating disease.  Thousands of families around the world are devastated on a daily basis as their hopes are destroyed and loved ones taken.  Those hopes are never in vain and on that beautiful May morning that was writ large as memories and optimism in equal measure jogged alongside us.  There was an eerie morning fog cocooning the harbour.  Coming around the bend of Mrs Macquarie’s Chair the city rose like Atlantis from the deep.  Angelic hosts appearing atop the rays of sunshine that pierced the clouds would have been in keeping such was the spectacle of the occasion and the setting.

Embarking on my second lap was one of the very hardest parts.  I had lost my friend long before; I was keeping my own pace and finding my own way.  The novelty of the drinking stations had worn off (it was a weird experience seeing them holding out water for me, I wanted to look behind me at the real runner), I was being passed by what felt like hundreds of people and I was sore.

My mind began to wander.  I thought of the imagination of children when I remembered my five year old’s description of the weather including ‘fog drops’.  I thought of Darcy what he and his family were enduring.  Then I passed my patiently waiting family and my boys began to run alongside me.  Suddenly I was at the 5km mark and I sensed possibility. I was in a bubble of determination; thanks to the fog and my family I refused to think of anything other than crossing that line.

Someone had been clever with their marshalling choice for the 7km mark.  Encouraging words, spoken from the heart from someone who could have been your Mum, or your sister or your friend.  The end was in sight, my boys were waiting and I went for it.  So what if hurt, I would heal.  I crossed the line one minute and fifty-nine seconds to spare.  I laughed and cried in exhilaration.  I hugged my family and held them close.  What a rush, what an honour and privilege it was to be part of something that hopeful, that determined.  The best bit?  Hearing the pride (tinged with incredulity) in their voices as my sons said ‘You did it Mum.’

 

MDC 2013 - the best finishing prize ever.

MDC 2013 – the best finishing prize ever.

Birthday parties – why we bother…

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The cake! Dave the Minion with balloons.

I hope that you, unlike my husband, read the title correctly.  When shared it with him, he chuckled and thought it must be composed of one long moan having automatically inserted a ‘do’ in between ‘why’ and ‘we’.  But not so.  I am, in fact, saying hurrah for the children’s party.  For all the work and stress (and not even thinking about the utter annihilation of the house), the excitement and joy that those two hours bring are worth it all in my book.

Last weekend we threw Edward his first proper party for his fourth birthday.  I think up until pre-school the party is more about the parents congratulating themselves on surviving this far isn’t it?  He had his heart set on a minion theme.  It is amazing how many people are unfamiliar with minions, compared to those to us for whom Dave, Tim, Larry, Evil purple et al are like common acquaintances.  Just another minor divide between parents and those who live in the real world and whose acquaintances are not made out of plasticine (mostly).

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Even the Source got into the minion swing of things, thanks BJ!

One lovely thing about this party was how excited and involved the big brothers were.  I had literally nothing to do with the invitation; it was designed, printed and written out by William whose PowerPoint skills (honed through weekly presentations on such things as the life cycle of grasshoppers, rugby union and Hereford Cattle – thanks for the help Uncle Robert) already put mine to shame.  It was vital, according to the eight year old to put together a brilliant playlist (What?  To make sure ‘pass the parcel’ goes with a bang?  Liven up musical statues?), resulting in one of the most fun party planning sessions we held (the catering meeting was less amicable once I said no to Happy Meals – with Coke – followed by bubble gum).  I am pleased to say the soundtrack included some songs I actually liked – in between Bruno Mars and Alvin and the Chipmunks singing Party Rock.  Much as the footage of the boys dancing (I feared for life and limb while filming this) to this song will amuse me forever I never thought I would see the day when my music collection would include the soundtrack to ‘Chipwrecked.’

The morning of the party saw William and me answering the door at 7.15am in my pyjamas to the man with the bouncy castle which prompted an outburst from William ‘But his van’s so small.’ (Sorry William)

The extra time on the castle, we had assumed would allow us peace from small people in order to fling everything into our bedroom to impose a phony tidiness on the house (I always worry for people whose bedroom doors are open to the public).  What eventuated was the cancellation of the party roughly 27 times in two hours – once when we patently knew people would be turning into our street.

Anyway, the party was a great success and Edward had an absolute ball with lots of his friends, and lots of our friends all being there for him.  I don’t mean that to sound as though he enjoyed being the centre of attention for the sake of it (but he did!), more that it meant so much to us all to have our house full of the happiness and laughter of people we love.  That is why I say hurrah for the birthday party.  It can encompass all that is well and good and working in a child’s life.  Friends are being made, relationships apart from the family forged and the coming together of this at a party is beautiful to see.  Childhood relationships, based on playing in a mutually fun and engaging way which is, in turn, being nurtured by the establishment responsible for the child while he or she is away from the family are so crucially important I think for a child’s sense of well-being.

In another layer during the party, the child sees the relationships between his siblings and their friends and his parents and their friends.  This gives him confidence to establish bonds that he believes and invests in, knowing many will have long-term value.

Living life as an expat family is full of ups and downs.  There is the constant push and pull of here and there.  I have written before about my thoughts on ‘home’ which I suppose at the very lease means I had a happy childhood.  I can certainly remember many parties; birthdays spent doing treasure hunts and pram races on the front lawn, Easter celebrations amid the daffodils, ‘pit’ parties in Roxburgh, Halloween parties in Sprouston (where older brothers and sisters wreaked their revenge for smaller ones annoyances throughout the year), the village bonfire, the Christmas Eve drinks where Robert and I would revel in being ‘looked after’ by the teenagers (probably a ruse by the parents to stop the older ones sneaking a few Archers and lemonade!).  All of these happened in a close and comforting circle of which our family was a part.

It suddenly struck me last weekend (you’d think I might have got here sooner I know), that it is our turn now to create the same for our children.  The first names on Edward’s list (at the inaugural minion party meeting) were those of the gorgeous family friends we have made, as though no party would be complete without them first and foremost.  Coupled with his closest friends from school, we were a very happy band with a very excited, very lucky boy in our midst.

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