Friday, June 30, 2006

At first I was afraid, I was petrified.....

but I survived!!

Hello everyone, and thank you for all your farewell messages. Unfortunately for you, I have not kept quiet long (just long enough to get over a spot of jetlag), and I'm back!

The plane trip was pretty good all told, and no-one got hysterical - not even the kids. We are now spending a few days with our friends on Vancouver Island, pottering about doing short trips here and there. It is all so beautiful, with warm, sunny weather (which I'm told is not quite usual for this time of year) and I can see snow-topped mountains almost everywhere we go!!!!! It's so good to be here.

I have even driven our rental car several times, and have managed OK (though I have been driving as if I am about 90 years old- shoulders hunched up, fingers gripping the wheel tightly, forehead furrowed). Fatty, on the other hand, tried to annihilate his entire family today by swinging onto a highway on the wrong side of the road. I yelled, 'Wrong side, wrong side!', and quick as a flash we were once more driving legally and safely again. Whew.

I hope all the rest of you are driving safely and on the correct side of the road this week. Take care everyone. I will write another update soon.

PS: I may also post the odd piece of writing that has nothing to do with our trip (you know, just me raving on about whatever), and there may even be a guest post or two. I do try to keep you al entertained!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

O Canada!

Ever since our children (the dear little blighters) were born, Fatty and I have taken a week's holiday here and there with our kids - almost always at the beach. We have had bucketloads of fun, but at the same time it's always been so good to come home, too. So what on earth were we thinking planning a trip involving 3 weeks and 5 days away from home, with a 25 hours worth of travel just to arrive at our destination?? I'm a little nervous about how it will all go, to say the least!

I'm also relishing the idea of four whole weeks off work. And I'm looking forward to spending time with our two sets of family friends, and doing some slow, drive-a-little, stop-a-lot exploring in beautiful Canada with Fatty and our kids.

I won't be visiting T, Mackeydoodle, or Franny. (Try to look disappointed instead of relieved, people!) I would love to sit and have chocolate cake somewhere with each of you, but with two small children in tow, we won't be travelling extensively, and won't even make it into Alberta, or anywhere near Ontario. But I will think of all my Canadian blogfriends as I travel.

Bags are packed, tickets and passports are at the ready, I have a large packet of baby wipes readily is there anything else I cannot depart without? (Maybe I should have packed sedatives. I can see how sedatives could be helpful. For me, of course. A valium or 4, and I just wouldn't care if Ben was screaming his lungs out. Pursed-lipped passengers could turn in their seats to frown, and I would smile beatifically and slur, "Peace, man. Feel the looooove!") We leave in the morning, so wish me luck!

I will try to post now and then, and will have access to the internet most places we're going, so say hello if you drop by. Take care everyone!


Friday, June 23, 2006

Once upon a time....

.... there lived a tall, willowy young woman with remarkable green eyes. I should say that she was usually willowy, but in fact at the time this story took place, she was rather portly. Her legs and arms were still slender, but her belly was round and taut. She was not quite 25 years of age, and she was about to have her first child.

This particular day, Green Eyes was tired, and her back ached. She was a stoic type, though, and she carried on with her busy day regardless. Green Eyes was married, but her errant husband was away, doing study in another country. So she was on her own as she went to the doctor for a routine check-up.

The doctor examined Green Eyes, and raised his eyebrows in surprise. "You're going to have this baby tonight", he remarked. "Better go straight up to the hospital". Green Eyes was surprised, too - but she obediently did as she was told.

Up at the hospital, the midwife took one look at Green Eyes, standing calmly, bag in hand.

"Are you in labour? Why are you here?"

"Well, Dr Knowitall sent me here", Green Eyes murmured, feeling like an unwelcome guest.

"Well, come on then", the midwife bustled. "We'll get you settled in bed for the night."

An hour later, Green Eyes began to have contractions. The contractions became steadily stronger, and Green Eyes breathed heavily, bracing herself for each wave of gripping pain. Midwives appeared, and raised their eyebrows in surprise, just like Dr Knowitall had done. After an hour of pain, Green Eyes began to feel a compelling desire to push.

Half an hour later, on the evening of June 23rd, a baby girl was born. Green Eyes loved her instantly.

And Mum, I love you, too. Thank you for carrying me in your body, for labouring alone to have me, and for raising me to be a woman who tries to emulate you in mothering my own children.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

shortest post ever

Hello and Happy Tuesday to you all! It's Franny's birthday today, so please wish her all the best if you get a chance.

I've run out of things to say already. But that's only because I've just been blabbing away in a guest post for my friend, Heather. Are you curious? Keen to visit Blog Blah Blah? I'll see you there then!

Friday, June 16, 2006

do as your Motherkitty tells you

Not so long ago, I was tagged by my friend Motherkitty. So here we go....

7 things to do before I die:

1) clean under the fridge
2) get a secret tattoo on my hip
3) have a fling with Liam Neeson (just jokes,, really...truly I wouldn't... not unless Liam begged, anyway)
4) train for and swim the swimming leg of a triathlon - my fleet-footed friend, Chooky, would do the running leg, and we would recruit someone else to do the cycling.... Val? You'll have time to train, being soon-to-be-retired and all!
5) travel around Australia with Fatty in a campervan, drinking cups of tea all around the country
6) go back to Uni to study languages (and then, with my brushed-up French, go stay in a cottage in France for a summer!)
7) become a weekend respite carer, once my own kids are grown and gone

7 things I cannot do:

1) get a tan
2) add up in my head
3) take criticism without getting defensive
4) throw a ball (I have been told I 'throw like a girl')
5) install or use most electronic devices
6) say no to dessert
7) survive without my female friends

7 things that attract me to my husband:

1) his ability to apologise mid-argument, if he believes he's in the wrong (it always takes me some 'cool-down' time before I can apologise)
2) his strong morals
3) his broad shoulders
4) the crinkles near his eyes when he smiles
5) his intelligence
6) his tolerance of my flaws and foibles
7) the fact he is a kind father who spends a lot of time with our children

7 books I love:

1) God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
2) Cloudstreet - Tim Winton
3) My Family and other Animals- Gerald Durrell
4) Charlotte's Web - E. B. White
5) About a Boy - Nick Hornsby
6) Little House on the Prairie (and rest of series) - Laura Ingalls Wilder
7) The Great Fire - Shirley Hazzard

7 movies I'd watch over & over again:

1) A Fish Called Wanda
2) Gallipoli
3) When Harry Met Sally
4) Last Orders
5) Four Wedding and a Funeral
6) High Hopes
7) Muriel's Wedding

As for tagging 7 people.... I will simply ask anyone who feels inspired to consider themselves tagged!

Happy weekend everyone!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

the pangs of parenting

I'm astounded by the reaction to my last post - not so much the number of comments (though there were quite a few), but the length of the responses you all wrote. Thank you. I so enjoyed hearing all the different perspectives, and I think I learnt something from each and every comment.

I also realised that one thing that weighs so heavily on me, as a parent, is a matter that some older bloggers still feel guilty over, and that bloggers with young children agonise over, too. (I am not alone - oh joy, oh joy!) It seems all parents worry that they are not spending enough time with their little darlings.

We all believe that all those other Marvellous Mothers and Fantastic Fathers are spending hours every day reading, painting, singing, and talking face-to-face with their kids. We all believe we are the only bad parents who read one book, then try to put a load of washing on; we fear we are the only evil mothers (or fathers) who put the paint and paper out for the kids, then sit down nearby with coffee and a magazine. Yet I suspect we're almost all harbouring this guilt.... so most of us aren't acting like non-stop entertainers/teachers/life coaches. We're just parents at home. Besides caring for children we're trying to get the kitchen clean, trying to pay the bills, trying to stay sane with the odd spot of blogging!

One of the most guilt-assuaging theories from the book I read ('Perfect Madness' by Judith Warner) was about this very issue. While giving our children time and affection is obviously important, Judith Warner discusses studies, and relates comments made by educators, which suggest that the modern concept of child care - of interacting for hours, providing numerous activities, directing their play by joining all their games - may not be ideal. Teachers are beginning to despair of children who are not only self-centred (after having non-stop parental attention), but who are also unable to play spontaneously, to create, to think for themselves. Who knew? It turns out talking to your kids every now and then as they play, maybe giving them a few props to play with (dress ups, Lego, even cardboard boxes!) and just letting them explore their world with our intermittent participation .... just doing what a lot of us do anyway.....turns out that is thought to be just fine.

Oh, what a relief. We're doing OK after all. Join with me now as I sigh happily.....ahhhhhhh!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

perfect madness

I'm reading a book called 'Perfect Madness', and it is doing me the world of good! This book is about how our society has become SO child-centred, that we forget parents are not just parents, but people with needs such as time alone, exercise, intimacy with their partners, and intellectual challenge. We forget that nourishing our marriages is vital, not just for ourselves, but also for the sake of providing happy homes for our kids. We sometimes become so focused on the immediate demands of our children, that we forget part of our responsibility as parents is to provide good role models for our sons and daughters, who will one day be parents themselves. We need to show by example that most parents need some time away to pursue an outside interest, be it work or hobby or sport, and that this is normal; it is not bad or wrong. Being rejuvenated by time apart from our kids makes us better and happier parents all the rest of the time.

This book also deplores how crazy we let our lives become.... taking our children to endless rounds of play-dates and birthday parties.... driving around to soccer, ballet, swimming, piano lessons... baking chocolate fudge at 11 pm for school bake stalls...attending P&C meetings...working (in the home or in paid work)...organising (library books, school forms, lunch money, packed lunches...the list never ends) for food, clothes, and birthday presents for all those birthday parties our kids attend!.....and that's without even mentioning all the feeding, bathing, dressing, entertaining, soothing and settling of our kids!! I know I am guilty of taking on too much, and then becoming stressed and cranky and tired. I think we need to draw the line sometimes. We need to say 'No, sorry - I won't be able to, this time' more often. Because although we might like to think we are superhumans, we are not, and we and our children suffer when we overextend ourselves.

Now any parent out there who is reading this, and who loves the frenetic whirl of activity, who thrives on each parenting challenge and never tires, never needs a break.... please don't comment!! You will only make me feel inadequate. For those of you who can relate to anything I've said... be kind to yourself this weekend. And don't feel guilty if you take a moment (or preferably at least an hour!) for yourself. You deserve it!

For those of you whose children have grown and left home - I congratulate you for the job you have done in raising your children. Enjoy your weekend, too!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

dreaming of a nap

You know the saying short-term pain, long-term gain? Well, it is just as true when you turn it around to be 'short-term gain, long-term pain'. In my parenting life, it is always exactly like that. Whenever I try to cut corners with my kid-wrangling, there is always the price to be paid.

Last night, my three-year-old son woke and summonsed me. He was sitting up, wide awake. Cheerily, he informed me that the bed felt wet. I pulled back the covers. Yep. Feels wet, looks wet, is wet. Funny that.

For some reason, I had been silly enough to stay up until half past 11 the night before. It was just so peaceful. I was reading a great book by Kate Grenville. I was relaxing. Manababies will understand. So in the wee hours of the morning, with the cold floorboards chilling my soles, and my soft bed begging me to hurry back, I chose to ignore the wet sheets. I wiped down and re-dressed Ben in dry clothing, and scurried to The Big Bed (as it is called in our house) with child in tow.

I should explain that our bed is a smallish Big Bed, as Big Beds go. Fatty and I fit well in said bed, but add a squirmy child, and I, Princess Sleeper, can only achieve fitful slumber. I knew this, but I thought ..... I'm not sure what I thought actually. Perhaps something like cold, cold, sleepy, find bed again. So in hopped Ben and I, and we were certainly all warm. Warm, but awake. Or rather, Ben and I were awake, tossing and turning as we bumped knees and hands and feet and the mattress bumped with each movement. Fatty was fast asleep. He could sleep with a bugle playing in his ear. Or in a bed full of caterpillars (which I suppose is a more appropriate analogy for last night).

An hour later, I had to admit defeat. I stripped Ben's sodden sheets, I remade the bed, I reinstalled Ben with cuddle sheet and toy puppy. I answered a few more questions about the habitat of crocodiles. I refused to answer any more questions about crocodiles. An hour and a half later, we both got back to sleep. It could have been 15 minutes, if only I'd remembered the short-term gain rule.

Ben slept in so late that I had to wake him to take Laura to school. He's fine, he's bright as a button. Now, do you think he'll notice if I just rest my eyes for a minute......

Monday, June 05, 2006

the useless doctor (um, that's me)

One of the things it's taken me a long time to accept in my work is that I can't fix everybody. I can't cure all ills, and I can't ease all ailments. Were I to be the smartest, most innovative GP that ever walked the earth, I still could not eradicate all disease and suffering in my patients.

It may sound silly that this should be such a revelation to me, but such is the ethos of doctoring - we are taught to investigate, diagnose and treat. Textbooks are even written with diseases described under these very headings. Medical students are led to believe that they will save countless peoples' lives, riding in on their high horses to rescue the sick and the injured, then galloping away again (preferably with some very shiny medals pinned to their chests). No-one talks about the many, many patients for whom the medical profession can do very little.

Take the most common of illnesses...a 'cold'. What does the doctor say? "Rest, take some decongestant, maybe some paracetomol, rest, and ah, rest. Yes. Hope you feel better soon. Plenty of rest now. Bye!". I said just that today to someone. Maybe not as perkily, but conveying a similar message.

What about stomach wogs? "Ah,, take fluids, and above all rest. Get better quickly. Did I remind you to rest? O-kay then! Bye!"

In actual fact, it has been quite awhile now that I have been comfortable with the futility of my advice when it comes to these minor illnesses. I quickly realised that time healed these diseases, while my role was merely to reassure. It has taken me a bit longer to discern that for other, more serious conditions, I must also accept that my role is supportive not curative.

Mrs I, a thin, worried-looking lady in her 60's came to see me today. When Mrs I first started coming to see me about a year ago, my heart used to sink just at the sight of her name on my schedule. YES, I know that is not very nice of me, but I'm trying to be honest here. The woman's very name was enough to give me a migraine. I dreaded the consultations. Mrs I always had about 7 complaints for me. Many of these complaints had been extensively investigated, and multiple treatments had been tried. Mrs I was now coming to see me, she explained at the time, because Dr 'Bloggs' (another doctor at my practice) 'doesn't listen to me anymore'. Poor Dr Bloggs. I think his well of empathy had run dry. I, on the other hand, had the deepest empathy- for Dr Bloggs.

Every time I saw Mrs I, I tried my darnedest to sort out some of her problems. I had to page back through her computer file; I had to retrieve her paper file. I detailed all her symptoms. I organised some more investigations, where I felt it was appropriate. I suggested a few treatment options. I suspect I sighed a lot.

Nothing I did made a scrap of difference. Every test I ordered found nothing useful. Everything I advised caused Mrs I to retort, "Yeah, I've tried that doctor - it didn't help at all". Eventually, I simply said to Mrs I, "It must be so hard to put up with all these problems. You must get very frustrated."

Every time I see Mrs I, I check her over, and I listen to her telling me what is bothering her. I do nothing to fix her ailments ...... not because I am unwilling, but because I do not know how. And yet - Mrs I treats me as if I am someone special to her. She is always thanking me, though I can never figure out what for.

I went through 6 years of medical school and 3 years of family physician training, and no-one ever told me that I would do so little, for so many people. I'm slowly getting used to it.

And Mrs I, I'm sorry. You have had a hard life, and you deserve all the kindness in the world. I'm learning. Thank you for teaching me.

Friday, June 02, 2006

hark! do I hear whistling?

They say hope springs eternal, and that's surely a useful concept to embrace. So, although in my heart of hearts I felt sure Fatty had not been perusing my blog, I asked a tentative question:

"So, are you planning on doing any whistling later today?"

Now you would think this was a rather odd question, wouldn't you? You are probably thinking right now Why did she ask THAT? Fatty MUST have queried why she would say such a thing! But, no, no, you ignorant-of-the-ways-of-Fatty people. You forget he is NOT a curious man. You forget he is NOT fascinated by his utterly fascinating wife (outrageous!). So his reply went something like this:

"Whistling? No, no whistling. You know, I've never been able to whistle very well." (begins to demonstrate.....various hissing/faint whistling noises emanate from Fatty's pursed lips) "I can't hold a tune for some reason." (warbling whistling starts up again)

I smile with my back to Fatty, as I stand at the kitchen counter. He may be somewhat less intrigued by my thoughts than I'd like, but I am amazed at how he has reacted to my opening conversational gambit. I'm sure anyone else would have snorted, "Whistle? Later this evening? What the hell are you talking about, woman?". Dear Fatty must be so used to the weird workings of my mind that he simply 'goes with the flow'. Possibly it would be exhausting to be too curious about how my mind works.

I turn back to my gorgeous, bad-whistling, accepting husband. "I can whistle pretty well, actually." I launch into a lilting rendition of 'How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?'. Fatty laughs. I bring our coffees over to the couch.

And there was no more whistling of any kind.

ADDED NOTE: I can see from the comments so far that I need to clarify something. Fatty and I had coffee on the couch. You know, made from beans, a hot beverage. Coffee! So stop with the sniggering and giggling.
And, no, whistling isn't some sort of a prelude to intimacy in Australia, unless you count the wolf whistle. And frankly I don't think wolf-whistlers quite have romance in mind!

That said, I think whistling to indicate interest in a romantic interlude is a mighty fine idea - thanks Susan! Perhaps, 'How Much is my Doggy...' was just not the right song choice! Now, how would I whistle, 'Sea of Love'?.......