Sunday, April 30, 2006

Foto Fantasia

With a number of you requesting more photos ...
here goes ! Jelly will be back tomorrow.

"Sharing a shower with a friend."
A green tree frog in my bathroom.

A brush tail phascogale, a carnivourous marsupial, but this one loves banana.

Rufous bettongs, the smallest of the kangaroo family. The one in the foreground has a joey in her pouch. They come every night to feed.

A pair of tawny frogmouths "branching" on a blue gum tree, Eucalyptus teriticornis, which is a favourite koala food tree.

Friday, April 28, 2006

A Fulfilling Life

A guest post ? Help! What can I write ?
Something deep and meaningful ? - or funny or witty ? Nah, that's not me.
Maybe just give you all a glimpse into my life.

Reading Jelly's blog and those of many of you, her blogger friends, has become part of my daily life. I've even been tempted to become a "blogger" myself but the 'calling' has not yet been strong enough.

I have a simple but fulfilling life on the farm.

Caring for the farm animals - cows and calves, alpacas and chooks as well as the cat and the dog - takes some of my time.

Development of our wildlife corridor (planting hundreds of trees) and garden maintenance keep me active and fulfilled. (Fatty's koala, now in one of the smaller trees which we planted, is actually two. I saw her very tiny joey today.)

Preparing for visitors who come to share our beautiful environment takes a few more hours of some days.

Periodic visits to the "big smoke" to visit family and occasional 'jaunts' to Canada and the USA to visit friends take me away for a while and broaden the horizons.

... and then there are the days like today when I get called to return to the classroom. After 40 years of teaching I still get a thrill out of working with kids.

Every day I have the enjoyment of seeing the beautiful Australian bush, the farm animals, the native flowers, wallabies, koalas, bettongs, possums, colourful birds .... and at night the stars are ever so bright and sometimes the dingoes howl.
However, my greatest enjoyment comes from sharing our little piece of paradise with family and friends.
"Family Weekends" have seen 30-40 of my extended family visiting - and now the grandchildren are old enough to enjoy staying with "Jellyma". What more could a doting grandma want ?

Watch out, Jelly ! I'm coming down to 'kidnap' Laura and Ben again !

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I'm leaving on a`jet plane

In a matter of a few hours, I am going to be jetting away to another Australian city. We are going to visit Fatty's brother, Writer, and his wife Ten (his wife I have called Ten because, apparently at school she was rated by the boys as a '10 out of 10'! The worst thing is, she is not only gorgeous but smart and nice as well. Damn I hate that!)

Writer and Ten lead a charmed life of going to restaurants, seeing plays, drinking red wine and pottering peacefully around their garden. They have been married four years, and seem vaguely interested in the idea of having children, but keep putting it off. And now, for four whole days, we will be inflicting our children upon them. hee hee. Ten will be doubling her contraceptive dose in no time. Writer will probably write an article about the untold benefits of the vasectomy.

While I am away, I have asked a mysterious guest to post for me. This person may or may not choose to reveal their identity. To be honest, they may or may not actually actually write a post for me! (I don't like to be too pushy about these things!). If they do write, please say hi to them. This person is not a blogger, so may be a little nervous. Also, I will be grading them out of 100. (Just joking Mysterious Guest!)

Bye for now,

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Like many families these days, my family is complex. Some of you already know that my parents are divorced, and each parent has found a new partner. My father has had two more children since remarrying, so now I have siblings and half siblings.

My feelings towards my half-siblings have always been different to my feelings for my brother and sister. I have never lived in a household with my half-brothers (I'll call them Soccerboy and Bookworm). I never woke to their cheeky smiles or soothed their nightmare tears, as I did with my brother and sister. I only see them when there is a family get-together, every couple of months. Occasionally, I take them to a movie, or to the museum, but my life is so busy with my own family that this is only happens twice a year or so. One of the oddest aspects of my relationships with my half-brothers is that they are much, much younger than I am - Bookworm is less than a year older than MY eldest child. So in many ways, I feel more like an auntie than a sister to Bookworm and Soccerboy. I often feel guilty that I seem to love them in a fond, but absent-minded way. There is love, but it is muted, it is not always in the forefront of my mind; it is not a powerful love that reaches down into the depths of my stomach.


Last night, around nine o'clock, my father dropped around unexpectedly. He looked tired and his face was creased with worry, though he tried to act matter-of-fact.

"I've just come from the hospital," Dad commented calmly. "Soccerboy has a bad pain in his hip, and a high fever. They're not sure what's wrong with him".

Immediately I felt a rush of worry, and wanted to go to the hospital. Soccerboy was lying there alone, because my father and my stepmother had decided not to stay over. I suppose Soccerboy was being brave, and told his parents he would be fine, but I wanted to drive to the hospital straight away, just in case. I wanted to see if he was frightened, or in any pain. I wanted to be with Soccerboy. I thought about him as I tried to get to sleep; I woke with a headache.

In a few minutes, I will go to visit my sick little half-brother. I want him to know I am worried, I want to see if I can help in any way, and more than anything I want him to know I love him. Maybe he thinks my love for him is half-hearted, lukewarm; maybe he feels unimportant to me. If that's the case, I need to do a whole lot better. Going to visit him will be the start.

UPDATE: Soccerboy's MRI scan shows he has pyomyositis (an infection within a muscle) in his pelvic muscles. This is a fairly rare condition, but generally responds well to treatment. Soccerboy is being treated with intravenous antibiotics, but yesterday afternoon was still feverish and vomiting at intervals.
I am going up to visit Soccerboy after I drop my daughter at school this morning, because my father has an eye appointment, and my stepmother has a dental appointment this morning. Yes, you heard right, they are going to these appointments, and therefore will not be in to visit Soccerboy until the afternoon. They left him at 4:30 in the afternoon yesterday. Don't get me started on this.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

camping capers

In case anyone's noticed, I've been away. I've been camping for the past 3 days, with Fatty and our kids, as well as another couple and their little boy. It was a great campground - near a lake, with wildlife all around. The photo shows just how many kangaroos were sharing the area with us (click to enlarge).

I haven't been camping since Fatty and I were childless. We may have even been still dating. If I recall rightly, we thought it was nothing but fun, and were all cutesy together. Oh bleah!

I've come to the conclusion that when camping as a married couple, there MUST be marital discord. On arrival at the camping ground, it is essential that griping and bickering begin. If you want to get straight into the swing of things, may I suggest arguing about the tent positioning. There are so many variables to consider, you can argue on this one for hours. Unfortunately, Fatty and I couldn't find a good solid point of dispute with this topic, so we had to move straight on to.....

Erecting the's the pinnacle of camping conflict. Each couple must nag, whine and mutter at each other. If you can, try to leave the tent instructions at home (this was our stroke of pure genius). That way, you can each explain to each other in slow, 'don't-you-realise-how-moronic-you-are' statements, how the job actually should be done. Priceless!

The couple we were with didn't fight at all over tent siting, or tent erecting. The husband, Lonky, did all the tent putting-up, while KP calmly made lunch. Hmmmm, I thought to myself, perhaps that's the way to do it. Just keep away, let one person do it all.

That night, Fatty and I were first to say goodnight, and snuggle down into our beds. All sniping at each other forgotten, we cuddled up and whispered our conversation to each other, so we wouldn't wake the children. Soon afterwards, KP and Lonky switched their gas light off, and all was quiet momentarily. Then there was the flash of a torch being shone about, and the strident tones of an upset woman.

"Look! Look at the roof over there! It's sagging!"

(indecipherable muttering from Lonky, who had during the evening consumed a whole bottle of white wine unaided)

"It is sagging. The whole bloody back of the tent is sagging too. It's going to fall down on us in the middle of the night!"

(murmur, murmur, it's fine, go to sleep, murmur)

"You haven't put the clips on over HERE! Look! No wonder the whole roof is caving in!"

Rustling and tent-unzipping noises ensued, and then the conversation was clearer, just a few feet from where Fatty and I lay, uncomfortable witnesses to the unfolding drama.

"I can't believe I let you put the tent up. You've stuffed it up completely! God! Why can't you put up a tent with clear instructions? This is just ridiculous!".

"Look, it's a little lax but really, it'll be fine. Let's just go to bed. Next time you can put up the tent and it'll all be perfect."

" WHAT? You want ME to put up the tent next time? So that's what this was figured if you stuffed it up, I'd let you off the hook and do it all myself after today. Unbelievable!!!"

Fatty and I shifted a little on our skinny little mattresses. What could we do? There was no way not to eavesdrop on this heated discussion. We were hapless, helpless witnesses to this marital meltdown. Then, like a rainstorm onto a bushfire, a miraculous dousing of the flames occurred...

"Did they just giggle?", KP suddenly asked Lonky. She still sounded angry. I quailed under the sheet.

"I don't know. I'd be laughing if I were them!". Lonky began to chuckle, and KP allowed herself a brief giggle.

"Were you two LAUGHING?", came a stern voice, suddenly mere inches away from our heads.

"No!", I squeaked. "Honestly, we weren't!". (We wouldn't have dared!)

"Good." Silence.

"Really, we didn't!" I repeated nervously.

The flashlight waved and wandered away. I could hear KP and Lonky murmuring and giggling off and on for several minutes.

Silence descended on the campsite again. Fatty and I smiled at each other in the darkness. It's comforting to know that all couples bicker. And if you can laugh together after you bicker, it's a marriage made in heaven!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

my daughter at the dentist

I sat in a chair by the window, trying to show by my nonchalant lounging posture, arm along the window ledge, that I was unconcerned. I didn't want to be an uptight mother, projecting my nervousness onto Laura. We were at the dentist yesterday, and Laura was having 3 fillings done.

I sat looking at Laura's big, puppy-paw hands. They are beautifully-shaped, slightly oversized hands, and they always make my heart melt. Laura's hands twisted just a little from time to time. She sat on her hands, and then took them out again. Her bottom was so far from the fold in the dental chair that Laura's coltish legs only touched the chair at the heels of her white sandals. It looked very uncomfortable. Yet this five-year-old girl of mine proceeded to sit in that chair for almost an hour, had 2 injections in the process, and had to 'open wide!' for the entire time, with not even a whimper of complaint.

As I gazed at my stoic little girl, I wondered why I get so impatient with her sometimes. I felt awful as I remembered being snappy with her the day before. Because she is such a well-behaved kid, who tries so hard to do the right thing. Even when she's been naughty, she'll often apologise later without being asked to. She is just that sort of child - anxious to please.

Always a bit more serious than her brother, Laura is slowly learning about joking around. Yesterday, though, her anxiety must have caused her innate serious nature to return to the fore. The dentist was trying to lighten things up the whole hour, asking Laura, "Are you asleep there Laura?" (solemn shake of the head), and "ZZZZZ......Was that YOU making that snoring noise?"(frowning..'No, it was you.') and, "What flavour fluoride would you like...squashed cockroaches, or mint?" (pause. unsmiling steady gaze. 'Mint, please')

I asked Laura afterwards how it went. She told me, "It hurt in my mouth like a sore. I tried counting to five in my head, but that didn't help. So I just tried not to cry." I hadn't realised she'd felt anything. She hadn't made a noise or shed a tear.

At times like these I feel a rush of protectiveness for my older, less vivacious child. She is quieter, and less attention-grabbing than her little brother. But she is a sweet, bright, brave little girl and oh I love her so. Puppy paws, colt legs, tousled hair and all.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

the sound of my voice

There are thousands of songs about romantic love. Poetry, fiction and movies reflect our fascination with the heady rush of a new romance. It is considered human nature to seek out the affections of a partner. There is something within us that yearns for a powerful and passionate love.

The love we feel for our children is something that you don't hear about nearly as much. Sure, there are songs, poems and works of fiction that are centred around a parent's love for their child. Compared to the vast works on romantic love, though, there is so very little written about this pure and abiding love. I sometimes wonder why we don't speak more of our bond with our children. Is it because authors and songwriters fear boring their audiences and readers? Or is it because this love is just presumed?

I honestly don't know why parental love is so comparatively unspoken. When I had children, all previous notions of unconditional love seemed pale and pallid in the face of this astonishing, overwhelming emotion that hit me like a body blow. If anything, my love has only grown fiercer with time. I am a parent; this is how we love.

My love for Fatty is no less deep, but it is different. It is more complicated. It is more conditional. If he were to hit me, or constantly belittle me, or have affairs - my love would wilt, wither and expire. I promised to love him for better or worse, but I'm not a punching bag or a masochist. Some things are vow-breakers. So I cannot honestly say I would love him, no matter what. But my children I would love in the face of any wrongdoing - vicious cruelty or the most hideous crime. I may not like what they'd done, I may not even like my son or daughter any longer, but my love would be unwavering. It cannot be switched off or snuffed out. I know this, without question. And I have seen this love in the actions of parents the world over.


I know I've been guilty of bemoaning the challenges of parenting, and I have followed in the footsteps of many other tired parents. Yet the negative aspect of having children is so insignificant compared to the seam-bursting happiness that children bring. For not only do we love our children profoundly - our children love us unreservedly in return.

Last week, my children spent a night away from us. My mother was helping us out with childcare, and it suited her better to collect the children a day early. So I waved a cheery goodbye to my kiddies, trying not to think of the time my mother drove sedately into the side of a bus (She says she just didn't see it. I find this faintly disturbing...after all, buses are not exactly small. I should explain that this is the one and only accident that my mother has been involved in, and she is otherwise a careful driver. Nevertheless, when she's driving my kids, I suddenly recall the incident with the invisible bus!). I waited for Mum to phone me to say they'd arrived at the farm in one piece.

My dear mother phoned me on arrival, and spoke to me as you would to a fretful child - soothingly, patiently.

"They're fine, love. They're excited that we're going to have spaghetti bolognaise for dinner."

"So they're not sad? They're OK?"

"Well, Ben got a bit upset about halfway here." Mum conceded. "He started crying, and told me he wanted to go home. In fact he got quite angry when he yelled TAKE ME BACK TO MUMMY! and TURN THE CAR AROUND! and I didn't do what he asked." Her voice was fond and I knew Mum had handled this episode with her characteristic kindness and patient resolve.

"Actually, it was rather sweet", Mum continued. "He tried to persuade me to go back, telling me but I LOVE Mummy. Then he added tearfully, I love the sound of her voice."

I smiled into the phone receiver. I could hear Ben playing happily in the background, so I knew his anxiety had passed. And what a thrill it gave me to hear his words, repeated to me.

There is nothing special about my voice. It is a regular kind of voice - not especially soothing, not especially lilting or sweet. No one has ever complimented me on my voice. But that was before I became a parent. Now, my voice is beloved to my son simply because it is his mother's voice.

I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams.

Friday, April 14, 2006

communing with cows and chooks

I've been away at my mother's farm. I missed you all, even for such a short time. I especially wanted to check how Motherkitty was progressing after having her knee replacement surgery. I was eager to hear how Heather's stepdad was going. And cmhl - how would she be feeling, after having some medical concerns herself? It was a relief to find out everyone was doing pretty well.

Kerri, I thought of you as Fatty and the kids and I wandered amongst some trees near Mum's house, hoping to spy a koala. You had asked me to post a picture of a koala sometime, and you did ask so nicely! So here, for your viewing pleasure, is the cutie-pie Fatty photographed today!

There are also a couple more photos I couldn't resist posting.

I know I've been compelled to wax lyrical about Mum's property before, but the fact is, her piece of acreage is a real haven for me. After visiting for a night, I feel like I've had a four day escape. Maybe these pictures will give you a hint of what I love about Mum's farm. If only I could post a photo of Mum, too, with her wide, wide smile. After all, she is the farm's star attraction.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Weird, unexplainable things are happening at our place. No-one knows how, no-one knows why. I'm considering phoning a TV producer and pitching them the idea....a show called Scary Suburbia. Or how about House of Horrors? (I know 2 small horrors, at minimum)

Firstly, there is this freaky phenomenon in which crayons and pens are discovered scattered far and wide across the kitchen floor. They have obviously been projected with such force that some have even come to rest partially under the fridge. It is quite a spectacular sight, come to think of it - a colour burst over the black and white lino. The strange thing is, no one knows how it happened. Fatty and I are mystified; Laura and Benjamin solemnly deny all involvement. And I believe my children, you know. They are perfect angels. My little sweeties would never deceive me. And so you see, we have the first evidence of a ghostly presence.

Other occurrences have baffled certain members of our family. For instance, Fatty and the children definitely don't know how the mountain of clean washing that was on the dining room table has found its' way into the drawers. All they know is, it certainly wasn't done by their hands. I have, from time to time, suggested that perhaps there is a Folding-and-Putting-Away Fairy, but this suggestion has always been met with derision. Part of the problem may be that when I query my dearest ones (about how the fresh clothes have magically disappeared), they often deny ever having noticed the pile in the first place. Sometimes I wonder if they are actually in cahoots with the Folding Fairy.

Sometimes food disappears, and this time I can assure you my children are not to blame. Often, we have been entertaining guests over coffee and cake, and then have trundled, en masse, out to the front veranda to farewell our visitors. When we return, still smiling and discussing the visit, we discover that the leftover cake has gone. Vamooshed. Left the building. We ask the beagle, lying nearby on her mat, if she saw anything. Millie stares blandly back at us. We wonder why she didn't bark at the cake thief. It's very odd.

Objects go missing, and we never find them again. Socks, library books, balls, hairclips.... they disappear into some kind of a black hole. There is no rational explanation. We turn the house upside down, but never do we rediscover the missing items.

I can't help but think all these events must be somehow connected. I have a brilliant theory about what's really going on: Somewhere, there is a malevolent pink-hair-clipped, crayon-throwing ghoul reading 'How Chickens Grow' with one hand, bouncing a Barbie ball with the other, wearing one red sock and one navy. Feeling quite nauseous after eating half a carrot cake, but satisfied that at least all the folded clothes are put away.

Elementary, my dear Watson.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Ah, it's Friday night... hooray!! And now for a spot of blogging, to round off the week.

Today, Fatty and I have both taken some happy snaps.

Fatty got home from work early, and went off stomping around a nature reserve. He took pictures of a koala, even though he wasn't interested in it, simply because another avid nature-watcher excitedly beckoned Fatty to come and see. Fatty didn't have the heart to tell him yeah, yeah, another koala - I've seen bucketloads. Instead he chatted to the guy, and took three or four photos. He is a good man, my Fatty.

Fatty also spotted this bird (pictured), which he informs me is not an Australian bird. I suppose it is a runaway pet. Perhaps the owner had squawked, 'Polly, want a cracker?' just one too many times. Or maybe the bird got a bit peckish? Had ruffled feathers? Wanted to spread his wings? Felt caged-in? (someone stop me, I can't control these awful jokes). Anyway, he is a migrant bird. We mustn't make jokes at his expense. We must help him assimilate. I'm going to send Fatty back tomorrow with a plate of Vegemite sandwiches.

As for me, I took a fancy to the sunset colours, juxtaposed across the moon. Sunsets always make me thankful I'm alive. A brilliant sunset is like a piece of art, hung in the sky for all to see.

Wishing everyone a happy and colourful weekend!


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

the truth is out

My mother phoned me yesterday. She had a smiley sound to her voice, and I asked her immediately...

"So? What news have you got then? You sound like the cat that got the cream!" (I wondered to myself idly, is it 'got the cream' or 'ate the canary'?)

"Nothing, no news,"Mum replied, " ...just that sometimes I read what you've written on your blog, and I want to shout to the world that's my daughter!!. I'm just really proud of you."

I've written before of how supportive my mother is, and yet again I counted my lucky stars for this mother of mine, who always thinks the best of me. At the same time, I felt somewhat uncomfortable with her praise. In fact, if I must be honest, I am a little fazed by the wonderful comments I received after my last post. You, my blogger friends, have given me such glowing compliments that I feel....well...I feel a bit of a fraud! I thanked my mother for her words, and I really want to thank all of you, my readers and blogpals, for giving me such wonderful and positive feedback. But, as I told my mother, I'm feeling like I need to redress the balance here. Because so far on this blog, I've told the work stories that are uplifting, or feel-good, or interesting (at least, interesting to me). Funny how none of these stories happen to portay me in any kind of a bad light.

Funny how I haven't posted about the consultations when I lose track of what my patient is saying, because I'm wondering if I remembered to defrost the chicken for dinner. Funny how I haven't posted about when the chemist rang me up last year and said did you really mean 5ml of this syrup daily? - because that is a really large dose. Mmmm. It is. Let's make that 1 ml daily. (Thank you, you clever, observant pharmacist!! Mwah Mwah!) Funny how I haven't posted about how I once got so irritated by a middle-aged male who came to see me with a list of demands, that I actually saluted him and barked, "Yes, SIR!".

I won't go on. I don't want to disillusion you all too much. There may be only so much truth you can handle before you decide to boycott my blog. Or petition to get me deregistered.

Just take it from me.... I make mistakes in my job; I just choose not to publicise it too widely. I am a doctor just like many others. I know many compassionate fellow doctors, who are kinder, and more patient, than I am. I know many, many doctors with greater clinical expertise. I think I am a caring doctor, with an awareness of my own knowledge limitations; I am a decent doctor. That's it. I am no worse than that and no better.

I just thought you should know.

Monday, April 03, 2006

where there is life there is hope

This morning I slunk into work feeling reluctant to be there. The weekend had been busy and draining, and I felt more like a long nap than being pleasant to anyone. However, I'm a great believer in 'fake it until you make it', so I greeted my co-workers cheerily and got on with the day. And in the end, it was a pretty good day after all.

One of my cutest little patients, 'Mikey', came for a check-up today. Mikey is a blond, curly-haired toddler with a cheeky grin and a way with women. Don't tell me he's too young to have a way with this kid put a hand up to gently cup my chin as I checked his ear! Mikey is just an adorable kid. He is also, to me, the embodiment of the concept of hope. Whenever I think of miracles, whenever I think of how sometimes, wonderful things happen in the face of dire predictions - Mikey is who I most often think of.

I have known Mikey's mother for several years. I was responsible for her antenatal care during her pregnancy with Mikey. Mikey was a much-planned-for baby, and his mother, 'Kay', was so looking forward to his birth. I was also eager to meet this baby, who I had poked and prodded many times in his mother's belly. So when Kay came for a postnatal appointment, looking exhausted and sad, I wondered what on earth was wrong. The flaxen-haired baby, swaddled up in a blanket, was chubby. When he opened his eyes, he fixed his gaze on my face. He reacted to noise; blinked in the light. He looked perfect.

Kay wearily related the story of Mikey's birth. It had been a difficult labour, and towards the end, Mikey had shown signs of distress. After an emergency Caesarian delivery, Mikey was born with reduced responsiveness, and promptly proceeded to have a series of seizures. Mikey was now on anti-epileptic medication, and his parents had been told he would have brain damage. The extent of his disability remained to be determined, the paediatricians said, but it was almost certain that there would be both intellectual and physical delays.

Kay told me she felt such despair. No-one had been anything but negative about Mikey's outlook. Yet mixed with her fear was a tiny flicker of hope. Like me, Kay saw in Mikey a healthy-looking baby boy. Like me, Kay noticed his reactions were appropriate. Like me, Kay wanted to believe that the doctors might be wrong about Mikey.

I spoke to Kay, choosing my words carefully. I didn't want to mislead Kay by being unrealistic, yet I wanted to have a different attitude to the hospital doctors. I suggested that Kay and her husband be prepared for possible problems, but not to expect them as a certainty. We spoke about dealing with problems IF and WHEN they arose. I really had no idea what would happen with Mikey, but I did know that everyone needs hope.

Today, Mikey is an outgoing, sturdy, talkative little boy who will be two this month. He gets into every drawer and cupboard in my consulting room. He walks to me and puts his arms up to be picked up (so he can attack all the fascinating objects on my desk!). Today I pointed out a bus going past outside, after which Mikey remarked brightly, "All gone now!". This is the 'disabled child' that Mikey's parents were warned about. He is a little ray of sunshine, come into the world. He brightens up all our days. He brightened mine today, yet again.