Monday, 27 October 2014

Everyday stuff.

Today is a bit of a scorcher in Brisbane - it's predicted to reach 38 degrees this afternoon, that's a 100 if you work in Fahrenheit! That's pretty hot for October, so I'm staying indoors and catching up on a bit of house stuff which obviously means browsing through photos on the computer!

Here's a few visuals from a couple of weekends ago. 

This is the Bougainvillea that is on the walkway down at South Bank next to the Brisbane river. The flowers are such a vibrant pink above your head. Such a shame that it also produces the most vicious spikes! We have a Bougainvillea at the back of the house and we have tried to tame it back and contain it as it can also make a beautiful mess when the flower petals drop. 

I've just taken this photo a minute ago on my phone. The contrast in the colours is pretty stunning.
Twmff the cat is asleep somewhere behind that wall trying to shelter from the heat. He wouldn't appear for a photo....I don't really blame him today.

Talking of lovely colours, Sibs was so delighted that this year she had a 'real' ballet costume for a performance that she was part of at QPAC recently. Over the years some of the costumes have included a white leotard for a goat, a pink leotard for a flower and a red and white stripe outfit for a doll. It's all been very age appropriate but she's been desperate for a proper ballerina look. Imagine her excitement at being able to wear a tulle tutu? Yet another growing up step.....

I don't venture into the city too often at night, but each time I do, I always stop and admire how lovely it is. The river bank was full of neon clad runners a few Saturdays ago. Unfortunately I didn't have a camera or a phone with me to capture it. Let's just say it was colourful, noisy and spectacular.
This is a shot on the way home after a performance and the city is all alight.

Straight after this photo we luckily got a message from a friend advising avoiding our usual route home as the rugby game between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks had just finished and the roads around the stadium were blocked.  We didn't want to know the score either so went the really long way home up Mount Coot-tha. At one junction there was a taxi next to us and Sibs gave me strict instructions not to look at it as the people inside would have given the result away!

Quick shower later and the two of us - actually make that three as Twmff came to join us, watched the recorded game. From pink tutu ballet wearing girl to rugby fan in one swift move!

After such a late night the Sunday lie in was quite welcome. It's never quiet for long though and the much dreaded dismantling of the trampoline happened with Papa helping out. The trampoline is an Australian childhood essential. It seems that if you have a patch of grass then it will have a trampoline on it. Sibs got hers for her fifth birthday and has loved it since that day. It was showing some signs of wear though and we didn't realise quite how much until we inspected the underside and noticed that it was rusting away! Sadly that was it - the trampoline had to go.

Not much else has really been going on.
I've been dipping in and out of my crochet blanket.

I'm enjoying the challenge of the different stitches but it's not a rhythmic, getting lost in time, type of project. I have to concentrate! It does feel lovely and soft and I'm sure that I will enjoy using it in the cooler months. 
I've ordered my first lot of wool on line today. I'm planning a ripple blanket - now that will be something that I'll be able to get lost in time with! 

I thought the shades were a little more subdued....but now I see them next to my current blanket they look exactly the same! I still don't quite know who I am with all these colours! 

I've also got some wool ready to go on another baby blanket. That will be quite soothing as I don't know whether the bub will be a boy or a girl so that blanket will just be cream until I know. Just got to decide on the stitch and remember that babies are small! (The last baby blanket I made turned out bigger that I planned and the little sweetheart looked a little bit lost in it!)

Well, best get on with some of those things on my to-do list....

Have a happy and safe week,

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Scoliosis - back brace

So here I am again with another scoliosis update and a bit of a reality check.

The wearing of her back brace has been part of everyday life for Sibs now for a month or so.

As much as she had been questioning for a few weeks when the brace would be ready, there was still some trepidation as we finally got the call to tell us to go for the fitting.

After school one afternoon we drove to the hospital, parked outside the clinic and about 30 minutes later walked away with the contraption in a bag. That was the easy part.

Gary (who had made brace number 6230, especially for Sibs) encouraged her to come to the fitting appointment with all her questions. So we knew as much as we thought we needed to know by the time we left the clinic.

Which in hindsight was probably a little naive!

The photo shows Sibs wearing the brace over her t-shirt. It's actually designed to be worn under her clothes. She does however need to wear a singlet/vest underneath so that there is some clothing between skin and brace.

Here is the first challenge. Queensland has a sub tropical's hot here! Even in Springtime there have been days when it's been in the mid twenties. When you start layering tight fitting clothes, then foam and a hard plastic and then a top layer...well, it's not the most comfortable of things.

Sibs has done so ridiculously well to cope with this. She really wants the brace to work and took to heart what the doctors told her about compliance being the key factor in the success of the treatment. She documents every day how many hours she is wearing it and has built up to the expected 23 hours in what I think is no time at all. She decided one evening that she was going to wear it overnight and that was it - it was worn! There has been no pressure just an expectation that she tried to build up the hours in a sensible way.

It was all going great until yesterday. Yesterday was a pupil free day here - thank goodness. Sibs arrived back from her school trip to Canberra and Sydney on Friday night and then on Saturday was straight down to the theatre to take part in a dancing performance. We needed yesterday to rest and catch up. However much I heard "I am NOT tired" she was!

Yesterday morning there was a 'moment'.

None of her clothes seemed to fit....everything was too tight, too clingy to the brace, too see-through and wrong! T-shirt after t-shirt was thrown on the floor in frustration!

It's the only time I have heard her say that she didn't want to wear her brace.

We had already had the conversation that at times I might have to be the tough parent so she knew what was coming.
In the best way I could, I explained that she had some choices - take a moment and then chin up, find the best thing to wear and get on with it, or wallow in self pity.

I felt for much,  and I couldn't really make it better.

I left her to have her cry on the bed and I went and had my cry downstairs!

About ten minutes later she was dressed and we had the biggest cuddle, a team cry, and a plan to go shopping!

Sibs has not tried to hide the fact that she has a back brace and is very comfortable in front of her friends and family, but like most twelve year old girls, she is conscious of what she wears and how she looks. We have needed to tread the difficult line between child and adult clothes in order to get a fit that is sympathetic to the brace. It's not an easy task. I was almost tempted to get the sewing machine out, but my sewing repertoire stops at cushion covers, curtains and the odd fancy dress outfit!

In the end we did end up having a lovely day out yesterday with a yum cha lunch and then we managed to find a few summer outfits. We have discovered merino wool singlets/vests to wear under her brace that I hope will help (It took some convincing Sibs that wool could help keep her cool as well as warm!)

So last night her wardrobe was cleared out and even though it's looking rather bare at least everything in there is wearable.

I am so grateful for the lovely supportive and caring comments texts and messages that have come my way since I first posted about Sibs's scoliosis.

We have had quite a bit of time to think things through here as this is something that has been on our agenda for quite a few months now. I do realise however, that for a lot of my friends and family this blog was the first time that I had shared any of this.

I probably do have a natural positive attitude to most things but I will admit that this was extremely confronting at first. I feel fortunate that our previous medical history with Sibs has been next to zero. There was a case of chicken pox at 2 year old and a few runny noses during the first few Yorkshire Winters but that's about it!

So being faced with an uncertainty about a progressive condition certainly did stop me in my tracks.

Goodness knows how many times I remind myself that it could be a lot worse....a lot worse.
That's why I think that on occsion I may possibly come across as being a little dismissive. I don't mean to be, as obviously Sibs's health and well being is of absolute priority to me. But it all needs to be put into perspective.

So if you've asked how she's doing and I've replied "fine", it's because in the main she is fine. As much as is possible, she's just taking things in her stride, and I couldn't be prouder of her!

We're off for a check up this afternoon and she is rather excited to be showing Gary how many hours she has been wearing her brace. He may need to sit through pages of notes detailing every single time it's put on and taken off. Maybe I should have booked a double appointment!

Gary did indeed read through her detailed notes, bless him.  He won't have realised how important that was to her - It was lovely to watch her proud face.

Some new clothes got an outing too!
(Yes, she is wearing her back brace)

Then to finish off we called back at The Three Monkeys in West End and shared a slice of marshmallow and chocolate cake that made us so full that we don't want any tea!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Another step

Off to camp

You know that film and theatre show Mamma Mia?

You know that touching scene when the mother and daughter sing "Slipping through my fingers"?

"School bag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile.
I watch her go with a surge of that well-known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while"

That Abba song came on my ipod this morning and it always gets to me - always. (Yes, I have Abba on my ipod!)

It seems like moments ago I was dropping Sibs off at her first day in her new primary school in Australia and then yesterday I was taking her to the airport for her final year camp trip to Sydney and Canberra! School camps are big over here.

In the final year of my primary school we went on a camp trip almost down the road to Parkmill in the Gower Peninsula. I have many memories. I think a few of us girls had read the Enid Blyton books Mallory Towers and St Clare's and had this idea that it was all going to be midnight feasts and a jolly good time! Instead it was cold and wet and we seemed to walk for miles and miles looking for lichen and trying to keep our soggy clipboards dry!

Sibs's trip on the other hand, is a full packed itinerary that takes in all the important sights of Canberra - Parliament House, Australian War Memorial, Government House, Questacon, Royal Mint, National Gallery and not forgetting an afternoon at Taronga Zoo in Sydney.  A bit different to traipsing through the Gower coastline in South Wales!

The house is already feeling so quiet. No constant singing, no bouncing, twirling and prancing around.

Twmff is doing his usual moping around the place when Sibs isn't here. He's such a sook sleeping on her school bag.

I can still see you Mods - almost camouflaged

Modlen on the other hand.... not a care in the world! Yesterday afternoon I was intending on planting some herbs in there, but it was a shame to disturb such a heavy sleep so I decided to pick up some crochet instead.

An hour quickly became two (and then more) and it was so relaxing on the front deck that it just called out for a Hendricks, a candle and some crooning from Mr George Michael on the ipod. Bliss.

from my instagram feed

Routine is out of the window this week - I'm not organising my day around early morning music drop off or 3pm school pick ups. It's strange.

"Sleep in our eyes, her and me at the breakfast table
Barely awake, I let precious time go by.
Then when she's gone, there's that odd melancholy feeling
And a sense of guilt I can't deny"

I'm getting a glimpse into the next few years of increased independence. Whilst I encourage it and seem to constantly have the conversation with Sibs about needing to "take responsibility for this, that and the other" it's also a shift into a new world.

"Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it.
Slipping through my fingers all the time.
Do I really see what's in her mind.
Each time I think I'm close to knowing
She keeps on growing"

For Sibs, this week away is not only to go and see and understand more about Australia, it's really another step in growing up.

I know each phase in childhood is big at the  time - first steps, first words, first school....
Somehow though, this one feels huge. I can really see her shaping into a young adult. She's getting more and more confident in expressing herself and sharing her opinions.
I've stopped saying "please stop growing up" and I'm making a conscious effort to enjoy the change in her...however challenging some of the sharing of opinions can be!

As she was chatting with her friend at the airport yesterday she said that she had two things to remember on this trip - to have fun and to concentrate.

So she does listen to what I say...

enjoying a quiet Monday moment

Happy Monday.
Here's to a good and safe week, full of concentration and fun!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Scoliosis - MRI scans

A few weeks ago I wrote about Sibs's diagnosis of idiopathic adolescent scoliosis and the first steps in the treatment.  (HERE)

Since then there have been a few other appointments and so here is the next instalment.

During the initial consultation with the orthopaedic spinal surgeon Dr A requested that as part of her care plan he wanted an MRI scan of Sibs's back. Even though he was confident that her scoliosis is idiopathic (no cause) he wanted to be doubly sure and to rule out any other possible complications.

As we were discussing the arrangements for the MRI we also had a conversation about research into scoliosis and any previous studies on the condition. Dr A mentioned a study that is currently collecting data to understand the differences between a healthy and an abnormal spine in growing girls. We established that Sibs would be suitable to participate and were then put in touch with the research team. 

One of the researchers emailed me details of the study and various consent forms. It was then arranged to conduct the MRI for Dr A and the MRI for the research team at the same time and venue. Isn't it great when people actually co-operate and make your life a little easier?

So on a Saturday morning before ballet practise we found ourselves at a hospital diagnostic department.

Sibs was measured and photographed by one of the researchers and then shown around the MRI machinery and the whole process was explained to her.
I can't praise the medical team enough. The way that everything was so calmly introduced and explained was pretty amazing. She was encouraged to ask questions and the first one she came up with was "Can I still talk when I'm in the machine?" Yes, typical Sibs!

They took the time to chat through the various buttons and gadgets including the fact that it would only take 6 seconds to get to her if she pressed the panic button at any time.

By the time the heated blankets came out and she was invited to select a movie to watch I could see that she was more than comfortable. 

Sibs spent about an hour and a half in total in the MRI room with each scan taking about 10 - 15 minutes. Each time something new happened it would again be explained to her and so the unusual clunking noise would not be a surprise.

I think she was a little disappointed when the scanning finished as she never got to see the end of The Lorax!

The results of the MRI scans will now be collated and sent to the consultant and to the research team. As part of the research study she will be required to undertake scans at 6 monthly intervals or annually depending on her growth pattern. 

As a bit of a plug - the research team is also looking for healthy spines to study. Here is a copy of the request.

So Brisbane based people - they would be very grateful for anybody willing to give up a tiny bit of their time...just one hour a year over three years.

I will write another time about the fitting of the back brace and how Sibs is managing and adjusting to wearing it.

My super star!

Monday, 6 October 2014

School holiday crochet, concerts and the beach.

We are at the end of a two week school holiday here and it's just starting to feel quite Summery. The days are perfectly warm and the evenings still necessitate a cardigan....and I do love my cardigans.

These holidays we spent some time at home and some away at the beach. It's been Relaxation with a capital R. 

In anticipation of the holiday time and some crochet hours, I was lured to fill a basket with some gorgeous Merino wool in a rainbow of colours - on sale of course! I can't describe how luxurious the wool feels. I've predominantly used acrylic in my crochet to date - it's cheap and I have to admit to not having too much faith in my ability to splash out on anything more. 

I wanted to try and test myself with a project so found a pattern for a stripe blanket with a variety of stitches. Hmm, case of running before I could walk I think.  

After a while it became apparent that my stitches were increasing and then decreasing at an alarming rate. There was nothing else but to undo and start again. Oh the agony!

version 1

So armed with some prior knowledge and tips about tension I have been methodically counting to 169 at the end of every line - sometimes twice just to be sure. I think I've got it now.

version 2

In other crochet news I decided that I needed to know how to do a ripple stitch so I began to crochet away during ballet lessons and it morphed into a cushion cover!

There have been a number of pretty exciting concerts this month. The first was to see Queen with Adam Lambert. I think if anyone is going to get close to filling Freddie Mercury's shoes then Adam Lambert would have to be the man. 

It took the crowd a little while to warm to him, but he soon got everyone on side not only with his talent but his genuine appreciation of his fortune at being on stage with such great musicians. 

Then there was Andrea Bocelli. An evening of glitz and glamour and a secret competition that no-one told me about - who could wear the highest heels! - I lost.

He was joined by the lovely Delta Goodrem who charmed the audience with her solo and duet performances. The only disappointment of the evening for me is that Mr Bocelli never uttered a word. I think there was a murmur of a 'thank you' at one point, but I wanted to know the man a little more. (Blurry photos sneaked on my phone)

To round off, the charming and cheeky Robbie Williams bounced into Brisbane and boy did he entertain. 

I was so close I could read his tattoos!

These photos were taken with my phone and I was a bit caught up in the atmosphere to concentrate too much on the perfect shot. Just trust me that it was spectacular.

So after all that excitement it was time to stop and re-charge. That happened at the Sunshine Coast. 

Our first evening there, Sibs and I decided to head to the beach. We walked for miles chatting and singing away. There is something special about an empty beach, the sound of the sea and the squeak of the sand. 

During the week away we spent some time in Noosa catching up with family and we visited Eumundi early in the morning to go to the markets. Yes, I got up and I was there as it opened!

One of the days we bumped into some school friends who were staying close by and I happily watched from the comfort of my shady spot on the grass with a coffee and a great book. I enjoy the beach when it's quiet and when the sun is down. After years in Australia it's still not my favourite place to be when it's crowded.

All too soon it was home for the long weekend and the countdown to the preparation for back to school and work. We had eleven for dinner on Saturday night and it was the first time we have eaten outdoors since the Winter. Another sign that it's warming up.

There was one little lonely chocolate pot strategically hidden placed at the back of the fridge after the dinner party...

Shame for it to go to waste!

So that was a bit of a September round up and some of what we have been up to during the school holidays. 

It's now time to get a G&T and sit outside on this public holiday Monday to enjoy the scent of the last of the Jasmine flowers.

(Following on from my last post, Sibs has now got her back brace and is being a little star managing it. Thank you all who have sent lovely supportive messages. I will update soon. )