The Reason Why

I went up to Darwin last weekend to help celebrate my brother Tom’s 50th birthday. He’s a modest man but has a history of some fairly outrageous and/or hilarious outings. Some of those had to be trotted out as part of the formalities of the evening, just to remind him of that wild young soul who resides deep inside that middle aged, respectable, family focussed, coffee connoisseur.

This is the boy who was Tommy, with Ringo our dog.

Cute little blondie in his homemade shorts

He was taught everything he knows by our sister Lizzie who is only 13 months older than him. Seriously…once she started at school, she sat him down every afternoon and taught him everything she’d learnt that day. But he quickly became a long, lanky streak and Liz would never have the same control over him that she did in that first year of school.

Tom is strong!

Tom was always good at maths and eventually studied economics. Before that though Tom took to the road on his motorbike and rode from Tasmania (down near Antarctica) to Darwin. At one point when I was fanging around the countryside Tom and I decided to ride from Brisbane to Sydney, where I was living.

Tom’s bike (if I remember correctly) was something like a Kawasaki 750. We’d decided, in a moment of brilliance, to leave Brisbane about 7pm and ride through the night for the 10 hours or so it took to get to Sydney. Not one of our better decisions. We shared the riding, but the bike was really too heavy for me. Never the less, off we went into the dark of night. We did OK until sometime after Tamworth when I was riding and Tom on the back kept falling asleep. I remember the helmet he wore banging into my back as he’d drift off. I’d do my best to wake him up by elbowing him violently. Eventually in the light of early dawn we swapped again and took off with Tom riding. Only a little way down the road we blew a tyre. This is not too much fun on a bike and we were lucky in so many ways to survive that moment. I then had to hitch a ride with the tyre into the nearest town, wait for the mechanics to open, get it fixed and hitch back out – extending the trip by another few hours.  We made it by the skin of our teeth. So, so tired.

I took this photo a couple of years later when I and my fellow band mates stayed with Tom in his share house in Brisbane in 1985.

The Uni years, Brisbane

Tom has three kids and a step-son with his partner Lorna. They’ve been together for 22 years now. They are quite social, but don’t throw too many parties these days. This was one for the books. A milestone birthday with people coming in from all over the country to celebrate it with him and his family.

Party preparations were exhausting but ultimately worth it. A sit down dinner for 30 under the swinging lights and the stars in a bushy suburban back yard. Great food, including some pretty amazing cakes. Lots of stories and reminiscences, laughter and fun. One of the best moments was when Tom, in his speech told us how happy he was with his wife & life.

Here’s a couple of my favourite photos of the night.

the cocktail menu

 

Some of Tom’s family

the old and the young(ish)

 

pouring myself a glass of wine

 

party decorations – Tom’s shirt collection

Unaccustomed as I am…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Darwin Weekend

It only took about two months of planning, three separate respite placements, the recruitment and approval of some wonderful friends as kinship carers and the lovely ongoing support of a couple of extended birth families, but I went away for a long weekend – child free!

I had wanted to take the baby up with me, but his birth mother refused permission for him to travel out of the state. So I decided to really enjoy the rare opportunity, get some extra sleep and have some child free fun in the tropics.

Darwin is a 4 hour plane ride away from where I live or a three day drive if you like driving about 12 hours a day. I’ve driven both ways quite a few times over the years. It’s amazing country, desolate and beautiful and a long way between pit stops. I love an epic road trip but I love flying over all that space as well.

The flight route how it used to be – took a bit longer than the direct route we took on a 737
image credit: qantas historical atlas

Darwin is a remote, tropical city. It’s closer to Asia than it is to the southern capitals. It’s the the traditional land of the Larrakia people and a regional centre and home for many Indigenous people from towns and in communities all over the Top End. It’s also very multi-cultural with big, long established Greek and Chinese populations and more recently south east Asian, Papua New Guinea and East Timorese communities.

I’ve lived there on and off over the years. My family moved to Alice Springs (in the centre of Australia) in 1977 and then ended up in Darwin a few years later. All of my family has lived there at one point or another so there’s a lot of memories, friendships and family history up there. It is one of my homes.

One thing we often do when there is a gathering of the clan is to head out to a place called East Point where you can watch the sun set, go for a walk or just enjoy the view and though I have a lot more to tell you about my trip. This is how I’m starting. Sunset at East Point on a Sunday night.

the gathering of the clan

But even better was…

Going…

Going

Gone

Mummy’s Car

Mummy’s car is a bit of a bomb. It’s a generic, utilitarian workhorse to me. But to my 2yo N it’s the best playground around. It’s the most fun you can have in an enclosed space. It’s got so many buttons to press and knobs to twiddle he can barely contain himself.

So now we have to negotiate over how much time we can spend playing the ‘mummy’s car’ game. I try to give him a bit of time by putting him in the car first and then loading up the other kids, bags, pram etc., then putting him in his car seat last. This involves dragging him kicking and screaming from the drivers seat to his seat, holding this wriggling, struggling, amorphous little blob of humanity in place so that I can get his seat belt on while he’s screaming at the top of his voice ‘mummy’s caaaaaaaarrrrrrr! mummy’s caaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrr’.

aday.org 

I was kind of organised to do this. I’d made a note in my calendar to take a photo and upload it. I loved the idea of it – one day on earth. People from around the world all taking photos of their day on that particular day. So I started out trying to get some kind of photo of the four of us – kind of hard when you are the photographer and there’s no extra kid wranglers around. So this is the only shot I got of all of us.

 

Note the pincer grip L has on my cheek and the elbow to the throat. Nice! He thought it was hilarious. The other boys joined in on some of this action too.

little boys attack mummy

Later that day I’d had a couple of friends over for lunch so I thought I’d try to capture that.

 

It was kind of fun and it’s always good to catch up with my girlfriends, but the photo was more documentary than art.

So later that day, as we do most days, we were down in the back yard. The kids were playing and I was getting the clothes off the line when…I captured this precious moment. It’s a first. Baby J taking a walk (assisted by L’s old ride on bus). Look at that confident stride! He’s strong as a ox this kid and has thunder thighs of doom, but absolutely, unequivocally a beautiful little soul.

Anyway the day went by in a flash and I forgot to upload anything…

Mothering Day

Mother’s Day is almost upon us here in Australia. My mother’s day is slightly different to the one most mummies have. It involves cards and presents for the three birth mothers and one grandmother of my kids, plus something for my own mother.

is this what it’s all about?

Most people don’t know this, but it’s really hard to find the right kind of card for a birth mum. All the messages just don’t suit the situation, so I try to stick to the basics – I LOVE YOU – seems to fit the bill the best. That’s because it’s true, even though the kids don’t really know it at this point. It’s also something these mums need to hear.

don’t sit on her!

I get to care for and love these little honeys every day, I get to feel their love, I get their kisses, I get to see them reach their milestones and day by day, to grow up. The least I can do is to be generous to their bio mums on this day.

So I’ve sent off a mothers day package to one mum who is in the big house with lots of photos and a card. I’m taking one of them to see his mum at her detox centre in the morning. I hope this will give her the strength and courage she needs to continue. And my third will be sleeping over at his grandparents and his mum will see him while he is there.

Tomorrow morning I won’t be sad because no one is letting me sleep in or making me breakfast in bed. I’m grateful. I’m thankful. I’m honoured to be a mother to these boys.

One of the very early posts I wrote when I started this blog was called I Can Live With That and this is what I wrote back then:

My 4 year old has autism. He came into my care when he was seven weeks old and the first thing we did together was go to the ophthalmologist where I was told he was totally blind.

We’ve been through a lot together and every Mother’s Day (all four of them), even though he’s supposed to be making me breakfast in bed and bringing me presents that he made himself (yeah, yeah yeah, I know…he’s 4!), I thank him and give him extra special hugs and kisses, because this little boy has made me a mother. He has done what I couldn’t do myself.

Enjoy your Mothering Day mummies. Thank you boys xxx

iRumble in the iJungle

My two little ones are fighting. The 10mo and 2yo are screaming and tousling like it’s the rumble in the jungle, the thriller in Manilla. What could possibly be causing all this fuss?

A toy car? No.

A bottle? Not this time, though a bottle comes into contention at least a couple of times a day.

A box of sultanas? No.

It’s the iPad!

I bought it for L of course. I’d read about how wonderful a tool it was for kids on the spectrum, so I got in there with an ipad 1. (seriously, it wasn’t that long ago, how can we be up to 3 already?). It’s kind of embarrassing to admit this but I mostly used it as an ipod for the first few months. I was having problems with getting online, so I just forgot about it for a bit. But the kids got to listen to some beautiful music as they went to sleep each night. I know!!! Am I insane?? Possibly.

Anyway, I did get it together to ring my provider and they sorted it out and after that I did a bit more research and started to look for apps that might interest my boy. He’s still a long way from fluent language. His receptive language is coming along which is incredibly encouraging as it means that brain of his is whirring away in there. So I started off with some early language flash card type apps along with trying a couple of assisted communication style apps.

These would hold his attention for a maximum of about 10 seconds. More like about 2. I know, you’ve got to keep trying. So I have, I do. I also keep looking. Trying lots of different approaches but also going back to keep building familiarity and experience. I’ve got puzzles, games, autism specific apps. I’ve got apps that help with numeracy, apps to help with writing, fine motor, language, memory and even keeping track of progress. I’ve found some great resources and keep finding more. Interestingly, as the little boys get more interested in the ipad, L is hovering around more, wanting to see what is on the screen, smiling, looking to join in.

Of course, as things go along, the next in line to the throne – N started talking in earnest earlier this year. In fact his language just exploded – going from a vocab of about 12 words to 100’s in a few weeks. He was just so ready for it. The iPad and all it’s amazing apps has been a big interest for him. He started off with the animal flashcards and now he can knock out a toca boca robot in a matter of seconds. He’s a techno child for sure.

And baby J? Well he is desperate for a bit of ipad/phone action. He knows all about buttons and he desperately wants to push them! He knows there’s fun to be had. I have to say, if I am waiting to see the doctor or just need some peace and quiet, I am ever grateful to those clever people who made this thing. I might even have to get another one!

Top 10 Free Apps for ASD kids from Small But Kinda Mighty

ipad apps and info for special kids a facebook group that rocks

The iMums international women of apps

Smart Apps for Kids reviews, giveaways, free app of the day

ipad apps & resources for people with autism  a comprehensive spreadsheet style resource

Our favourites: (sorry no links but you know where to find them)

Robot Lab

iBaby Buttons

Toddler Jukebox

Magic Piano

Animal Fun

Sound Shaker

Counting with the Very Hungry Caterpillar

  • Now attempting to get a giveaway super protect cover at the iMums http://www.theimum.com/2012/09/iballz-harness-and-lid-cover-review-giveaway/#

 

Snapshots of my Week

I’m back. I was so happy that I made it to the end of the blogathon. The following week I went through major withdrawals then I felt a bit depressed and had no energy for anything. I’ve just come through a hellish long weekend where L’s behaviours seemed to soar into the stratosphere and now, finally…I have rallied.

So here’s a snap shot of some of the things that have been going on in my world while I was away.

Baby J

I had to run from one room to another to intercept an interaction between my 10 month old boy J and my 5 yo L. I went running down the hallway to find the baby crawling towards me crying. In each hand he was clutching a $50 note. He had been rifling through my wallet (not somewhere you would normally find 2 fifties, but it was a long weekend and I had a babysitter coming!).

J is getting more and more adventurous and as a result is having a few interesting interactions with the other boys. This kid is built like a steam roller! He is already heavier than N (who is 2) and it won’t be long before he starts paying L back for all the pushes away he gets.

Meanwhile – he’s climbing and showing no fear whatsoever. I turn my back and he’s….

Mr N

There was nothing I could do to prepare him for what he was about to experience. All I could do was make sure he’d had a good sleep, something to eat and drink. I left the other two with the babysitter and we headed off on the bus to our performing arts centre.

There were a LOT of very excited kids there. There was an impressive sized area cordoned off exclusively for pram parking. There were mums and dads shelling out the big bucks at the merch stand. We made out way in and found our seats. After a bit of waiting the music got louder and before we could say ‘hot potato’ The Wiggles were right there in front of us. N was suitably impressed. He enjoyed himself, he clapped, he danced, he pointed his fingers and did the twist and couldn’t believe his eyes as the zealous guys in skivvys made their way into the audience and walked right past us!

It was exhausting to say the least and not just for me. Little N slept very well that night and dreamt of Captain Feathersword and his friendly pirate crew.

The Big Red Car – yay!!!

Wiggles sing Twinke Twinkle Little Star

My Big Boy L

I love him to bits but seriously, he took me to the edge last weekend. He’s escalating in all his obsessive behaviours – opening a shutting doors a million times a day, turning the kettle on whenever possible, playing with the stove, with all the hot water taps and of course the ribbon. He’s climbing the walls, literally. He was in his bedroom for about 2 minutes and when I went to check he was standing on a high cupboard about to take a swinging jump to hang onto the ceiling fan. He was stripping off all clothes countless times a day. He ignored every request, laughing as he ran in the opposite direction at every opportunity. And the screaming, oh please make me temporarily deaf so I don’t have to hear any more screaming.

I did everything I could to exhaust him and get him to a place where he could just relax and have some fun. We went to the park, we went to an indoor play centre so he could do lots of climbing, we went on a little bush walk and went to a wildlife park, we played, we mowed the grass (which he loves), we ran and jumped on the trampoline. I was worn out, but he could have gone another 20 rounds.

We’re off to the doctor to get some advice on the best way forward.

Where is he?

The invisible kid

Me

Next week I’m heading off for four days of child free fun. One of my younger brothers is turning 50, so it’s the gathering of the clan for a shindig in Darwin. I intend to sleep for as many hours as possible, to have a few drinks and see if I can shuffle out of this mood I’m in. Meanwhile, here’s a couple of photos from the early years and one of the super moon over my hometown. May it bring me super powers.

Family & Friends, Townsville 1963

trashing Dad’s work car

Brisbane Super Moon 2012
image credit: themarysue.com