Casuarina Beach

Photo a day for autism acceptance in April.

Our last day in Darwin. I had to take the boys down to Casaurina Beach. We could see a couple of other people far off in the distance, other than that it was just us.

The two little boys hightailed it towards the water. It was an epic run of about 100 meters, quite a long way when your legs are so short! I was caught between them and L who was not so keen on the water. Still, he made his way towards the gently lapping shore (shoes on!).

At another beach, I may have been more concerned about the boys getting to the water before me, but I knew that the water would not go deeper than their knees for at least another 100 meters. They had a wonderful time jumping the tiny waves, rolling around in the sandy mud and getting themselves truly covered in muck.

Meanwhile L stayed with us, but there was no way he was taking his shoes off or going into the water. Still, he was happy and as the minutes passed, he relaxed more and more.

After a little morning snack & drink we headed over to my brother & sister in law’s house which was close by. We continued the water fun in their shady & cool fresh water pool. Here, L was happier to sit on the side of the pool surrounded by numerous buckets and containers. He spent a happy hour pouring water from one container to the other . All sensory needs met.

20130410-135516.jpg

Advertisements

The Gardens

Photo a day for autism acceptance in April

Today we discovered a really wonderful playground. The botanic gardens are home to most of Darwin’s oldest trees. Darwin was all but leveled on Christmas Day 1974 when cyclone Tracy hit the town dead on.

Almost 40 years later and the gardens are quite beautiful. They are tucked in between the beach and the city, green, quiet, lush and cool in the overbearing humidity of the tropics. The playground they have created in these gardens are wonderful for kids who love to roam and climb. It’s semi-fenced and rambles through a few different garden style rooms.

The boys really enjoyed climbing up to the top of this three level structure. Getting down was not quite so much fun! There was also a great area where there were lots of rocks and stones strewn around various paths and enormous stands of bamboo. We went hunting for Macca Pacca.

20130404-182905.jpg

not a leaf was left on a tree, and not many trees were left either

not a leaf was left on a tree, and not many trees were left either

 

D Town

We are in D Town. I somehow managed to get my three little guys bundled up, onto a 4 hour flight to the northernmost city in Australia, Darwin. We survived the flight fairly well which in itself, is a minor miracle. I was a bit concerned about the levels of anxiety and noisemaking my little 6yo asd boy would experience – but he was brilliant!

I was prepared for apologies to the rows of people in front, behind, beside etc. but instead, I was warmly reassured by several passengers that the boys were doing incredibly well and so was I! Numerous people offered their assistance, especially when it came to disembarking. It’s so reassuring to experience that level of kindness and support from strangers.

kindness od strangers

Being in Darwin always stirs something in me. Each and every member of my immediate family have lived here on and off since 1980. Two of my brothers and their families continue to live here and I have lived here for several years at a time as well. So there is a deep sense of family history, many memories and some wonderful friendships that continue to this day. My little boys are really enjoying connecting with my family up here.

We are here on the tail end of the wet season. It is still very rainy and humid and overcast. Swampy. This is a frontier town, far away from the rest of Australia and more connect in someways to places like Timor, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia who are physically closer. It is the final destination for lots of people who don’t fit in to the mainstream. More than a few criminals on the run make their way up here, plus there are always a few missionaries on the job too. Plenty of work up here for them!

warnings for tourists

warnings for tourists

I took the boys on a little scenic tour on our first day here. It turned out to be a tour of the diggers and heavy machinery (N was extremely pleased) and mosquito infested playgrounds, with lots of jumping in muddy puddles and entire changes of clothes required for each child. But as we drove through the inner suburb of Larrakia a few old memories were triggered.

The very first time I came to Darwin was in 1981 when a friend and I hitched across from the east coast on an epic three day road trip. No real plans, broke, no job or anything connecting me to anywhere, I arrived on my parents newly acquired doorstep.

I got a job pretty quickly and became involved in setting up the first group home for children with complex disabilities in Darwin, Bunyip House. Part of my job was to go around to the various facilities to collect these little kids, whose ages ranged from 3-15 and bring them to their new home.

These kids were all Indigenous and unable to be cared for by their families in their home communities (small townships with extremely limited facilities). So they ended up in Darwin in hospital beds and old age homes. Moving into this home was a huge step forward for them, but you couldn’t help but feel bad for the set of circumstances that had transpired for them to be in these horrible places.

For these kids, who are now in their 30’s and 40’s, life took a dramatic turn for the better. Not only were they participating within their communities: going on family visits, picnics, walks, playgroups etc. but they also had better access to medical and educational supports. And yes, it does seem crazy that a child would have better access to medical support out of a hospital than in, but this is where advocacy and some genuine loving care makes a massive difference.

I worked there for about a year and during this time was able to help families re-connect with their kids in this far more child-focused environment. I was able to take some of the kids home for short trips and got to go to some amazing places including Melville, Goulburn and Croker Islands. Families were also able to come and spend time with their kids when they were in town.

Arnhem Land

Arnhem Land

It was while I was in this job that I had my first experience with autism. As well as being the permanent home for 6 children, we also provided respite care – virtually unheard of back then! On a couple of occasions we cared for a girl who was about 12, non-verbal and with many challenging & aggressive behaviors. For her parents, it was scary and hard to leave her with us, they feared for her safety (she was a runner) and for that of the other kids. Looking back now, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for them. It must have also been such a relief to have those days of rest.

Although those who know me may see it differently, I could never have predicted that I would be here, so many years later with a little spectrummy guy of my own. Life can certainly be circular at times.

Coming Soon…
Crocodiles

This one was caught a couple of weeks ago. 4.8 metres

This one was caught a couple of weeks ago. 4.8 metres

Maningrida

see you mob soon!

see you mob soon!

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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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