29 April 2014

20 : When the Darkness Falls - Something Old

The World a Little Darker...

It's so much harder to see when the darkness falls, what was once beautiful, full of colour and life fades into different shades of grey.  The colour is still there, underneath, but can only be seen when the light shines upon it.  Just like this picture where you can see hints of light revealing the colour beneath, if you were able to look closer you would see brightness and warmth deep inside.

We all go through phases of feeling like this, varying shades of grey leading to blackness.  That's the place I'm at right now.  I've been there before, I'll be there again, life goes around and around...  When you are in a black place it's very hard to see the light, to accept any of it.  Sometimes you just want to curl up and forget everything, forget all the hurt, the pain that brought you back to this place of darkness.  There are some things that you just push out of the way, store them in the back and hope they will stay.  But unfortunately in the sea of life we must share our water with others, not everyone wants to swim along with you in the same direction.  The water is full of sharks that take great pleasure in having a little nip every so often.  Trouble is, the more you get nipped, the more you get hurt.  

Scars may heal but they are never the same as before.  Some scars are worth wearing, you can wear some scars from life's many battles with pride. There are some, however, that sadly come from a wound so deep it continues to bleed, never quite healing over.  You can cover it and try and forget it, but underneath you still bleed, slowly but surely sapping the very life from you.

Despite the sharks, despite the darkness that threatens us all the light is always there.  Always waiting for us to return and be bathed in it.  To feel love again, to feel whole and fulfilled.  I remember that feeling so well, thankfully these days I have loving support to show me the way back. The sharks won't beat me, I'll try and search for a more efficient bandage to patch my raw wounds and continue swimming the way I always have - keeping my head just above water... 

24 April 2014

19 : Family - Something Blue

The Joy of Surprise!

'When I grow up I'm going to make a machine 
that travels through space and time ...' 
Master 8

This may look like a messy pile of toys to some, but to an 8 year old boy who carefully constructed this collection of toys, this is a time machine!  I woke up this morning, after experiencing yet another night of emotionally draining dramas, to my son proudly announcing that when he grows up he is going to make a machine that is capable of travelling through time and space!  Then he asked me 'what kind of job is that?'.  It was enough to snap me back into reality and remember to smile again, I told him that would make him an engineer and I think he would make a fantastic engineer and maybe even a scientist!

Although life is hard, it is supposed to be, some days or periods of your life are just so much harder than others.  You question yourself, your life, the people who you surround yourself with and ask 'why?'.  Why do we have to put up with cruel people, with bitterness, hatred and all around nastiness?  They say blood is thicker than water!  This is true but blood has the ability to clot and cause blockages and necrosis; where as water flows in and around obstacles in its path!  After all the true measure of a person is how they conduct themselves when faced with crisis, on who they help throughout their life.  As it truly is in the giving that the richness of rewards are enjoyed, not in winning in games of power play and emotional blackmail.

I've done a lot of soul searching over recent times, although I feel that I have come a long way in my journey of trying to understand it all, I guess you never truly get there.  Being human means we are ruled by emotion and our feelings and that is a hard reality to escape.  It is such a difficult thing for me to grasp how the very thing that makes us human, our consciousness, our intelligence, our abilities to plan, create and reason, are the very same things that can systematically destroy us.  Sometimes I envy animals for their simplicity, they truly enjoy each and every day for what it is - never looking back or forward, truly living for today. Give them the basics of food, shelter and companionship and they are truly happy.

My study of psychology raises very interesting questions regarding heritability and environment.  There are no easy answers but many interesting theories.  I don't know if we will ever truly understand what makes us who we are and why we do the things we do.  All I can do is enjoy learning along the way and rejoice in the present, remembering as always that no-one has control over me but me.  That is truly a hefty responsibility, one that is not easy to be in charge of for I am a very complicated person, I am a human being with great expectations and responsibilities.  I can't change the world, I can't stop the bad people being bad, but I can certainly remember to smile and rest easy that the future of this world is in my children's hands.  My children will change the world and I have great hope...

18 April 2014

19: Cherry Tree Blossoms - Something Borrowed

The Beauty and Mystery of Cherry Trees

I've always loved the beauty of blossoming trees; there is nothing quite like the magnificence of soft pink cherry trees in full bloom.  One day I would love to visit Japan during spring and take part in their cherry blossom festivals, where the beautiful blossoms are believed to represent the transience of life.  

In zen the cherry blossom represents both the fragility and beauty of life.  It reminds us that although life is overwhelmingly beautiful that it is also tragically short. The once a year bloom reminds us that life is both precious and precarious.  

My next tattoo design will incorporate the beauty of the cherry tree blossom as a feminine reminder that life is fleeting; to remind me to live a life of beauty and to be present in the moment...  

13 April 2014

19 : Graduation - Something New!

Full Circle...

It's amazing the difference a few years makes in a person's life.  Seventeen years of education for my second daughter saw her change from a feisty little pocket rocket starting reception, to a graduate with a double degree ready to make her mark on the world.

It's not hard for me to travel back through the passages of time in my mind to recall those first schooling days for her; for me it was only yesterday.  Just yesterday when I was battling with a mighty super power bursting within the cutest petite package you could ever imagine.  A child with an IQ that puts most of us to shame, with such a feisty personality that her miniature frame could barely contain it.  For a little girl whose uniform reached all the way down to her ankles she sure had a lot to say; the world just had to learn to listen.

She still comes in a petite package but that feisty personality has become more refined and controlled; her appearance has changed from a wild child that refused to brush her hair to an elegant beauty that epitomises fashion in every sense of the word.  Fashion is where she is heading, already working amongst it and saving her dollars to travel overseas and follow her ambition.

I believe in her, I believe she can and will do whatever her heart desires.  The trick is knowing what that is and wanting it enough.  Belief in yourself is not something that you can buy for your child, they have to come to understand it for themselves and to earn it.  The journey through life is never easy, for some the journey is such a bumpy ride that makes holding on long enough to get where you are going very difficult.  I am truly proud that this daughter of mine is ready to make her mark on the world, she has earned her place in it and will make a difference.  

My children can do whatever they want in life, all I expect from them is to be honest and true to themselves.  To follow their dreams and realise that they can achieve whatever they set out to do, what that is is up to them.  No-one else can live their life for them, that is lesson number one, life will bring many more along the way ...

06 April 2014

19: Allergies - Something Old.

Mummy I'm Itchy!

Here we go again... Back to having an allergic little boy in the house. Something old that I would prefer not to have to go through again.  I was thrust unwillingly into the world of allergies nineteen years ago with my eldest son and have no desire to return.  It was what set me on the path that I am travelling today, it gave me the spark to try and understand the medical world that led me to become a Paramedic.

Nineteen years ago I thought I was the luckiest person on the planet when I gave birth to my first born son.  I had always wanted to have a little boy and couldn't believe my luck when it actually happened.  The only thing I can equate it to was like being a kid in a toy shop and told you can pick anything you wanted, I picked him and was blissfully happy.

It didn't take long for the signs to start appearing, literally, all over his tiny perfect little body.  He began to be covered in red spots that would appear and then disappear, then even worse they stayed.  I learnt to change my washing powder to lux flakes and wash him in only sorbolene cream. Despite everything my lovely little boy was consumed by awful eczema and we had no relief.  Even if I covered his little hands to stop him scratching he would learn to use his arms to rub, rub, rub his face raw.  You could barely bath him without bringing tears to your eyes, watching such delicate skin ravaged with tormented red, oozing flaky skin.
In desperation for help I turned to a skin specialist.  I dared wonder aloud to him if it may be related to food as it seemed to be particularly bad around his mouth.  I was shot down in flames and was made to feel ashamed I even dared to ask, I was told it had absolutely nothing to do with food and that I was ridiculous to have even thought of that.  It wasn't until he caught a severe case of chicken pox at six months of age, and was hospitalised, that he was brought to the attention of a paediatrician.  For the first time ever, at the follow up appointment, the paediatrician announced that he was going to do a RAST blood test to find out what he was allergic to.  I nearly fell off my chair, I couldn't believe a doctor actually wanted to find the answers I was seeking; he proved to be allergic to many, many things but in particular to cow's milk, egg protein and possibly peanuts.

We both went on a strict diet, avoiding all cow's milk, egg and peanut products. Up until the blood test he hadn't actually eaten the foods himself but was only exposed through breast milk.  Back then he was allergic to many other things including tomato and soy sauce as well as the moulds, dust and pollens you would expect, however, these just irritated his eczema or triggered what soon became asthma. At twelve months of age we began the next step in the journey I did not want to travel on; he was diagnosed with food anaphylaxis - a life threatening allergic reaction to food.  We found out through accidental ingestion of cheese at a party exactly what happened if he ate those foods directly, he swelled up like a balloon and required urgent hospital treatment and adrenaline injections to reverse the reaction.  Life became even more complicated and carrying around emergency epi-pens became a part of a 'normal' routine for us.

Back then our world revolved around me cooking everything from scratch in our home; a kitchen nazi, having to separately wash pots and pans and utensils that had touched egg separate to all other dishes.  For a boy who was allergic to almost everything in the world around him life was pretty hectic and stressful.  You can just imagine how hard it was to contain a busy baby, then a toddler who wanted to pick up and try every morsel of food he came across.  A normal exploration of the world, yet for him, one that could quickly turn into a catastrophe.

Years of dealing with these issues, educating kindy and school and being heavily involved in support group associations for both eczema and anaphylaxis was mind boggling exhausting.  Out of necessity, rather than interest at first, I joined as a volunteer ambulance officer as we relied on this service in our country town.  Spending night after night listening to your son breathing and trying to avoid the next hospital visit, constant fear and worry about what will happen next is a monotony that you just cannot get away from. Something I would not wish upon my worst enemy.

It's a relief to be able to look back on those times with the current knowledge that I have now; my eldest son is nineteen years old and enjoys a normal healthy life.  He still gets very occasional eczema but is no longer anaphylactic to foods, he can even enjoy ice cream and chocolate just like everyone else. It's amazing what a child misses out on growing up when they are allergic to even the butter on everyone else's bread. Those days of worry are over, he still has asthma but hasn't had a bad attack in years.  You always wonder if it will ever come back, if there will be something new to worry about. However, watching him live his life like a normal person is truly a reward that makes me realise that it was all worthwhile, that we made it.

Sadly though, nineteen years on and I am back to where I started from, this time with a four year old who also has allergies.  In addition, my 8 year old son was recently diagnosed with asthma, after years of me being in denial about it. Thankfully neither is as severe as my eldest son, I am extremely thankful for that!  However, the hives that my four year old son breaks out in is truly frightening.  About 2-3 years ago we first noticed that he was allergic to 'something' when he would come in from playing outside itchy and covered in hives. These were generally controlled with Zyrtec, one day he rubbed at his itchy eye so badly the whites of his eye began protruding outward; a horrifying sight which unfortunately I had already experienced with my first son. A trip to the hospital and a referral to the same allergy paediatrician my eldest son saw put me at ease. Once he was skin tested it was established that he was allergic to basic allergens such as dust, mould, grasses and pollens.  The doctor felt he was simply giving himself skin tests when in contact with these allergens, with the reactions only topical and not systemic or dangerous.  Phew, what a relief, I could deal with that.

The next few years consisted of draining our fair share of Zyrtec and all was good.  That was until a couple of days ago when my four year old admitted he was itchy, something he often avoids as he knows he gets medicine.  I was absolutely horrified at what I saw when I lifted up his shirt, his entire back and shoulders were covered in hives, so badly swollen they had all melded together to be almost one giant hive.  Poor little guy, must have been awful for him. Zyrtec reduced the swelling, as did a bath, the addition of Prednisolone helped reduce the redness as well as an application of topical cortisone cream.

He woke the next morning with lovely smooth renewed skin, one of those amazing moments when you blink and wonder had you simply imagined the hideous sight his skin had been the day before.  There were a couple of faded spots on his belly so to be on the safe side I gave more Zyrtec and we went about our day. During the afternoon another report of spots led me to inspect him again, this time he was literally covered in more hives which were quickly morphing from small spots into larger circular hives spreading outwards. I administered another dose of Prednisolone and booked a GP appointment. The GP was as perplexed as I was and we agreed I should try a stronger antihistamine next and keep an eye on him.  Two doses of Phenergan four hours apart made me think I was on the home stretch when I put him to bed.

Alerted to coughing coming from his bedroom not long afterwards, and finding my little guy squirming in bed and with a coughing fit made me realise it wasn't over.  Despite all the medication the hives were even more angry and mutliplying, spreading quickly over his body again and again.  That was too much for me to sit back and watch him suffer through, I whisked him off into the dark night to the emergency department.  Even while we waited and he slept, I watched the hives spread out and disappear, reappearing in new patches of skin that hadn't yet been consumed.  I am pretty convinced that every inch of his body by this stage had been affected at one point or another, including his scalp!  

We were eventually discharged with a pat on the back for doing all the right treatment and encouraged to wait it out.  It was confirmed that they were definitely hives, as to why, none of us knew.  Whatever it was it wasn't leaving my poor little guy until it had covered every inch of his skin.  Today is a new day and a promising one, his body has cleared up amazingly well except for his lower legs.  Surely, surely, this is it now. 

Just when I thought I knew all there was to know about children, allergies and basically anything at all, I am quickly shown I know absolutely nothing and am at the mercy of fate.  Sometimes things just happen and all you can do is deal with it one day at a time and hope that tomorrow is a better day....

 Washed only in sorbolene...
 My eldest son's trademark eczema mouth!

 Mummy I'm itchy!

03 April 2014

18 : Boys - Something Blue

Boys are Blue, Girls are Pink!

In our new politically correct gender neutral world sometimes our children can get lost in all of the fuss.  I have to say that generally boys and girls do behave and play differently, whether we like it or not.  I certainly have never forced 'boy' toys and games on my boys or 'girl' toys and games on my girls when they were young, however, I do go with the flow and let them loose on whatever takes their fancy.  

My boys, all four of them, have at different times tried playing with traditional girl toys.  However, if they have picked up a doll they tended to drive it at full speed in a truck smashing it against a wall, rather than rock it gently like my girls naturally seemed to do.  Every child has their own unique personality and sensitivities regardless of gender.  As parents we learn to adapt and allow our children's personalities to shine through and to manage each child according to their needs.  

I grew up referred to as a 'Tom Boy' as I enjoyed playing with boys and going on adventures, I absolutely detested dolls and wearing dresses.  However, I did enjoy 'looking after things' when I was a child and have grown up to be a mother of six children, despite my allergies to activities such as vacuuming, ironing and sewing.

There are no specific boy activities or girl activities that exclude the other, however, after having four boys and two girls I can say that all my children played quite differently.  Whether politically correct or not it was only my two girls that enjoyed playing at length with their baby dolls and dancing as fairies, tutus and all; enjoyed wearing dresses and patent leather shoes and caring for their appearance.  Both were very 'girly' and well exceeded my meager abilities to arrange and groom hair by the age of two!  All of my children have thoroughly enjoyed dressing up, however my boys have probably spent more time dressed as some sort of character than the girls have.  One of my son's was dressed as Father Christmas for six months!  You know who you are...  

The two youngest boys are both sensitive and artistic, yet they love to run at full speed, rough play scenes from their favourite shows and climb like monkeys over play equipment and hang with the dogs outside. Whether you want to say they are acting like boys or simply as children, these are a few snaps of my boys being 'themselves' one afternoon after school.  Judge for yourself...

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