Friday, December 5, 2014

Plug and Feather Stone Face Watches

Two years ago, two friends and watch enthusiasts from Santa Monica were frustrated by the lack of unique, commercially-available watches. They decided to fill this niche by creating Plug and Feather Stone Face Watches, a spectacular and elegant fusion of unique semi-precious stones and 21st Century timepiece technology. The result is a beautiful and distinctive watch, each one unique and with its own story to tell.

The face of the watch is crafted using Plug and Feather’s StoneStable technology to ensure the stone’s durability. As each stone is a piece of nature, no two watches will be the same: each stone face has the distinctive markings and inclusions unique to each stone. Using these stones as watch faces is an original concept and the result is an eye-catching, yet sophisticated timepiece.

You have the choice of several different stone faces, each sourced from a different international location. There’s Sodalite, a serene, royal blue stone first discovered in Greenland; Cloud Jasper, a marbled milky-white stone sourced from China; Charoite, a distinctively textured lavender coloured stone, sourced primarily from Siberia; Snowflake Obsidian, an offbeat mottled stone created from rapidly-cooling volcanic lava; and Carnelian, which has a delicate cherry shade and boasts a long history of use in jewellery dating back to ancient times.

Each beautiful stone is the star of the watch, placed in an elegant and simple setting so as not to detract from each stone’s beauty. The watches are available with either a steel or genuine leather oil-tanned strap for either a modern or vintage look.

Now, after two years of research and design, Plug and Feather are finally ready to launch these stunning watches. Using the Kickstarter platform, Plug and Feather are hoping to raise enough to fund their first line of watches. Kickstarter works by raising money through online pledges, but people backing the company are only charged if Plug and Feather reach their goal. Because of the great start the Kickstarter campaign has had after less than 24 hours, Kickstarter backers are being given a heavily discounted rate on the watches: only $99 instead of the usual retail price of $300. Backers are also offered free shipping within the USA and discounted international shipping.

Plug and Feather Stone Face Watches appeal to the traveller, the geologist, the nature enthusiast, the person who values uniqueness and creativity, or the person who appreciates beauty and quality craftsmanship. With your help, Plug and Feather can take the final step into making their dream a reality.

To pledge your support for this Kickstarter campaign, go to the Plug and Feather Kickstarter Campaign Page. By backing this project, you are eligible to receive rewards as well as receive a discounted rate for your very own one-of-a-kind, original Plug and Feather Stone Face Watch.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Finding Your Blogging Voice

I really struggled with blogging at first. I felt really awkward and worried that readers would be negatively judging my writing ability.

My confidence in my writing grew through academic writing that I do for university. As I've mentioned, I'm working towards a BA in English Literature, so I write a lot of essays for my course. I find academic writing a bit easier in a way. It's formal in tone and you can't inject your own opinions into it. It's nice to sit back and hide behind the learned persona. A person could read my essays and have no clue about me at all, which is kind of the point. But writing in that way feels safer. You're not vulnerable. I receive good marks for my essays and my lecturers always comment on my clear and fluent writing style. Having that sort of feedback on my writing itself has been a huge confidence booster.

Blogging, on the other hand, is the opposite of academic writing. It's highly personal and you are putting yourself way out there. Anyone who reads this can know all sorts of things about me that I've put into the narrative. It's also more informal in style, more conversational. I feel that the way I write here is fairly representative of the way I talk: full of contractions, colloquialisms, and slang.

Having the positive feedback from an unbiased source (my uni lecturers) has given me the confidence to write in other ways too, including here on the blog. I think it's taken me a long time to be confident in my writing and putting it out there for the world to read, but I'm feeling much better about it now.

The other thing that's helped me is reading. I've always read a lot, and I'll read pretty much anything but the biggest tip I can give is to read authors whose writing styles you want to emulate. If you want to learn a fast-paced, aggressive, informal style, read Stephen King. If you want a more refined, contemporary, literary style, read some contemporary literature: I recently read Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and really enjoyed her writing (and the story). If you want to write something set in Victorian times, read Mary Shelley. Or better yet, read all of them and use each author's strengths to develop your own style.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My Favourite Holiday Memory

As an Australian who has lived in Australia most of her life, I almost missed the best holiday experience of my life. Except, luckily, there was that brief interlude where I lived in America for about a year and a half. And in that brief period I got to experience the most wonderful holiday experience of my life; one I had never experienced before, and am yet to experience again. In fact, I don't think I'll ever get lucky enough for things to work out the way they did that day.

My holiday experiences in America were all wonderful and movie-perfect. Holidays fell in the correct seasons, I experienced Thanksgiving, a real Halloween, and a Fourth of July complete with fireworks in the street next to our wooden house (thanks guys). But really, none compare to what occurred on my Birthday Eve.

Are birthdays holidays? They should be!

I had never seen snow before in my life, but I'd always wanted to. It was definitely something on my bucket list. I wanted to see soft flakes falling, I wanted to build a snowman, I wanted to see everything covered in a cold blanket of white.

At the time of November 22, 2010, we lived just north of Seattle. I'd been cautioned that although it does snow in Seattle, it doesn't necessarily happen every year, and sometimes it's nothing more than just a flurry in the air that doesn't stick. But I was certain it would happen for me.

November 22nd is the day before my birthday: my birthday eve, if you will. I had been carefully checking the weather forecast every day like a girl possessed. I saw 'snow showers' being forecast, then changing, then forecast again, then going away again. It was driving me crazy. But, on that day, I saw it: the first white flakes swirling in the air. I saw the light dusting of powder settle on the hood of the car, on the pavement.

The flurry begins.

"It's snowing!" I was so excited I could hardly even stand it. Again, I was warned. The temperatures hadn't dropped below freeing yet, and it was far too early for real snow. Those might be flakes you see on the car and on the pavement, but they won't stick. You watch: the ground is too warm. The snow will melt before it can build up.

I was disappointed. We went to the store, we came home and did a few things. I caught glances out the window now and then, and I even went outside a few times to see the scattering of flakes and to attempt to catch a snowflake on my tongue (and failed miserably).

It was dark by late afternoon, so we had dinner and I put Felix, at that time a baby, to bed. We sat around and relaxed. We watched a movie. A few hours passed.

My sister-in-law Marissa had been outside for some reason or another, and that's when I saw what had happened.

The entire street, the neighbourhood, the world, had turned into a winter wonderland! Thick white snow covered everything in sight. The street had disappeared, and the snow kept falling, illuminated by the yellow glow of the street lights. Real snow! Real snow for me, the night before my birthday!

I wasted no time in throwing on the warmest clothes I had (jeans, boots and a borrowed ski jacket) and I ran gleefully out into the snow. I didn't care that it was 10pm and the neighbours were sleeping. I ran up and down that street. I made footprints in the snow. I gathered snow into snowballs and felt the icy pricks of pain extend through my bare fingers. I threw myself on the ground and made a snow angel. I watched the occasional car slowly make its way up our street in the darkness, the headlights making the snow shine. I played out in the snow until I physically couldn't stand the cold any longer, and I finally headed inside.

The next day I woke up a year older and to a beautiful landscape of snow glittering in the sunshine. I can't remember how long the snow stuck around for, and we did have several snow showers that melted away that winter, but I'll never forget the time it snowed just for me.

The Perfect Organisation

I know I write a lot about cystic fibrosis (obviously it features quite heavily in my life) but I've been thinking a lot recently about my career. You know, the one that doesn't exist. That career will hopefully exist at some point in the future, once I get that pesky degree out the way and both the kids are in school.

In considering what kind of career I'd like to have, I've been taking my interests into account. Besides my family, my first love is English. Which explains why I'm studying a BA in English Literature. I enjoy writing and reading, and if I could one day be paid to write I'd be living the dream. Humanitarianism is also something important to me. If I could combine the two, I could happily do that for the rest of my life.

I'm participating in NaBloPoMo this month, and the first prompt asks participants to imagine an amazing brand or organisation they'd love to work with. Well, here's mine.

Imagine an organisation that sends writers to Australian offshore detention centres. Writers who could interview the asylum seekers and refugees seeking Australian protection, who could get to know these people, these families, who could understand where they've come from and where they are currently. Writers who could give these people a voice. Writers who could tell their stories.

Imagine all of these stories in a collection: a website, or even a book. Australian politics have been grossly over interested in asylum seekers and refugees in Australia, and to their detriment. The government has decided to take a hard line when it comes to desperate people seeking refuge. I don't understand it, and the only thing that keeps me going is knowing there are a lot of fellow Australians who don't agree with the government's stance.

Asylum seekers are not the enemy. They are people just like you and me, with educations, families, jobs, skills, hopes and dreams for the future. They are running away from desperate circumstances and the Australian government feels it is right to throw them into detention indefinitely instead of extending a helping hand. We are wealthy with rich resources: more than enough to go around.

I think telling their stories is incredibly important. These people are treated like dirt, like a plague threatening the Australian way of life. Nameless, faceless, the enemy. Let's give them names and faces. Let's show people that we are the same. Let's bring them into the light and welcome them with open arms. Maybe this will change the current fear and hatred they face. Maybe it will convince people to be kinder, to fight for change, and to help asylum seekers.

That is my perfect organisation: writing to enact change and to give a voice to the voiceless.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Pharmacy Dilemma

Hello! Yes, I know, I've been AWOL. All the usual excuses, etc. 

Anyway, there have been some changes to the way things are run at PMH pharmacy. I found this out recently when I went in to pick up some tobramycin for Victor. He'd had a cough and we decided to start him on a two-week course of nebs (totally cleared up now). The first change is that PMH staff cannot drop the scripts into the pharmacy for you any I had to arrive at PMH, pick up the script from Respiratory, then head upstairs, drop it into pharmacy, and then hang around for ninety minutes while it was filled. Naturally, this caused some annoyance. 

Then when we went back on Thursday for our usual clinic appointment, I learned something amazing. Scripts no longer have to be filled by PMH pharmacy. That's right, I can take the script anywhere, to any pharmacy, to be filled.

What this means is that I no longer have to hang around for three hours, waiting for meds every few months. I can drop the script into my local pharmacy and have it filled there in just a few minutes. This is game changing! This is totally amazing!

But wait! Don't you know that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is? Yeah, now for the bad news.

The problem with picking up CF meds from a regular pharmacy is that they don't generally have these types of meds in stock. I called our local pharmacy and asked whether they could get any Creon in for us. They said they could, and it would take about 24 hours to arrive. That sounded perfect to me.

However, when I went to pick up the Creon, they only had five bottles in stock...not twelve. They said the rest should arrive the next day. So I paid for the lot and took the five they had home with me.

The next day they called me and said that their supplier was actually out of stock.

Basically, this has turned from a three hour wait to an entire week of waiting, and just for one medicine.

I guess this is the reality of living with a 'rare' disease. Your local pharmacy pumps out thousands of boxes of antibiotics, contraceptive pills, antidepressants, heart meds, and various other remedies with speed and precision, every day. But we are living outside the norm. Most people don't even know what Creon is, let alone order it on a regular basis. 

I'd really like to establish a good relationship with a local pharmacy: pharmacists who know us, know the family, and understand our (apparently unique) medical needs. I could rely on them to have our meds in stock each time (and really, I don't think that's too much to ask: we order the same thing, more or less, every three months, barring the occasional order of tobramycin). Is this feasible, or am I reverting to some small-town dream?

Another factor which may be worth taking into consideration is that with the load taken off PMH pharmacy, perhaps the wait times won't be as long there? Ok, don't laugh. I think we all know that's just never going to happen.

So which is it: 3 hour wait after clinic, or the ambiguity of not knowing when/if the meds will be coming in closer to home? 

Hopefully we'll be hearing from them soon! 

Monday, May 12, 2014

I Was Featured on BlogHer

Did I tell you? A post I wrote, Mind Your Words, was chosen to be featured on BlogHer. The title was changed and a picture added, which is fine by me, because I can't think of titles to save my life. That's why all the titles I come up with are crap. I really struggle with it. Anyway, you can imagine how excited I was! VERY. I skipped around the house and was totally unable to do anything else for the rest of the night. I just bounced around and kept asking Phil, 'are you impressed? Isn't this amazing?' He agreed that yes, super impressive, yes, so amazing, now please calm down. I did not.

Eventually the comments came rolling in. Yes! People are actually reading things I wrote AND responding to it! Then I read the comments. Whaa...?

Ok, so, not everyone is going to like the things I write. I'm totally fine with that. I did feel that a lot of the comments missed the point of my post completely, but whatever. Some people got really angry with me. One person instructed me to run my computer over with my car. Don't think I'll be taking that advice. I mean, my computer is pretty clunky and slow, but how else am I going to unintentionally rile up complete strangers?

Still, I learned from the experience. I think it was probably posted in the wrong 'section'. It was posted under the Blogging/Social Media section, and I can see why that may have fit, but I think it would have been better received if it had been posted in the Family/Special Needs section. I think that the post really had less to do with how people conduct themselves over social media, and more about being sensitive to special needs families and considering your audience.

I also realised that most of the readers (all of the readers?) had not read my blog and did not know anything about me or my family. So the post probably came across as sounding quite weird. I also had commenters ask if I had a sick/special needs/disabled child. I think if I'd made it clear that I am the parent of a child with a chronic illness, it might have added a bit of context. I had originally written the post for this blog, and people who read my blog know about us. If they're new readers, I've made it simple to find out our background (Start Here). But when the post made its way to another platform, that context didn't follow along with it.

Ironic that a post I wrote about being careful what we say and who we are saying it to taught me the same lessons that I'd been trying to describe.

Of course, the comments weren't all negative. There were a lot of positive comments in there too, people who understood what I was trying to say and who could relate for a variety of reasons.

I welcome all feedback on my writing. The negative comments could have been a little more constructive, but it helped me understand my audience and improve my writing. And you know what? I have another post being featured this Wednesday!

Overall, though, I just hope that I can make a connection to others through my writing. Because that's really what blogging is about: community.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Cystic Fibrosis Picture Challenge

Since May is Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month, culminating with 65 Roses Day on the 31st, I decided to create a Picture a Day Challenge to raise awareness for CF!

I have posted this on Instagram, which is where I'll be posting my daily photos. The object is to take and post one picture every day, using the prompts, to illustrate a life with CF.

But I was careful to not only focus on the medical side of things. I want every person with CF to be shown as more than just 'someone with CF'. I tried to include prompts that people can use to show their lives outside of CF as well.

I hope this challenge will raise awareness of cystic fibrosis in a fun and interactive way. And I really hope that you join in! Feel free to share the challenge and let's give a peek into the world of CF!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Why I Quit Facebook

I've been meaning to write this post for a while, but my attempt to live intentionally and move away from the computer has worked a little too well, and I haven't sat down here to write for a long time now. Perhaps I'm compensating for too much time sucked away by this machine.

What do I mean by living intentionally? I'm not really sure. I don't think I could give an adequate definition right now. Maybe I'll need to write about it a bit more later on.

Anyway, as you can gather from the title, I quit Facebook.

The reasons are straightforward. And while there are a lot of reasons that I could explain, I just want to focus on the most important ones.

It was taking up too much of my time.
I'd sit down at my computer to look something up or to study, and I'd have Facebook open in another tab. Before I knew it, I'd spent 45 minutes on Facebook and zero time studying. I tried to cut down on my time on there, but it was useless. Just having it there was too much of a temptation for me when I had to spend time at the computer anyway. Having it on my phone was too much of a temptation for me the rest of the time. I'd wake up in the morning and check my notifications that had accumulated overnight, and by the time that was done, I'd wasted a good half hour of my morning.

It was taking up too much of my emotional energy.
I made a big effort to only have Facebook friends that were actually my friends. I would periodically clear my friends list, removing people whom I didn't want to interact with any more (or hadn't interacted with), and I carefully considered before adding any new friends to my list. Even with these precautions, I had over 100 people constantly updating their various actions every day for me to read. Over time, it became very overwhelming to me to take an active interest in the various happenings of over 100 people. That's not to say I don't care; I do care, and that's probably part of the problem. It was even more emotionally taxing to interact with strangers and to unwittingly become tangled in arguments, disagreements or even just lengthy conversations with friends-of-friends. I'm saying this as an extrovert, so I can only imagine how draining this must be for the introverted type.

It's not a genuine social interaction.
I realised that I had a need to connect with people authentically. And at the same time, I understood that everything written on Facebook is part of a facade. It's also a very lazy way of communicating, and I wanted to live in real life with other people. Whether that meant actually meeting up physically or writing emails, I wanted genuine social interaction and an authentic connection.

It wasn't making me happy.
This is probably the most important point. I was no longer gaining any happiness from Facebook, and in fact, I mainly just felt stressed from it. Waking up in the morning and seeing multiple notifications filled me with a feeling of dread. I didn't want this sense of obligation and responsibility of responding to messages and finding the time to read through all the notifications. At the same time, I could hardly look away. I felt as though I was tied to a treadmill that I didn't want to be on.

I was a very active user of Facebook and my numerous attempts to cut down on my time spent on there were ultimately futile. I understood that I was really no longer in control of the situation and that my Facebook habit was taking me away from my real life and from things that I actually wanted to do. Is it possible to be addicted to a social networking site? I'd say yes, given that I couldn't seem to limit my time spent on there on my own. It was too much of a distraction, it furthered my procrastination.

I'd actually been thinking about leaving Facebook for a very long time. It definitely has its place in society and I don't think leaving totally is the right choice for everyone. It was a lifeline for me when I lived overseas, as it enabled me to stay in contact with friends and family no matter which continent we were on at the time. And for a long time, faraway friends and family were the main reason why I didn't quit. It made it so easy to stay in contact with them. But, eventually my other reasons won out. I decided that I'd let everyone know my contact details so they could remain in contact with me if they wanted to. Are people really likely to send emails in the age of Facebook? Yes, actually, people do. If people want to remain in contact with me they will put in the effort and I will reciprocate.

And what is life like without Facebook? Freeing. Wonderful. Like I've reclaimed something I'd lost. Once Facebook was gone from my life altogether, I felt happy and calm. I was back in control of my life and could live in the present. I did feel a bit sad at first too. Six years of my life have been documented on the site, and I did have some great memories attached to it as well. But I knew the decision was for my own good and after a day or so of wondering what was happening on Facebook without me, I realised that nothing was happening there. Instead, I've filled my time with reading (I have read three novels since quitting two weeks ago), I have found the time to sew some projects I've been putting off for a year (seriously, a year). I've actually gone out and seen my friends. I have a better morning routine and it's easier for me to go to bed at a reasonable hour instead of sitting up, entangled in an online conversation.

I think that leaving the world of Facebook behind was a good step in the direction I want my life to go in, and I think it's something for other people to seriously consider if they feel the same.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bronchoscopy, CT Scan and Annual Review 2014

The past two weeks have been insanely busy for us, as it's that time of year when Victor has his bronchoscopy, CT scan and annual review.

Our time started last Tuesday with a lung function test. He was given a sedative so he was asleep for the procedure, which went very quickly. He took advantage of the situation and had a decent nap afterwards!

On Friday it was time for us to head into PMH early for Victor's bronchcoscopy. We managed to be first on the list, which was great. Everything went really well and his airways looked great.

The next Thursday was our Annual Review, where we received all the results and had a more in-depth consult with the entire CF team. Basically, things are great. There were no bugs in his lungs at all and the CT scan looked wonderful. Just what we wanted to hear!

The doctor did find a little bit of pseudomonas in his throat, but it was confirmed that the bug was not in his lungs so we're in the clear. Of course, if his health changes at all, we'll be right back there to figure out the best course of action.

Aside from that, Victor is growing well and everything else seems to be on track!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mind Your Words

I'm still here! After posting every day for a month, I needed to take a break. It ended up being a longer break than I intended and it's been nearly a whole month since I last posted!

We've been busy with life: school, playgroup, dodging library fines, and I'm back at uni.

However, there's been something weighing on my mind that's been sitting there for a while. It has to do with people spouting well-meaning platitudes that unfortunately come across as being condescending, hurtful, ignorant or even just cruel.

A few weeks ago a friend posted something on facebook along the lines of 'all that really matters is that the people you love are happy and healthy. Everything else is just sprinkles on the sundae.' Now, aside from the fact that this little saying is quite revoltingly saccharine (not sure how anyone could honestly say that with sincerity), what is it really saying about people?

At first glance, this cutesy little clump of words tells us what to truly value in life. It could be interpreted as saying that all our superficial worries are meaningless, because health and happiness are what's truly important. Now, on that point, I can agree. Society is wrapped up in meaningless little squabbles and places value in all the wrong things. But look again at how this is worded. It is essentially saying that happiness and health are the most important things in life. Well, are they?

While I think most people would agree that striving to live a healthy life is important, the fact is that not everyone can achieve the gold standard of 'health' that this little saying seems to be talking about. It seems to ostracize those with chronic or incurable illnesses. What do they get? No sprinkles on the sundae and maybe not even a sundae to begin with?

If this friend had simply posted about how happy she is that her family is happy and healthy, I would agree. I am happy for everyone who manages to attain this, whether through hard work or dumb luck. But the wording of the platitude makes it about other people. And you know what, it's actually not ok to make blanket statements that refer to other people. About anything. Even if you are a dead celebrity (because it's not my friend's original quote).

I get that this was well-meaning, but at the same time, it really stung when I read it. I couldn't help but feel bitter about it. You have your health? Well aren't you just fabulous.

It's almost as bad as the throwaway line that gets spouted by millions of smug, unthinking pregnant women. "I don't mind if it's a boy or a girl, as long as it's healthy."

Sorry, what? As long as it's healthy? And what if it's not? You'll send it right back to the baby store? I heard the stork doesn't have a good return policy.

Obviously everyone wants their baby to be healthy. You don't have to say it, we already know. We also like to assume that people love their children whether they are born practically perfect in every way or with some additional challenges to face. This little saying, though, makes me wonder. Think about it: we'll love a boy or a girl, as long as it's healthy. What's the unspoken part that comes after that? And if it's not, well...

Luckily, there's a very simple solution. Think about the words coming out of your mouth. If you can't think of anything to say aside from parroting a tired, patronizing line, then maybe it's best to not say anything at all.

Try this one instead: "I don't mind having a boy or a girl. I hope our baby is happy."
Or this: "I hope our baby is healthy, but if not, we'll still consider ourselves lucky to have them."

We have to take care of each other in life. It's no use spouting little sayings about the important things in life if they are not said with kindness and empathy. After all, no one knows what the future holds.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Meaning Behind "Frozen"

The boys have been obsessed with Disney's new movie Frozen. For those of you who haven't seen this movie, you might want to stop reading now because this contains spoilers.

Art copyright believed to belong to Walt Disney Pictures. Origin

The story is basically about a princess, Elsa, who can magically create ice and snow, but after an accident she is forced to hide this ability away until she can control it. Her childhood motto, "conceal it, don't feel it, don't let it show" underpins her entire existence. She even hides from her younger sister, Anna, creating distance between them.

Eventually, Elsa's secret is revealed in a dramatic and negative way. She then runs away to live her life in freedom, in the snow-covered mountains. Anna goes after her, looking for a way to get rid of Elsa's magic ice that is now covering the town, and searching for a way to connect with her sister.

The ending, and moral of the story, is that love can melt a frozen heart. Anna needed an act of true love to fix her heart, frozen after being accidentally struck by magical ice, and she believed that she needed true love's kiss. But it was actually the love of her sister, Elsa, who broke the spell and restored their town to its correct season.

When I first saw this movie, I thought it was cute, although a little bit cheesy. But I guess all Disney movies do need that bit of saccharine, and showing the power of love in all its forms is a great message to send young viewers.

As I watched it more and more (and more....I told you, the boys love this movie), it finally dawned on me that Elsa's powers were actually metaphorical, and there were far deeper meanings present in the story than I had noticed at first. Yeah, I'm the best English student in the world. Only took me how long to work this out?!

I think there can be a few specific interpretations for Elsa's powers. One that seems to fit is that Elsa is gay. It's mentioned in the film that she is born with these powers. She is different, and she is instructed to hide her difference away by trying to repress it. I know that's a message that a lot of gay people receive. This never worked well for her, and eventually she ran away where she could be free to be herself. Subsequently, she was a lot happier for it, and created a magnificent ice palace (and somehow made a dress out When she finally accepted herself for who she is, she was finally able to control the powers that had ruled her for her entire life.

However, my first guess was that Elsa had a problem that could be seen negatively, but if she learned to work with it and accept it, could work to her advantage. I was thinking along the lines of autism, which society often labels a disability, but if it's viewed as just a different way of thinking rather than a disadvantage, can actually be more like a gift. Rather than trying to force people into perfect boxes, we need to learn to accept people as they are.

This interpretation can work with anything, really. Elsa is everyone's princess. She represents everyone who ever felt different, everyone who never fit in. She's the one who was told to conceal it, don't feel it, don't let it show. She's the one who tried so hard to "be the good girl you always have to be". The metaphor actually works better in a more general way. It's open so that people can freely make their own interpretation and relate to Elsa on a very personal level.

Elsa shows that being yourself is the best way to live. She learns to control and work with her power, bringing beauty and joy to everyone around her.

But, we can't forget another very important character: her sister, Anna. I think it's really important to notice that Anna always accepted and loved her sister. She never shunned her. She was never afraid of her. When Elsa physically hid from Anna, Anna never gave up trying to connect with her sister. When Elsa's powers were revealed, Anna wanted to help her sister. When Elsa ran away, Anna ran right after her. Elsa was so convinced that she had to hide away from people that she even hid away from the one person who loved her unconditionally.

Frozen is far from a simple cartoon for kids. It can teach us many things about love and acceptance. Acceptance of others, and acceptance of ourselves. And I love the Trolls: how many nuggets of wisdom do they come out with, and they're completely adorable! What a wonderful modern fairytale for today's children: catchy songs, stunning visuals and beautiful messages for them to internalize, making this film an instant classic.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Germs Have Spread!

I didn't post yesterday because germs were attacking me internally and I had to go to bed right away. Seriously, I couldn't stand to be awake, so the minute the kids were in bed I went to bed too. I really needed it...I must have slept for about ten hours. I had a fever and everything hurt. Even my skin hurt where fabric was against it. I took some Panadol and fell asleep as fast as I could, which was pretty fast.

Both the boys have this horrible cold, although I think I have it the worst. Phil's managed to avoid it so far and I really hope he doesn't get it. Felix is pretty much over it now, I think. Even though he had a low fever on Sunday he always insisted that he was fine and didn't feel sick. He still has a bit of a runny nose and the occasional cough but it generally dries up by mid-morning. Aside from that, he is his usual self and running around as normal.

Victor also has a runny nose and has sneezed a few times, but luckily he hasn't started coughing. I have an ear out for it but so far he's in the clear. He's been a bit more tired than usual but aside from that, playing and eating as normal.

It's easy to think that every illness is disaster, especially in the early days with cystic fibrosis. I've come to realise that it's just not the case. Kids with CF are definitely capable of fighting off infections without any assistance: Victor has not required any medication for this summer cold, which is really good. A common misconception is that people with CF have weak immune systems or that they are immunocompromised. The reality is that their immune systems are just as good as anyone else's, unless they have additional conditions as well as CF. The reason that people with CF have to avoid germs as much as they can and why respiratory illness is more serious for them is because of the condition inside their lungs. Inside their lungs is thick, sticky mucus, which they can't expel on their own. (This is why we need to do physio twice a day!). This mucus creates the perfect breeding ground for all sorts of nasty bugs, including opportunistic pathogens that aren't of any concern to healthy people. So if Victor can avoid catching respiratory infections in the first place, then we can avoid them spreading and setting their claws into his lungs, where they will multiply and create permanent lung damage.

Of course, this is real life, where there's just no chance of him living illness-free forever. Three weeks in, and Felix has already brought germs home from school. We knew this would happen, and it's just something you have to deal with. No one can live in a bubble, and it's not fair or practical to even try. We try to do our best with common-sense hygiene. Perhaps we think about it a little more than everyone else does, but it is a big deal for us.

Anyway, here's hoping that this stupid bug leaves us very quickly. I'm feeling a lot better than yesterday, just congested, which is very annoying. Now I'm just going to keep a careful eye on Victor over the weekend...he did have a little fever today, but maybe a good sleep tonight will show it the door.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thinking About Fundraising

Oh, something I forgot to mention. I joined the P&C Committee at Felix's school. I have expressed an interest in doing this for a long time, but I worry a bit because a lot of the 'been there, done that' mums have told me not to. Why?! I asked. Is it like the Mafia? Is this a life commitment?

No, the reassuring answer came. It's just a lot of work.

Hmm, work you say. Well, I don't want to take on too much. At the same time, I am pretty nosy and want to know everything that's going on.

I went to the first meeting and it was pretty good. I guess a lot of other people received the same message because there weren't many people there at all. I'm really glad I did go, as it gave me a lot of insight into how the school functions and things that are happening in the pipeline. It also laid bare just how vital fundraising and donations are for the school. It's a public school, so you'd think the government would cover all of our needs, but the government only covers the absolute basics. If we want things like smartboards, new library books, excursions, things like that, we need to raise a certain amount from the school community. Obviously, the way the government recently decided to cut the education budget is not exactly helpful.

Fundraising is such a difficult thing to do and it's also tricky to know which is the best course of action to take.

Do you ask for a set amount as a school contribution from each family per year?

Do you set up fundraising activities and sales throughout the year?

There are pros and cons to each. If we ask for a set contribution per year, people may not pay it. Some people might feel that we're asking too much. If we set up activities throughout the year, people might feel as though they're constantly being heckled for money, and obviously it's a lot more work to set up.

On another note, I am pretty sure that I want to give CF fundraising another go this year...we participated in Great Strides in 2012 and while it was a great experience, it was also very emotionally taxing on so many levels. Or maybe I'll just 'borrow' a few fundraising ideas and we'll have our own event!

Optimist or Pessimist?

I would definitely consider myself an optimist, mainly because I don't see much point in being anything else. I don't think being optimistic means that you naively assume the best, no matter the odds or evidence showing otherwise. I think being optimistic is a decision that you make every day. It forces you to be creative and never stop searching for a solution to whatever problem you're facing. It gives you the ability to see what you have, in its entirety: life will give you the cynical view. You don't need to search for that. Optimism gives you the positive side. Sometimes, the only positive thing is that maybe you can help others. Sometimes, the only positive thing is a lesson learned the hard way; but those lessons are often the most valued.

I'm not saying that everything in life is wonderful or something to smile about. There are far too many things that are pure misery and hopelessness. But by choosing optimism, you are choosing to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Far from making you a silly do-gooder, it makes you resilient. You have to chug along on the belief that things will get better. Even when things get worse before they get better.

Everyone has peaks and valleys in their emotional state, and some seem more extreme or prolonged than others. Overall I'd say I am happy, perhaps a little anxiety-prone. Highly-strung, as someone once called me. They further elaborated, "There are greyhounds, there are thoroughbred horses, and there are people like you." But over the years I've been able to learn to moderate these extremes and gain control over myself. Instead of hitting the panic button the instant something doesn't seem to be going the way I'd expected, I can now calmly rationalize and think and work out the best course of action. Not 100% of the time...obviously. But when faced with a challenge, I tend to consider there must be a way.

Being able to calmly work out a resolution is a thousand times easier when it's someone else's problem. You're not as emotionally involved. But you get the most practise working out your own problems, and it's better that way anyway. I'm a work in progress, like everyone else on the planet.

One of my favourite little thoughts is the saying "plan for the worst, but hope for the best." It's helped me avoid disappointment just in the act of being prepared. It's a different way of considering what is the worst thing that could possibly happen. Sometimes when you think of things that way, you realise they are often not all that bad. You think, well, if that's the worst case, I can probably deal with that. But at the same time you are also keeping the glimmer of hope that things might turn out wonderfully, or at least not-bad.

So really, when you consider it that way, doesn't it just make sense to be optimistic? Doesn't pessimism seem like a gigantic waste of time and energy? Not only are you looking for the worst in every situation, you're likely to find it and that will obviously have a negative effect on your attitude and overall mood. You won't be looking for the solutions: you're giving up before you even start. I know which choice I'd prefer to make.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

First Illness of the Year

The dubious honor of having the first illness of the year goes to Felix.

Now I'm suddenly remembering all the things I wasn't looking forward to at the start of school, germs being one of them. I can't say I'm really surprised. Seems on target, to be honest. He has a temperature, a runny nose and a dry cough. He is insistent that he is perfectly fine and well.

I think all he needs is a good sleep and a few restful days. Wednesday is his first day of the school week, so hopefully he's better by then. It means I get to spend the next few days cleaning like crazy in the attempt to get these germs out of my house and minimize the spread (ha, fat chance).

Monday is meant to be our library day but we'll give it a miss tomorrow. Instead, we might do some quiet activities at home. Depending on how he feels in the morning, this might include setting him up on the couch with pillows and blankets and a movie, but we'll see.

Any time the boys get sick I take the opportunity to go crazy making all sorts of comfort food, which I guess they don't find too comforting since they hardly ever eat it (or like it). Oh well.

Anyway, that's how our weekend ended up: one sick boy and myself left with the feeling of germs everywhere and a little bit like an extra in the movie Contagion. I mean it's not quite on that scale, but quarantining is pretty ineffective in our house!

On the plus side I took the opportunity to show Felix the sneeze video and he is making a real effort to catch all his sneezes with his elbow. Yay!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Running Sucks

I have about ten kilos that I need to lose. I also don't have a lot of cash to spend. Have you ever noticed how expensive gyms and fitness classes are? Well, I'm trying to avoid that. So I thought: running! Running is free. Sure, it's not very exciting, but in the modern age we live in, I can just listen to iTunes. And it's cardio, so I'm sure that will shift those extra kilos really quick.

I downloaded the Couch to 5K app. The one that promises that you can run 5K in just a few months. I thought I'd hit the jackpot. All I had to do was stick to it and I could be one of those skinny, fit-looking people running around the block without even breaking a sweat. I read up on the benefits of running. I read testimonials from people who had used the program with success, I hear frequently from runner friends about the euphoric high they feel after a run. I could use some of that. Ok, doing it.

I first tried this over a year ago, and started out well, but within two weeks I had managed to injure seemingly all the joints in my legs. I forgot about it for a while and picked it back up a few months ago with new, better shoes and a bit more enthusiasm.

I don't know when this exercise high is meant to kick in, because let me tell you, I didn't feel a thing. Well, no, I felt lots of things. Mainly negative things. I set off early in the morning before Phil left for work and before anyone sane was awake to see my pathetic struggle around the block. I found a nearby park that was quiet and basically did laps around it. I listened to music, which was probably the only good thing to come out of the whole experience. It was just horrible.

I kept trying, though. I'd head out three times a week and noticed some marginal improvement, but I still didn't enjoy it. At the end of a run I just felt drained and exhausted. Apparently, early-morning exercise is meant to make you feel like you've accomplished something and motivate you for the rest of the day. For me, it did the exact opposite.

I don't think it's because I'm entirely adverse to exercise. I spent most of my life dancing ballet until I reached a peak of over 20 hours each week of ballet and other dance-related activities. I know how to push myself and I know that it's not always fun, but at the end of a ballet class I did feel that sense of accomplishment, and usually I couldn't wait to get back in there again.

So it dawned on me that maybe I'm just not a runner. Maybe I am just not meant to run, that this absolute lack of anything resembling enjoyment means I just need to find a different activity, because this is not the one for me.

Kind of sucks for the budget-conscious people, learning that you can't use your neighbourhood as a gym.

If time and money were no limits, I would go back to ballet class about three times a week. Unfortunately, time and money are limits, so for now I'm following along with yoga classes on YouTube. There are many channels there that provide you with free yoga classes, so with a little bit of searching you can find the right class.

Yoga may not be getting the weight off as quick as running potentially could, but at least I'm doing something that I actually enjoy. I'm not likely to dread an impending yoga class the way I dreaded my morning runs, which ultimately means I'll be getting more exercise in overall. I think this is absolutely key to any exercise program: it has to be something that you like!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Show Me Friday: Where I Like to Write

I have a desktop computer so obviously each blog post is written in the same location. It's a pretty uninspiring one: a small Ikea desk shoved into the corner of the kitchen/dining room. Any scrap of space not taken up with the computer is covered in bits of paper, sunglasses, empty coffee cups, random spoons that Felix likes to give me, and sometimes long-lost treasures trapped between the edge of the desk and the wall. I like to keep the rest of the house relatively tidy, but for some reason this little forgotten corner always escapes. Pretty gross, actually, so let's just not think about that any more.

So instead of where I like to sit and write, here is what I like to write on. Or in. This is my 2014 diary, more of a master book for the entire year that will be filled with appointments and notes and Very Important snippets of information and essential papers that I can't lose. I get a new diary every year, always week to an opening, and I keep every single one of them because they are goldmines of information. Need to find that recipe? 2010 Diary. What's the number for that doctor that we use for backup in case we can't see the regular doctor? Check in the back of the 2012 Diary.

I do try to transfer as much information as I can to each new diary, but there's limited space so I can't write everything. This year I am using a Kikki K diary. It's visually appealing with lots of spaces to write all that extra info. This one even has special pages in between each month with a writing or drawing prompt...very cute, but honestly, I'm not 100% sold on that yet. Although I love going back through old diaries and seeing what I was getting up to back then, so maybe I will come to love those extra pages.

Do you use a paper diary? A calendar app? Or just your own memory?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Victor's Clinic Check Up: February 2014

Today was a massive day for us and I feel like I haven't been home at all today. Victor had his usual three-monthly cystic fibrosis clinic checkup in the afternoon and Felix was at school for a full day, so Phil took the day off from work to help me out.

We all walked to school together in the morning, and then Phil, Victor and I went grocery shopping (so much easier with two adults!).

After that, it was time to go to clinic. Phil stayed home so he could pick Felix up, and I went on my own with Victor.

First was a little checkup for the drug study Victor is taking part in, which is basically just weighing and measuring him, something we do anyway. Then we went upstairs and saw Victor's doctor and the physiotherapist. Everything is going really well and Victor is very healthy. The only point of concern is that Victor didn't gain any weight since the last checkup three months ago. This could be for a few reasons, so at the moment we're not going to do anything, besides the usual high-fat, high-calorie diet. We're going to see what happens next clinic and then figure out if anything else needs to be done. Overall his weight gain has been good, so having one little plateau is not a reason for us to start jumping up and down. We also started him on an additional Vitamin D supplement, which is pretty standard amongst CF patients. His vitamin levels were good about a year ago but we just want to be sure we're covering all bases.

We were even out in record time: one of the lovely researchers took our prescription to pharmacy while we were still in the physio appointment so they were able to get a head start on getting our meds together. We ended up being there for only four hours, which is pretty good! Victor was at his limit and bored and cranky by the end, which is pretty understandable.

After clinic, waiting for meds to be ready.

Overall it's been a very long and exhausting day, but at least it went well! And I even managed to sneak out to the bookstore for a few essentials.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

So Many Muffins

I have a habit of making muffins. Lots and lots of muffins. All kinds of muffins: sweet ones, savory ones, ones that are a little confused. Muffins that turn out fantastically well, others that...don't.

I have a basic muffin recipe that I add whatever flavours I want to. I make fruity muffins for breakfast or for snacks, savory vegetable and cheese muffins for lunch. It's a good way to use up leftovers, or when you don't have anything in the house. Sometimes I make chocolate muffins.

The boys think I'm feeding them cake, so they eat it.

You can be so creative with this recipe: it's pretty foolproof. The base recipe just requires basic pantry staples.

Banana muffins
2 cups self-raising flour
1 egg
1/4 cup oil: vegetable or canola is best
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar if making sweet muffins

Mix and bake in a cupcake tin at 180C for 20 minutes.

Our favourite sweet flavours:
Maple (just a big dollop of maple syrup).
Sultana (about 1/2 cup sultanas mixed in).
Chocolate chip: exactly what it sounds like.
Apple and cinnamon: Peel and chop up 2 or 3 apples into small chunks and add with about 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon. You can also use brown sugar instead of white.
Mixed berry: Just defrost about 1/2 cup of frozen berries and swirl into the mix.

Our favourite savory flavours:
Cheese and ham: about 1/2 cup of grated cheese and chopped up slices of ham.
Grated vegetable: Grate up raw veggies such as carrot, zucchini, capsicum, whatever, and mix in.
Cheese and mushroom.
Cheese and sundried tomatoes.
Bacon and anything.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

That Time We Lived in America

In May 2010, Phil, baby Felix, and I moved from our home in Perth to Seattle, Washington.

The move was something we had been planning for a long time--before Felix was around--and it took a long time for me to receive my visa. Once I did, we left almost immediately. 

Phil was born in America and has dual nationality. He'd been living in Australia for a long time and we decided why not? We'll just go and live in America for a change. It would be an adventure. I don't think we really had any clue what we would do over there, probably just the same things we did in Australia, but in a colder climate. 

However, it could not have been worse timing. Having a baby is a huge thing that changes almost everything about your life. I think that if we had gone to America before having children, or once they were older, things might have been different. Staying home with a baby is one of the most isolating things you can do. Even when you live in your hometown, surrounded by friends and family, it's still lonely. Those are long hours you spend caring for an infant and running a household, and in the story of your life often the only two characters in it are you and the baby.

Moving internationally is also an isolating event. This is generally lessened if you have things to do once you get there: a job, school, things like that where you will meet people and become part of society. It is intensified if you are already doing a solitary 'job'. 

We didn't quite live in Seattle: we lived in a smaller town, halfway between Seattle and Vancouver. There's nothing wrong with this in itself, but since I lacked the ability to drive on the right (wrong) side of the road and the town wasn't exactly a bustling metropolis with public transportation, it meant that a lot of the time I was trapped in the neighbourhood.

Every day, I strapped Felix into his pram and went out walking in the quiet streets. Normally, there was no one else around. I walked with Felix every day of his life, from four months old, to nineteen months old, when we moved back home. The weather made no difference to me: sun, rain, snow, hail, wind, we'd get out there anyway. Phil was at work all day, as was his family, whom we lived with. At first it was fine, but as the months wore on I realised I was the loneliest I'd ever been in my entire life. 

Eventually I did meet a neighbour with kids, and that moment is a dazzling bright spot in a sea of endless grey. She was lovely, her children adorable. We caught up many times: coffee at each other's homes or taking the kids to the park together. We are still in contact today, and I am so grateful for her friendship. 

Don't let me tell you that it was all bad. There were many, many things that I loved about living there. So many things that I miss every day. The walks that were partly out of enjoyment and partly out of sanity-saving necessity are a little nostalgic in my mind. I miss the mountains that I could see from the end of my street, permanently capped with white snow. I miss the excitement of seeing the first snowflakes fall. I miss the big fields next to the neighbourhood that suddenly filled up with migrating birds who had stopped to rest there one autumn day. They waddled about and ate grubs (I assume) while large flocks of them circled low over the ground, as though they were practising for the long flight ahead. I miss the enthusiasm of Christmas: the entire street decorated in twinkling lights, our breath forming clouds as we walked baby Felix up and down the street, wrapped up like a little burrito. I miss Halloween, when the street again transformed: this time into a creepy, over-the-top, hilariously unsettling nightmare land. I miss the way the sunlight turned the distant, tree-covered foothills dazzling gold on certain days. There's so much that I miss about that little town that I could write about it forever.

Eventually, we came back home. I feel that it was the right decision for our family. As idyllic as our time there certainly could be, and as consuming as the loneliness felt, it's important to try to consider everything in a balanced way. There were good and bad times, just like there are good and bad times everywhere. We often talk about 'what if': what if we had stayed, what if we had moved to a different town, a different state where there were more opportunities? What if we had made the move up to Canada, which we considered a halfway point between our two cultures (don't listen to the media: American and Australian culture is very different). There are practical concerns, such as the American healthcare system: it was bad enough (expensive enough) while we were over there. What would it be like with a child with cystic fibrosis?

Even so, my mind is in turmoil when I think of it. I feel like I have two homes calling to me. I do consider Perth to be 'home', but sometimes when I'm out for a walk or listening to the rain (not at all like the rain in Seattle) I miss my other home. I can't remember what it was, but something triggered a very strong memory association the other day. It might have been a smell, a song, a spoken phrase, but I was suddenly transported back to Seattle on a cold, melting-snow day. Felix and I were getting back inside after a walk to the park, and we were turning on the fire and warming up before I had to make lunch (maybe Annie's Organic Mac and Cheese?). I knew I would have been wearing my favourite GAP jeans and patterned wellingtons with thick socks; Felix in several layers, including a hat and mittens.

Do you know what I did as soon as we got back to our old home, when we visited Seattle on our trip last year? I went for a walk. I walked and walked and saw the same things and saw so many new things that I couldn't see it all. I still had a baby in a pram. This time it was Victor. I showed him the mountains, the bunnies running in and out of the tall grass, pointed out my favourite houses, introduced him to the neighbourhood cats, looked at how many new houses there were...and even new streets. 

I feel there will always be this longing, this feeling of the grass being greener even though I know firsthand that this is not the case. Perhaps in another life I'd be nomadic. Maybe I feel guilty for dragging everyone back to Perth. I wish the world could just work the way I want it to. But I'm still very lucky, because I had my adventure.

Phil and one-year-old Felix, in Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Do-Nothing, Too-Tired Day

You know those days where you wake up tired and just don't want to do anything? Yep, that was me today. The sort of day where there is just not enough coffee in the world, where you can't gather the motivation to do anything. You just do the bare minimum and tell yourself that tomorrow you'll do better.

We have a very busy week coming up, so I don't feel bad that we stayed home all day today. And I only feel a little bit bad that I finally got out of pyjamas at some point in the afternoon. (And then put on clothes that I do, actually, wear to bed some nights.)

It's hard to feel this way when you're home with the kids all day. There's no one to pick up the slack and they are dependent on you for everything, so you have to put in at least some effort. There are no days off for the stay at home parent.

The boys spent the day playing blocks and cars in the living room, running around in the back yard, and eating little sandwiches and cut up fruit. The beds got made, and I did tidy up the kitchen, so it wasn't a total write-off.

I'm currently reading one of my old favourites, Insomnia by Stephen King. It's a massive chunk of a book and it starts out pretty slowly, but last night I got to the part where it starts to get really interesting (according to Goodreads, that's 29% of the way through!). That probably had something to do with my laziness today: firstly, by causing me to stay up late reading last night; and secondly, because my mind is stuck in the Insomnia world and I was desperate to get back there all day. I read this book when I was about fifteen and instantly loved it. I've thought about it almost constantly since then. Thanks to Phil spotting a copy at a second hand bookshop, I finally own it. Even if it does smell strongly of mothballs.

Anyway, that's my approach to lazy days with kids at home: bring some toys out, set the coffee machine to STUN, cut up a plate of kid-friendly snack food and get settled in for the day. This also works really well if you're sick. We all need our quiet days now and then, and that includes kids.

I'm going to make some oatmeal muffins for breakfast tomorrow, and then I'll finally sit down with some tea and cake and Insomnia. Every day has its reward, even the ones that don't really deserve it.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Glasses or Contacts?

I've needed glasses since I was about eleven and had trouble reading the board at school. My eyesight got much worse over the next few years and I started wearing my glasses all the time before I turned thirteen. As a teenage girl, I absolutely hated them (doesn't help that they were particularly ugly) and begged my parents to let me have contact lenses, which I got, around age fourteen.

I've been wearing contact lenses for over a decade now. At first I had monthly disposables that had to be taken out every night and stored in a little case, and then I got the Day and Night ones that I could keep in my eyes for a month. This was so much more convenient as I didn't have to fiddle around with cleaning solution so much. Technically you are supposed to give your eyes a break: they recommended taking the contacts out once a week at night to let your eyes rest, but that pretty much never happened. Ever. In fact, I would frequently wear the contacts for much longer than the month they were supposed to be good for. Sometimes I would stretch them out for months and months.

The craziest part in all of this is that I was actually compromising my vision. The whole point of wearing contact lenses is that they give me better vision than glasses do, but most of the time I could barely see anything anyway. My contacts were so covered in a built-up layer of 'gunk'...proteins or mineral deposits from my eyes, that I could hardly see a thing. I'd try scrubbing it off but generally it was pretty stuck-on. Along with this, I suffer from very bad hayfever for most of the year, and allergies just don't work with contacts. 

I tried ignoring all of this, and it got to the point where I was cleaning them in expensive hydrogen peroxide solutions and was still barely able to open my eyes. Finally I thought, this is beyond ridiculous.

As much as I love my contacts and the freedom they've given me, something really needs to change. There's just no point in not being able to see, or having constantly painful eyes. Contacts are expensive because you have to keep buying them. Truthfully, I have never been in a position to be able to comfortably fit them into the budget. That's mainly why I try stretching them out for as long as I can. And perhaps the answer is to just go back to the optometrist and get a different type of lens, go back to ones that require daily cleaning, but honestly, I have tried most lens types by now. They work for a while, and then I run into problems again. The daily disposables are too expensive to wear on a regular basis. 

So, besides LASIK surgery (and its prohibitive cost) it looks like I'm heading back to glasses. I actually have a pair of glasses, my trusty old back up pair, that are pretty cute. I got them several years ago at the insistence of the optometrist (because there are times when you can't wear contacts and I am really, really blind). I even got special lenses put into them that are supposed to reduce the amount of distortion people see when looking at me. My prescription is very strong and it makes my eyes look much smaller than they are. This type of lens reduces that effect (not entirely, but it is a lot better).

I don't live a particularly active lifestyle, so I'm not going to be held back in that regard because of glasses. You can wear glasses in the occasional yoga class. Glasses are really cheap in the long term. You pay for them once, and then that's it. They're easy to clean, and they don't require you to poke your fingers in your eyes on the regular. For whatever reason, they're fashionable now (along with everything else that's considered 'geeky') so I guess that's a plus. 

I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb with glasses on. For the first few days of wearing them I get very distracted by the blur in my peripheral vision and it takes me a while to adjust to the weird way everything looks. As the lens is not as close to your eye as a contact is, there is an amount of distortion. As a consequence, I feel pretty seasick for the first few days. I also feel a bit like I've gone back in time to my most awkward years (seriously, very awkward). I feel a bit invisible. I also can't wear my sunglasses, as they're just normal ones I picked up from Target for $20. But without my contact lenses causing some horrible glare, I don't mind as much. 

I just discovered recently (last night) that, if I'm reading all this correctly, I can get a pair of glasses that are completely covered by our healthcare that's a bit exciting. It's probably worth doing anyway, even if I go back to contacts. Getting a new pair of frames might make me feel a bit more confident. 

There are other drawbacks too, such as being blind in the shower (maybe not such a drawback), having my glasses fog up when I'm trying to cook or take a sip of hot coffee or tea, or potentially losing my glasses (my worst nightmare!). But you know what? I can see. And my eyes don't hurt. Probably makes it worth it. 

I also think glasses are really cute on other people, or else I just don't really notice them. So there's really no reason for this self-consciousness. In fact, sometimes I see other people in glasses and think how cute they are and how I wish I could pull that off. Then I'm like, duh! You have glasses! 

Me in my glasses. Obviously feeling ecstatic.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Yes, You Can Make a Pavlova

Pavlova is, depending on who you ask, a traditionally Australian or New Zealand dessert. It's essentially a large meringue: crispy on the outside with a soft, marshmallow-like texture on the inside, decorated with whipped cream and fruit (strawberries, kiwi fruit, passionfruit, raspberries, normally things like that).

When we lived in America I was craving pavlova, but the only way to get one would be to make one. I was a bit nervous, because they're meant to be difficult, but I was surprised at how easy it actually is.

Here is my recipe: I hope you have success with it too!

My first pavlova: Christmas 2010

4 egg whites, preferably at room temperature (but it's not essential)
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons cornflour (cornstarch)

300ml whipping cream (heavy cream)
fruit to decorate

Preheat the oven to 150C (300F). Line a baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper) and draw a 9 inch circle on it. I normally just trace around a small side plate. This helps make your pav the correct size so it lessens the chance of it cracking and falling.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add in sugar, beating well after each addition. One tablespoon at a time is best. Beat this mixture until it's thick and glossy.

Gently fold in the vanilla, lemon juice and cornflour.

Spoon mixture into the circle you've drawn on the baking paper. Working from the inside, spread the mixture out towards the edge. You should build up the edge slightly so that the border is taller than the middle.

Bake for one hour. It's really important that you don't open the oven door at all during this time.

Once the hour is up, turn the oven off, but don't open the door. Let the pavlova cool down in there with the oven. I think the minimum amount of time this has taken is three hours, but I'll usually make the pavlova at night and keep it in the oven til the morning.

Once it's ready to serve, whip the cream and place it in the centre of the pavlova. Decorate with fruit and serve it up like slices of cake! You should do this just before serving, because the pav can get a bit soggy if this is done too far in advance.

Don't worry if your pavlova cracked even after you took all those precautions. You can hide a multitude of sins with good placement of cream. Don't use sweetened cream--you want to use plain cream to cut the sweetness of the pavlova. In case you weren't paying attention earlier on, there is a lot of sugar in that thing. But it's so yummy that it's totally worth it.

The pavlova I made yesterday.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Show Me Friday: Someone I Love Deeply

I don't write much about Phil here because I think it would embarrass him. But, here he is being the feature of my Show Me Friday post.

This photo was taken during our first trip to America together in 2009.

I was looking through the album and I realised that in almost every photo Phil is with the kids, either playing, hugging, holding, helping. Just being a hands-on father in some way.

We had a quiet Valentine's Day with a pavlova and a few presents.

Just wanted to let you know how awesome he is, and that I'm very lucky to have him.

Ten Years From Now

What will be happening ten years from now? What will I be doing?

Let's see. In ten years, on 13 February 2023, I will have two big boys aged fourteen and eleven (about to turn twelve). Yikes! They'll be at high school. This is crazy. I can barely even imagine it.

Hopefully I'll have finished my degree by then...ten years should be enough, right?! I might even have a fun job where I get to actually use that degree.

In that case, I wonder if we'll still be living at our house or if we'll have moved somewhere else. I suppose a lot of things we own would have changed.

I guess we would have been to Disney again at least once...we've told the boys we'll be going when they're eight and six years old.

Basically, I imagine my life will be completely different in every way.

This was a fun question to answer. What about you? What will you be doing ten years from now?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Keeping Things in Perspective

A few days after Victor had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, I was waiting with him in the pathology department at PMH, feeling pretty sorry for myself. I was trying to come to terms with his diagnosis and still had no idea what it all meant for us and what his life would be like. I felt that everything was so unfair, that he had been dealt a bad hand in life.

Well, as is often the case at PMH, if you sit around for long enough you'll see all sorts of things that open your eyes and lift you out of your own little world.

Across the waiting room was a small family. Presumably a mother and grandmother with a school-aged boy. The boy was in a wheelchair. The grandmother offered to take him for a walk to pass the time, and assisted him out of his chair. Holding onto her tightly, he managed to walk outside the door before returning.

This boy was not able to walk or speak. His life would never be 'normal'; his life experiences would be a world away from mine, completely different to most people's. But looking at his mother and grandmother, hearing them interact with him and each other, and seeing the family, if only for that brief snippet of time, made me see that this was ok. His mother was not falling apart with grief. The grandmother didn't seem worried out of her mind. They just seemed...normal. This is their life, and they had taken it in their stride.

Now, I don't know that family; nor do I know the boy's diagnosis or anything like that. But my observation of them that day proved to me that there will always be people better or worse off than you are, and no matter what your circumstances, you can make the choice to accept it and find happiness and meaning in that life.

It would be easy for me to immediately jump to the conclusion that the other family had it worse than me. After all, Victor can walk and talk. He's developmentally typical, and people who don't know him would never guess he has a serious medical condition. He can have all the life experiences that you expect young people to have. He can go to school, work, get married, got to university, travel, do whatever he wants.

But at the same time, he does have to work very hard to stay healthy every day. And even with perfect compliance, even with the medical advances we have today, we know that CF is a progressive disease that shortens lives. So depending on what's happening in your own life, it's to be expected that there will be many different perspectives of these situations. It just depends how you look at it.

I also think that due to perspective and the fact that this is a multi-faceted issue, it's not possible to definitively put everyone on the planet on a scale and compare them to each other. You can't say this person has it worse than that person, and this person has it worse than all of you. We all see things differently, and we see the same thing differently at different times. We change and grow and things around us bend and shift. The only constant in life is change.

Above all, something I like to keep in mind is a quote from 'Desiderata' by Max Ehrmann, "...always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself." This little line has helped me realise that I don't own the world's problems, and helped me put my life and whatever challenges I'm currently preoccupied with into perspective.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How Far Does a Sneeze Go?

Sometimes the strangest things cause debate. Today, it was sneezing...or the most hygienic way to contain a sneeze so that you don't spread germs to others.

The biggest problem with the conversation I had today was that some people don't consider containing germs to be a priority for them. I understand that when you don't get sick often it's probably not something you really think about, but it should be, for the sake of others who may not be so lucky as you.

Anyway, it seems that the best way to contain a sneeze is to sneeze into a tissue, and then immediately throw the tissue away and wash your hands.

For the times when that's just not possible, the best thing you can do is to sneeze into your elbow. It contains the germs much more effectively than sneezing into the hand does, and since the germs land on your arm rather than your hand, you're not likely to contaminate other surfaces by touching them.

Sneezing into the elbow is a good habit to teach small children so they grow up learning the 'correct' way to sneeze. (How many times do you actually have a tissue and hand washing facility at the ready, for each and every sneeze? Almost never?)

And hopefully you don't fall into the quarter of people who don't bother covering their sneezes at all....

Before I leave in disgust, here's the guys from Mythbusters demonstrating the spread of germs via sneezing, and the best way to contain it.

Stay healthy, everyone!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Swimming Lessons

Felix had his first swimming lesson this weekend!

He really enjoyed swimming in the pool as he was taught to blow bubbles in the water and slowly gain the confidence to get his head under water and float on his back.

I think that learning to swim is a very important thing for all kids to learn, and I want him to be a competent swimmer.

One of the things he had to do in swimming class was pick up a ring off the bottom of the pool in the shallow water where they were standing. The idea was to bend down and get your face under the water briefly to reach the ring.
Felix picked the ring up with his toes. He cracks me up!

Are you a confident swimmer? Do you or your kids do any extracurricular activities?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Why I Write

Why do I write? Because it's cheaper than therapy?

I started this blog to keep faraway family and friends updated on our lives. This was prompted by Victor's diagnosis of cystic fibrosis. I realised people wanted to know what was going on, but sometimes they didn't know whether it was ok to ask. I was getting confused about who I had spoken to and who knew various parts of the story. I also got tired of explaining the same things over and over, so I thought I could just write everything down and then people could read it if they're interested and we could interact that way.

Starting this blog has meant that I've met other CF families all over the world and become connected to this virtual community--the only way a CF community can exist, unfortunately.

I enjoy writing. I've found the more I write, the more I have to say. I have started writing many blog posts that never get published or even finished. Sometimes I go back and polish them up and send them out into the internet for people to read. Most of them never see the light of day.

I'm also really nervous about having people read my writing. Especially at first, I was really focused on making sure my writing was 'perfect'. I was really concerned with having proper grammar and writing as well as I could, because the things I write are a reflection of myself. I thought if I didn't try my hardest to make it 'perfect' that people would judge me. As time's worn on, I've realised that grammatical perfection is probably not an achievable reality. I've also realised that blogging is different to other forms of writing, in that it's more conversational. I also learnt that I had to let it go a little bit, otherwise I'd never let anyone see anything I write.

I'm not really sure which direction I want to take this blog. I read all sorts of different blogs: instructional ones, personal ones, educational ones, fictional ones. There are things I like about all of them. I have too many interests to really narrow it down into something that can be perfectly labelled, so unless I decide to create a new blog for each interest (unlikely), I guess this one will just stumble along and be filled with all sorts of random things.

The best part about blogging is meeting new people. And actually discovering that people read this stuff, that they actually take the time out of their day to see what I've written. I've discovered new blogs this way too: looking at the profile of commenters and seeing what they've written.

Overall, I'm really glad I started writing this blog and I hope to continue for a long time.

About Our Bunny

A few weeks ago, out of nowhere, Felix sighed and said "I don't have a pet."
We got into a long discussion about pets, what is involved with the care of an animal, and about the responsibility involved.

"I used to have a pet bunny," he said.
"Yes, you did. But he ran away to be with his family."
"Didn't he like our house?" I was so blown away that Felix actually arrived at this concept.

On Felix's third birthday, he was given a pet bunny. He was named Cake, and he was a sweet little ball of fluff. The most adorable thing in the world. They don't come much cuter than baby bunnies.

Cake also came with a hutch to live in, but I read up on bunnies. I knew he'd never be happy living in a hutch, even a two-storey one. He needed space to run and hop.

Luckily, we have a great backyard: a paradise for a little rabbit. Lots of shade, grass, lots of plants and places to explore. It's fully fenced, with part of that fence being a brick wall, and the part that's not brick is embedded into concrete. He'd never be able to dig his way out.

We live in a suburb that is fairly close to the city and definitely in a built-up metropolitan area. I was pretty sure there was nothing lurking around that could get into my yard and attack him, but even so, I made sure to lock him up in his hutch at night. It was pretty easy to tempt him in there with a bit of carrot at night.

Cake quickly made himself at home in the yard. He had several hiding spots that he enjoyed: under the red hibiscus, mainly, or deep in the jasmine vine. At around 4pm, when the shade stretched over the grass, he often hopped about on the grass and nibbled on flowers. Sometimes he just relaxed under the orange tree.

Yes, he was adorable. He was also a complete menace to the garden. I thought, how destructive could one baby bunny possibly be? The answer is very. Very, very destructive. After a few weeks, he had no more hiding spots left, because he'd eaten all the leaves on the lower half of the bushes. The garden was clearly suffering for it.

I thought that something needed to change. I had to come up with a way to give him lots of space but protect the garden at the same time.

Eventually I decided to build a rabbit run. I'd make a large, covered enclosure out of rabbit wire. I could stretch it over the unused, raised garden bed we have. I could even plant lots of rabbit-friendly plants in there so he could graze. He'd have space, I'd have my garden back. Perfect.

That weekend we had some friends over for dinner. They stayed fairly late, and by the time they left it was dark outside. I went out there to put Cake in his hutch, but he was hiding somewhere...probably in the jasmine, which he hadn't completely destroyed yet. The dark made lots of new hiding spots for him. I couldn't see him anywhere, but I figured it was no use hunting in the dark for a bunny that didn't want to be caught. I left a bit of carrot in his hutch anyway and made sure he had lots of hay and water in there; and although I was worried, I decided he'd be safe for just one night.

I never saw him again.

I hunted everywhere that day...under all the bushes, all the places that I'd ever seen him. I checked the perimeter of the fence for any holes he'd dug: nothing. I searched everywhere. I left more carrot out for him, carrot that went untouched. He was not there.

I still have no idea what really happened to him. Perhaps he did escape, somehow. Maybe that night a cat caught him? I saw no sign of anything. No struggle, no fur, no blood, no holes, no way for him to escape. It's like he was abducted by aliens. Just...gone.

I felt incredibly guilty. If I had made sure he was locked in his hutch, this wouldn't have happened. I didn't really know how to tell Felix: there was no body, no evidence, nothing. Given the lack of a corpse, I decided to tell him that Cake ran away. Because it's possible that he did. It's as good as any other explanation, and I thought that three years old is still young enough to benefit from not having his reality muddied by unsolvable mysteries. I also didn't want to try to explain the concept of death without anything to back it up with. He took it pretty well, although he was sad about it.

I couldn't believe this happened the weekend that I had stumbled upon a perfect solution, and that the one time he wasn't in his hutch at night, he disappeared.

I still feel guilty when I think about little Cake, but I'm not sorry I gave him the freedom to run around. It was a choice between a life in a tiny hutch, or a short existence hopping about in a bunny's Eden. I have always felt that it's wrong to keep living creatures caged up. Cake lived the good life while he was here. Shady hiding spots, plenty of food, social interaction, the freedom for him to become fat and complacent. I hope that he did somehow escape and run off to live with his bunny family, but I know that's not very likely. Wouldn't it be nice if this story ended with Cake returning out of the blue. Unfortunately, a year on, he has not.

While I am not racing out to get any other pet any time soon, I did enjoy having Cake here and often thought how sweet he was, lopping about on the grass in the afternoon. He was a good pet, a good bunny; and while the plants have recovered, the garden has never seemed so empty.

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