Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Time for action...

Found out today that Mum has a diagnosis of ADHD. This comes as no surprise to us, but for some reason I feel relieved. I guess it just confirms that my symptoms are probably 'really' ADHD, rather than 'a complication of an abnormal brain structure'. Also, it means I'm probably right to have concerns about two of my boys. So, now I need to get a referral for one boy and for myself. I'm going to 'wait and see' with the other boy because he is still young and may be within normal parameters for his age group. So, there you go.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Turning four...

Ari turned four on Saturday. This was the first year where he was fully aware of the significance of his birthday and had been counting down to the day in months, then weeks, then days since about July...

Every day for the week prior to his fourth birthday, he would randomly announce, 'It's my BIRTHDAY!' - alternatively, the pouty version when he wasn't getting his way, 'But, it's my birthday...' Finally, on Saturday morning he announced his birthday and we could all tell him it certainly was his birthday! Two days later, when his Amma asked him how old he was, he told her he was '5-ish...' - it seems the count down to his next birthday has already started...

We were a bit worried he wouldn't have much in the way of presents this year, but somehow I managed to juggle the books and in conjunction with a well timed sale, he didn't do too badly after all! My apology for the crappy standard of these photos, I've all but given up using my Canon 350D, I think something is wrong with the lens alignment, so these were taken on the iPhone 4S and before my first cup of the day...

Present GLEE!

Bryn deciphering the Grumpy Old Man's handwriting -
he did an impressive job, actually!

FINALLY - after 13 years of collecting wooden Thomas
stuff, we managed to find an Edward (we were probably more
excited than the birthday boy at this find)!!!

All big boys must have a shirt and tie!

The 'Where's the Doctor?' book. Ari was more interested in
finding and counting all the daleks, though!

Erik wrestling a card envelope - this picture is in here because
being 13 and all, Erik wasn't really getting in amongst the
present opening (he is too cool for that, now), so this photo proves he
was actually there and participating...

Another Thomas score! Can't tell you how many years we've been
waiting to find this turn table at a reasonable price!

Whoo hoo! A mountain set! Ari just loves mountains and
bridges and plays with them for hours on end!

Ad hoc set up!

Proper set up. We discovered we're getting to the point where we don't have
enough track for all the speciality pieces - so track is now on the wish list. 

I made pikelets with jam and cream for lunch (hey, it was his BIRTHDAY!),
and less tradition honey and cream one's for Bryn and Luey - don't ask!

He's all charm, isn't he?
After lunch we had to get back to more mundane life stuff, like grocery shopping. We managed to get to the bus stop before Ari chucked a wally over something (cannot remember what now). Traditionally, in our family anyway, the age of four is much, much more challenging than the age of two. Erik, Lukas and Brynjar were all easy-peasy at two, but frightful at four. Ari was a terror at two and I had sort of hoped he might mellow by four, but this does not seem to be happening. So, it seemed quite apt that he should throw a massive tantrum, on cue, on his birthday. I sent the Grumpy Old Man home with Bryn and Ari while Erik, Luey and I headed off to do the grocery shopping in relative peace. If I have learned one thing from having all these children, it is that it is easy to prevent tantrums than deal with them - especially in the middle of busy supermarkets.

That evening we had our usual birthday dinner and cake tradition. Isn't he cute???  He sang along with his Happy Birthday song because that is what cool four year old boys do! Just like the photography, there is nothing 'professional looking' about the birthday cake - he, however, love this store bought chocolate cake, so it was a win/win situation!

This photo is a perfect example of Ari's determination. It's just one candle, but he gives it all he has!

The night before he turned four I laid down with him at bed time as the GOM and I usually take turns doing. I watched him fall asleep and then I lay there for a while longer until the sun went down and the room became completely dark. I tried to memorise his face and I realised how much it had changed since the year previous. Not only had he grown, but he has an almost invisible scar on the bridge of his nose from when he fell through the glass pane on our dining room door last Christmas Eve. I wondered how much he might change before his next birthday.

This coming year is going to be huge for him. He'll be starting kinder in February, having never been to daycare, or creche or kinder before. He'll move house and probably also suburbs. He'll make new friends and probably discover new interests. He may decide Thomas the Tank Engine is for babies - as Bryn did when he was four. Gosh, he might even lose interest in Doctor Who. though I hope not, I would really miss him telling people he's 'The Doctor'.

Some things I don't think will change. He'll still be as determined as ever. He'll still love all things technological. He'll probably still be as loud as ever!

I hope he'll still love cuddles and kisses with mum and dad. I'm sure he will!

Friday, October 26, 2012

PhD application update.,,

It has now been 8 weeks and 4 days since I submitted my PhD application. It has also been 7 weeks since the second of my two referees submitted their referral for my application and I received an email confirming my application was complete.

As I've mentioned before, I also applied for a scholarship at the same time. Scholarship applications close on Wednesday next week.

Because I applied for both, it seems my application is on hold until the scholarship round has been assessed and so I was told not to expect a response to my application until December. This is very frustrating because I ticked the box saying I would like to do the degree regardless of my scholarship application outcome (which I now strongly believe will be negative. I have questioned applying for a scholarship at all, in hindsight, due to the level of applications and my complete lack of peer reviewed articles or academic research - outside my Masters, which doesn't really count).

Anyway, so I was waiting. Impatiently.

Early this week I received an email from Deakin Research saying I'd had two application forms on file on their data base, one completed and one incomplete and as I hadn't completed the second one in two months, they would be deleting it unless I expressed a need to keep.

Then yesterday I received another email, this time from the academic who said she would be willing to support my application. She wanted to know if I'd actually put my application in.

Emails from Deakin cause my heart to race.

At first I had a little panic thinking something had gone wrong, but it hadn't. The email from earlier this week acknowledged I had submitted a completed application already and only wanted to delete the incomplete application. So, I wrote back to said interested academic saying I had submitted an application but had been told I would hear back until December because of my pending scholarship application. I thought they might have contacted her before now as her name is on my application as a Deakin contact, so the fact she wasn't aware I'd submitted the application suggests to me it has sat idle for the past 8 weeks - which is quite disappointing, really.

She said it sounded like an unusually long wait and so she has asked another staff member to look into it and get back to me either today or early next week.

So, today I've felt a bit immobilised.

I have stuff I need to do but I'm just sitting here waiting for an email. I'm really hoping they might need to expedite my application because they need to sort supervisory roles for trimester three or something. Of course, there is always the chance I won't even get into the degree (a chance I hope is quite small considering I've already found an enthused academic to support my application). So, I feel nervous and excited and unable to get on with other stuff... Not a fan of that feeling.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I Heart My Body 2012

A year ago I participated in my first 'I Heart My Body' meme. I said back then that I've long loved my body, especially for its physical strength. That has not changed in the previous twelve months!

Last friday I was honoured to have a series of photos taken of me by emerging photographer Michael Griffith and I had a ball! The poor guy was trying to get some serious, even angry, shots of me (he plans to work with actors doing head shots among other things) and I was just having so much fun I couldn't get the smile off my face for more than a second at a time!

I do love my body! To me, my body is all about luxury; it's smooth and soft and generous. I love to adorn my body with body-art created by my brother - I know not everyone is into tattoos, but to me they are beautiful and they contrast the texture of my skin in a lovely way and so I really enjoy them.

So, now I'm going to bombard you with a few of the shots Michael took last friday - he is opening his business (in Melbourne's eastern suburbs) to the public in November (I believe) and I would be happy to forward contact details once his Facebook page is up. I should say, this post is not at all sponsored, I'm just so happy with the photos I wanted to share them with all my readers.

Man, I love this photo so much, I'm totally blowing it up and hanging it over the fireplace!

Dear God, who gave this woman make-up??!

Oi! Don't mess with me, I'm a tattoo'd lady!

I included this photo because I actually can't wink at will and this was just me trying to snarl, rofl, me snarling, hahaha!

'I summon the spirits of the lotus flower...'

And this photo is why small children run screaming from me... This is the angle they get to see...
Here's another body I heart... And a couple more photos from the head shooter... In case you don't know him, it's the Grumpy Old Man...

If you love your body, don't forget to blog about it and link it to the meme over at We Heart Life!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bugger You, Jack, I'm All Right...

I went to great seminar on early literacy yesterday - it was wonderful to have something for those old synapses to snap over, I have to say.

There were three or four speakers, but the one who stood out to me was Tony Wilson. I had never actually heard of him before, though it seems he participated in Race Around the World back in  and has since then been writing children's books.

He was speaking about how literacy begins, and particularly how it begins before children actually get to school and start learning their ABCs. He said studies had been done which showed that language acquisition and vocabulary developed in early childhood supports the development of text based literacy. He said, it has been shown that children of higher educated parents tend to hear an average of 2200 words per hour, whereas child from lower socio-economic households (he said 'parents on benefits' but I'm assuming he means parents of lower end-point education) only hear 600 words per hour on average, and that this disparity is reflected in reading skills acquisition at school.

He also said in Finland - yes, of course Finland, poor Finland, people are going to start resenting you like the nerdy, bookish kid in the class who makes all the other kids look stupid - the first year of school; whether you call it prep or kinder, encompasses play activities designed to develop spoken language skills - songs, word games, story-telling etc. He said this helps to lessen the gap between children whose parents spoke with them a lot, and broadly, and those whose parents were busy just managing to get food on the table and pay the bills.

Tony spoke about how children who don't learn reading skills well in prep, will find it even harder in grade 1 and harder again in grade 2, and after that they're pretty much on their own as teaching focus shifts from 'learning to read' to 'reading to learn' in grade three.

He spoke of how underdeveloped reading skills promotes challenging behaviours in class, which can lead to early school exits and lifestyles which land adolescents in jail. He spoke of a program a mate of his has run in one jail to improve literacy and the difference this makes to prospects of inmates when they are released.

All of this came back to making learning to read an enjoyable experience with a solid base in language acquisition and vocabulary building.

So, anyway, today I went to school pick-up bursting with this new perspective and I told another mum about it because I thought it was so wonderful, especially in the light of Australian education moving more and more towards attempting to teach reading skills in kindergarten, to 3 and 4 year olds, when their language skills are even less well developed than they are in preps... And to my great disappointment, the response I received was, 'Yes, but what about the kids who don't need to be 'brought to the same level'?'

Her inference was that children who had better language skills already would be 'held back' by another year of playing games and singing songs.

I don't understand this way of thinking.

Firstly, I was a child who at four-and-a-half, could already read. At five, while the other kids in the class were learning 'a' and 'the', my teacher (who was brilliant, by the way) set me the task of writing a story book and illustrating it. This didn't hold me back, nor did it distract her from the task of teaching the other students. Hearing the other kids learning their ABCs only reinforced my own previous learning.

Secondly, if we neglect the students who haven't had the benefits of broad language acquisition before starting school, those students are more likely to feel dis-enfranchised by grades 2 and 3 and will become the disruptive spirits in the class when reading is no longer being learned, but being utilised to learn.

Thirdly, Australian literacy levels are appalling (I am referring to functional literacy). In most of Scandinavia children do not learn to read until they are seven, and yet, their literacy levels outstrip ours. Learning to read early does not make the reader a better reader, or more intelligent or more capable. Many children in our schools struggle with reading in the first year or so of school, and it damages their self-esteem, they begin to believe they are hopeless or cannot learn, and then suddenly in the last half of their second year it all clicks into place for them - because that part of their brain has snapped ON... Coincidently, most kids have turned seven in the meantime. However, if that happens after a child has decided reading is 'not for me' or 'is boring' or is 'potentially threatening to my sense of self as a capable person', the love of reading may be lost. It becoming a means to an end, rather than an enjoyable pass-time.

I was relating this story to the Grumpy Old Man and he said it reminded him of an old Aussie saying, 'Bugger you, Jack, I'm all right.' In other words, the attitude of 'Don't pull me down, just because you can't swim.'

If we don't support those children who have not developed robust language skills by the time they reach primary school - we may end up paying for that attitude through our tax dollars down the track...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I miss her...

I was up until 5am this morning with insomnia. Partly because I'd slept so long yesterday morning, partly because I also fell asleep while putting Ari to bed yesterday evening.

I both love and hate being awake during the night.

I love it because the house is quiet and I can watch trashy television like Happy Days and The Love Boat (I love The Love Boat) and Charmed, and I can think. It is so much harder to think these days with four kids in the house and stuff to do and the Grumpy Old Man around all the time...

I also hate being awake at night because I can think. I always end up dwelling on how life is, and how I wish it was and mistakes I've made - or that the Grumpy Old Man has made, and of course the frustrations of not being able to make the kinds of changes I feel I need to make to be happy.

In the wee hours of this morning I found myself going back over my blog. I've been writing this blog for almost seven years now. Reading my early posts I sometimes wonder if I've changed at all in all that time. I still feel so naive, so child like (I prefer child like to childish because I have an ego).

I came across the above photo of me, taken in September 2006 and I barely recognise the girl in the photo*.

I had some really awesome photos taken of myself on Friday by a talented emerging photographer, and when I have the CD I plan to share a rather long and completely self-indulgent, self-love post featuring a great many of those photos - for now I'll share one...

Photography by Michael Griffith
Now, the very first thing I want to say is - the reason I barely recognised the girl in the first photo has nothing to do with no longer being blonde, and nothing to do with being 35kg heavier, it doesn't even have anything to do with being six years older.

The reason I barely recognise the girl in the first photo is that she was an optimist who believed her future could only be better than her present, even though she felt her present was everything she had ever dreamed of.

The girl in the first photo had not endured almost four years of constant anxiety, of wondering how things could possibly get worse and fearing they she would soon know the answer to that question - which she did time and time again. She believed with every fibre of her being that she was in the hands of a greater power; a kind and benevolent carer.

The women in the latter photo is much wiser, but that wisdom is borne of hardship (I guess most wisdom is borne of hardship). She is more sensible and has fewer, though possibly more realistic, expectations of life. Her life also feels very small. She feels very small. She often feels very alone - not as in amongst people - but in the Universe. She is tired, always tired, mentally moreso than physically. Physically she is restless - she often wants to punch walls. She longs to sing, literally and figuratively, but feels choked... literally and figuratively.

A friend said the woman in the latter photo has a story. She does, but it's not the story she thought it would be, and she is still unsure of how it will ends now that it has wholly discarded the plot she had always believed it would follow.

I feel that I have aged twenty years in the past six, eighteen of those since 2009. I want to find the girl again. I know I can never completely go back, but I want her optimism, her mental energy, her confidence and her contentment.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder Awareness Week...

Ends today.

I've been aware of it all week, but haven't had the heart to write about it until today.

I was alerted to a great Canadian website earlier in the week and it brought my own diagnosis home again, as well as my concerns regarding having Erik diagnosed. Since then it's been sitting there on one of the channels of my brain, but I haven't done anything with it.

You see, my diagnosis was never conclusive. Partly because it happened twenty-one years ago when ADD was still a new thing and people weren't really sure what it was - what to include in the diagnosis and what to exclude from it. The fury over medicating the symptoms was white hot back than. It's still glowing hot now, but I think it is far more accepted than it was throughout the 1990s.

People still consider ADD and ADHD to be a pseudo-syndrome.

Some people still don't really believe it exists.

And yet, this week I read on that site a description of the experience of ADHD symptoms that I've said many times before myself - but have never read anywhere else...

Being inside my head is like having several radio stations all playing at the same time so it's hard to just listen to one.

You'll find that quote under point 4 on this page.

This has been my reality all my life, I have four distinct trains of thought all running at the same time in my head and once in a while I'm able to focus in on one, but that focus never lasts and more often that not, mid-thought, mid-sentence, I'll find myself drawn into an entirely different line of thinking (which often seems to me to be related, but to others it comes out of left field).

Some of you reading this might be thinking, 'Well, that's not different from me and I don't have ADHD, I have just disciplined myself to shut out other intruding thoughts and concentrate on what I'm doing.'

Ah, and therein lies the rub. As a person with ADHD symptoms, I am not able to shut out the other lines of thought. I have them and they intrude and I lack the ability - however hard I try - to ignore them.

Or maybe you don't have the multiple channels going at once in your head? This doesn't mean I don't have them.

Or maybe you simply think, 'Well, all people are different, with different challenges, but that doesn't make those challenges a disorder which needs medicating!'

To that I would say firstly, I have never been medicated. When given the option back in 1991, I decided not to take it. I did accept an offer for cognitive behavioural therapy, and that has helped me enormously - though it has limitations.

Secondly, I would say, if battling your 'natural' tendencies is a daily struggle which impedes your life in some way, then certainly, it may be natural, or normal, but it's not conducive to a productive and fulfilling life and that, in my humble opinion, is a real disorder which should be managed, if at all it can be.

My mum is currently having her own symptoms investigated and I am immensely grateful that she is. If she is diagnosed one way or the other it will help clarify my own conditional diagnosis (they said I had all the symptoms but couldn't conclusively diagnose me because of my abnormal brain structure). It would also help me make a decision about having Erik assessed for ADHD.

At this point in my life, I would seriously consider medication for myself.

One thing I hadn't read before about ADHD and 'impaired executive functions' is that this affects 'Managing frustration and modulating emotions (worry, disappointment, anger)'. This has been my biggest obstacle in life. When I feel frustrated, it consumes me. When I feel angry, it consumes me. When I feel sad, it also consumes me. I act and speak while consumed by my emotions - and much of this blog will reflect the struggle I have had with this.

Interestingly enough, when I was pre-teen and had my first cat-scan, the doctors at the hospital told mum that part of my brain malformation meant she should expect greater than normal mood swings in me as a teenager because I would have an impaired ability to control my emotions. She was told this in the mid-80s, when ADD wasn't much known about. They foreshadowed my future diagnosis - whether or not it was due to ADD or abnormal brain structure (some studies into patients with ADD have found discrepancies in their brain structure and function, not the same as mine, but with the same outcome regarding impaired executive functions).

Normal brain function on the left. ADHD brain function on the right...

As you can see, the dark patches on my brain are the 'missing bits' and they are also the dark parts on the brain of an ADHD subject. Coincidence, I think not.

All of this has been playing on my mind this week. I live with the symptoms of attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder which is complicated by the abnormal structure of my brain. Other family members (with normal brain structures) live with the same symptoms - maybe I was just lucky that my particular brain malformation covered an area which would have been affected anyway, thereby minimising the number of unusual symptoms I have had to live with?

Whatever the case, my symptoms are real, whether other people believe in ADHD or not.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Emerging Artist Award for Erik...

A few weeks ago I posted that we had discovered Erik would not be eligible to hang his painting in the school's annual Artist Fair Camp Show Exhibition - a professional art exhibition held annually at the school. This was right before the school holidays and so we were not able to contact anyone during the following two weeks to see if Erik could be given special consideration to hang a canvas in the exhibition despite not being sixteen years of age yet.

Last week the Grumpy Old Man wrote an email to the head of the Art Show Committee explaining that Erik had been looking forward to exhibiting this year and had been working on a canvas for several weeks already when we discovered the change in eligibility criteria and that his ability is far beyond his years - so despite not being sixteen, he certainly had artistic skills of a sixteen year old.

We waited but didn't hear back. On Tuesday night this week I discovered there had been an Art Show Committee meeting that evening - had I known about it earlier, we would have made an effort for one of us to attend the meeting and speak with someone in person.

Yesterday morning the Grumpy Old Man asked at the front desk of the school if they had heard anything in response to our email. They hadn't but the lovely secretary there (we've always gotten along very well with her) said she would be seeing someone from the committee that evening and she'd remind them we were waiting on a reply to our email.

This morning we still hadn't heard anything, and the closing date to submit entries is either Monday or Tuesday (it is dated Tuesday, but the form says Monday the 23rd of October, so we're not sure which it is), so we were beginning to get a little anxious that our email seem to be being ignored. The Grumpy Old Man went back up to the school and this time spoke with the assistant principal. She said she thought he should be given special consideration, but she would check with someone and get back to him.

She emailed us at lunch time to say he is allowed to hang his canvas in the exhibition and that, in fact, the art teacher of the school had decided he will be awarded the Emerging Student Artist Prize this year and so his work would be exhibited as part of that.

So, yay, the painting will be hung and yay, Erik is being awarded for all his hard work this year. The teacher (who works Fridays) had planned to tell him and his class tomorrow. I don't know if that means we're not supposed to say anything yet, but we were not told we couldn't, and I'm completely hopeless with secrets!

Now he just needs to finish the painting - with only 19 days to go until he must submit, he has a lot of fine work left to do, but he'll get there...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

NaNoWriMo - Take Two...

Limbo is still my residential address for now, so I've decided that in the grand tradition of limbo and purgatory and the 'waiting place', I would set myself a challenge to pass the time until I know my fate.

This time last year I was very excited to announce that I had signed up for the National Novel Writing Month challenge for November. Like every starry-eyed newcomer I had visions of churning out a masterpiece of forty thousand words in just thirty days.

Well, a master piece it was not.

In fact, in the end I only managed between 3-5000 words (if you include the 1500 words I lost because I didn't back up my work - as my favourite uncle likes to mind me, always back up!).

My big problem was that I didn't have a defined plot. I sort-of, kind-of knew what I wanted to write and where I was going with my characters, but that wasn't enough to get me past the first obstacle of 'what now?'

The 'What now?' challenge faces every writer somewhere along the way between first word and last word, in fact, many writers face that challenge in every chapter and even on every page. The best way through the 'What now?' challenge is a road map - a plot outline. I didn't have one - well, not one that was detailed enough to carry me through.

So, I've signed up again this year. I hope to win (that is complete the task), but I'm not nearly as starry-eyed as I was last year.

I'll admit I didn't have a story when I signed up. I went to the Nano forums to see if I could adopt a bunny - that is, a plot suggestion left by other writers. I unwittingly stumbled upon the fantasy adoption thread and couldn't understand why everyone seemed obsessed with fantasy - but it made for a very good laugh, with magic doo-dads and endless quests and dragons and damsels in distress. I found nothing to pique my interest there though.

I found the vanilla adoption thread and there were some interesting plot ideas there - nano adoption threads are inspiring if only to read so many great ideas in other people's heads.

A story came to me - and I might write in at a later date - but in the end I felt I might need more research that I could get done before November 1st. I could have tried to 'pants it' - write the story by the seats of my pants, but as I've already explained, pantsing it was my downfall last year.

Finally it occurred to me that I've had a story hanging around for years - the story of the obstetrician's daughter. Some of you may remember this was the story I originally intended to write for my Creative Writing Masters thesis. I ended up laying that story aside when it became clear my supervisor really didn't 'get' what I was attempting to do - illustrate the struggle between the medical world of birth and the natural world of birth. He believed 'birth' was not an issue at the forefront of most readers. He felt I needed to have my character give birth in a shopping mall at the climax of the narrative... He reminded me of this video...

He kept throwing ludicrous ideas at me to make the story more interesting - because it just didn't get it...

Anyway, so I'm going back to that story, and I'm going to change the style of it so that it's not just the story of a woman learning about her birth options and being caught between the beliefs of her obstetrician father and community midwife mother-in-law, but that it is a series of letters the mother writes to her unborn child throughout the pregnancy about her experiences, her struggle, her sister's birth story, and the trauma it left in its wake, and all the things that pull women in one direction or another during those months.

What do you think?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Get out of the house... And then what?

I just got back from grocery shopping. I hate grocery shopping. I feel 'in the way' at the deli asking for 5kg of chicken, 6 schnitzels, 5 chicken wings, 1.5 kg of marinaded drumsticks and 250g of shaved ham all in one go, but the thought of having to grocery shop more than fortnightly is even more painful.

We get in there, shop, get out and get a cab home.

I guess, what makes this worse for me is that this is the one 'outing' I can count on every fortnight. This is literally the second time I've left the house this fortnight. The other time was on Tuesday to take Erik to the optometrist. Again it was a cab there, the appointment and a cab home.

The solutions is, of course, that I need to get out of the house more.

That is a lot easier than it sounds.

We've been so-very-good with our budget in recent months, trying to live within our means and also save for Erik to start high school. We need money for his fees, the laptop hire, uniforms, books and the first school camp (for getting to know other kids at school). Even thought he is going to a public school - a state funded school - these cost amount to about $2000. We currently have $300. I think by the end of January we will have $1200, and then there will be the school kids bonus for the three boys which should make up the rest (we hope).

So, our budget is very strictly and there is nothing left over for socialising with friends.

I managed to finish last fortnight with $33 in my account (the Grumpy Old Man had none in his). I achieved this by not going anywhere, except Erik's optometry appointment and the shopping. The boys had playdates in the holidays, we invited their friends over. Bryn did attend a party - other people's kids parties have cost us nearly $500 this year (the boys averaging 8-9 parties each, and the invites keep coming), the reason we let them go to all the parties is that we are pleased they get invites, we don't want to discourage that at all. The boys don't get outings outside of these invites, they don't do extracurricular activities (Erik and Luey have had one term each this year).

Bryn and Ari went to stage show because I managed to win some tickets. So I think the boys had a decent holiday without us having to borrow money from MIL.

I did have to cancel picking up my new reading glasses - but that was only postpone until Tuesday - and they're only $35 anyway.

I complained to mum the other day that it doesn't feel fair that we are being so good and there's no reward - as in we don't get to have any fun. She said the reward is in knowing all the bills are paid and there is plenty of food in the fridge and cupboards. This is true.

Still, being a shut in with nothing much to occupy my mind isn't particularly good for my mental health.

You might be wondering what the two have to do with each other. Well, it's simple really, if I have a place to go, a purpose which takes me to place where I interact with other people purposefully, I can get out of the house because I feel like I have a valid reason for taking up space 'out there'. I still worry about getting in people's way, but somehow I feel I have more of a right to do so because I also have somewhere to be and something to do achieve.

I keep thinking I should start walking again. It costs nothing and the weather is getting better.

The thing is, agoraphobia has such a grip on me at the moment. The thought of leaving the house by myself with no purpose other than to walk is scary. It's not rational, I won't pretend it is. I used to be able to just plot a route, put my headphones on and go, but now the thought of doing that causes me to feel nervous and a bit teary. I don't know what I think will happen if I do this. I just know it fills me with dread.

I feel trapped.