Thursday, February 28, 2013

Doctor Shopping...

Haven't blogged in a few days, not because I have nothing to blog about, quite the contrary, I have too many things to blog about and can't choose which to do first, so expect a couple of blog posts today...

This one is about doctor shopping. You've heard the term; it is loosely connected with people who go from doctor to doctor to gain multiple prescriptions - usually to abuse themselves or to sell as a money spinner.

Another way I have heard this term used is with regard to seeking the care of one doctor after another until you get the care you are looking for - often in relation to seeking a particular kind of diagnosis or answer to a question.

Sometimes it is just a matter of getting a second opinion when the first opinion doesn't ring true. Sometimes though it's about getting a fourth, or twentieth opinion. Usually, a lot of doctor shopping reflects poorly on the patient because they are viewed as refusing to accept what several doctors have told them. It s a bit like the flies on horse shit saying, you know the one, 'One million flies can't be wrong, eat horse shit!'

Just recently though, I have been encouraged to doctor shop by friends who have experienced ongoing frustrations with doctors who refuse to really look at what is going on with the patient - often times the patient is someone's child.

There is always a lot of media about 'over diagnosing' certain ailments. In the 90s the over diagnosed ailment was 'Chronic Fatigue' - many doctors simply refused to even accept such an ailment existed, after all, it was only diagnosed in the absence of anything else being the cause of symptoms.

ADHD is another illness which is often accused of over diagnosis, and most recently Autism Spectrum Disorders have been highlighted as over diagnosed.

Quite possibly these ailments are over diagnosed. Quite possibly they're just so high in the consciousness of teachers and doctors and other professionals that other causes of symptoms fall into shadow.

However, I have discovered that there seems to be a practice of undermining proper evaluations of symptoms among certain kinds of professionals who label themselves 'specialists' in a disorder, only to reveal later that they do not actually believe the disorder exists. This has happened to us twice now. We are seeking an evaluation of ADHD for Erik. We sought such an evaluation when he was eight and encountered a somewhat hostile practioner who did not believe that Erik or any other child had ADHD. She was nonetheless given the role of evaluating children for ADHD - presumably none of her patients were ever diagnosed with this disorder.

Translate: ADHD is code for poor parenting choices.

That doctor's evaluation of Erik was that while he was moderately inattentive, she felt this was a result of only having been at school for a year - i.e. he started two years late because we were homeschooling him - and that his symptoms would most likely subside with more schooling. In other words, we had not afforded him the benefit of early institutionalisation and therefore he was maturing later than other children...

Again, we have just recently started the evaluation process again. This time I was very careful to seek a psychiatrist who - according to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists site - specialises in childhood ADHD. Only, it turns out he doesn't believe in ADHD either.


I would be happy enough to hear that Erik does not have ADHD, but I want to hear it from someone who actually does believe this disorder exists and isn't simply ruling him out as a candidate because they don't believe in the existence of a disorder. That's a bit like saying, 'No, Ms Dal, you son doesn't have sunburn because there is no such thing as a sun.'

I can see how parents are forced to doctor shop. Forced to keep looking until they can find a practioner who will take their concerns seriously and not simply throw them in the 'over anxious, possibly Munchausen by proxy' basket.

As it also turns out the RANZCP had it incorrect that this psychiatrist bulk bills, and yet, the psychiatrist wants to ring me back on Monday after he's 'had a think' about whether or not he wants to take Erik on. I did say to him we cannot afford to pay, and he did say he does not bulk bill, so I'm not entirely sure what he is having a think about. I need to find some way to say to him that I don't think he will fit our needs are he doesn't even believe in a disorder both my mother and I have been diagnosed with.

Oh, and don't get me started on trying to get a diagnosis for a child if you are on a very low income. It's basically impossible unless your child is destroying the joint... More on that in my next blog post...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lovely Weekend...

Erik has his year 7 camp coming up this week and it will be at the beach with lots of water based activities. So, last week, his year 7 cohort were assessed as to their swimming abilities. Out of 99 kids, only two could not swim, Erik was one of those two.

I have always loved swimming and back in the early 80s I qualified for the Icelandic Para Olympic swim team which was going to the Los Angeles summer games. I didn't end up going because I didn't want to do the training (I had absolutely no foresight, but then again I was only 12).

So, to have children who can't swim is quite strange for me. None of the boys can swim. The older three have been to swimming lessons through the school when we could afford them (which was only once or twice) and Erik and Lukas have also done a week long intensive at a local pool one summer, but they just didn't seem to get very far with learning water survival skills. I was quite disappointed to have spent 100s of dollars and still the boys couldn't swim.

So last week I decided I need to teach them myself. I am not trained in teaching swimming and I'm probably doing it all wrong, but well, I do have the advantage of being a good swimmer myself, but also knowing my kids better than any swimming teacher possibly could.

I haven't been swimming in six years. I don't even own a swimsuit and right now I can't afford to buy one. I wasn't terribly keen to teach them at a public pool either.

What we ended up doing is asking permission at the caravan park my parents are currently living at. They said it was fine for my parents guests to use the pool, so yesterday the Grumpy Old Man drove us all over there and Erik, Lukas and I spent an hour in the pool.

Lukas picked up floating on his back straight away. Erik can't do that because he feels too much pressure on his ear drums - I'm going to try and get him some ear putty to help with that. By the end, both the boys could propel themselves through the water using breast stroke arm movement. Erik could also do a basic freestyle. Neither has the breathing down pat though. Erik doesn't have it at all and cannot keep his head above water, so can only swim by holding his breath. Lukas has trouble breathing out through his nose. He has always had a stuffy nose and probably needs his adenoids reduced or removed, but I definitely felt that we made some progress, and with another session or two, they could start working on building up stamina.

In case you're wondering what I ended up wearing into the water; knee length leggings, a bra and a singlet top, and no one cared!

I adored being in water again and after coming out I felt completely physically relaxed for the first time is a very long time - as long as I can remember, actually. I really think I was born to swim, that that is my best form of exercise and that I really need to make it a regular part of my life somehow! Despite having not swum in six years and doing quite a few laps (of a very short pool, mind you) yesterday, I feel absolutely fine today.

Yesterday evening I was then picked up by my friend Vanessa and we drove to another friend's (Simone) house in Kalista, where a few of us had a dinner party together! Simone made the most scrumptious tomato soup with bocchini and whole tomatoes in it, this was served with bruschetta, and for mains we had an eggplant parmigiana, which was perfectly done!

I tasted a rosé called Arrogant Frog Lily Pad Pink - it was sweet and lovely!

We had a dip made up of this blend with sour cream and mayonnaise and it was delightful!

Simone's house and view were just amazing!

This is the family area adjacent the kitchen, but it is mostly unfurnished (the lounge and dining suites are in other rooms), the sense of calm is this room is just other worldly!

The upstairs study with the most amazing views! I want a writing study like this!

Views from the study!

Sunset view from the big hall! My phone camera really doesn't do it any justice! If I'd had any idea just how beautiful this place would be, I'd have brought my Canon!

We stayed up until early this morning, chatting, dancing, eating and drinking. There were seven of us in total and it was such a relaxed group. I came home this afternoon feeling as if I'd just had a mini-break!

It's been a really lovely weekend and in many ways, quite unexpected, too. I woke up yesterday feeling a bit overwhelmed by the thought of taking the boys swimming and staying away overnight at someone's house I didn't know all that well with other people I didn't know all that well (except Jayne, of course, but then we arrived and left separately, so this time she wasn't my security blanket so much as just someone else I knew at the party).

I hope there will be more weekends like this one!

Friday, February 22, 2013


With less than a week left of February, I find myself doing a bit of a stocktake. We're almost half way through term one. It's really hard to grasp that fact, I have to tell you, it still feels like we've only just gotten started, but by the end of March we'll be heading into the Easter holidays and term two will be looming large.

Ari is home today. He has the sniffles and after the Whooping Cough incident at kinder, and even though he was on antibiotics, I am reticent to send him to kinder with a runny nose, lest other parents don't take kindly to it.

He had a rough day on Wednesday. He apparently was touching other kids faces and even scratching kids at kinder. It was his first afternoon session and he's not at his best after lunch even at home on quiet days. As well as this his kinder teacher was away and he adores her, so he was probably not very self-contained on the day. The afternoon culminated in a massive meltdown at about 5.45pm and he was asleep before he even ate dinner.

This has me thinking about changing our afternoon routine a little. The Grumpy Old Man and I have had a talk about it and we're going to aim for eating dinner at about 5pm, with the older boys having a 'supper' before their bedtimes at 7, 8, and 9pm so they don't go to bed on empty stomachs (Bryn and Ari tend to vomit in the morning if they don't eat within an hour of going to bed, don't ask me why, I don't know).

So, then the older boys will have an hour of screen time after dinner instead of before dinner and Erik and Lukas will then do their homework, while Bryn goes to bed.

I'm realising life is a constant rhythm of assess, design, implement and then reassess, redesign and implement.

We tend to have a fairly dramatic household. We're all quite highly strung. We can wish we were not this way until the cows came home, but after a decade and a half of wishing we were a more chill household, I think I've started to accept that chill, generally, does not happen here.


So, there are dramas, and the best way to be chill about dramas is to deal with them as they arise. Just deal with them, and keep moving forward, and understand there probably will not be a time when we lead peaceful, drama-free lives. There will always be a new crisis to discover and sort out.

Having a routine really helps all of us. It is a small piece of stability in an otherwise unpredictable life.

Ari has become increasingly restless and difficult to manage over the past three months. I initially put it down to the holidays and the boys being around all the time in our tiny house. Then it was the excitement and stress of the new car. Also my parents moving to Melbourne was very exciting, and finally starting kinder after nearly a year of anticipation. There has been so much upheaval for him that it isn't surprising he is acting out a lot.

That said, it could also be a four year old thing. All our boys have had particularly challenging periods at the age of four and it seems no different for Ari.

Life isn't set to calm down though. The Grumpy Old Man is filing a new Police Check application today in preparation for joining an agency to work casually as a home and community aged carer. We have high hopes that with the licence and the car he will be able to pick up work, finally.

I am also very hopeful of being accepted to a Doctorate at Deakin which will allow me to receive mobility allowance each fortnight, as well.

If these things eventuate there will be yet a new routine to adjust to.

As well as this, our landlords are not coming to the party regarding a new lease. We know there was a challenge at VCAT either this week or it will be next week about getting building approval in our back yard. Whatever the outcome of those proceedings, I sense the landlords want us on a month to month contract so they are free to resell the land, or build without lowering our rent. I suspect if they build they will take the attitude that we can remain in the house if we are willing to continue paying the same rent for a property that no longer has a back yard or a garage or even a driveway.

Continuing to stay here with reduced storage space, no yard for the kids, and with a construction site directly over the back fence without even a financial compensation for any of the losses we will experience would be very difficult. However, the owners have us over a barrel - whether they know it or not - because we cannot afford to move out of here, nor would we have anywhere to go in this extremely tight rental market.

Staying here with all the change or moving will be equally disruptive to Ari's equilibrium.

So, I think it is more important than ever for us to try and gain some stability within these walls, a routine which can be predicted and counted on. A soothing rhythm of life.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I haven't written for a few days because I've been a bit down in the mouth. Life has felt hard this month, but I'm hopeful we're starting to turn a bit of a corner now.

We picked the car up from the repairer this morning, she seems to be running beautifully. They replaced a couple of electrical relays for the lights, and changed the battery for us. They identified why the fuel gauge wasn't reading correctly, but it's not something they can fix - something was replaced in the car some years back and the replacement part is affecting the reading on the fuel gauge, I don't really understand it. The speedometer and the fan are working properly now. We haven't tested the headlights, but obviously we'll be doing that, too.

The Grumpy Old Man asked if we were to have it independently assessed would it pass muster regarding road worthy? The mechanic said everyone has different ideas about what 'passing muster' actually means, but the GOM stood his ground. The mechanic said if we had it assessed and there were any problems we should just bring it back and he'll fix anything that was pointed out. Hopefully though, there won't be any problems!

Today I'm taking Erik to the GP to get a referral to a local Psych who specialises in ADHD and anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. Yesterday I discovered he had used my credit card to make purchases on iTunes. I was pretty upset about it. As it turns out, he (and Lukas) swear the iTunes store said I had credit (which would have been from their Christmas gift cards, which they are allowed to spend), so he thought he was spending his money, but the credit amount must have been a glitch because it came off my card.

I don't know if this is the case or not, to be honest. He was very upset that I was accusing him of having used my card, but then again, he is often very upset when caught doing stuff he just shouldn't be doing. It's an impulse issue and I've been ignoring it too long. He isn't growing out of it, and as a 'phase' it's been going on for nine years now (it's not a phase!). So, I've decided to get the referral I've been meaning to get for him for the past five years.

He doesn't want to go. He doesn't want to see a psych, he feels there is a stigma. I know some parents might feel I shouldn't force him to go if he doesn't want to go, but I feel that many people who struggle emotionally, or with a disorder often don't want to seek help - regardless of whether they are children or adults, and this seems particularly true for men - and by me saying it's okay for him to just live with this problem in his life and not deal with it is setting him up to ignore bigger stuff further down the track.

If he does have ADHD, he is at greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse in adolescence (sufferers often self-medicate), so better he feel a bit self-conscious now at 13 and we find out what is really going on, than try to deal with a wholly out-of-control, desperate and possibly depressed teenager. Suicide is the third biggest killer of adolescents aged 14-24. So, I feel I need to at least check if he is at risk.

Erik is a delightful kid. He is very bright, and very talented. He seems to make friends easily (in the past three years or so, and it did take a lot of coaching, but he's doing brilliantly in that area of his life now). He is one of the better behaved kids in his class - according to his own stories, mind you. Still, the Grumpy Old Man and I are absolutely aware of his constant fidgeting and restlessness (the kid can't sit still most of the time), his lack of focus during conversations, and most of all his impulsivity. Hyperactivity and inattention we manage constantly, but the impulsivity is often very challenging because it can be quite unpredictable.

With a concrete history of ADHD in the family  (now that mum has been conclusively diagnosed, and with my conditional diagnosis from twenty years ago), I feel there is a strong likelihood he has it, as well.

So, today we start the process of checking this stuff out. I'm nervous but I'm hopeful that this will benefit him a lot in the long run.

I have also had some progress with Deakin. I finally summoned up the courage to email them about their lack of response to the email sent by the Vice Principal of my previous tertiary institute in December. I almost immediately received a response stating that the good doctor (I am being sarcastic here), who sent the rather rude, and ill-informed, response to my query about not being successful in apply to do a PhD, has, in fact, resigned his position!

This is why he never responded to the email. As it was only sent to him, no one else even knew this was an ongoing matter. His position has not been filled yet, but other staff will be reviewing my application in the next week or so. The doctor who replied to my email - who I spoke to a couple of years ago over the phone - asked me to send a copy of my thesis, which I did. She will show it to her colleagues, and will also discuss my application with the doctor who would be my supervisor (who is in Japan until the end of this week) and then they will get back to me next week some time.

I'm am crossing everything that they will be happy with my Masters thesis and with my application and will come back with a resounding 'YES!' That would be awesome!


So, we seem to have some forward motion going on here now, which is a huge relief. I hope to bring lots of good news in coming weeks!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Whooping Cough - and why there needs to be a regulation about testing immunity after vaccination.

All yesterday Ari kept asking me, 'Am I going to kinder now?'

He's been twice and he loves it!

So, I was kind of looking forward to him going today, if only to stem the flow of questions about when he would be going next.

At about 4pm yesterday his kinder teacher rang and informed me that one of the kids in his group has been diagnosed with Whooping Cough and because of this and the fact that Ari is not vaccinated - and therefore has no known immunity - he must be excluded for 14 days.

Actually, the Government says it should be 21 days, so I'm not sure why the kinder policy is for 14 days exclusion.

The only caveat to the exclusion period is that if he were to take the anti-biotic treatment available for Whooping Cough, then he could return to kindergarten 5 days after the commencement of the medication.

I did ask if the other kids would be required to take the antibiotics, but of course, they're vaccinated so they are not required to do so, nor will they be excluded. Even though they also have no known immunity - read on.

You see, the problem I see with this is that Whooping Cough is 80-90% effective, in the year after the final shot (three rounds leading up to six months, so presumably the year between 6 months and 18 months, though a booster is given at four years, and again at 15-17 years). After that it drops a little every year - by the fifth year it is down to 70% effective. Now most kids are given a booster at 4 years, however, many children starting four year old kinder have not yet had that booster, either because they are still three, or because they have it closer to starting school at five.

In a class of 25 'four year old kinder' children, there is a likelihood that even if all of those children are vaccinated, up to 4.5 children (so 4-5 kids in a group of 25 DTaP vaccinated kids) will not have enough immunity to prevent catching and spreading Whooping Cough.

Up to 25% of Whooping Cough cases can be asymptomatic, as the GP I saw last night pointed out to me, so it can be difficult to know who has it and who is spreading it.

The only way to truly know this is test the immunity of vaccinated children.

And then VERIFY your child's immunity - it's the smart thing to do!

Really, an annual blood test for immunity of immunisable diseases across the vaccinated masses should be regulated to have a true understanding of who is covered for what and who is not. The assumption that vaccinated children cannot catch and spread illnesses is extremely flawed.

The child who was diagnosed with Whooping Cough in Ari's group was vaccinated as far as I understand it (only two children in the four year old group are not vaccinated, Ari is one, and the kinder teacher said she had yet to call the family of the other child - so it was not the child with Whooping Cough).

I understand that doing millions of extra blood tests a year would be a costly undertaking, however, this is the health of our children we are talking about - people keep reminding me of this when they find out we don't vaccinate. I don't understand why a parent would simply assume their child is protected when the general protection rate is between 8 and 9 children out of 10 in the first year after vaccination and drops to 7 children out of 10 by the fifth year after vaccination.

As I see it. Ari will finish his course of antibiotics and go back to kinder, and another vaccinated child who was not given antibiotics because they were vaccinated could very likely develop Whooping Cough and the cycle would then start again. This seem very inefficient to me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Life lesson?

I'm sitting here stifling a laugh. It's one of those, 'Well, we are talking about us!' kind of laughs, because, for those of you who read this blog regularly, it isn't surprising to read that one stress inducing event always follows close on the heels of another in a perpetual conga line of 'How much can you handle?'

We spent most of yesterday doing our research and becoming familiar with road worthy certificates, cooling off periods, consumer affair policies and Vic Roads policies. We have been doing a crash course in car buyers rights and dealers rights and the benefit of an independent pre-purchase check of a second hand car.

We have a plan for Clover, so that is great, we know our rights and responsibilities and we still have some hope the dealer with be reasonable, but also know how to respond if he is not. Dealer beware!

I feel good this morning, but at 5pm last night I wasn't on top of things yet and then Erik told us of his early morning adventure at the bus stop...

You know, you think you've clued your kids in on stranger danger and the perils of hopping into cars with people they don't know, and then the kid comes home and tell us the following.

He caught the first bus to school with Ari and I as I was taking Ari to kinder, then we caught the second bus together but Ari and I got of several stops before Erik. He got off at the large shopping centre and sat to wait the 15 minutes for his third bus. It seems the third bus didn't park in the usual bay and by the time Erik got to where it had parked, it was pulling out. So he went back to the original stop and waited for the next bus, which didn't turn up - dontcha just love public transport? At this point, a kid from year eight and his older sister were being picked up by their father and they offered Erik a lift to the school.

On the face of it, this was a very nice gesture - they obviously recognised his uniform and realised he had also been stranded by the unreliable bus service - but...

And this is a big BUT!

He couldn't even tell me the first name of the year eight student.

He should have politely declined the invite and just been late for school - we would have backed him up.

It's not that I believe the father of the year eight student was serial killer, but rather, that had the car been side swiped by a truck or something we would have had no clue that Erik had even gotten into a car, let alone who it belonged to or where they had gone. He didn't even have his mobile on him - because it had not charged when plugged in overnight (there is something wrong with it again, that's the second time since Christmas).

He felt safe because he 'sort of' recognised the year eight kid, though he had never spoken to him.

Obviously, Erik received a refresher course in, 'What the hell were you thinking???' Complete with me showing him all the missing kids profiles on Facebook, and reading him a news article about how many children go missing in Australia every year, and recounting the Daniel Morcombe story (Daniel was the same age as my son is now, so it was particularly relevant to him in that sense). It's amazing how parent accumulate all this information in the recesses of their mind and it all comes flooding forth when they are faced with their worst nightmare, isn't it?

Then I sent him away to think about what we'd just discussed and I called Lukas and Bryn into the study and refreshed them on stranger danger and what our expectations are of them in different situations, and who is a 'safe' person to get in the car with and who isn't. I didn't show them the Facebook links or the other links because I didn't want to scare them, just refresh them - it's really hard to know where to draw the line though...

And then I cried.

What a shocker. I actually thought Erik knew better. My bad!


In other news, this morning, around 10am, there was a knock on the door and two council workers said they wanted to inspect our back yard in regard to the dispute the owners were having with the council over getting a building permit for the townhouses they want to build.

I was still in bed when they arrived, and Dave was on the phone to Vic Roads and Consumer Affairs, so I had to hurriedly put on a nightie and answer the door. I probably looked a sight.

I gave these guys what for!

'Listen! You two are the second lot of people to come to the door unannounced and it's not on. You're supposed to give us 24 hours written notice!'

'Oh, we don't represent the owners, we're from the council.'

'That's irrelevant! This is a matter concerning the owners and you should contact our real estate agent before just rocking up. People work shift work in this household and you can't just turn up whenever it suits you!'

I said I'd let them in the side gate.

By now Dave was off the phone and was ready to rip these guys heads off (we've been kind of stressed, right? Stress just brings out the angry beast in him). I told him I'd already given them the sharp end of my tongue, but he went out and drove the point home nonetheless. The councillors told him they didn't realise it was a rental property, he responded, 'You have a file on this property? You would have listed in that file the real estate agents name, so don't give me that *rubbish!'

So, I'm stifling a laugh, because of course this is all happening to us in the span of less than a week, that is exactly how things seem to work around here.

I have a friend who used to tell me that if themes seem to constantly repeat themselves in your life, if you always seem to have the same kinds of issues over and over, it's God's or the Universe's life lesson for you...

I can't figure out if our lesson is to learn to roll with the punches or to learn that no one is trustworthy and people can be completely unscrupulous and GET AWAY WITH IT! Or if we're learning to better appreciate when things actually do go our way - a lesson we're probably completely failing at because really it doesn't feel like things ever really go our way, so if they are, we're really not seeing it.


If all the sayings are correct them Dave and I must be extremely strong people and have enormous character. I'll leave you to figure that out.

* He actually used a string of other words which I've chosen not to repeat here to protect the innocent.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Our PERFECT day (well, nearly)...

Yesterday was just PERFECT!!!

We got up at our regular Sunday time, and the Grumpy Old Man headed out to get petrol for the car. He was gone a little longer than I had expected, so I was getting a bit toey by the time he sauntered in forty minutes after leaving. Turns out he had decided to go for a little drive on his lonesome. If I hadn't been so happy to see him enjoying the car, I might have been jealous because at that point, I'd only been around the block once!

I wrote up a shopping list and we faffed about for a while before realising it was getting onto midday and Erik needed to be back home by 2pm to be picked up for a hang-out at a friend's house (apparently with teens it's not the done thing to call it a playdate - who knew, certainly not me until I got the eye roll and the, 'Muuu-ummm!'), so I called the mate's mother and told her, rather proudly, that we'd be dropping him off ourselves.

We all hopped into the car and after a 'radio silence' lecture to the kids, eased off down the road. You could have heard a pin drop on the trip to the shopping centre - the kids were taking the silence lecture very seriously, even Ari managed to keep his little noises to a minimum.

Got to the shopping centre and found a park the GOM liked. Went inside, did our half grocery shop, and then checked the time, turned out we still had forty-five minutes to kill before we had to be at the mate's house, so we went and treated ourselves to some made-on-the-spot cinnamon donuts.

Parked at the shopping centre!

Superhot fresh donuts to warm your hands by!

Taking the trolley to the CAR - instead of the taxi rank!

Car loaded! Woot!

Then back out to the car and dropped Erik off on the way home. The Grumpy Old Man initiated some low-key conversation in the car and made a joke or two - all signs that he was relaxing and becoming more confident.

At home we pottered around and basked in the glow of our first ever grocery shop in our own car.

At five, the GOM had to go pick Erik up, then drive out to Warrendyte to pick my brother up from my parents. When they got back we had dinner, and I helped bro set up a Facebook page for him as tattooist. Then the Grumpy Old Man drove bro back to my parents.

And thats where we get to the 'nearly' part. On the way home, in heavy twilight, the GOM went to put his headlights on and they flicked on then immediately died away. His park lights were working but whenever he switched on the headlights they either didn't switch on at all or died away immediately. He had noticed the left indicator light often didn't turn off automatically when he came out of a turn, though the right was working fine. He made his way home, and parked and turned off the engine but could still hear a fan going. He turned the engine back on and off again another couple of times, but the fan wouldn't switch off.

We decided to call RACV. I had put in a membership application on Saturday when the car came home, and I told them this but they informed me it hadn't been processed yet, so if I want to get someone out to look at the car then and there I would have to pay for two years membership instead of one because I was signing up 'roadside'. Argh! $234 instead of $145 because I called them 12 hours before my application would have been processed anyway.

The guy came out and solved the problem of the eager fan by pulling a fuse out of the fuse box controlling the electricals. He said the issues with the lights meant the car should not have received a road worthy certificate just four days earlier. He also said the battery is four years old and isn't properly secured and that one of the headlights isn't reflecting as well as it could be - the reflector is 'dull'.

He said to get back to our dealer and get him to fix those things.

So right now, Clover is sitting outside the house missing a fuse and going no where. We don't know how much having the fan going with the car turned off has drained the battery. The Grumpy Old Man isn't keen to turn it back on because then he has to fiddle with fuse box before and after.

We called the dealer, and told him what the RACV guy had said, his initial response was, 'Well, he should mind his own business.'

We pointed out that s-dad had told the dealership that the indicator wasn't working properly and the battery wasn't properly secured and that they said they would fix those things. The dealer replied, 'We did fix those things.'

Then he started to ask for the RACV guy's name and number but cut himself short and instead told the GOM that we had two options. Either we bring the car in on Wednesday and they will fix the problems or we can pull out of the contract. The Grumpy Old Man said he would rather get the problems fixed.

Since then we've tracked down the mechanic who did the road worthy certificate, so we can check with him about his certification if we want to. We are also considering having the car inspected independently after it has been fixed to make sure it is road worthy, if it is not, we could pull out of the contract or take the dispute to VCAT.

I just want a car that works so that the Grumpy Old Man can get some work and we can move on from this stressful time in our lives!

I really love this car already and want to see it work, but I also don't want to live with anxiety that at any minute it will break down again because people take short cuts or simply don't care.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Finally, I can reveal our amazing blessing!

This is our new baby, I shall name her Clover because of her beautiful green colour - green is my favourite colour, did you know that?

Getting to this point of being able to share this news with you guys has been quite a journey!

It all started last Friday afternoon when my mum rang and ask if she and s-dad could come over for a quick visit. We said sure. They arrived shortly afterwards and we all gravitated towards the kitchen in search of coffees.

Mum and I were chatting about I-cannot-remember-what and s-dad was looking at his iPad, he asked the Grumpy Old Man's opinion on something on the screen and I noticed the GOM's face wrinkle up in confusion. At this point mum suggested I also have a look. On the screen was a lovely green people mover. I immediately though mum and s-dad might be wanting to suggest to us that if we showed MIL, she might just be swayed to get it for us all to use.

But no!

Next they told us they had traded in their 3 year old Holden Omega sedan on this Chrysler Grand Voyager. When they told us this, the Grumpy Old Man and I both were completely speechless for a number of minutes - that's quite a feat!

The first photo we saw of Clover

They told us the car was 14 years old and had quite a few kilometres on it, but was in beautiful condition and came with 12 months rego, road worthy certificate and 12 months RACV warranty! We were told we could pick it up on Wednesday!

On Saturday both the Grumpy Old Man and I felt like we had massive hangovers!

It took quite a while to even begin to believe we would finally, finally have our car! We had started looking into low income loan schemes, but they could only offer us $3000 loans and we knew that would mean an extremely unreliable car, and probably not a people mover.

On Monday mum rang again and asked if they could come and visit. She said there was a problem. I felt sick to my stomach.

It turned out that the car had originally been advertised at $11 999, but when my parents first saw it in the yard, it was down to $9 999, when they offered their awesome late model Holden as a trade-in they were able to negotiate the price down to $8000 ($500 below the minimum trade-in for the Holden, but my parents didn't mind). On Monday, they'd called mum and during the conversation it had been revealed that the trade-in did not include the cost of the 12 months RACV warranty, so if we wanted the warranty, we would have to pay for that ourselves. That cost came to $320. The dealer was offering their own limited 12 month warranty for free, but it only covered $300 worth of repairs per claim, whereas the RACV warranty covers up to $3000 worth of repairs per claim. So, mum said we had three options:

  1. Take the dealership 12 month warranty
  2. Pay for the RACV 12 month warranty ourselves
  3. Take the Holden 
The Holden is a beautiful car - the Grumpy Old Man prepared for his test in it and loved it! However, with only five seats, we knew it would only half solve our problem. As it turned out, when we had originally been told about the car on Friday, I had transferred $300 into a separate bank account as a back stop for the car, for things like RACV membership and what not. So we decided to go with option 2. We were told we could pick the car up on Friday afternoon at 1pm.

Yesterday we took Ari to his first every kinder session and he had a ball.

Afterwards we were just getting ready to pick up the car when another call came through saying we couldn't pick the car up yet because Vic Roads was insisting on a change of number plate. The dealer said he'd argued for us to just keep the number plate we had but Vic Roads was insisting. So we arranged to pick the car up this morning.

I called RACV and asked why Vic Roads might be insisting on a change of number plate, and they explained that because of the age of the car it fell on the other side of a cut-off due to the number of plates which had faded over the past ten years or so.

Finally, this morning s-dad and the Grumpy Old Man headed off to pick up Clover. They seemed to take forever coming back but eventually they arrived and it was amazing to see our own car parked next to our house!
Enough room for every one! This car is so spacious!

Clover gets the thumbs up from the crew!

Jacob got in, and then refused to get out!

The Grumpy Old Man sticking on his green Ps!

Desperately trying to be cool and not grin like an idiot!

Unlike his wife!

After a cuppa, the guys headed off for a drive so the Grumpy Old Man could get used to the right hand gears. Twenty minutes later the phone rang. The Grumpy Old Man was on the other end of the line laughing. My stomach sank - the only reason he calls me laughing is when something has gone wrong. The car had lost power and stopped.

At this point I thought I was going to vomit. 

Mum headed off to meet them and they were given instructions to call the dealer and give him hell! I was panicking because I knew we weren't covered by roadside assist yet, but also broken down after just three hours??? I had visions in my head of calling Consumer Affairs!

The guys called the dealer who put them onto the mechanic who suggested they put fuel in the car. They said the fuel meter showed a quarter full tank, but the mechanic suggested perhaps the meter was stuck. So, mum sat with the Chrysler while the men got emergency fuel and sure enough the car started up again. We'll be getting that meter sorted ASAP!

Phew! What a drama! But also, what a blessing! My parents don't have much in this world and the car they traded in had initially been earmarked to be sold and the money to be salted away for a bit of insurance against anything breaking in the caravan or their truck. I cannot adequately express my gratitude for their generosity!

This car means the Grumpy Old Man can apply for those in-home care positions he's been looking at for the past year. He has a better chance of actually getting some work now than he has had in four years!

This car means we be there for his mum in a matter of minutes if she needs us!

This car means we can have more relaxed outings as a whole family - we can take our kids to the beach for the first time ever!

This car means not being constrained by public transport, not having to carry the bare minimum, not getting tired and grumpy even before we reach our destination. 

This car means every trip will be at least three time quicker than ever before!

This car means freedom!

Friday, February 08, 2013


I'm sitting here listening to sad songs and crying.

I'm grieving.

Nothing horrible has happened, I am grieving the loss of my resilience.

I think I just feel really, really old all of a sudden today.

Things didn't turn out how I had hoped. It's really not a big drama, things will be fine, but what I realised when I came home and took to my bed (my natural response to stress and disappointment) is that I felt scared and sad.

I had a sleep, and woke up groggy and hungover from the adrenalin roller coaster of this week.

Since then I've been holding back tears - and then I turned on SmoothFM, I've got to tell you that's good radio station for crying - and the flood surged forward because it dawned on me that I've lost my resilience.

People aren't born with resilience, it is something we develop - hopefully as children, but it often happens later - when we learn that we are okay even when things don't go our way. Parents teach resilience to their children by allowing the children the freedom to explore their world and take calculated risks and when something goes awry -which is must for all of us, if we are not completely sheltered - the parent is there to catch the child (physical, emotionally and psychologically) and let them know they're okay anyway.

I used to be a very resilient person.

I was the person who said, 'Don't worry, it will work out!'

Today I realised I've lost that resilience. Disappointments blossom into catastrophes in the oxygen of my imagination. Even when things are going my way, I find myself expecting something to go wrong and expecting to be disappointed. I live in fear a lot these days and it's crushing me.

So, then when something goes only slightly left of perfect, I dive head long into panic and upset and a rounds of 'I knew it! Things never work out for me anymore!' I often feel cursed or that somehow I have done something terrible which now means I no longer deserve any form of success.

Invulnerability is a hallmark of youth, which is why I feel old tonight, I am so far from feeling invulnerable...

Everything will be better in the morning, I'm sure - night time isn't a good time for thinking about stuff... And Sinead O'Connor's 'Nothing Compares' isn't good thinking music when I'm in this kind of mood.


Thursday, February 07, 2013

I didn't think I was one of those parents, but...

I didn't think I was the kind of parent who boxed my children into categories, but this week I've had two close shaves with doing this.

I think it's probably human nature - we want to categorise things so we can say, 'That is safe and that is dangerous.' You know, essentially, at its base categorising is about surviving and being able to predict things.

I notice, for example, that similar looking people often have similar mannerisms and even attitudes towards things.

I saw a post on a parenting forum this week asking if naming a child a particular name influences their personality. On the face of it, we scoff and saying, 'Of course not!' But often when choosing names for our kids we avoid names of children we have not liked so much in the past - teachers, in particular, struggle with this. We do this because we can't help but think that a child with the same name as a little bully might become a little bully.

I've seen lots of discussions about labelling children. You know those parents. 'This is my intellectual child, and this is my sporty child...' Which seems to suggest the intellectual child might be a klutz and the sporty kid is probably not an academic high achiever.

Yes, well, I've always prided myself on not really doing this with my kids. Sure, I've gone on about Erik's great artistic ability and I've said Luey and Bryn are both little book worms and Luey is very musical and loves maths as well. But I've always thought I was very open to my children doing anything they like...

Until this week...

The first incident was when Erik came home from school and said he wanted to take up an instrument. Now, we'd asked him before Christmas if he wanted to do this, but he hadn't been interested. On Monday he was talking about taking up the drums. I couldn't help but think he was treading on Luey's turf. I found myself asking him this. He swore he wasn't. I suggested he had never been interested in playing an instrument until Luey got an acoustic guitar from his Amma, but Erik said he'd 'always' wanted to play the drums. So, I told him to check it out the following day at the information session. As it turns out, he didn't go to the information session.

The second incident was last night when Luey announced to me that he was going to do the Landscapes painting project in year six. If you're a regular reader of the blog you'll know that Erik did this to much acclaim last year. Again, I couldn't help but feel he is wanting to prove something by doing this. I found myself feeling a little anxious about how this might turn out if Luey's painting wasn't to Erik's standard, but on reflection, that is irrelevant. He wants to paint, he should be able to paint. He will bring his own advantages to the painting. Luey's concentration levels are greater than Erik's and his eye for detail is stronger as well - in many ways, Luey is like the Grumpy Old Man in this respect, he tends to achieve the things he puts his mind to.

These two incidents have opened my eyes to a tendency I didn't believe I had; to categorise - and therein limit - my children.

The musician who wants to paint...

The artist who wants to learn the drums...

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Oops... Sorry!

Okay, so you're probably here to find out what I was going to announce today.

Really sorry to disappoint you but it may be that even mentioning we had exciting news jinxed us just a little because the 'day of telling' has been postponed to Friday.

Yes, I'm disappointed too. Though a postponement is still okay because at least, as far as we know right now, everything is fine and everything will work out still - there is really no reason to think it won't except that we've had so many things not work out at the last minute and are very much gun-shy.

In other news...

Ari starts kinder on Friday - so Friday is now a jam pack day of lots of emotions zinging around...

Probably not ideal for a four year old who has never been anywhere without at least one of his parents or one of his brothers.

This realisation dawned on me a few days ago. This child has never been anywhere without one of us - his nearest and dearest - as support. By the time Bryn started kinder, he had been to creche one day a week for over a year. Yes, he was there with my BFF and her daughter, who are practically family anyway, but still it was without one of us; his mum or dad and his bros.

I've talked to him about Friday a couple of times, explaining that we'll go to kinder and he can play with some toys and then mum and dad will go home for a little while and then we'll come back and pick him up and we'll go do something fun.

Of course, then the appointment which was supposed to happen today was moved to Friday, and it's not something you can really take a four year old to, so I'm not sure how we're going to swing 'doing something fun with mum and dad', but we'll figure something out...

Erik is settling into high school quite well. He's making a friend already, which is just brilliant. He likes most of his teachers, but finds one a bit boring - so, basically, he's a high school kid... His Personal Learning Project mentor was really impressed with the project he has chosen and told him she really hadn't expected him to be so ambitious (possibly because he's only a year 7 student) - which is a great start! He is the only year 7 doing a personal learning project.

After the first class he kind of wanted to change electives because they had had a stand in teacher and she hadn't really guided the students much, so he had no idea what to do and felt his range of choice (the project is ultimately his choosing) was too broad. We had a chat with him and he was sure he wants to do a painting for the Brushes with Life tabletop book coming out later this year, so doing that as his PLP would kill two birds with one stone. That helped him settle a bit.

He's been working pretty steadily on looking for an idea to create. He and the Grumpy Old Man and I have trawled the net for inspiration together over a few sessions, and he's come up with an idea - it came to him the other night after lights out and he wrote some quick notes (which really impressed me) which sound awesome. Last night he made up a time line for achieving the project goal, so he's well on his way already.

Lukas and Bryn are loving being back at school, and Lukas especially seems to love the responsibility of picking Bryn up from his class at the end of the school day and bringing him home and then letting themselves in with a key. He desperately wants for us not to be home one day when he comes back with Bryn but he's hoping in vain at the moment because I'm not quite ready to take that step yet. We do have a plan set up for when that will eventually happen. He is to let them in then immediately call my mobile and say they're home. The front door will be locked and he is not to open it for anyone. All the 'allowed' people have keys and can let themselves in. We also have a code word for if there is some reason someone else had to collect the boys from home.

Life is slowly starting to fall into place.

I still haven't written to Deakin. I really have to do it because I keep putting it off. I have to get some sort of voluntary work or study happening so I can collect mobility allowance. With the big change happening (Friday's big news), we're definitely going to need any extra income we can generate - we can get by with what we have coming in now, but it would be a tighter squeeze on resources than ever before and it's already strangling us now...

I need more self-confidence!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Three more sleeps!

We have some HUGE news - but I can't tell you all just yet...

We had a bit of a shock on Friday, something completely and utterly unexpected happened. Something we could never have predicted but something which will change our lives quite substantially.

On Wednesday it will all become real - I hope - but until then I can't tell you guys all about it for fear of jinxing it.

Yesterday was a bit hard, the Grumpy Old Man and I both felt a bit shocked, confused and dazed - he said he felt like he had a hangover, but hadn't touched a drop of anything. I think if we'd had anything to drink in the house on Friday, he might have had a real hangover yesterday...

Today, he's a lot brighter, the shock has worn off and he's starting to get excited and make plans - he's always been good at adjusting when something has happened out of the blue that he didn't plan for and probably would have strongly resisted if he'd been given an option...

Me, I'm a little scared, and a little excited. It's growing on me. While I wouldn't have planned it this way - while it's not ideal because it affects other people as well - I will be devastated if anything is awry on Wednesday...

Blog posts like this are intolerable, aren't they?

Sorry for that, I really wish I could say more, but I have a great stupidstition about this after so many years of things going wrong at the last moment for us.

Three more sleeps!

There will be photos!