My Family

thoughts and experiences on being a wife, being a mother and trying to make a family work

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We came back from the weekend away to bad news this week; our beagle Arima had passed away.

Arima was the son of our first dog, Ezri, and like his mother was a pedigree beagle (yep, papers and all). I can remember the day they were born, twelve and a half years ago. T-J and I were so nervous and Ezri probably just wanted us out of her face while she paced and nested and did her thing. We stayed up all night, but the puppies didn’t come till the next morning (I seem to be cursed/curse those around me with long labours ;p).

Arima was named for one of my favourite manga heroes: Soichiro Arima from His and Her Circumstances/Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou.You might be sensing a pattern or anime-derived pet names.

While all the other puppies had homes to go to Arima didn’t, but I was only too glad to keep him with us. Because Arima was bred to perfect breed standards – ideal black saddle and all – we always intended to put him in a show one day, but then next thing you know we have kids and then he has grey hairs and the time passed.

Unlike his namesake Arima was always a mischief. He was a master escape artist (as multiple fees from the local pound when they found him before us can attest), and loved breaking into the house to track down any unattended food. He was also almost always the one to start up a howl, and if you didn’t stop him soon all three dog were howling, then every dog in the street!

The last Christmas we had at our place we served the ham up on a platter, left it on the table to go get the rest of the feast only to find Arima and his mischievous little pack escaped from their area and up on the table scoffing the ham. At least someone had ham that Christmas ;p

In his entire life I don’t think he ever spent more than a whole day away from his mother (actual mother, not me his fur-baby mother ;p ), and even then only because one or the other of them was at the vet. When his brother, Porthos, came back to live with us they became an inseparable pack, which made walks more difficult since leaving anyone behind resulted in endless devastated howling(trust me, we tried many times, particularly after our children were born). I barely have a photo of one of the trio without at least one of the others photobombing. Their pack also includes our cats who were never chased or heckled even once that I noticed.

We’ll miss our little boy and it’s evident his pack still misses him too.

the pack sleeping on top of the table because Baron the cat was ‘hogging’ the dog bed beneath (Arima is the one looking at the camera)

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What do I want for Christmas? I want anyone who has an agenda (be it good or bad in ANYONES view) on parents and children to stop using autism as a scare tactic. Anti-vaxxers have been doing it for ages, but a couple of days ago I saw a news article about research that proved if you took anti-depressants during pregnancy your child was 87% more likely to be diagnosed autistic by age 7.

Now my assumption is if your depression is so bad that your doctor actually prescribes you anti-depressants during pregnancy and you take them, that your condition is pretty severe, and you’re in danger of harming yourself and consequently your unborn child. Why put extra pressure on your already fragile self of fearing autism when death is a possible consequence?

The pattern I’m seeing here is people saying autism is a worse consequence than the possibility of death. Articles all over the internet are telling me my son is THE worst case scenario; there is nothing worse in the entire world than having a child like him. And that makes me pray he is never able to read these articles. Can you imagine what it would be like to be told death is preferable to the way your mind works?

To be clear, I’m not telling anti-vaxxers they have to vaccinate their kids. It’s your choice. I may disagree with it, but that’s your prerogative (though I’ll keep my too-young-to-be-fully-vaccinated daughter very far away from your kids sorry to say). I’m also not saying to take drugs if you’re pregnant and damn the consequences. I’m saying if you’re talking about these things(or anything else for that matter) with other people, trying to convince them to follow your way of thinking, don’t use autism as a way to frighten them into siding with you.

Late at night, after I settle my six month old daughter back to sleep after her middle of the night feed, I’ve been unable to fall back to sleep this has been stressing me so severely. I don’t ever want my child to learn that so many people consider him a fate worse than death.

Is autism REALLY a fate worse than death? Could you say that to anyone, child or adult, anywhere on the spectrum? Tell them better they died at two years old, gasping for breath, unable to understand what’s happening, choking as the coughing from whooping cough doesn’t allow them to breathe air back in before coughing again and again and again until there’s no air left to expel and everything goes black. Tell them better they died in utero because their mother was so despondent she cut her wrists and bled too much before changing her mind and trying to crawl from the bath tub to the phone, never reaching her goal.

tell him
tell him

Tell my son, only two weeks away from turning 5 that he, happy though he is, so adoring of his sister that he stresses strangers might kidnap her so pulls the shade of the pram down to hide her in large crowds, loving to dance, and play with robots and dinosaurs, but is unable to speak or understand much of what is said to him, that he would be better off dead.

Autism is not a fate worse than death. Don’t talk like it is. Don’t spread this heart-breaking lie around. Sure, debate your points if you want, tell people all the research you’ve done or about your friend or family member who had an unfortunate bad experience, but don’t ever say again that autism is a possible side effect with the intent to scare someone into following your advice.

That’s what I want for Christmas.

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pumpkin princess<– This cutie is why it’s been pretty quiet here on the blog lately. Not to mention I have three short stories under various different levels of ‘upcoming publication’ and my yearly goals to achieve (I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to scrap goal #2, because the others have been pretty all-consuming).

Speaking of goals, to try and help me polish off #3 (the final revision/edits of Written By The Stars) I’m going to turn NaNoWriMo(National Novel Writing Month) into NaNoReMo (National Novel Revision Month).

I’ve been using the Holly Lisle ‘How To Revise Your Novel’ course to help guide me and I’m finally up to the last step – doing the write-in (there’s a lot of lead up steps that help you spot problems and plan your revision). So I’m going to break up the process into two parts – the paper revision then the write in revision and track it by pages. I have 191 pages, so each of those done twice means I need to do 12.7 pages a day to do it in a month. At times like this I wish the kids went to school ;p Let’s see if I can pull this off without neglecting the kidlets or the housework too much. Certainly glad I’m not off maternity leave just yet!

Now enough business, lets all just take a moment to absorb how adorable Harley is in her pumpkin tutu!

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goodnewsIt’s not like me to post so little. I’ve mentioned in a few of my more recent posts that the lack is due to illness. Don’t panic it’s not my vertigo, it’s a good kind if illness. Not that being sick is good, just the cause of the illness is good.

Xander is going to have a younger sibling soon!

It’s been a very rough first trimester. Way worse than when Xander was the belly bean. I’ve still been doing some writing, editing and submitting, but all my author-energy has gone there not posting here. My priority will always be my actual writing, not blogging, but I hope to return to a regular schedule soon. Almost as fervently as I hope my morning sickness(which is certainly not restricted to only the morning) will end soon.

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I didn’t post even once last month o.0 that’s not like me at all!

I was busy, organising a big holiday, experiencing the big holiday, getting back and unpacking and recovering from aforementioned holiday, an MRI, the Brisbane Writers Group Convention, driving down south of the border for a close family friend’s 60th, and of course endless agonising over whether or not to do NaNo while I’m as sick as I have been the last 2-3 weeks.

P1220005The holiday was Xander’s first time on a plane. He loved it when  we were flying through the clouds like Hiccup on Toothless’s back. Luckily we had no popped ears so tear free – thanks to his chewy straw drink bottle and lollipops ;p . Plus the plane ride being a short affair definitely helped.

BSCIt was pretty awesome when we came across a bush stone-curlew too ;p (if you’re not sure why I care, check out this post, this one, this one, and this one – long story short though, I’m obsessed).

I spent a long time agonising over whether I would be able to do NaNo this year, and I figured, heck I might as well try. You can check out a bit more about what I’m doing here.

As for this month, I’m looking forward to several games releases (though thanks to NaNo I’ll probably not do much playing), and thought I’d share this amazing trailer with you ;p

I would play the hell out of that game ;p

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This weekend just passed we(myself, my husband and my parents) took Xander on his first camping trip. He had a blast, but of course all he wanted to do was touch the campfire and run around exploring, so we parents are exhausted.

average quality, but the best I could do on a phone at a distance
average quality, but the best I could do on a phone at a distance

One very interesting thing also occurred. You may remember my many prattles about the Bush Stone-Curlew (here, here). Well at the camping spot we selected there was a wildlife sign announcing this area was one of the few places were you could find the rare and reclusive Beach Stone-Curlew.

I swear I didn’t know this until after we got there!

Only seven breeding pairs have been seen on the Northern Coast of New South Wales (where we were camping) but luckily we saw two, each on separate days. The first day we took Xander to the beach and saw one back in the dunes. I didn’t realise it was a stone-curlew but looking at it I thought it looked like a softer-hued bush stone-curlew. My father had the same suspicion.

the sign at the camping spot
the sign at the camping spot

So he read the wildlife sign later that day and we discovered we’d been right.

On the second day we were taking a walk back from the beach and spotted another one. Sadly, we only had our camera phones with it so the best picture I got was this one, but still, it was fun to spot a new type of stone-curlew. And to take Xander on his first camping trip 🙂

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how-to-train-your-dragon-2-poster1-690x1024Our local cinema is doing some advanced screenings of How To Train Your Dragon 2 this weekend, including some yesterday. Since our little man Xander is a mad fan (owns most of the toys, seen all of the TV show(like ten times each episode), and watched the movie at least once a week since he first watched it over a year ago) we knew we had to get in on that action.

Xander watches movies at the cinema well enough. He’s watched Despicable Me 2, Cloudy With a Chance Of Meatballs 2, Monsters University (and a few more I can’t recall right now) without disturbing other patrons, but still we picked a session during the day when we were sure there wouldn’t be too many other movie-goers (we picked well there were only six other groups in the whole cinema) just in case this was the one time he didn’t do well.

This was the one time he didn’t do well. We had toys, food, drink, loving parents to assure him all was safe. He loved the start, grinning, bouncing in his seat, but then his trigger happened.

Xander can’t handle kidnappings (this includes dragon-napping). Giant scary freaking monster – he doesn’t care. Someone dies – he doesn’t care.  Someone gets hurt – he doesn’t care. Someone gets their heart broken – he doesn’t care. Someone get’s tied up and/or dragged away – the world is burning OMG OMG OMG!

The first time we heard chuckles from those near-by, amused  that he was so upset by the first dragon-napping (I assure you, my spoilers will get no more specific than this). By the third or fourth time he was getting so upset he couldn’t calm down before the next would happen, so my husband and I tried to leave to calm him. But no, Xander knew this movie was too awesome to leave in the middle of. If we dared to walk out the door he would lash out, struggle out of our arms and run back in. So we moved to the seats in the cinema furthest from the other patrons to try and soothe him, to try and avoid his crying bothering the other people.

Mostly he cried during action scenes, so the sound shouldn’t have been audible, and no one approached us to complain or did the snide, sotto voice walk by where they whinge about ‘that noisy kid’ so I’m not sure if we did bother anyone for sure, but I worry that we did and wish I could talk with people and explain that for Xander the most horrible thing imaginable is not injury, not death, but kidnapping.

What seems unremarkable to one person can be a great fear to others.

Another example, I’ve cared for pet snakes in the past – but for some they are a terrifying creature. It’s hard to understand something someone else fears when it’s not scary to you, but that doesn’t make their fear less valid.

I can’t help but wonder when I’m writing how many scenes I create that might trigger someone. We writers can’t avoid it really – after all who wants to read a book where basically nothing happens? Even going out the front door can be terrifying to some people. But where’s the line? Some people say that certain triggering events should be removed from fiction altogether, but that is like denying that these awful things happen. It’s certainly walking the razor’s edge.

I hope by the time the movie comes out on bluray Xander will be able to handle watching it again, because it’s awesome and I can’t wait to see it some more ;p

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Warning: this post assumes you have watched The Dark Crystal and thus know what a Skeksis is. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it and reclaim your childhood.

dapper gentlemanLook at this little guy. What a cutie. You’d never think he was a skeksis inside.

My son makes the little ‘Hmmm?’ noise of a skeksis when he likes the look of something. He also points and uses that noise to ask for things sometimes.

At least once a day he walks around talking to himself in a quiet, hissy language (sometimes I call him my little parseltongue).

He can be a real tyrant.

Sometimes I feel he is sucking the life out of me (only when I’m in a bad mood and he’s in a tyrannical one, the combination of which is rare, but I’m trying to make a lost of comparative traits here ;p ).

The only problem is he’s so damn cute.

I should show him The Dark Crystal. I’ve been worried he might be scared of the skeksis so have been holding off. Or maybe I was more worried he’d try to hug his bretheren ;p

he loves to play with swords too
he loves to play with swords too
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curlew2I would have posted this sooner, but at the moment my website keeps dropping out on me, so unless I’m lucky when I try to post, I get a 503 error. >.< I’m working on it, but I’m only slightly tech savvy, not champion level ;p

I had some luck on Monday night trying to get some photos of the bush stone curlews (no idea what I’m talking about? read my last post). While T-J and Xander played in the park I crawled around on the grass trying to get close enough for a good shot without scaring the birds. Some of them even stopped, looking at me curiously as I lay stomach down on the dirt with my camera watching them. Still not the best shots, but for an amateur with an old camera the results aren’t too shabby.

curlew1My encounters with wildlife did not finish there however. Earlier that day my husband walked through the door between the living room and the kitchen and suddenly yelled: “Snake!”

With his reaction I expected a big fella, maybe not as huge as some we’ve had in our old house (which backed directly onto a creek and bushland)(we once had a carpet python on the back stairs so large we actually called a professional because we were genuinely afraid for our dogs (beagles)) but certainly not a little juvenile snake barely the length of my forearm.

The poor little guy disappeared under the fridge before I could get a good look at him, so we had to take precautions for catching him because I couldn’t say (at that point) that he wasn’t a venomous species. SIDE NOTE: you may think a juvenile venomous snake is less venomous than an adult. Not true. They can inject less venom because they are smaller, but if it’s a venomous enough snake you’re still going to need a hospital.

So my very stylish and totally professional precaution was to put two large bedsocks on my arm (the thickness of which should ensure the fangs wouldn’t reach my skin). With a stunning teal forearm we got him out from under the fridge and he tried to hide in the pantry. The bedsocks worked perfectly as when the poor little guy (frightened out of his mind) tried to bite me the only reason I knew I’d been bitten was because I could see it happening.

Once captured I gave him a quick look over to make sure he wasn’t immediately identifiable as a venomous snake. He didn’t have the black head typical of a juvenile brown snake or the distinct belly of a red belly black snake. I’m not a professional herpetologist, but I grew up on a farm so do know some of the identifiers. He looked like a little tree snake, so we took him to the nearby bushland and released him by an old log.

I love wildlife stories, so if you have any, feel free to share them in the comments 🙂

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Baron and I
Baron and I

From yesterdays post you might have assumed I was chipper and up beat most of the day (if a little busy) but shortly after writing my post I came across a terrible discovery. My cat Baron had passed away during the night. This year has not been a good year for my cats.

Just like for my poor Grum I need to process things and I want to do that in the method of a tribute to Baron’s life.

Baron was a grief relief cat. We’d lost Xavier, a fluffy gray cat, only a month before and we saw a fluffy grey kitten in the pet store and snapped him up. He was named for Baron Humbert Von Gikkingen the third from Studio Ghibli’s wonderful movies ‘Whispers of the Heart’ and ‘The Cat Returns’ (even though his colouring was much more like Prince Lune’s).

Baron napping with 3 month old Xander (for anyone worried, no I never left them unattended like that, I was always writing right beside them when they napped like this)
Baron napping with 3 month old Xander (for anyone worried, no I never left them unattended like that, I was always writing right beside them when they napped like this)

When my parents moved in with us (yes that way around) Baron took a liking to my parents and received the nick name ‘comrade Baronski’ and the influx of adoring pats that came with it.

Baron was always a laid back cat. He didn’t have the wild adventures of being lost and found that Grum did (or perhaps he kept his adventures secret better than she did) so there isn’t quite as much to write, but that doesn’t mean he was less loved.

When Xander would nap on our bed or the fold out couch bed, Baron would often curl up near by for his nap too. Actually now I think of it, he was a very sleepy cat, ninety percent of the pictures I have of him are him napping in funny places. He was also fond of hugging things while he slept, like remotes. There’s a sad symmetry that it seems as though he died in his sleep, lying down like he always did, snuggled up on a towel. My poor sleepy Baron will have all the time in the world for napping now.