Monday, October 1, 2012

The great wall...

... of strawberries.

And flowers!

Surprisingly, it didn't take the Big Dude much convincing before he realized that we really needed a vertical garden made from reclaimed pallets.

So we visited his workshop and salvaged some from the scrap heap, making sure that they were marked HT for heat treated... not CT for chemically treated.

We dug up the old strawberry patch and placed our pallets along the wall.
We cut some sheets of leftover black corrugated plastic from The Big Dudes workplace and inserted them into the pallets.
We poured in some potting mix.
We cut some holes and popped in our strawberries and flowers.
Then Big Dude made up some support props
(and a grape vine trellis while he was at it).

And now our strawberry patch has a new life.

And our shed wall looks fantastic.

Now here's hoping our grape vine cuttings from last year are alive and start to grow soon! 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Spring colour

We're loving our flowers at the moment.

Pretty bursts of colour. 

And lovely scents.

We're happy that it is Spring.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A balancing act

"Dad"  said the kids...
"can we have a see-saw?"

"Okay" said the dad...
"but you have to help me make it".

So they found some scrap timber and some old concrete
and they dug and they watered and they sanded.
And they watched and they waited.
And a see-saw was built.

But it's an old fashioned see-saw.
No springs, no safety features at all.
And it scared us at first.
Watching them have no idea how use it.  
No idea that it could smack them in the chin, or the head.
No idea that they could come tumbling off or get their fingers caught.
No idea how to balance at all.

So we told them the risks
and understood that the reason we knew them was that we had learned them as kids.
Through the smacking of our own heads and chins.
And we gave them the chance to work it out on their own.

So we watched with fingers crossed and it was amazing.
We didn't realize how many skills you could learn by something as simple as an old fashioned see-saw.
Spacial awareness, balance, sharing, consideration for others, awareness of others, weight distribution, the effect of force...

Learning that the Big Dude and I took for granted when we were kids.

And learning that's so much fun.

 We love our home made see-saw.
Even as our fingers are crossed that we don't have to go to emergency any time soon!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The year that was...

... and the year that will be.

The year that was, began on Friday the Thirteenth of May, 2011.
That was the day that Dexter was born.

Let me tell you Dexter's story.

Dexter gave us concerns from way back when he was the size of a pea and we discovered that he had a single umbilical artery.  Then when his mum had her Glucose Tolerance Test at 28 weeks gestation, it came back one point too high so she was referred to an endocrinologist with suspected gestational diabetes.  She never did make that appointment.  At 31 weeks Dexter's  amniotic fluid began to leak and the very next day he was born by emergency caesarean.  The doctors think there may have been an infection but they can't be sure because they gave his mum some antibiotics.  His mum was only able to have half a dose of  glucocorticosteroids injected, to help with his lung development, because he became too stressed and they had to deliver him.  But he came out OK.  And then he crashed.  So we almost lost him that first night.

But Dexter is a fighter and he went on to survive pneumonia and anaemia and jaundice.  He had ultrasounds, echo-cardiograms, x-rays, barium swallows, enemas, electroencephalograms, milk scans, swabs, blood work and loads of tests.

When Dexter was 4 weeks old his routine head ultrasound showed that he had PVL,  periventricular leukomalacia.  Brain Damage.  His mum and dad were told to prepare themselves for severe muscular impairment.  So we knew he had cerebral palsy but an official diagnosis couldn't be given.  We just had to wait and see what he would and wouldn't be able to do.

The days and weeks passed by slowly and it seemed that with every step forward Dexter took, he would take two back.  His mum was told that he would most likely go home with a gastrointestinal feeding tube and an oxygen mask.  But she had been there, by his side, everyday and she was starting to question the decisions being made about his care.  She knew that he would react badly to added calories in his milk, but his carers kept wanting to try so he would put on more weight.  So they would try and he would react and have to go back to hourly tube feeds.  They found spots on his gastrointestinal tract so they sent him to another hospital for further checks in case he had to have part of his bowel surgically removed.

Then when he was 2 months old and starting to make good progress he had his first immunisation injections and 12 hours later stopped breathing.  So he went back to hourly feeds.  As he improved again, his mum believed that he was developing his sucking reflex and she desperately wanted to try to breast feed him.  But he had reflux so his carers wanted to keep him on frequent tube feeds.

Bit by bit his mum started to crack with frustration.  One of the nurses could see this so he helped her try to breast feed him for the very first time.  And it worked.  He was able to do it.  But still they persisted with the tube feeds.  Still, going home seemed like such a long way away.  So finally his mum broke and it was decided that Dexter needed to be sent to his local hospital so his mum could feel better.

And at his local hospital Dexter thrived.  His carers pushed him into growing up.  They allowed his mum to breastfeed him on demand during the day.  She was put in charge of his care while she was there. And bit by bit, day by day Dexter finally got bigger and better.  Then when Dexter was 4 months old he had his second lot of immunisation injections.  Again he stopped breathing after 12 hours.  But this time he wasn't set right back with his feeds.  Finally, not long after, he got to go home.  He was 122 days old.  He was breast feeding on demand day and night.  He was breathing on his own.

The next week Dexter was back in hospital.  A new one.  He had an inguinal hernia that required surgical repair.  While in recovery he stressed out the nurses and had to be transferred to the ICU.  But he recovered quickly and went back home the next day.

We were all a bit scared when Dexter first came home.  He wore a breathing monitor that ticked with every breath.  Even though he was over 4 months old he was still very little and we were all afraid he would stop breathing and we wouldn't know how to react.  But he didn't.  And he got bigger and better with each passing day.  Dexter was a very serious baby.  We would play games with him and sing to him and blow raspberries, but never get a response.  At the best he would roll his eyes and give us a look that clearly said "Really?  Are we doing that again?".  But we kept playing games, even though we felt like fools.

Because of his PVL, Dexter attended physiotherapy and occupational therapy.  We would do leg and arm exercises with him and he was very good at following our commands.  When we said "Up", he would grasp our hands tight and pull his little body from lying to sitting.  When we said "Go", he would push his little feet against us and shoot across the floor.  He was so determined he would keep on going even when he was so tired he could barely move.  He was a fighter from the very beginning.

We never doubted how much Dexter loved us.  Even if he didn't play our games, he held on tight to our fingers.  He snuggled in deep to our hugs.  And then one day, he smiled.  And a couple of weeks later, he smiled again.  And then he started to play.  He'd even initiate the games.  Usually when we were distracted and we'd almost miss his cues.  Things were looking up.  We were all hopeful for better times to come.

Then Dexter got his eyes tested.  Cortical visual impairment.  His eyes worked fine, but the pathways connecting them to the brain did not.  So we had no idea what he could or could not see from one day to the next.  From one hour to the next.  Some moments he might see perfectly.  Some moments he might not see at all.  So we used more verbal cues.  We gave him more tactile toys.  His mum and dad started to wear lots of black and white and lots of big, bold stripes.

Then Dexter's Poppy called with bad news.  Cancer of the prostrate.  He lived a long way away so we had to hope for him from afar.  But it was fairly routine and he soon went into hospital for keyhole surgery that should take less than an hour.  Only it didn't.  There was more than they expected and it took about 6.  And he'd been fasting so long that his body said enough and instead of going back to the recovery room he ended up in another hospital in the ICU, attached to a life support machine.  So once again our lives got a little tough.

But bit by bit Dexter's Poppy got better.  Then one day Dexter laughed.  And a couple of weeks later he laughed again.  And then, sometimes, we could even make him laugh.  And he was starting to hold his head high.  And he was learning how to sit up.  And he caught up to the charts for his size and weight and head circumference... for his actual age.  And he started to make more sounds.  And he started to roll over.

And he turned 1.  

And we hoped that we could put the year that was, behind us.

And then Dexter got Cancer.
Cancer of the liver.

We are still waiting for further tests.
Treatment should begin next week.

And so begins the year that will be.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Three Cheers To...

Good Neighbours.

The kind who are nosy enough that you know they'll keep an eye on the place when you're away.

The kind who will talk your ear off for an hour if you meet their eye over the fence.

The kind that will mow your nature strip...
and trim the edges too.

The kind who throw Christmas treats over the fence to your kids.

The kind you can share your wheelie bins with.

The kind who will jump the fence and give up their day in a random moment because they can see that the brick and mortaring job you are doing is not going to end up straight...
unless they help.

The kind you can tell your kids to go to in case of an emergency.

The kind you can share tools with and cups of flour too.

The kind who will spontaneously give up a couple of hours to help fix the car of some stranded strangers.

The kind who deliver boxes of surplus fruit and vegetables and bread...
lots of bread...
in the dark of night...
in the wild..
winter weather.

Just because they can.

Three cheers to good neighbours!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Fun with Felt

The Noodle Strudel turned four.
And I was stuck for a gift.
She didn't need clothes,
she didn't need toys.
She needed a new rainbrella...
but Mum got her that.

So I gave her a haircut.
And lots of felt hair bands and hair clips.
Cute enough to make any little girl happy. 

Pink ones and blue ones...

 Purple and red!

And then... inspired,
I made some for a friend.
As well as a painted, fabric and felt,
personalised wall hanging.

I do enjoy having fun with felt.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Cracker of a Chickpea

I've been experimenting with different flours lately.

I've also been experimenting with home made crackers.


These ones are besan flour crackers with thyme and sea salt.

They're easy to make, but a little tricky to roll out just so...
not too thick
not too thin.
I tried using a pasta maker, 
but the mix was too crumbly.
So a rolling pin it is and with a little practice
they end up rolled out just so.

Mix together 
1 cup besan flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup water.

Roll mixture out just so.
cut it into pieces
(a pizza cutter works a treat).
Prick each piece evenly with a fork.
Sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake at 175 degrees Celsius for 16 minutes or so until cooked.

These crackers are great served with
roasted pumpkin and feta dip,
or herbed feta in garlic oil,
or simply spread with cream cheese. 

They keep the kids happy and healthy.

I've been doubling the recipe and using half besan flour and half wholemeal or rye.
I add whatever herbs are growing the best...

And I'm getting good at rolling them out just so.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The big bad Banksia man...

is not so bad after all.

He's pretty clever really.  

Remember our wooden spoons?

Well... how cool is this chopping board?
We claimed is a while back when holidaying up north.
It should see years of use.
It should last well beyond it's maker.
It should be something the kids will fight over ownership rights of,  in years to come.

Perhaps we should claim 2 more. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Curing time

Our olive tree has grown rather large.  
I didn't expect it to bear much fruit this year because of all the summer rain.  
That shows how much I know about olive trees.

This year it did fruit.
For the first time.
And in quantities large enough that we couldn't just sit by and watch them go to waste.

So we picked some.
And in a little while we'll pick some again.

And we washed them and sorted them and put them in a big jar of water.
And after a while we changed the water to brine.
And hopefully following this process 
in a month or two we'll have some tasty, home-grown, home-cured olives to enjoy.

Monday, April 16, 2012

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