Oh, great

I know this is whinging, but... REALLY?!? To come down with a cold AGAIN?!?

Awake since 3 am. Hurting all over. Trying very hard to keep down a cough because once I start coughing, it just keeps going without bringing much relief.

Do you know the feeling when you've gone swimming in chlorinated water and have managed to inhale it whilst doing handstands? This is how my lungs feel at the moment, as if I've got chlorinated water down my oesophagus. Except I haven't - it's just viral inflammation down there.

I am so pissed off at this two-month-long array of illnesses I'd like to go strangle someone. I have not the energy to keep dealing with this sh*t.

Peace.

Bend down, pick up, put away, repeat

There's a new game I play on a daily basis. It's called, seeing if I can be as efficient at putting stuff back as my daughter is at taking stuff out.


It's an appropriate moment to note, she's darn good at what she does.

On feeling like an umbrella in the rain

I am sure psychology has got names to different stages of acceptance - that when a person comes to learn about something and then processes that information until they come to terms with it, that psychology has over time identified the way people (usually) move through those stages and in interest of briefness, how to call them.

But I am not a psychologist; I just know what it feels like to be me.

And today I am, yet again, processing.

I am googling things such as, "general anaesthesia in children", "botulinum toxin on achilles tendon" and "MRI on children". I am reading through booklets I was supplied with in the orthopaedic department and the ones I hunted down on the paediatric floor.

I am thinking, on one hand, that this really is minor - that in the orthopaedic department today I saw three children with various stages of muscle and nerve decay strapped into wheelchairs and fed by hand, all whilst my two were happily re-organising toys in the playcorner and later demanding bananas and apples; but on the other hand... there's something frightening in the words "general anaesthesia" when what is meant by those words is that my own children will be affected.

I become to feel like an umbrella when it's my children that are affected - spreading out to cover everything in sight and later furiously googling to squeeze every possible pinch of knowledge out of this breathtakingly marvelous thing called The Internet, making sure I know darn well what it is that we're headed into.

(A funny side note: as I finished briefing an orthopaedic surgeon today on what has been done and looked at, and what hasn't yet, the doctor asked me if I was working in... medicine. I kind of did a double-take on him, not knowing where on earth had that question come from, until I realised that after routinely running through words such as "placental function", "global delay", "fine and gross motor skills", "speech therapy" etc, I probably came across as a person who has a fairly good grasp on what she's talking about, to which I could only say that... "Nah, thanks, but I've just Googled a lot =)".)

And so I thought about stages of acceptance: how on Tuesday when I walked out of the office knowing that my genuine attempt at working my way towards a job in quantity surveying had come to an end, and that I would probably have to post-pone trying to work again for a wee while - until the kids got a bit older - how for a few days the world had become kind of... quiet.

It almost felt like someone had turned off the "emotion" button somehow. I didn't... feel much. Even on Thursday when I walked into our grandparent's funeral I didn't feel much.

It was only on Thursday afternoon when I had both kids ill at home again, and Friday when I was feeling really, really squeezed dry, that the emotions started bubbling up again, and not necessarily in a way I was pleased with.

And now today: having talked to the orthopaedic surgeon and our physiotherapist, at first it was all machine-like, okay-so-this-is-what-we-need-to-do attitude - talking myself through procedures I will need to read up on, and thinking how it is kind of lucky, actually, that I'm not employed any more because it means I have the time to deal with it all.

But now I've relaxed a little and had lunch, and the emotions are bubbling up again, just like they did on Friday when the fact I'd been let go really sunk in, and... I'm not really pleased with where my emotions today are going, either, because yet again I am reminded of the circumstances surrounding The Kid's birth.

I've written about it before. I've written about possibly carrying an undiagnosed case of gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with The Kid before.

It had just never occurred to me that an orthopaedic surgeon would link problems with tendons to possible birth complications and I'm, like, oh, great. Another thing.

It bugs me to think that out of us two - me and The Man - one actually wants to be the stay-at-home parent and the other one actually wants to go back to work, and the roles we've got at the moment are the opposite of that. We can't seem to be able to figure out how to switch roles and as I walked back from the hospital pushing my kids in a buggy, whilst it was cold and raining (and snowing a bit further up the hill), I thought, The Man would do this stuff with joy. I do it because I feel I have to.

And now I've promptly gone and looked up an old video of me in my PJ's sitting in the kitchen with The Kid and listening to Taylor Swift's "Shake it off".

Yup. That made me smile =).

A Saturday up Port Hills





Christchurch is a big city...

On antibiotics

I get peeved off with this, but given that I haven't got a medical degree, there's not much I can do apart from using my best judgement and hoping for the best.

So: ear infections and antibiotics.

When The Girlie came down with an ear infection several weeks ago (alongside conjuctivitis, high fever and wheezing in her lungs) she was prescribed antibiotics for the ear infection, and we went for it. When it still hadn't cleared four days later when we were at the 24-hour clinic and then paediatric emergency department at the hospital, we were told that, well, probably it's been viral, rather than bacterial, and so we need to hang on and ride it out. (Antibiotics clear bacterial infections, but don't do much for viruses.)

Now The Girlie is ill again. I booked an appointment to see our doctor yesterday evening, but upon arriving found that whoever had booked us in had mistakenly placed us with a doctor I've never seen before...

(And when I insisted I see OUR doctor, I was offered to wait an hour until the next available appointment - whilst I had with me a baby with a 39.2 fever and an ill preschooler. Yeah, uhm... thanks, guys.)

...and that doctor promptly offered us the same antibiotic The Girlie had already been on three weeks earlier, and which hadn't done much.

I get peeved off with this. It's probably very similar to many other mothers who get peeved off  when their children get ill, but it's one thing to discuss antibiotics in general and another thing to be doing it with a doctor who doesn't know us and who I don't know either.

Things such as,
* so if the infection was viral before, what makes them think it's bacterial now?
* and if it's viral, what do we do then?
* is the recurrent use of antibiotics justified, given that with viral infections we'd be just sitting there waiting it out?
* and finally, when I sat there thinking how the hell do I make the best decision, asking, if it was THEIR daughter, would they give her antibiotics again? Honestly?

It's hard enough talking about it with OUR doctor whom I trust and who we were told we were booked with; I didn't need the added joy of looking into an unfamiliar doctor's eyes and trying to figure out, are they genuinely thinking this is right, or are they just being conservative?

I belong to the camp of people who think that doctors, just as everybody else, makes mistakes, and rather than going overkill with punishment there just needs to be an honest feedback going on so that when mistakes happen, doctors learn, and so that doctors don't try to err on the side of prescribing antibiotics for what are essentially strong colds (when what they are really needed for are the likes of pneumonia). But not having a medical degree and experience myself, I need to listen to a doctor and then make a judgement call, which at the moment is another round of the exact same antibiotic that was used three weeks ago, and... I get peeved off with that.

On another note: two days ago I was up at 4 am. Yesterday I was up at 3 am. Today I was up at 2 am. If we continue in the same pattern then by next week I'll be able to get up at 10 pm, take care of my daughter, and then stick her back in bed so I can get a decent sleep afterwards myself. Trying to fall back asleep at 4 am whilst one is coughing and the other one is crying out for a drink, is not easy.

And heck I'm tired.

Oh what a graceful winter it's been

I'll let you guess which two of our family are running - yet again - a 38+ C fever.

A hint: they're related.

Another hint: they're siblings.




I know, we look so graceful.

I could sleep for 12 hours straight, I think, if someone let me.

A painful observation

I left the office crying today. After 5 weeks of attempting to work whilst the kids have been back-to-back ill and me and The Man have been taking turns staying home, it's finally come to, "I'm sorry, but it's not working out for any of us." The Girlie is ill again, I'm having to take time off work again; The Man's employer is fed up, my employer is fed up, bank account is dwindling and The Man is even scared to ask for another day off to go to a funeral.

Basically: today I will curl up in a ball and tomorrow we'll start all over again and I will come up with a plan of sorts on what's going to happen next because, frankly, what we attempted to do now wasn't working.

Sh*t me parenthood is hard sometimes.

On being present

On the same day that The Dog was giving birth to her seven puppies...

PS. White dots are marker-pen for identifying purposes - black labs are notoriously difficult to tell apart
...the rest of us were saying good-bye to a dear friend who over the course of our time in Christchurch had become our grandparent - and a great-grandparent to our children.


As I was standing at the bedside in Christchurch hospital and later walking home through autumn leaves in the park, I thought about... presence.

Fittingly with the world that us youngsters now live in, most of our grandparents' descendants are scattered around New Zealand and Australia, some even further afield. Out of all of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren (I think there's about 30, though don't quote me on that number) I know that they actually saw the four of us - me, The Man, The Kid and The Girlie, their "adopted" family - the most. Every Sunday, usually.

And it was then that I was standing in the presence of last breaths, knowing full well that there were others unable to attend, crying on their way to airports and just generally scattered around the world but connected through the network of mobile phones, computers and internet, that I thought about my family back in Estonia and thought about presence.

I don't blame any of their children for living afar, just as I don't blame myself for living afar from my own family, but I do know that with the distance comes a price. I am not able to get back at a short notice, just like most of their children weren't able to get back at a short notice, and it gave me comfort to think about "standing in" like that. I was present, and in a sense I was present "for" them. I hope that if time came and need be, there'd be someone standing in for me, too, in Estonia.

(I know it sounds crude, but I don't live in New Zealand because it's far from my family like that. The distance is a... inconvenient side effect.)

So we've been taking it easy on ourselves. Grieving, quietly, but also laughing at the stories we come across and just getting on, which with two young kids is inevitable =).

Playing in the warmth of mornings suns...



...and walking in the light of autumn parks...









And there's something else, too.

Turns out, me and The Man have been thinking about it at the same time, independently of each other, and we only realised that once we gently breached the subject one evening, but somehow during this autumn Christchurch has become a... different place for us.

I was reading Tessa's blog the other night and in it, she said, "I wanted the life I had pictured."

She was talking about matters much different to mine, of course, but the reason I nodded along to her story was: never in my travels around New Zealand had I looked at Christchurch and thought, "Man, I'd love to live here one day." 

Never.

It had always been that big, smoky, conservatively polite and viciously spread-out city where buses from one end of the South Island met with buses that went towards the other end of the South Island - a transport interchange, basically - and the whole idea of coming to live in it was that it was going to grant us with New Zealand residencies. We were going to come for the earthquake rebuild, get our passports stamped, and then decide where we were going to go next.

Except, sometime in the last few months or so we've come to recognise that Christchurch has... grown on us.

It's mostly people, I guess. Our "adoptive" grandparents (a.k.a neighbors down the hill), a dog breeder we got The Dog from who has now become a friend, Tuesday-craft-night girlies without whom I am quite sure I would've come down with depression of having to live in this city I never pictured myself living in but instead found myself looking forward to, preschool teachers, doctors and pharmacists, even grocery shop ladies - together, and with the fact that Christchurch does have a lot of beauty to it (oh how I now love parks!), I have now found myself thinking that I kind of, really... like it here.

Not everything, but a lot of it, and enough to have started feeling like a home of sorts.

And it's that time that it has taken me to get used to what I never pictured, that I have now started to leave behind the grumpy pickiness of what Christchurch doesn't have - the things I pictured myself living with, like mountains and snowboarding and bush and trails - and instead have come to see it for what it does have.

And it's weird to have found myself at this intersection for I have for so long thought that Christchurch is so not the place to be, and to now recognise that maybe, oh maybe, we'll stay instead - for a while, anyway...

Ehh. Is that what they mean when they say people tend to settle down after 30?

Geesh I'm getting old, if it is...

Tangerines

Have you heard about a movie called, Tangerines?

I was driving home from Gebbies Pass this week when I turned on the radio and with much surprise heard... Estonian language being spoken.

"Huh?"

Because bear in mind, Radio New Zealand National is New Zealand's public broadcaster and apart from English and very occasionally Maori, no other languages are spoken on it, and yet I was hearing... Estonian.

So what was that about?

Turns out, their movie reviewer was introducing a movie called Tangerines that night and just as I had tuned on, they had been playing a little part where the lead character was talking in Estonian, which is why it had made for such a magical and weird opening for me.

The movie reviewer was raving about it. It was one of the best movies they'd seen in a really, really long time, they said, and as I was driving home listening to it, I was eager to see it for myself.

I asked The Man to get hold of a copy for us to watch and yesterday evening we sat down to watch it together.

Wow.

It is a really, really good movie. A really good movie! I was having to translate it into English as it was unfolding - our copy had Estonian and Russian subtitles, but not English - and so The Man was getting only a very vague idea of what was being said, but wow, even he thought that it was a great movie - even despite my quick Russian-to-English and Estonian-to-English translations.

In fact, I am still feeling a little... blown away by how powerful the story was, and how it was making us giggle when the Chechen and the Georgian were doing their thing, and two Estonians between them were doing their own thing altogether, and how it was impossible to put the movie down even despite the missing subtitles.

I really recommend watching it. Even if you have no concept of the Abkhazian war, or where on earth Abkhazia is to begin with... It's worth watching. Honestly.

Late on a Monday night

Tomorrow I will attempt to go to work again. Out of my first three weeks I've already missed most, and the fact that this company is being patient with me is... warming. "You're worth persevering with," my manager's told me, and I hope he's right.

Our GP has cleared us to join the society again (yay!) and though it may still be several weeks until The Girlie's ear infection clears or either of our lungs clear, we're feeling up for doing stuff. The Girlie, especially: from sleeping on the living room floor a week ago...


... to being up to mischief and giggles today, the difference is impressively memorable. It's called: health!

Which reminds me: since moving to Christchurch in 2012 I've had a... favorite pharmacist ;).

It's nothing big or fancy - the relationship we have is simply of a welcoming smile whenever I've come to pick up meds for myself or my children, and words spoken warmly and caringly. I don't ever remember discussing our private lives; in fact, I don't think I've ever known much about him apart from his name which is printed on a tag that is attached to his shirt's chest, but nevertheless he's been my favorite pharmacist.

To me, he comes across as the kind of a man who often functions as glue in a society. He is soft-spoken, meticulous and private. Narrow-shouldered and tall, I doubt he ever played much rugby - or cared for it much - and in the pharmacy setting he's always come across as a person who's cared, quietly and patiently. There's very little talk or fuss about him: he just patiently works at a job that needs a lot of attention, and he does it well. I've seen people step from foot to foot in his pharmacy, almost quivering in anticipation of their meds - maybe they're late someplace? - but I've never seen this pharmacist try to rush things; instead, he's always just finished his job, double-checked, and handed out the medicine with polite talk and making sure that the person across the counter knows how to use it well.

Which is why I was so surprised and even... flattered that he'd decided to share his news with me today.

I'd come to pick up meds for my daughter and as we'd done the usual hand-over out by the counter ("Has the doctor talked you through the instructions for using this medicine? Have they provided you with a spacer?"), he then walked me to the front door to help me exit with a pram (again, it is his usual way) and he then... told me that he'll be heading over to Africa soon. He and his wife will be working at an aid mission, and he'll be away for several years. He handed me a little card with his trip details and implored that if I wanted to know how he is doing, or wanted to share with him how we are doing, I write to him.

I don't know, it probably doesn't sound like a big deal to you, but for some reason it was a... big deal to me. For several years we've "known" each other with that pharmacist, and have become sort of warm acquaintances without ever actually interacting outside of that pharmacy, and yet I think I've made enough of an impression on him as he's done on me, for him to have shared that news with me, and asked me to write if I wanted to.

And another thing that stood out to me is that the aid mission he'll be part of in Africa, is Christian.

And it's the thing with Christians in New Zealand that... coming from a relatively non-religious country - Estonia - it has always struck me how openly involved in various religious fractions New Zealanders are, and how I've seemed to make many very good friends with people whose religious views are so different to my own. We've connected well as people and it's only later that we've gone, aye, we're quite different in what we think about this stuff, aren't we? Well, anyway... so what was it that we were talking about? 

What I mean is, I've made some very good friends with people whose views would've been quite unfamiliar to me before coming to New Zealand, and how I seem to continue to marvel at how they fit their lives with their sense of belonging to... various churches, really, and how we seem to get along really well regardless.

I'm getting carried away, ain't I.

It's time to hunker down for the night. Without many reserves left from the weeks past, this week will be something to just got on with.

But before I go: I've written about euthanasia and what I think about end-of-life choices before - my views are pretty much the same since I last wrote about them, so I won't repeat them - and I have followed the story of Lecretia Seales with great interest, and will continue looking out for what happens next.

To me it is still a no-brainer that time of medically assisted suicides or euthanasia, regardless of what they're called, will come, and soon. It's a tidal wave of time - each year that passes is the year closer to when it becomes legal in New Zealand, and as much as I am aware of the potential problems that will follow - just as there are problems with everything humans do, taxes, immigration, conservation, you name it - I am looking forward to that time.

I am grateful to Lecretia for having once more opened the doors to public discussion of this phenomenon, and although I am sad that a woman of such brilliant mind - as I've heard - has come to such an early departure, her story is a legacy in waiting and one day when a bill gets passed before the parliament finally allowing for such measures at the end-of-life situations, I will say a silent thank you to her, and nod in respect.

Thank you, Lecretia. I'm proud of you.

The way Thursday mornings go

By Thursday morning The Girlie had been on antibiotics for three days. We'd been waiting on her getting much better very soon - on Monday she'd had infection in both ears, conjunctivitis, wheezing in her lungs and general misery, and so by Thursday I was set on seeing our GP anyway as her cold hadn't eased.

Except, by 4 am on Thursday morning she was struggling to do much apart from coughing and screaming, and so I drove us to the 24-hour clinic - for the third time that week. (First had been on Friday evening when this sh*t started, then again on Monday when it was public holiday and our usual medical practice was closed, and now again on Thursday at 4 am.)

The nurses promptly led us to their assessment area where The Girlie was met with loads of, "Oh you poor little thing..." comments, and within about 20 minutes of arriving their doctor had me on their, "Look, I think it's looking like hospital from here on" talk.

First I suggested to him that I'd drive us home first, and get The Man to then drop us off at the hospital, but when the doctor insisted that I drive straight to hospital ("But where do I park the car?" - "It doesn't matter. Leave it in front of the emergency department if need be. If you get a parking fine it'll get cleared afterwards. Your daughter is ill and needs to get to the hospital."), the seriousness of her coughing and screaming really got to me.

I was driving down Bealey avenue in the almost solitary 5 am traffic, listening to her coughing and wheezing on the back seat, and probably because I hadn't had a good night's sleep in a week and was carrying the end of that strong, strong cold myself, I broke into tears.

Please don't let it be one of those antibiotic-resistant illnesses I've only heard about, I pleaded. I don't want her to have to be in the hospital, and see doctors shake their heads. I don't want her to be seriously ill.

The drive to the hospital took about 5 minutes and upon arriving my cheeks were dry again. I was ready for whatever needed doing.

Within hours most of her mucus had cleared and by about 8 am The Girlie was smiling again. The last consultant to see us told me about children getting very ill - or very well - very quickly and implored that if need be I didn't hesitate to bring us back in.

I left the hospital thanking - I'm not even sure, who - for having both of my children with very robust healths, and crossed my fingers for not having to see the emergency department in a very long time again, and drove home.

By that time I smiled at the way I had arrived at the 24-hour clinic at 4 am that morning and reminded myself of their suggestion that if I didn't feel like driving to call the ambulance.

You see, at the reception they had asked me, "What is your daughter's birth date?" and I promptly answered, "4th of June." - "Oh, so it's her birthday then!"

"What? Wait... What's the date today? I don't know. Is it 4th today? It is, I guess... Sorry, I don't know. I'm really tired."

"What year was your daughter born?"

"2011."

The man looked at me quizzically. "2011?"

"Yeah. Wait... Actually: what year is it now? 2015. She's a year old so she must've been born... 2014. Yeah, 4th of June 2014. 2014 is her year of birth."

The man at the reception wasn't very impressed with me. It's probably why, only a little while later, I was reminded that if I didn't feel up for diving, I was welcome to call an ambulance. Tired people make for some shocking driving, apparently =), I was told.

But anyway, it's looking to be easing, finally, this shocking cold. And seeing how little antibiotics have done to help with it, it's probably viral, we've been told.

So we'll try not to cough on you guys :)

The Girlie sticking wooden shapes into holes

The Kid counting his train carriages

And Stitch watching it all from the shelf

Happy birthday, sweetie

How did I spend the morning of The Girlie's first birthday?

By getting admitted to hospital with her strong viral cold - viral part being, antibiotics aren't doing much.

Everyone's tired and grizzly, but we're plodding along, and, hey!, at least it'll be easy to remember what the first birthday was like :).

Off to sleep now. It's 8 am on a Thursday morning.

Reading a bedtime story a couple of weeks ago