Tuesday, 13 March 2018

I'd like to start off this post by saying that I have the permission of both Aiden's Mum and Dad to publish this post.  I just want to explain that this is about my experience with my son I'm writing about.

I'm not trying to detract in any way the immense and indescribeable loss that Aiden's family is going through right now, I am just expressing and processing as a mum about my child and his friend.
I don't even have the words to express how sorry I am, and how saddened I am for Aiden's parents, and it isn't my place to delve into their grief.  That's their story to tell and an unimaginable one for the rest of us and I would hate to do any disservice to them by saying the wrong thing.

* * *

There comes a time in everyone's life where mortality is realised and the emotional impact and pain of death is forced upon us. For many, we don't lose someone close to us until we're well into adulthood. And for just as many, that first experience of death of a loved one is brought down like the fist of fury when we are just young.

When faced with the question of death from our kids,  we all tell them we die when we're old. When we've lived a full life. We've bred the next generation and hopefully the next after that. We've screwed up, we've loved, we've lost, we've conquered. But this sentiment doesn't always ring true.

My boys friend has been sick for the last 19 months. These kids are 12. He had a rare form of severe aplastic anemia and has been battling like a freaking soldier. This soldier's name is Aiden Hayes.
On Tuesday 27 February we went to pay, what will most likely be,  our last visit.

Aiden asked that Jax and 3 of his other mates - Milo, Jude and Daniel go and visit him. He didn't have much time left. We were told he was in Paediatric ICU and would likely have to go on a ventilator. I organised with the other mums to take the boys in that morning. Daniel's mum Fiona came too. We tried our best to prepare the boys for the situation but in reality, even we didn't know what to expect.

The mood on the way to the hospital was sombre to say the least. We were all quietly nervous and not many words were spoken. As we entered the hospital, the boys started to get a little anxious and silly and I warned them that in ICU they need to be respectful and quiet. I needn't have.

As soon as we entered his room, the mood shifted immediately. In the dimly lit room, with machines a plenty beeping away, lay a small body. The small amount of hair that had grown back after chemo was fuzzy and matted, his skin red, puffy, flaking and so tight on his body. A nice soft blanket laid over him, as his head lay on a pillow with dump trucks on the cover.

It was plain to see that the toll of the disease and numerous complications had ravaged his body.

The boys didn't really know what to say - none of us did really. What do you say to a young boy whose intense pain and suffering is coming to an end? My heart just broke. I tried with all I had to hold it together and not cry, for Aiden,  and for the boys. My efforts were meagre, and as I turned for a tissue, I saw tears falling from everyone's faces.

Aiden knew this. You could just tell. He knew how pained we all were to see him like this - he knew this was the last time we would visit - the last hurrah.  And he instinctively knew the boys just needed something 'normal' to lure them in and try to relax a little. There was something inexplicably peaceful coming from him. Between each struggled breath assisted by the machines (the extremely difficult decision was made not to put him on a ventilator, instead to assist his breathing with a a high oxygen breathing apparatus), he asked the boys about what subjects they were taking, about their sports,  he complimented his mate on his new found abs. He spoke of the most mundane subjects at a time of such significant meaning. He talked just as though there wasn't anything between them but some time between visits.

Each word spoken was a struggle and the natural inclination to stagger his breathing with his speech was dominated by the machines and inability to get all the oxygen he needed. But he continued on, filling the silence to ease the tension.

I was left that evening feeling so very torn between devastated and honoured. To be a part of somebody's death process is a privilege. Though the experience was one that devastated me and left me with such sadness for Aiden and his family,  I think there was more an overwhelming sense of profound beauty that I will forever cherish being privileged enough to be a part of that for my child and his friends and their late friend. 

Aiden passed away peacefully that night surrounded by those who meant the most to him.

* * *

Aside from his two great nanas passing away, Jaxon hasn't had to really deal with death before now. He wasn't overly close with my nanas and so even though their deaths upset him, the grief wasn't felt deep in his soul like it has been with Aiden. Aiden was part of his life, his childhood, his world. They hung out together, they laughed and played. They fought and made up. They got another year older and mature together. They did schoolwork together, they had sleepovers, went to discos together. I remember the last school disco they both attended in year 5. Aiden had a crush on a girl and he told me he'd talked to his dad. His dad had told him to be confident and ask the girl to the disco. So he did! And she said yes. Aiden convinced Jax to ask a girl he liked, which he also did but backed out of at the last minute as he was too shy.

To know someone day in and day out and then suddenly they aren't here anymore is a near-impossible concept for any of us to grasp. And these kids have to do this at 12.

Eddie and I have been careful to ensure that Jax deals with this in a healthy way. We've been encouraging him to talk and cry. We really don't need to though. Jaxon has an instinctive emotional side that never fails to surprise me. His emotional maturity and compassion is one to be admired. He's not afraid to show his emotions and he's not afraid to talk about them. Though he is still a kid and still learning, he has a heart of gold that really needs some recognition. 

When we heard of Aiden's passing the morning after, Jaxon was devastated. He sat in his room, tears streaming, looking at old photos and messages from Aiden on his phone. 
My mum and sister came over to give our boy a cuddle. My best friend turned up with a beautiful plant for him. Jaxon's Pop and aunty's and uncles called and text to express how sorry they were about his friend. 

Later,  I said, "Jax - aren't we so lucky that we have such supportive and amazing people in our lives?"

He paused and said, "Yeah...they're awesome. But Mum, I feel bad that they're all being so kind. It wasn't my brother that died." 

He felt bad that he was getting attention when he knew Aiden's brothers,  sister, parents and grandparents all felt the pain so intently.

He felt as though his grief didn't 'qualify', wasn't justified. Because he was 'just a friend'.

We talked and talked that night about how anyone can feel grief even if they aren't close to the person. 

And about how when someone passes away, theres nothing you can do. And people who didn't even know that person, but know the person hurting,  feel pain for the person they love who is hurting. 

He got it then, and he just looked at me and said, "our family is really cool aye mum?"

I'm so thankful to my friends and family for their heartfelt gestures that have helped my boy through this difficult time. My village rocks x

Jax decided he would like to speak at Aiden's funeral. He told me he wanted to make Aiden proud of him. With a little help in structure from me, Jaxon wrote the following piece. He was far too upset to read it himself in the end, so I did it for him.  But I think Aiden would have been very proud of his mate. This came straight from his heart, dedicated solely to Aiden - the cheeky skater boy with the gorgeous hair and the beautiful smile. 

Rest in peace Aiden Hayes
7 November 2005 - 27 February 2018

Hi my name is Jax and Aiden and I used to be best friends. We actually met when we were one year old and then became friends when we were 8.
Even though neither of us remembered meeting when we were babies we decided that because we'd met so young it meant we were basically brothers.

We had many sleepovers and hang outs. We liked to play xbox and camping out in the lounge.
I remember one time Aiden was at our house and we were eating hokey pokey icecream. Aiden kept pushing the hokey pokey bits to the side and then he announced to us all "I don't  like the seeds".

Aiden was always a really caring friend to me when I started Oratia in year 4. We got on really well and though he was much more sporty than me, he had a similar caring and compassionate way about him that my mum says I have. We got to go on school camp together in year 5 which was heaps of fun. We did the Burma trail together and like always Aiden was by my side.

When Aiden went into hospital my mum was sick too so I didn't see him anywhere near as much as I wanted to. I thought about him all the time though and would often text him with what I felt were messages cheering him on. I tried my best to still include him in my normal life by sending him pictures and things but I also felt so bad that he was stuck in hospital so unwell and unable to do these things with me.

When he asked Milo, Jude, Daniel and I  to go to the hospital to see him last week, I was really nervous and didn't know what to expect. But even though he looked so different, he was still the Aiden we all knew and loved.

He was so brave. He knew we were nervous I think and he asked us all about school, sports and things we were doing - even asking "hey milo do you have abs now?"
He reminded us of a water fight we had at Daniels birthday and we all laughed remembering it. Then he asked 'when I get out,  can we have another water fight?'

I'm sure he knew he wasn't ever coming out but he still skipped over the reason we were there and made us feel like things were normal even though that was so far from the truth.  I really wish we could have that one last water fight.

I can honestly say that my best friend Aiden was the absolute strongest person I have ever met, and probably will ever meet.
I was worried the other week about having a blood test but when I think about all Aiden has gone through,  I feel so proud to have been a part of such a warrior's life.
I feel really blessed that he chose me and his other mates to go and say goodbye to him and though that visit was probably the hardest thing I've done in my life, it was an extremely special experience that I will never forget. I will always cherish my friendship with Aiden Hayes. Love you man and I will see you up there amongst the stars.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Twenty eighteen is well underway - the school holidays are drawing to an end,  and with this marks some Firsts we've decided to repeat.
School starts tomorrow and for various reasons, we made the decision with the girls input to change their school this year. It is Meisha's last year at primary and Olive will be year 2.

One of the many reasons for the change, is Olive has been suffering from anxiety. Changing her school and throwing her in a whole new environment may seem counteractive to dealing with this,  but for numerous reasons, I feel the new school is actually better equipped in their approach to helping kids with issues such as these. I'm hoping by changing the girls now, while Olive still has Meisha there for support for another year, that we can tackle this head on before it becomes debilitating for her. As you all know, I myself suffer from anxiety and at points it has really affected my day to day life. I hate seeing her go through this and knowing I can't take it away for her.

Being a child, it's hard for Olive to understand what's happening in her little body. She gets a sore tummy when she's anxious or worried which leads to her getting extremely upset. For her, it is very much physical and she finds it difficult to voice her concerns. We try our best to talk through it and come up with plans with her to make things easier - so far we seem to taking small steps of progress. A lot of the time, even talking about school makes her tearful and the stomach pains start.

For a long time, I couldn't talk about Olive's birth without crying. I've talked about it plenty on here, and often I wrote posts with tears streaming down my face. The emotion that comes with such a massive event is life-changing, and sometimes all too consuming. Now I can talk about it easily, though I don't often need to these days. I've told that story many, many times now and each time I tell someone new, some of the dramatics of the event gets chipped away. The memories are etched into my mind - forever having their place as one of the hardest times of my life. But the memories aren't as emotionally charged now. Now they're facts - something that happened, that occurred, but now the emotional charge has been shifted.
I've learnt to speak openly about Olive - I will answer any question or query, so long as I know it comes with good intentions.

Sometimes though, without warning, something can throw you straight back into that moment and everything comes flooding back.

Today Mum brought over my pregnancy notes from my midwife. I had the most incredible midwife. She is an old friend of the family. In fact, she actually delivered me when I was born! I had her with all three of my pregnancies, and I am so grateful that I did. She was wonderful with all of my births, but when Olive came along, she was just amazing. Because of her ties with our family already, I felt so comfortable with her and trusted her to take the utmost care of Olive and I. Which she did.

She has retired now, and has returned notes to her women who she looked after. I'd read the hospital printout notes of Olive's birth in the past but they were very factual - date, time, weight etc. These handwritten notes were the true insight into what not only Eddie and I, but all the staff who looked after us went through that day as well.

As I've said before, none of our doctors and nurses had seen a giant congenital melanocytic nevus before, so this was all new to them too. Reading through my notes made tears fill my eyes, as it brought back the memories of the day my darling daughter was born.

Her notes are just as full as Jaxon and Meisha's are from their births. But while theirs are filled with entries of how feeding was going and how I am feeling, Olive's are filled with concerns. Almost every entry contained an observation of  'birthmarks',  'pigmentation', congenital melanocytic nevus'. Each one documenting the next step in diagnosis and testing. Referrals for ultrasounds and appointments with dermatologists, paediatricians, requests for blood screening to test for chromosomal disorders and deficiencies.

There is a multitude of entries from different paediatric registrars and consultants, nurses and midwives. There is a quickly scrawled entry from when Olive was merely an hour and a half old requesting written consent for them to take medical photographs. Eddie and I realised as we read through this that we've never seen these photos. Some of the first photos taken in our daughters life and we've never seen them.

There are notes about how Olive had blood in her nappy from skin torn from the thick, sticky meconium - she wasn't even a day old!

I cant help thinking that while all these concerned comments, entries, notes were being written in my chart, what they presented to my face made me feel differently.
While Eddie and I were afraid, the staff caring for Olive and I must have been also. A vulnerable new baby comes into the world on your watch and you've never even heard of the condition she has, let alone seen it and cared for somebody with it. Yet, each one of those people were reassuring and friendly. They took care of my baby and I with respect and professionalism. They all told me I had a beautiful daughter, and whether they truthfully saw Olive's pure and absolute beauty, and don't just say that to every new mother, I'll never know. But I am thankful to them all for treating us just as another mother and baby, and not making me feel like 'the woman in room 101 with the birthmark baby'.

There is one note that caught my eye. It was written the day of her birth at 11am. Olive was born at 10.06am so she was not quite an hour old yet. It quickly (doctors scrawl!) outlines the issues she presented (her 'skin lesions' and her breathing difficulties) and underneath is the word Plan, underlined. There are 3 things on the list.

1.  Photographer and get dermatology opinion
2. HUSS & USS spine
3. Normalise and feed.

Normalise and feed. This part actually made me upset reading through my notes, and I couldn't stop crying for the rest of the read. It doesn't make me sad upset though. Its more of a 'grateful upset'. The doctor who wrote this was the paediatric consultant who was working the time of Olive's birth. I'm not going to name him here, but he was called to theatre to look at Olive's skin. En route to theatre, he was called again due to respiratory distress from Olive at just 3 minutes old.

This man was the first person I ever heard say the term Giant Congenital Melanocytic Nevus. He was the person who, amongst a whole lot of chaos and fear, brought light to our situation by telling us what he knew of the condition and by telling us our brand new baby would be just fine.

And his entry into my charts were telling anyone else who read it how to deal with us - normalise it. Because, while IT (the condition) wasn't normal, this little baby WAS normal. She was as normal as the baby in the next room and the next. Sure she may have looked different, but hey! Don't we all?

I feel forever grateful to this doctor. Our lives could have certainly taken a different turn had we encountered someone not so calm and accepting that day.

I'd like to go and visit him soon and introduce him to nearly 6-year-old Olive. And tell him thank you, for all he did for us. And hopefully, show him a little girl who is happy and settled at her new school.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

The fat guy in red is making an appearance tonight!  I have three super excited kids counting down the sleeps. I also can't' wait - the looks on their sleepy faces when they emerge at the crack of dawn and spy the present laden tree and the magic Santa has left. It's my favourite time of the year, hands down.

We're having our family Christmas today, and in between glazing the ham and preparing pavlova, I can't help thinking about the bitter sweetness of Christmas.
This year has been so difficult for me, in many ways.  My health took precedent and I was forced to take the time for Me to rest and recover. It appears to have paid off,  because I've been in clinical remission for a good few months now. Though I still battle heavily with fatigue and lack of motivation,  I'm no longer dealing with pain - and I'm so thankful for that.

My kids have all dealt with their own new issues this year at school and helping them to overcome those has been a lesson in itself for me.
After an amazing start to the school year with Olive, in the last few weeks there she suddenly developed anxiety. It took a bit of figuring out and after being sent home upset and with a sore tummy a few times, we realised what it was. Her teacher and the office staff have been awesome though in helping her cope and we are hoping with a decent break, she will start the year refreshed and not so anxious.

We had the lump on her back checked out, and though it appears from her medical photos to have been there since birth, her dermatologist wants to err on the side of caution. She doesn' think it's a lipoma from the grainy feel of it so has ordered an ultrasound to see what kind of tissue is making the bump up. She does not seem alarmed though so neither are we.

In July we lost my dear wee Little Nana. She was the last of my blood relative grandparents and she lived a full life to the ripe old age of 92. My nana was the dearest woman, who, before alzheimers took hold, had a quick wit and a sharp tongue when necessary. She had a special fondness for the family babies and children and even when her mind started to fail her, she would delight in watching them having fun. It brought great sadness to our family when she passed and I think of her all the time. Our matriarch is sorely missed.

The best and most exciting thing to happen this year was my darling niece being born. Zoe was born in June and is now 6 months. She is the most delightful baby, and we all adore her so much! She's a serious little girl who loves to people watch. She always gives aunty a big gummy grin though!
There's something so special about being an aunty. I'm lucky enough to be able to babysit her sometimes and I always thoroughly enjoy my time with her. She makes my heart melt with her sweet little ways, even at just 6 months she is a quirky little girl who charms the pants off everyone she meets.
All the grandkids love her to bits and Olive wishes she could live with us!
She has brought a brightness and light to what was overall a pretty shoddy year.

Though my own kids also bring the most beautiful light to my world,  it's different with your own as you also have the daily routine of all the moods - not just the good ones! Haha!

Despite their bad moods, moaning and grumpiness though, tomorrow - Christmas morning - is all about them! They've all just gone to bed, willing themselves to go to sleep quickly so they can wake up quicker. Santa will come soon, deliver his parcels, eat some cookies, chug some milk and I'm sure those messy reindeer might leave a hint of their visit somewhere....

Merry Christmas everyone. Love, light and happiness to you all xo

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

I'm one of those people who make a decision,  having thought it through, and think I've made the right one.  I convince myself I have. And then once the decision is firmly made, and I think I'm at peace with it, another perspective crashes it's way in and makes me see another side that I didn't see before. And all of a sudden I've done a complete 180 and am seeing things completely different. So I'm reneging.

My last post was supposed to be just that - the last post. But over the last few months since I finished, I've realised how much I need to write. It's a coping mechanism. As I said in that very post, without this blog I wouldn't be where I am today. And so I thought, maybe I can still write.
I still feel that it is Olive's story to tell from now - she's 5 now, she's much more independent, it's her life, her journey....but golly gosh, she's still so little - maybe it's still partly mine too? Right now, her life is my life (actually I don't think that ever changes with your children!) and I WANT to write about her, about the big kids, about our family. So, bugger it, I'm gonna!

This year has been tough for our family. Mainly because of me, which makes me feel extreme guilt even though it's beyond my control.  In an earlier post in the year I mentioned pain episodes I was having. It got to the point where it was daily and I would spend most of the day in bed, only just making it out to drop off the kids or pick them up. I barely ate,  I lost almost 10 kgs and I was fatigued beyond description. Finally, after a multitude of invasive tests and procedures, I was diagnosed with crohns disease. Crohns disease is one of the more common inflammatory bowel diseases. It is an autoimmune disease thst causes inflammation and ulceration in your digestive tract - anywhere from mouth to the other end. Mine is 8-10cm affected in the terminal ileum - the narrowest part of the small intestine, at the end where it meets the large intestine.
Crohns patients suffer from a huge range of symptoms - pain, diarrhea,  fatigue,  weight loss - as well as many extraintestinal  (outside of the affected area) symptoms. It affects your bones, your muscles, your mental health, just to mention a few.
There is no cure. Patients go through periods of flares and remission and the aim is basically to get them into remission and improve their quality of life.
At the moment I am on immunosuppressants and a mild anti inflammatory specifically for the gut. I've been classed as in remission for the last 2-3 months but still suffer from daily discomfort and pain. A recent test just this week showed I still have a moderate level of inflammation and the pain episodes have been coming back. It is trial and error finding what medication suits what patient because each person reacts very differently. And each medication comes with its own set of risks and side effects.

I'm not telling you all this to feel sorry for me. For the most part, I think I cope ok. I do what needs to be done and try to get the rest my body is telling me it needs.  But that all comes with guilt, because my kids are so young. They shouldn't have to deal with a mother who is unwell. They shouldn't have to be stuck at home all holidays because I've put a rib out (another story, but seems to be related to the crohns). They shouldn't have to worry. Sometimes I get emails or texts from Jaxon or Meisha while they're at school, asking if I'm ok today. While it makes me smile that they're thinking of their dear old mum, it makes me sad that they have to.
In all of this though,  I feel lucky. I feel lucky that I got to have my kids before I developed this awful disease. Some people are so unwell with it they still have to rely on their own parents at my age. Some people can't have kids because of the meds they're on to control the disease. Some people can't hold down a job (I'm one of them - this year was meant to be the year I go back to work and we get ahead. Right now, that's impossible!)
I feel lucky to have such incredible children who's compassion and sympathy for others astounds me all the time.
I feel lucky that I have such an amazing support network who will do anything I need them to, to help make my life more manageable. Friends and family who understand that I can't do all I want to and sometimes I don't realise this until just before whatever plans we've made are meant to occur.

My kids are so resilient though. They should be getting to go to the movies and having friends over all the time.  They should be going to the park and shows and camping. If it wasn't for my 'village' they'd have done nothing at all these holidays.
As it is, my superhero mum and sister have taken them out at different times and had them for the night. A new friend from school, the mum of one of Olives classmates,  offered to take Olive for a day out with a bunch of other kids from her class. Olive had a blast and I'm so grateful to people like this beautiful soul who 'get it' and open their arms to extend my village.
I hope one day I will be able to return the favour.

On the subject of Olive and school, she is smashing it. She comes home each day with a new reading book that she seems to be flying through, and she practises her writing anywhere and everywhere. On the weekend the big kids decided they wanted to share a room so Olive has her own room for the first time. I found this note on the floor outside her room. She does a few letters backwards and is still learning about spelling but it says: No one can come in Olives room except daddy and mummy.
It was the first thing she did once everything was moved over!
I have so many notes and letters the kids have written stored away for them to laugh at when they're older - this one will be added to that pile!

Olive has also made some friends at school, most of them being boys. She seems to gravitate more towards boys as friends at this stage and is always telling stories about the funny games they play.
One of the boys told her she was little. She got most upset about it and told me she sat under the table and "no one even came to see if I was ok mama!" She told me.
I have to giggle at this - she IS small. She's one of the shortest in her class. She developed a bit of a complex about it for a while and though it's hard when your child is unhappy with a part of themselves for whatever reason, it makes me smile that this is what is causing her grief. We all expected her to have issues with people saying things about her nevus,  but that barely even gets a second mention these days!
She tells me nobody at school ever says anything,  and that it doesn't bother her. We still talk about it but just don't draw a lot of attention to it. She doesn't like shaving it anymore (she doesn't like the sound of the clippers and she says she loves her soft hair!), so for now we don't.  She did get me to cut the hair on her large arm satellite one day with scissors though - that was time consuming!
Unfortunately whether she likes it or not, we need to shave the satellites in summer to get good sunscreen coverage. But we'll cross that bridge when it comes to it.

She's growing up too fast. She's 5 and a half now (those halves really count when you're a kid!) and she's always making cries of life being unfair - when Jaxon and Meisha are allowed to stay up later, or when I won't let her watch Barbie YouTube videos all day. She's a bit of a princess in our house and even though she's getting older, she's still very much the baby. Every night around midnight I get a tap on my shoulder and a whispered, "mummy? Mama?" just before she climbs in my bed, blankie in tow, and snuggles her soft little body into mine. You can't see no when they're that sweet. Even if they're 5-and-a-half.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Goodbye's are not always forever....

This decade seems to be the age of technology. Every year newer, better and more advanced capabilities are discovered within the realm of communication and contact. We have phones and computers that are capable of performing what were long considered 'human tasks'. We are spoilt for choice on what we can read and pay attention to, with online news sites a plenty and social media presenting us with information as events unfold.

Those of us who have seen both sides of the technology growth will often reminisce about the 'good old days' when if you wanted to see someone you turned up at their house or called them on the corded phone.  The days when you discovered the news only at 6 o'clock or in the morning newspaper. Sports results weren't put out there as a spoiler a minute after the game and conversations were had with friends and neighbour's,  not people you'd never met through a screen.

I often mention these things myself when I read about the next new phone or computer,  or see spoilers of my favourite show posted online where you can't avoid it.

But truthfully, being Me in today's world has been a huge benefit for me. Without the internet and the support of hundreds of people I don't know (and hundreds that I do!), the last five years would have been extremely different.

I'd not have had the information I needed to access and I'd not have 'met' (I use quotation marks because a lot of the nevus family I have not met in person) and my life would not be as enriched and enlightened in the way it has been.

We never would have made it to Australia, been in news and magazine articles.  We wouldn't have the platforms to help raise awareness of CMN and to cobtributrto research.

I'd not have had this blog as my outlet to process my emotions about Raising Different. There's a grief process involved when your child isn't as you expected, and for some people this can be incredibly difficult to overcome.  Not so many years ago, a child born looking different to the norm would have been hidden away so as not to cast shame on the family. This still happens in parts of the world today. I personally can't imagine being any prouder of my daughter, but I was fortunate to live in a society that is growing evermore accepting and open about these kinds of things. I am lucky that my 'village' backs me 100%. And I am lucky to live in the digital era where I've been able to bring my emotions to fruition by expressing them through this blog, and actually having people read it and give me their perspective. I can never thank you all enough for the gift you have given me in your support.

Five years on and I still gaze at my darling girl and marvel at the gift she is. Five years on and I can't believe we are here already. We're at the next phase, the different turn in the path,  where we have to let go of the reins a little and send Olive off into the brand new world of school.

For our family, the baby days are over.  Gone are the times of breastfeeding and night feeds; nappies and mashed veges; bouncinettes and pushchairs; first words and first steps; baby giggles and baby tantrums.  We have school aged children now - all of them! It is incredulous to me how time slips by in the blink of an eye. We made it through, relatively unscathed,  not a broken bone amongst them, and they are all damn good kids.

It is the eve of Olive's 5th  birthday and while she softly snores in her bed, dreaming of birthday gifts and wishes,  Jaxon and Meisha have baked special birthday cookies for her to have on her very first school lunch.
It is these moments that make me smile inside and know that Eddie and I have great kids. We were blessed with three wonderful little humans, who have taught me the biggest lessons in my life. I wouldn't change them for the world.

I said in my last post that Olive's birthday one would be my last one. So that milestone has arrived and it is time for me to end this here, and to send each and every one of you my most heartfelt thanks for the last five years.

Ending the blog doesn't mean our journey is finished.  Quite the opposite!  In a way it is now just starting, but now it's Olive in the driver's seat. We'll be here for her every step of the way, cheering her on, wiping her tears and encouraging her to be the best person she can be. The one she is.

But from here on in,  it's her tale to tell and I'd like to encourage you all to keep on reaching out to those who need their stories told. Keep on loving unconditionally. Keep on standing tall with your friends and your children. Keep on teaching your kids that kindness is the right way, that just because someone might look or behave different doesn't mean it's a negative thing.  Keep on doing the amazing job you are all doing in making the world a more positive place.

Love to you all,

From Kizzie xx

Friday, 17 February 2017

The End of An Era

My very first blog post was written when Olive was three months old. It is charged with the emotions that were so overwhelming and all too consuming of that major time in all of our lives. We had gotten our heads around the situation a bit, but we still had so many unknowns. In all honesty, the Kizzie who wrote that first post expected so much more difficulty than has actually ever risen.

I thought I'd have more to write about. I expected to find things with Olive harder than I'd ever imagined. I anticipated writing about a lot more medical aspects.

But truth be told, the last four and a bit years have been much easier than those expectations I had in my head. The largest reason for this is because of who Olive is. Nothing to do with her nevus, but her as a person. She showed us from day dot that she was a feisty little girl with a zest for life and a crazy sense of humour to boot. She made it easy for us to enjoy her as our last baby without her difference dominating her. She's never let it hold her back, and I don't imagine she ever will.

I don't like to blow my own trumpet, but I also believe that it has been easier because of our acceptance as well. We accepted very early on that Olive looked different to most people, and we decided to be open and honest. I remember when she was first born and Eddie didn't want me putting any photos up of her back. He did not want her exploited in any way, and I totally understood his stance. After many of our late night chats and crying sessions, we ended up agreeing to post a photo to remove the 'unknown'. To eliminate any assumptions perhaps made and to stop any shock reactions for Olive herself from people who knew her. It was the best decision we made.

Every one of my friends and family has been so supportive and encouraging - cheering Oli on from the sidelines and doing the same with us as her parents. You've all been so fantastic when I ask for advice, giving me constructive criticism in how to deal with some of the situations that have arisen and putting a different spin on things for me to think about if I am doubting myself/us. YOU have all made this easier for us as well. My 'village' has kept me going.

It's just under two months now until my baby turns five and heads out into a whole new world again. The idea of Olive starting school is just a bit scary, I'm not gonna lie! It's another world of people to get to know and accept her again, and another world for her to find her place in. She's already been edging her way in there, saying hello to teachers and students when we wait for Meisha, and making friends at kindy who will then go on to be in her class at school.

But there's still a whole bunch of new kids who don't know her, and who haven't seen a nevus. So we intend to lead the way as we have always done with our Oli and be upfront and open straight away. We will talk to her new teacher and discuss the best strategy for removing any 'mystery' around her nevus - whether that be chatting with the kids and telling them or just waiting for the questioning situation to arise, I'm not sure yet. But we got this. Olive's got this. She's a bolshy and straight up kinda gal, and I have every confidence that she has what it takes to deal with what may come up.

Five years old is still pretty small, mind you. I look at her a lot and think, 'nooo, you're too little to start school!' She's still my squishy, my little sidekick, my baby. But these are my insecurities and nothing to do with her as a person. She is well ready for school. She's smart, clever, funny, friendly. She's learning to write and count. She loves to be independent. I know she will thrive even more once she is there.

And yet, this is the end of an era for our family. I will no longer have pre-schoolers. Soon I'll be the Mum of three school-aged children. No more kindy, ever. No more Fridays at home with me. No more Plunket checks. No more 'under 5's free'! Haha! No more stay-at-home Mum really - who am I home for?!

This is also going to mark the end of my blog. I've decided I will do one more post when she turns five and then I'm packing it in. I want to give her the privacy she deserves now she is getting older and is now more aware of the world around her and is learning to be her own advocate. Oh I know, I will be her advocate and biggest supporter until the end of days, but I think as a blossoming young girl she deserves to not have mum hash out her challenges on social media anymore. This is the beginning of her taking on the world herself, and if she wants to write about it when she is older, then she can.

Otherwise, she will always have this to reflect on her First Five Years of us getting to know our amazing, beautiful, quirky,  hilarious, quick-witted, clever Olive Marie.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Another year draws to an end and new beginnings are upon us. At least, that's what we all say at the end of each year and the new one looms ahead, with fantasy promises in our minds that the next will be better than the last.
But the truth is, the rollover from one year to the other marks just that - time rolling by, people getting older, lives being lived. New beginnings happen at any time and I believe they are more a state of mind than a state of time.
In saying that, as per every other year, the days leading up to Christmas and new years always bring out the reminiscent in me. It's a time for reflection. A time to analyse how we've lived the last 12 months and how we might want to live the next. And if we do a re-evaluation each year,  that can only be good. Reflection can be the instigator for change.

When you are in the moment, living, experiencing and sometimes enduring life, we often don't recognising how hard or how enjoyable that time is. We only see it for what it is after the fact, and that is when we recognise just how strong we may be.

Each year I look back and think, 'how the f *** did we make it through all of that? !'
This year is no different.

It started with a bang. An accident involving Eddie, a skateboard ramp and a huge drop resulted in him having a shattered shoulder blade, surgery and 6 months off work. This left us pretty financially crippled, especially when at the end of that we had to move, and with the house prices in Auckland, has seen us paying $100 more per week for rent.
The bright side though, is our new house is much bigger and we can escape from each other and the kids more readily!

It's been the year when we have all been unsure about mums health. The previous May, she was told that without treatment she had between 7-12 months left. Of course she decided to challenge that, and now not only has she blown that time frame out of the water by almost doubling it, she has evaded the cancer and is thriving.  She's allowed to drive again,  and doesn't let aything hold her back.  In all honesty, she's doing so amazingly well that most of the time it's easy to forget that she wasn't well! She's our very own superhero ☺

A lot of people have internal battles they need to fight and overcome, and there are a few people close to me who've had to find their strength to do just that in recent months.  I'm not going to name them as it isn't mine to share, but I wanted to acknowledge that their efforts never go unnoticed and I am incredibly proud of them for standing up, owning their shit, and not only realising they need help but taking that help with open arms and the willingness to better their state of mind and their life.  I'm so proud of ya'll, I love you x

My Olive has thrived this year. She is almost 5 now and will start school next April. Despite losing her two best friends to school 6 months before her, she has taken it in her stride and made new friends at kindy. She still doesn't forget about her besties though, and every day when kindy finishes and we wait for school to finish,  she goes to their class to see them. And every day, the teacher invites her in for story time with the class.

She has the most wonderful teachers at kindy, who take the best care of my baby. They take her skin care seriously,  and never fail to reapply her sunblock, and always answer other children's questions about Olive in the factual and no-nonsense manner that both Eddie and I encourage. In fact,  I never even knew about the other kids curiosity until a conversation with Olive that made me realise that she too has adopted the same approach.
We were lying in bed and out of the blue, she said, "Mummy, sometimes kids say 'Olive, what's that brown stuff on your back?' "
"Oh really? What do you say?" I asked her.
"I just tell them it's my birthmark."
"Good answer bub. You don't say it's a nevus though ?" I asked, surprised by her answer because we never call it a birthmark.
"Nah I say birthmark because most people don't know what a nevus is,  but they know what a birthmark is."
My 4 year old told me this. Her perception of recognising an easier way for OTHERS to understand her difference in a way that is relevant to them blows me away. This is not something Eddie or I have taught her, as we have always explained that a nevus is something most people don't have, so she is special, but that inside our hearts we are all the same.  For her to perceive this in the way she does and to relate it in a way that might be more understandable for others, speaks volumes about her own little (or big!) heart.

She is a child who takes free will to the extreme,  and still never fails us to make us laugh with her wit and warped sense of both humour and inquisition. Just the other day she asked if everyone just have heaps of holes on their head. When I laughed and said no, why would you think that, she answered, "for the hairs to come out!" I had to backtrack and say that yes, I suppose they do!

She's been counting down the sleeps until Santa comes (or Father Christmas in her words, even though the rest of us say Santa) and with just one sleep left, I can't wait to see her squishy little face on Christmas morning. The big kids are loving playing along with the magic. Even though they both know the truth,  they are learning that the magic comes from within and they are encouraging this with their baby sister when they help her write letters to Santa, or plant jelly beans to grow and into candy canes.

Amongst the fighting between them all (yes even Olive, tough little thing she is!), they make my heart melt when they take care of each other and work together.

My kids, while resilient, are also very compassionate and understanding.  I have needed this in them the last few months as I myself have not been well. Along with drenching night sweats, unintentional weight loss and extreme fatigue, I've been having excruciating episodes of abdominal pain and vomiting. When these episodes come on, I can do nothing but lie down and wait a few hours until it passes. My kids have been amazing,  helping me when they can and keeping an eye on Olive so I can get through it.

Thankfully, they have ruled out lymphoma after an urgent CT scan, which means because of the inflammation shown on the CT I'm likely looking at inflammatory bowel disease (not to be confused wit irritable bowel syndrome). As if coeliacs wasn't enough, I have to go and add something else to the mix too! But as with everything else we get dealt,  I will face this head on as well. The last few days have actually seen the pain taking a break, so fingers crossed for a great Christmas!

Last year I did a Facebook post about all I am thankful for. This year is no different.

As always, I am thankful for the loving and supportive family I have. Despite all the ups and downs of a large family, we all still band together and are there for each other when we need it.

I am thankful for the happiness and health of my children, in particular my Olive who, 4 years in from her scary birth, has shown us that we don't need to fear the unknown - it is all just a different path.

I am thankful for my beautiful friends who understand that when I'm a crap friend and don't see them for far too long, it just means life is getting in the way and that I still love them to pieces. And the friends who make me do things I can't be assed doing to put a smile on the kids faces. And one particular friend who will grab my kids from school or take them when I'm having a bad pain day.

I am thankful we have a sunny and dry house to live in and that my husband works his butt off to provide that house, and all the necessities of life so I can still be a stay-at-home Mum, and we can give our kids what they need.

Though I still have challenges in the near future, I consider myself very lucky to be blessed with such amazing people who, without them, make my challenges easier to deal with.

I love you all and I wish you all a very merry Christmas with your families and friends.  Xxx