Monday, December 31, 2012

One Word - RENEW


  1. Resume (an activity) after an interruption.
  2. Reestablish (a relationship).
renovate - restore - revive

Okay, so ... moving on. Or back.

My Word for 2013 reflects where I am right now. There are many new things happening in 2013 - the birth of my first grandchild in April. My 50th birthday in July. However, I am very much drawn to existing things which I feel are incomplete - my scrapbooking is a good example.

Renewing my focus on things which have gone on the back-burner will help me move toward my second half-century with more completion and also allow me to review and release what I am ready to leave behind. It means decluttering my possessions. Decluttering my time. Refocusing.

So, come along for the ride! One thing I am renewing is my photo a day project, such a staisfying thing from 2010. My new camera will make this very easy. I also hope to blog my journey through the year and, of course, keep up to date on Facebook ;)

New Year, New Word - but first, update on current word.

For the past few years, I have embraced the concept of One Word to focus on for the year, rather than specific resolutions.

2012 - Heal
2011 - Change
2010 - Enjoy
2009 - Live
2008 - Create

Looking back on 2012, it is ironic that I started out well on my quest to HEAL in mind, body & spirit. I returned to yoga and water aerobics. I started to see a physio, a naturopath, a psychologist - in addition to my myotherapist and chiropractor and I formally became a patient of Dr Jenny, after a year or more of aimlessly seeing whoever was available after the sudden death of my long-term GP, Dr Rob in 2010. I began to art journal, took a variety of online art classes and challenges , picked up my crochet hooks and knitting needles and set a new yearly reading goal on Good Reads. I was spending chunks of money of consultations and herbal treatments and really feeling I was making progress.

Then, around June, I ran into a new problem. I started to feel pain and numbness in my right hand, in the little finger and half of my ring finger. It wasn't MS numbness, that runs across my fingertips. I mentioned it to the team and everyone started to mention the ulnar nerve. Yoga and water aerobics became causes of pain. Knitting and crochet and reading caused pain. Driving and cooking. I was told activities that involved gripping should be avoided. Paintbrushes, scissors, pencils and pens. Computer. Shopping. Amazing how much gripping you do in the average day!

I was referred to a hand therapist. She was fantastic! She suggested a Nerve Conduction test, to measure the function of the ulnar nerve. This test is only done locally by the OTHER neurologist, not my MS one. So of I went and had the test and the results showed moderate abnormality. Hand therapist advised anything higher than mild needs surgery. GP says surgery. Myotherapist says do whatever I can to avoid surgery! So does chiro! Start chiro treatment twice a week which helps temporarily. All my therapists start focusing on my neck/shoulder/elbow/wrist/hand. My back complains at being neglected!!!!

So - HEAL. Well, sort of. Kind of. To be continued .....

Monday, December 24, 2012

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas

Friday, December 21, 2012

Its PINK!!!!

Kaitlyn and Ashley have announced they are expecting a baby GIRL!!!

This little lady didn't make it easy - she kept her legs crossed at the 20 week scan and kept her secret. So the planned 3D scan was brought forward a few weeks and at 23.5 weeks, she shared the secret.

Girl or boy, everyone is just delighted in the anticipation of this new family member, however the creator and shopper in me is thrilled to be able to indulge in the wider range of things for girls - as well as the little pants I have been sewing, there will be little dresses! Knitted hats can be adorned with crocheted flowers and the full spectrum of colours can be explored.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Artificial Feeding – Nothing To Do With Breastfeeding

There is no choice involved with breastfeeding.
Like natural conception, pregnancy, childbirth and all the other processes of the human body, breastfeeding is the default when it comes to feeding all infant mammals, including humans.
However, none of these natural processes are guaranteed fail-safe and society has brought alternatives when something goes wrong with nature’s plan.
IVF and other fertility programs, surrogate pregnancy and intensive care for premature infants, caesarean sections… and artificial feeding… each intended to step in when nature stumbles.
Why then, is there such a divide between women who breastfeed and those who resort to artificial baby milk? Why can the apparent decision to do one be taken as criticism of those who do the other? Such conflict can also arise between natural versus medical childbirth proponents but imagine such a personal debate between those who conceive easily and those reliant on IVF? Imagine the full term mothers in the postnatal ward questioning the actions of those with premmies in NICU! Imagine infertile women complaining about the promotion of contraception and family planning!

So what led to this great divide?

The Transition from Breast to Bottle
The answer can be found if we turn back a few pages in our history books. Originally, artificial feeding was only intended as the last option for babies unable to access human milk. Those abandoned by their mother at birth, foundlings without access to wet nurses, orphans without a lactating relative to take them in. It was insidious marketing by those with a commercial interest which saw artificial feeding leap from last resort to first option and it has taken the best part of the past century to undo the damage of their actions. And the repair is far from complete.
Safer Motherhood and the Hygiene of Life - 1934
(author's personal collection)
It would be bad enough if infant formula had been marketed as just an alternative to human milk, but far worse damage was done. Powerful advertising directed at family and medical communities led many to believe manufactured infant feeds were superior to mothers own milk. Generation after generation of new mothers had all choice taken away from them as brainwashed health advisors passed on the misleading information fed to them by those whose real interest was in the making of money. Lots of money.
The most heartbreaking outcome is not the loss of breastfeeding confidence across the community, rather the failure of society to understand the risks of not feeding babies as nature intended. There are very real detrimental impacts on immediate and future health when we remove human milk from the human diet and replace it with artificially concocted substitutes. Just as there are risks with fertility treatments, premature or surgical birth, so to there are risks when artificial baby milk replaces breastmilk - whether at birth or at any time during the period nature intended humans to be fully or partly breastfed.
Right Royal Example
Any suggestion of these risks is shouted down by many in our society as unfair to mothers who have resorted to artificial feeding. For many years, these risks were cloaked in softer language and presented as benefits of breastmilk. This technique is akin to suggesting there are advantages to breathing air unpolluted by cigarette smoke! Benefits in not being exposed to toxic levels of radiation! Or perhaps reasons to consider not walking in front of a moving vehicle!! There are no benefits to breastfeeding – breast isn’t best, it is normal!
The decision to introduce artificial baby milk – either partly or fully replacing human milk in a child’s diet – should always follow full risk assessment. Artificial feeding is not about the choice to breastfeed or not to breastfeed. The decision has nothing to do with breastfeeding. When we add or replace a natural process with something else, it must be done with full awareness of the risks against benefit. Like organ replacement or renal dialysis, artificial feeding should only be considered when all else fails.

Emotional conflict

Any health awareness program is designed to alter people’s behaviour, change habits and encourage them to question their lifestyle. Give up smoking. Eat more vegetables, Do more exercise, Drink less alcohol. Avoid sun exposure. Reduce fat in the diet. Have a pap smear. Eat more fibre. Nag, nag, nag! Pick up a magazine, watch TV, visit the doctor or pass by a billboard. The message is simple: there are ways you can improve your health both now and in the future. By ignoring them you are denying your own power to act.
1930s  AMA poster
Put up a poster promoting breastfeeding though, and suddenly people complain it is only being done to make those who are artificially feeding feel guilty! Why is this? How can just another health message seem personalized and threatening? The answer might surprise you – there is certainly emotion involved but it is nothing to do with guilt. 
Guilt is how you feel having committed an offense; remorse caused by feeling responsible for some offence. It is an internally created feeling and can only occur if the culprit recognizes they have done the wrong thing. Surely this description would only apply to the smallest number of mothers who have not breastfed? 
The real emotion felt by the majority of women who resort to premature weaning is regret: feeling sad about the loss or absence of something treasured or valued. Put simply, when these women see promotion of breastfeeding, it reminds them of a time when they experienced sadness. This can lead to feelings of anger, as unresolved emotions come to the surface. What they need is support and understanding of their grief, recognition of their regret. 
Unfortunately, what they usually get instead is reassurance about the decision to wean and assurance of their baby’s health and well being despite being fed artificially. This failure to acknowledge their true feelings goes a long way to prolonging their emotional recovery. Raise the issue of breastfeeding in a group women at any life stage – those emotions will come flooding out just as fresh in the retirement village as in the new mother’s group.
If reminders of the value of breastmilk make you feel angry, then direct that anger not to those trying to increase the awareness of a whole population, rather to those who let you down. Mothers do not fail to breastfeed: our society fails to help them do so: the real blame lies with:
  • Health systems that pay lip service to the benefits of breastmilk, yet expel new mothers from hospital before they have even grasped the basics of this learned skill;
  • Communities who view breastfeeding as an intimate act to only be performed behind closed doors, promoting only the sensual role of breasts and denying their practical use;
  • A society who expects women to resume paid work after brief, unpaid maternity leave while denying them access to workplace childcare and other support for combining work and breastfeeding;
  • A medical system that has until this year charted the growth of breastfed infants against the unnatural growth patterns of those fed artificially in past generations and implied failure to mothers whose babies did not measure up;
  • Unnecessary birth practices that interfere with the natural progression from womb to breast and strict infant regimes that deny babies access to the breast often enough for adequate nutrition;
  • A society which destroys body image by portraying the pubescent female form as that of a fully mature woman and displays malnourished celebrities as role models for adolescents and women of child-bearing age.
It is time to break down barriers between mothers and join together. There is no us and them, no good versus bad mother. Every woman has the right to the support and information she needs to birth and breastfeed her baby as nature intended, without pressure from the marketing techniques of multinational drug and breastmilk substitute manufacturers influencing the professionals guiding them along the path of motherhood.
Originally published as a submission to the  2007 Parliamentary Inquiry into the Health Benefits of Breastfeeding.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Yes, Virginia. ...

Suzy Toronto
I preface this by saying I respect every family's right to do or not to do.

This is about my reflections on our family experience as one which "does" the Santa thing.

Yes, I did use the present tense and, yes, my children are all in their 20s! Notwithstanding adulthood, independent living and -in one case - marriage and impending parenthood, my brood will head off to David Jones in Melbourne in a couple of weeks for their annual photo with Santa! A mythical being who was, in their childhood, considered to be an actual person who visited their home in the dead of night bearing gifts and consuming refreshment.

Given my recurring exposure to families of young children, each year at this time I come upon discussion on the merit or wisdom of creating the legend and even the ethics of "lying" to children each year. Aside from those whose religious beliefs don't sit comfortably alongside the secular celebrations, what is really in dispute is the place of fantasy in children's lives and whether adults have the right to misinform children deliberately.

In our house, fantasy, make-believe and let's pretend have been central to childhood play. The dress-ups box was always in action, toys for role-play in good supply and everyone encouraged to enjoy stories of other worlds, mythical beings and escapes from reality.

Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny have all been part of the folklore of childhood and the mystery of their presence discussed as though they were as real as our family and friends. How did Santa get in after we moved from the house with a chimney (where he left sooty footprints to and from the Christmas Tree)? How did the tooth fairy always (well, nearly!) know to visit even when a tooth came out at bedtime? How did the Easter Bunny sneak into the house with chocolate treasures when the weather outside did not suit early morning egg hunts? (And when a French exchange student shared our Easter one year, our youngest accepted that in France, the Bells bring the eggs - because - obviously - the Bunny was busy in Australia!)

At what age did it dawn on them that magic isn't always what it seems? I truly don't know. Melissa at five or six announced someone at school told her a crazy story about parents really leaving gifts, but she said she knew this wasn't true, as she knew we couldn't afford to buy her a bike! But as the older became wiser, they did not share their wisdom - in fact, they joined forces with the adults to create the magic!

One year, when the older two were in on things and the youngest was keeping his own counsel, Santa was bringing an entire set of Lord of the Rings figurines - the first movie just released and greatly enjoyed by this fantasy-loving family. A friend in the toy industry was helping with staff discount and access to rarer figures. But - at the last, Aragorn AKA Strider was stuck in a container on a ship at the wharf and could not meet the deadline  So Santa and his Elves hid the figurines around the house to be discovered, but also a note from Gandalf, on a scroll tucked in with a silver Elven cloak (secretly sewn in the en-suite bathroom!) alerting the receiver to Aragorn being delayed. Deceit  Lying? Untruths? Or just plain, good fun? All I know is, more than ten years later, it is remembered with fondness by all - and much more happiness than the time a cricket set from Santa included an unintended Huntsman Spider in the wrappings!

I think the proof is in the (Plum) Pudding: All our adult children enjoy and treasure the Christmas traditions of their childhood and keep as many going as possible. They enjoy the history of Father Christmas in their own ways - Melissa loves the folk-tales and Kieran loves the irony of Coca Cola's role. And pregnant Kaitlyn knows Santa will be part of her child's Christmas and his/her grandparents, aunt and uncle will do all they can to create the mystery.

 "Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."
Norman Vincent Peale

Saturday, November 17, 2012


It was one of those things you expect not to deal with in your fiftieth year, yet strangely, still do!

When visiting Melissa's house on Sunday, I had to park behind her car, rather than in the visitor's car park for her units (which was full) and, Murphy's Law being as it is, of course I was parked just that little too far over when her neighbour wanted to back out of his garage.

As we realised the situation and the elderly man was walking over to her door, I sprang to my feet and raced to the door to say I would quickly move my car (not wanting to get my daughter in trouble with the body corporate). And then, several key things all happened at once.

As I got to the door, my dog Molly (bored with visiting) assumed I had made a sudden decision to go home without her and decided not to let me. As I opened the screen door, she bolted toward my car. Unleashed, she is an unknown quantity, so I pushed the unlock button on my keys and bolted after her to open the car door, so she could jump in and not make other arrangements - like run off!

It was as I ran barefoot over the two metres or so to my car, I realised a) I hadn't put my shoes on and b) Melissa's front lawn is a mass of Bindiis!!

Now, growing up in Australia, kids have cast-iron feet,only two things bring us down in summer - the walk across the hot sand from towel to water at the beach and bindiis in the lawn. These claw-like seeds of weedy lawn invader dry as summer approaches to become treacherous to bare feet.

And I had just run across them with two bare feet!

I had to move the car, so teeth clenched, I did as quickly as i could, then - keeping the dog from leaping out of the open car door, I screamed to the girls to help me. They were only a little behind me, rushing out with my thongs (you may know these as flip-flops) but were stopped in their tracks by two out-stretched maternal feet studded with evil cling-ons! Kaitlyn held back her laughter when she realised just how bad it was and plucked them all out for me. They drew blood! I hastily put my thongs on before returning inside, with my inner-child having a bit of a tantrum at being caught this way for the first time in decades!

Oh, there is one more Aussie reason our parents used to scream "Well, put your bloody shoes on!" - Bull Ants! I still run the gauntlet with these, even though our front yard is the perfect living environment for them. Last time I lost the battle on a bare-foot dash to the letter box, I came back inside with one of the blasted things attached to my little toe and doing its best to inflict maximum pain.

You might hear all about our sharks and the venomous snakes and spiders, but the real dangers in Australia in summer are these - bindiis,  bull ants and hot sand! That's why we must wear our things, you see!!

This is what the bottom of my feet looked like!
A Bull Ant

Friday, November 16, 2012

And sew on ...

A impending baby is a wonderful opportunity for many ... crafts!

I have been enjoying the chance to reignite my sewing passion, dormant since my skills ceased to be required  to produce costumes for the children in their school days. Fashions over the years didn't really incorporate hand-made styles, life got busy and my ancient, but reliable, machine stopped being so reliable. (Hard to deny it retirement, being a wonderful Husqvana purchased by my mother in the mid 70s!) But then I received another hand-me-down machine - my third: firstly I had my mother-in-law's cast-off, then my mother's and now - my daughter's!

But I really needed motivating to get back into things. Most of my sewing tools had gone to a new life with my daughter, a seamstress of some repute, who creates costumes for cos-play and more, mostly self-taught, the latest in a long line of women who sew in both families. When I did turn to sew, I didn't even own a bobbin!

The announcement that my other daughter is expecting our first grandchild, combined with the stiumlus of Pinterest, my passion to avoid disposable products, the allure of new fabrics such as bamboo and my wish to help off-set the cost of preparing for a baby all led me to pick up the "good scissors", get hold of everything from pins to a tape measure and buy fabric!

Here is what has so far been created:

Reusable breastfeeding pads - organic flannel, bamboo/cotton toweling and bamboo velour
Burp cloths - organic cotton backed with bamboo/cotton towelling

Taggy toy

Big Butt Baby Pants - Very Hungry Caterpillar (rear view, awaiting elastic!)
Having discovered the wonderful fabrics available with the resurgence of sewing (as with knitting and crochet, 20- and 30-somethings have caught the bug and want funky and interesting materials) there are more projects on the to do list!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

And here's a picture boys and girls

Endless hours of my life have been spent reading - and re-reading - picture books to my children. Especially when I sat breastfeeding, the older ones would haul a pile from the shelf over beside me and demand stories.

But children grow up and shelf space becomes tight. A few years back, I consigned what remained of our picture book collection into storage. Last summer, during a family clean out at our storage unit, I asked the now-adult children to cull them a bit and I think they may have donated a few but the rest went back into storage.

With the impending grandchild nearly halfway through gestation, I am starting to look forward to a new generation of story telling, so on the weekend, I got all the books out again and gathered my daughters to go through them - my son is not so sentimental, but does have hoarding tendencies, so I admitted defeat with him! But I thought the girls might like to take out their favourites and keep them in their own homes, with the remainder returning to the family shelves to share with the new generation. And maybe we could cull it down to just the most important?

Well, it turns out, while each had a couple of personal favourites they wanted to keep close by, they agreed that most were shared favourites that could go back home with me! And not only that, but those titles deemed too damaged to rescue, we Googled and ordered replacement copies!

25 and 28!
So I guess I am not the only one with those fond memories and we have proven that shared stories are one of life's treasures.

Here is the donate pile:

And this is the keep pile!:

Meanwhile, I have been busy Pinning those titles I have already flagged as being necessary in the life of the grandchild-to-be (nicknamed Jelly Bean by his/her parents) and the list includes many of those above! You can see it at Jelly Bean's Bookshelf and my browsing led me to this wonderful list, which includes not only most of my children's favourites but also many from my own childhood! It has become part catalogue, part shopping list in my quest!!

I think I had better order one of these in every size!  :)

Looking Back - way back!

Part of my library of books includes a small collection of vintage pregnancy and parenting manuals, dating back over last century.

My greatest treasure is a two-volume set passed onto me from my husband's paternal grandmother, Mary.

SAFER MOTHERHOOD and the HYGIENE of LIFE a 1934 edition of special health problems of and love in woman's life..the expectant mother..medicines in common use..photographs in monochome

I dusted this off the other day, seeing that Mary's great-granddaughter, my daughter Kaitlyn, is now pregnant. I thought it would be interesting to see the contrast between what these two women would be told about preparing for motherhood.

Here are a few favourites I captured to share.

I imagine the depression-era definition of "light housework"would be quite different from today's

I am quite alarmed that I could have written this section almost word for word and could almost publish as-is today!

This advice about scrubbing nipples with brushes still pops up today , nearly a 100 years later, passed inappropriately from mothers to daughters still.

Just like our Breastfeeding Education Classes, only NOT!

The pride is evident but the reality is these babies would be shuffled out to their mothers for four-hourly feeds and then whisked back to the nursery to be topped up by bottle by the nurses, who enjoyed the bond they developed with the babies during the two weeks or so their mothers were confined to bed on the ward. And continued you so until rooming-in was conceived - still optional when I had my first baby in 1984!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Farewell, old friend

I knew it was coming but it was still a shock.

Yesterday I drove past my old primary school and they have finally demolished the old buildings that have been replaced with new ones.

There is a gaping hole where I spent Grades 4, 5 and 6.

Living in the same neighbourhood we both grew up in, we have taken for granted our schools places in our visual landscape. In fact, our three children also attended the primary school my husband, his siblings and cousins and the other half of my Girl Guide friends went to. The high school we should have attended by default (instead we both went to a new tech school, where we met) and that our own kids did go to, is nestled alongside my primary school. Technically, my mother-in-law went to that same high school, but on an earlier campus which later become the TAFE college my son went to and in-between was a senior tech that I attended briefly! So there has always been a great intimacy with our schools throughout all our lives.

But now, only the grounds look familiar. The grassed areas where we played - during various childhood obsessions - pretend horses at make-believe gymkhanas; amatuer sleuths with secret club-houses; wanna-be pop stars lip-syncing to cassette tapes and other long-forgotten activities. And, during less-happy, friendship breakdowns, reading alone with endless library books. Oh, and obligitory monkey bars and failed attempts at hand-stands and cartwheels.

In fact, it was the long-jump pit in that same area that led to my continuing back problems: its all in the landing and mine wasn't good. Despite my declarations of great pain, no xrays were taken by the doctor (amazingly, he is still working in the same practice, although I see a different doctor there now!). It was about four years ago that my new chiropractor, casually looking at the xrays he ordered, asked when I broke my back! I have a Spondylolisthesis, most likely caused by just such an accident as I had in Grade 6 long jump!

But the building where I first read the Narnia books, where I wrote stories remarkably similar to those of Enid Blyton, where I borrowed Jaws from my deskmate and stepped into the world of adult fiction - is gone. I guess the old library, the canteen where our lunch order pies appeared from - which had a safety poster on the wall I have never forgotten - "The thong has ended but the malady lingers on" - on the risks of our favourite summer footwear. (Was I the only primary school student who got the pun? I bet I am the only one who remembers it!)

The new building looks very smart. It is obviously asbestos-free, while I bet the old one was riddled with it. There are probably no breeze-ways outside the toilets. The art room is unlikely to still be a place where macramé and copper enamelling are among the skills taught (this was the first half of the 70s I was there!). But I can still smell the paper we soaked in the troughs before drawing on it with pastels. I still remember absent-mindedly upending the glue pot, forgetting it had a brush and open top, unlike the squeeze bottle of PVA I was used to at home - resulting in a huge mess and humiliation.

It is almost forty years since I was a student at that school. I only arrived there part-way through Grade 3, yet  my strongest memories are of that place and that time. Our Grade 5 camp booklet declared us Överportians" and I have always thought of us that way. Two of my oldest friends were alongside me there and we are still together today. Many other friends share that bond that makes us smile when we meet up in the community, middle-aged women who remember hanging upside down on those monkey bars.

They can demolish the buildings but my memories, like the malady, linger on!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Granny business

This tiny grandhild of mine nicknamed Jelly Bean, is now approaching 11 weeks and is the size of a small citrus fruit. The host, my daughter is approaching the end of the first trimester feeling pretty good. The grandmothers to be are reaquainting themselves with the retail therapy of tiny clothes and gorgeous garments. Quilting and yarn works are coming into construction. Spare room, stuffed hurridly during the move only weeks before, needs alternate storage found, to morph into a nursery.

Books are being read, by mother and daughter. Product reviews, hospital recommendations and more are sought on Facebook, boards are being Pinned on Pinterest.

In a few weeks, I will do my regular three days at the baby expo, as well as be with my daughter to plan and shop and consult.

We wre now both members of ABA, the same group!

Parenting magazine article bought for mum2B QUOTES granny2B in breastfeeding story, not t all strange to mum2b;-)

Its a fun ride!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Just call me Granny!

I have been sitting on the most exciting news for the past few weeks but the announcement was made public yesterday (ie posted on Facebook!) so now I can shout it from the roof-tops!

Kaitlyn and Ashley are expecting a baby in April!!!

This will be the first grandchild for both families, so you can imagine there are smiles on all our faces. The mother-to-be is well, with just the usual symptoms as her body gets used to idea of having a baby on board.

So I am to be a grandmother - known as Granny, in honour of my English heritage. I expect I don't fit the mould of your average grandmother but it is a role I am ready for and looking forward to.

Sadly my father won't get to meet his first great grandchild, who will be born just over ten years after his death. But the baby will be born 100 years after my paternal grandfather jumped ship in Australia and started a new life here, so that is a lovely connection.

Come along and enjoy the ride! 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Getting my Tech On

I have spent the past couple of days in front of computers – yes, plural.

My workspace 
We have doubled our staff this week at the Breastfeeding Centre – it is now myself three days plus three casuals covering two of those days (we are closed Monday and Friday). Kint has dropped her hours from 6 to 4 to fit in her other paid job and the time came to stop relying on her personal laptop as the second office computer. And though my laptop is only a year old, it has struggled to cope with the extra needs of me taking on the coordination of our annual calendar, leaving me lagging with little memory and no storage (in the computer that is!)

So, with our financial committee acquiescing to my pleas, I did what I always do and headed to Dell online. This must be the third or fourth time I have bought online from them and I cannot fault them – easy to buy, fantastic delivery service and great after-care. Even though my son sighs and shakes his head.

Yes, my son. You see my life has been one of tech immersion across generations. My father was not only a renowned radio ham but an innovative electronics engineer who had his two daughters soldering “circus boards” when we were barely out of nappies. We still call them that, even though you might know them as circuit boards J My childhood was surrounded not only by tech gear but a never-ending chain of techie friends of my fathers, who would come to visit their guru. 

When I was 15, I introduced a new techy onto the scene, one who went on to become my husband! To seal his fate, he even commenced his apprenticeship working with my father before moving into servicing televisions and some new household tech items, VCRs and microwave ovens! Years later, he moved in computer service in a tertiary education facility and eventually into his current work with medical imaging equipment. (For many years, our viewing was on hand-me-down TVs/VCRs, then we moved onto hand-me-down computers and peripherals. But, despite having MS and associated MRI scans every few years, I put my foot down about unwanted Xray machines etc!)

The next link in the chain was my son whose interest in computers started at the breast (fatally pushing reset as I finished a document while feeding him, back in the days of Wordperfect and before auto-save.) Thankfully, he grasped the opportunity and as a 1991 baby, spent only his early months in a home without computers and has embraced them so much that I sometimes think it would be easiest to mainline him to the internet and be done with it! His two years tertiary study was on computer subjects and he has become my go-to guy for all tech support. Of course, all his mates are also techies and although they ridicule my use of mainstream software and hardware, at least we have something to talk about!

Needless to say, this has all given me a good comprehension of the world of electronics and my own speciality in the software side of things. Despite never having done ANY classes or even book-learning, I can turn my hand to most things computer and end up being tech support myself! Which makes me the IT department in our office as well.

So, there I was with two new laptops to set up, plus an older one to strip down and set up afresh. All networked and sharing, synced and online, with multiple back-ups and shared files.  And – amazingly – it all went well!

Now that glorious stage, like when you empty a room to repaint and carefully replace only that which you want in that space, solemnly promising yourself it will all stay neat and orderly. LOL. I wonder how long until I am cursing the lack of space and slow speed, threatening to throw it out the window and muttering as I crawl under the desk trying to find the right cable for the right plug? But today - all is perfect!

Friday, August 3, 2012

It's World Breastfeeding Week!

Celebrating the 20th World Breastfeeding Week - the first coincidentally the same year I qualified as a Breastfeeding Counsellor, everybody is talking about breastfeeding online: my Google Reader is full of news stories and blog posts about breastfeeding - mostly positive, a few beating the tired, old drum about making formula-feeding mothers feel guilty. But let's not let them rain on the parade that has a sole purpose of improving support for women who do breastfeed and helping those who so wish to meet their own breastfeeding goals.

 It would be lovely to be able to say that problems with breastfeeding only prevail in the western world and that mothers in what we consider to be traditional cultures are not exposed to the barriers that we see constantly threatening a mother's ability to easily meet the WHO recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, with continued breastfeeding until two years or beyond.

But it wouldn't be called WORLD Breastfeeding Week, if that was so. In fact, many countries which have traditionally practiced full-term breastfeeding are sadly following the pathways that led to its decline in modern cultures in the last century, which induces many heads banging against walls for those of us trying to return to that wisdom!

As a new mother in the 1980s, passionate about breastfeeding and active in the Nursing Mothers' Association of Australia (now the Australian Breastfeeding Association), I optimistically - perhaps naively - imagined my own children would become parents in a world where such support groups were no longer needed and where breastfeeding was considered every babies birthright. Nearly 30 years later, it is shocking that not only do mothers still face many of the barriers that we tried to break down in the 1980s, but new ones have been erected and mothers face even more risk of not meeting their own - and every health authority's - breastfeeding goals.

Sometimes it is disheartening to trawl through my blog roll and see story after story of negative news about breastfeeding, seemingly only broken up by well-intentioned but divisive articles promoting more "benefits" of breastfeeding and reinforcing the "breast is best" message long-dropped by those working to support all mothers. Breast isn't best, it is normal and there are no benefits to do what nature intended, only risks when humans try to replicate the default infant for for mammals.

There are sparks of hope in those posts - our neighbours across the Ditch, those Kiwis we love to taunt, have seen New Zealand breastfeeding rates reach their highest in 19 years. No wonder, given the amazing promotional and education programs funded by their government in recent years, including not only parent education, but also community education of what mothers need to help them breastfeed. Breastfeeding naturally videos

My own glimmer of hope occurred last week, when a journalist from the local paper contacted me about a story they were doing about WBW (a shock, as we normally do the chasing!) as she had seen the latest figures showing breastfeeding rates are "soaring" in the City of Greater Dandenong, where the Breastfeeding Centre I work at is located and I am the volunteer group leader of the ABA breastfeeding support group.
Article in the Dandenong Leader

One thing I do wish we could change, when talking about breastfeeding rates, is the term "exclusive breastfeeding" - meaning no food or drink other than breastmilk until 6 months of age. While this terminology is understood when referring to the introduction of solids, it gives a very poor result when comparing breastfeeding initiation rates with those still having only breastmilk at 6 months - simply because, despite the recommendations, many/most babies are starting solids between 4 and 6 months (sometimes earlier) and therefore, though they may still only have breastmilk as the primary part of their diet and have no formula at all, they are included alongside those babies who regularly are supplemented with formula. It would be far more beneficial for us to know what percentage of babies are fully breastfed at six months, excluding solid foods. Or - perhaps more useful - how many babies are fully or partly formula-fed at that or other ages. Perhaps it is time to flip those figures, so we can better use them to encourage continued breastfeeding, rather than as a marker for ending breastfeeding. In the case of CGD, using the figures quoted in the above article, we should be asking: why are 29.5% of babies being formula-fed on hospital discharge (2-3 days postnatal) and why are 69.3% of babies no longer fully breastfeeding at six months? Because the goal is really not about breastfeeding, it is about REDUCING the rates of formula-feeding.

I urge everyone to take the time to read a little more about World Breastfeeding Week - regardless of your own infant feeding experience or current life-stage. Because it takes a community to breastfeed a baby - it is society which creates the barriers to women meeting those goals and it takes society to demand change so they can.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Always plant the seed ...

In the late 1970s, a newly-migrated English mother found her experience at a Queensland baby health centre less than ideal. She was prompted to do something to make a change and decided to train as an infant welfare nurse. She and her family relocated down to Melbourne and by 1984, she was working in that role at a centre in Frankston.

Fate rolled the dice and in March, I duly began taking my first-born along to that same centre for her regular checks each week. And Liz was my nurse. I joined the new mums group she set up - leading to life-long friendships. I read the notices displayed on the wall about the local NMAA group which I had heard about at my antenatal class. But I was young - not yet 21 - and nervous. I needed a push. Liz pushed me. She said I would love Nursing Mothers and I should go along.

I finally got the nerve when Melissa was 10 weeks old and three pieces of puzzle fell into place to make me brave: Liz was going to be at the meeting as guest speaker. Breastfeeding Counsellor and Group Leader, Chris, I had met when she spoke at that antenatal class. And the meeting hostess Marg had been one of my favourite teachers at high school! So I went.

The rest, they might say, is history.

But it is also current: Chris is STILL a Breastfeeding Counsellor, with 30 years to my 20. Marg is still in my life as a Facebook friend. And Liz and I reconnected when the ABA Breastfeeding Centre where I work was set up in the community where she was working as coordinator of what is now known as Maternal & Child Health. For six years we have been working alongside each other toward a common goal - to improve breastfeeding rates in the community.

Yesterday, I was honoured to attend Liz's retirement function. I was not the only past-client of her's in attendance: Bernie had also been nurtured by Liz three years after me and her path led her into midwifery, where we worked together for many years as part of my weekly postnatal visits to the local hospital as a volunteer Breastfeeding Counsellor. And then she continued along her pathway and trained in MCH and is now stepping into Liz's shoes as acting coordinator!

So the lesson is - where you see potential growth, plant the seed and nurture its growth. It will mature and bloom under the care of others and, if you are lucky, one day you will see it blossoming and sewing seeds of its own.

I asked Liz to have her photo taken with me, to sit on the shelf alongside those with some other mentors of mine - Chris, Mary Paton who founded NMAA/ABA, Sheila Kitzinger who motivated my pregnancies and births and Pinky McKay who validated my parenting choices. All are women who carefully planted seeds and allowed them to grow and all women I call friends.

Happy World Breastfeeding Week :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Organising Bug

Don't stand still around me right now - I am bound to pop you into a labelled box!

I am in the midst of my organising bug and I can't do anything about it. It happens once or twice a year and has me unsettled, as even sitting staring into space I am plotting how I could purge and sort something. Nothing is safe - my home, my workplace, my car ... my daughter's homes!

But I have had a light bulb moment about it this time around: I know the basic reason behind my need for order is that I grew up in a home that was cluttered and disorganised. Both my parents hoarded in their own ways and I craved my own space where I could find calm and order. But I struggled through much of my adult life, as I was raised without the life skills to achieve my goal. I married a man who doesn't like to throw out stuff which might be useful and we birthed children who had no good examples to follow.

Until I yelled STOP. It took the diagnosis of chronic health issues and the realisation I could not rely on doing everything myself. Unemployed after a major health crash that left uncertainty about my future ability to work, I immersed myself in developing strategies and techniques to reduce the clutter and organise every aspect of life so it could almost run on auto-pilot if needed. That was 12 years ago.

The first shock was finding that I was far from alone and my parents were not unique. I found online communities where others faced the same challenges. We supported each other and learned from our shared experiences. I did my best to give my children the skills they needed and to delegate tasks to everyone so it wasn't all dependent on me. Mostly, it has worked.

But what is behind these bursts of satisfying but unsatisfied decluttering and reorganising? Where was the pattern? I have worked out it takes over when I am in one of two modes - ironically I have always described myself as flat out or out flat! - and these are the triggers for me. When I am over-busy, with lots on, I crave order and the ability to function with a certainty that what I need will be where it should be when I need it. But the other trigger is when my body is struggling physically - this is also a time I need to be able to function with minimum effort, without searching for essentials or having to use my limited energy for the most basic tasks. Then - I need order and even though I am least able to enable it at those times, it is amazing what I can get done in tiny bursts, followed by rest. And it gives me what I crave most of all - a sense of control in my life.

So, bear with me. It will ease soon and you will safely be able to put something down without me whisking it away to a new home. I will go back to my usual clutter-tolerance level and will stop twitching. But in the meantime ... arm chair organizing is the order of the day! Sit. Think. Act. Sit..... if you need me, I will be at Ikea!

Saturday, July 21, 2012


I have been on Pinterest for over a year now and I am loving that so many of my friends are coming on-board - my happiest achievement this month is convincing both my daughters to join :) And I do find lots of ideas that I incorporate into my life - and LOTS more I plan to!

But this past day or so has seen a Pinteresting chain of activity I wanted to share:

I saw and Pinned this:


The Pinterest Facebook app shared it on my Wall and my friend Del saw it. Then she made this:

Del Smith

Which inspired me even more than the original, as she used cheap canvases and attached the whole Post-it pad. I loved it so much, today I did some shopping and some crafting and made these!:
Photo: Ta Da!

And that is the beauty of Pinterest: great ideas are put out there where we can all share and be inspired and put our own twist on them. I made one each for my daughters, my co-worker and myself.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A comfort of books

I don't remember the first book I ever owned. But I do remember my favourites from kinder:
- Harry the Dirty Dog & Ping. 

That was only 44 years ago!

My cousin Connie read to me from Pinocchio - the very same, battered copy I still have.

In primary school, I remember being told very firmly (and not at all gently!) by the librarian that I was not ALLOWED to touch the chapter books, I could ONLY borrow the picture books. But the yearning to move into those secret worlds of text-only was so strong.

I think it was my Grade Five teacher Mr Webster who introduced me to Ivan Southall's books - which I never see or hear of these days - Ash Road and Hills End were my favourites. They are still on my shelf. Australian stories, so different from my beloved Enid Blytons ... they sit nearby. The Chronicles of Narnia - my gorgeous, well-thumbed The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: torn apart by my first-born, replaced and her firmly addicted.

Op shops provided an abundance of vintage stories for girls - school stories, horse stories ... I would pounce upon the rows of faded blue or green covers - often suffering the disappointment of finding only BOYS stories! I still have all those girls books - stripped, by the innocent me, of their annoying dust jackets, much to the angst of the adult me as they multiply the books worth: ironically as I now collect those I never owned, at much more than op shop prices.

My first adult novel - loaned to me by the boy who shared my desk and my last-name in Grade Six. Jaws. My local beach never felt quite as safe after that. Nor my vocabulary! It sits on my shelves. Lying awake into the wee hours, too frightened to sleep, finishing The Exorcist as a teenager. My entire, battered collection of horror stories have their own shelf - Damien of The Omen, Rosemary's baby, Amityville Horror.

Historical romances, mostly from the local library, took me to another world and fed my craving for British history - and local as well. The Australian series, by William Stuart Long AKA Vivan Stuart, sit on my shelf - along with the disappointment that the author died before completing the saga from the arrival of the First Fleet to modern day.

The 80s - Lace! Harold Robbins. Danielle Steel.Barbara Taylor Bradford. Wonderful, trashy and grist for my insatiable appetite for books. I haunted the second-hand bookstore for paperbacks and consumed them - first in the long days of unemployment and later in the spare moments between caring for my small children (probably when I should have been doing housework!) I still have many of them - they make me smile to see them sitting on the shelf.

I always loved a good murder and the 90s brought so many! My shelves filled with the black jackets - Patricia Cornwell, Michael Connelly, The Kellermans (Jonothan and wife Faye: I am yet to read any of their son Jesse's works!). Inspector Morse (as big as a horse in my mind, as my brain had been infiltrated by all my children's own books!).Elizabeth George. Robin Cook (a conspiracy behind every door) most of these are still on my shelves.

Into the new century and into more cosy works. Rosamunde Pilcher. Maeve Binchy. Marian Keyes. Suddenly, the Irish were everywhere! Edward Rutherford's epic historical sagas. "Chick Lit" - followed by "Hen Lit" as I was getting older and the genre aged with me. They are all on the shelves. 

I began Bookcrossing, which led to random reading. I loved the idea of releasing books into the wild for others to find, but loved my collection too much to make much of a dint in the process: I sought unwanted books in bulk through Freecycle and other sources and I bought discounted, second-hand copies of favourites specifically to give away!

Village tales and cosy murders are my current fad, stacking up nicely on the shelves. Or not. Ebooks and audio books are downloaded into my tablet. Amazon, Book Depository, Audible, Kobo - new ways to buy books in all formats.

Alongside the fiction, my collection of non-fiction grew. Biographies and memoirs are favourites. When my health restricted my lifestyle, I would take off to Provence or Tuscany, cycle around the world or hitch a ride with Michael Palin on his travels. I would choose a country for the winter and read as much as I could based there. The shelves grew.

My journey through parenthood is marked by books - and augmneted by my work in supporting parents and my fascination for the old. A collection began with my own reference books, grew to include vintage and retro and even included the "bad books" which I shelve upside down to mark my disrespect. Now my daughter is planning a family and I need to make sure she reads the most current, not the oldest! I shall sort into year of publication.

Hobbies and interests, popular culture, history, health, women's issues ... all represented, shelf after shelf.

So, you see, it was no spur of the moment decision, but a long-held dream, finally realised this weekend which led me along a pathway I have traversed for almost 50 years, which led to .....

Seven matching (Ikea Billy) book cases spanning the long wall of our lounge room. Replacing mis-matched options begged, borrowed and made-do for all the many years since I left home 30 years ago and filled with my treasures. Will I buy more books? Of course! And will I cull to make space for them - yes. I have always culled my collection, although it might seem otherwise. But some books will be with me when they cart me off in the future - and my kids have strict instructions to keep only what they want but to find good homes for those they don't.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dear Me ... letter to myself 20 years ago

Over breakfast this morning, I watched this on Youtube

I so wish I had done something like this! Why didn't my father think of this when he used to follow us around with that Super 8 camera? *

But it stuck in my mind all day - 20 years ago. What would I say to myself back in 1992? Although I didn't know at the time, it was a big turning point in my life and my progress through the next 20 years would have been helped with a bit of advance knowledge, so ...

Dear Yvette-in-1992,

Hey! So that computer your Dad passed down to you last year, the one you wondered what you would actually use it for? Yes - the one that doesn't have a hard drive and you have to keep stopping games to change the floppy disks over? Well, turns out I found a few things you can use them for - quite a few actually! So hang in there - but here's a little saying for you "Save early, save often". Try to remember that, much less stressful.

So, look at you with all your little ones - busy hey? Not a lot of sleep and lots of time in the car, right? But how cute are they? And all that hard work is worth it - thank you for dedicating yourself to raising three wonderful children, its made my life much easier. Here's a sneak peak-ahead for you.

That? Oh, its called scrapbooking. Actually, you could help me out a bit with that - can you take more photos please? I know it is expensive to get the films developed and you don't always have the money, but I really do appreciate the memories to look back on. Oh - you have about four years: can you find some time to sort those photos and get them out of those awful magnetic photo albums, its not good for them, you (are going to) know

So now the baby is a year and half, how are you going with looking after yourself? Getting lots of exercise with riding your bike to playgroup every week with Elin and then family bike rides on the weekend - you are probably as fit as you have ever been. If you could keep that up, I would really appreciate it ...

... because I have some difficult news to share with you. Um, you're not quite as healthy as you think. This really hard ... look ... you see, oh - we have Multiple Sclerosis. Hang on, don't panic - you won't notice anything for a few more years. But when you do, you aren't going mad and you are right to keep pushing for a diagnosis - but that will take five years more, so you need to be patient. In the meantime, can you lay off the sunscreen a bit? Turns out all that avoiding the sun you do is affecting how much vitamin D we get and I am really running short!

But thanks for the moisturiser - keep up the good work! And don't worry too much about those grey hairs - I worked out a great solution ;) That - its an emoticon. A smiley face winking. Yes, I am serious. It isn't a silly word. Google - that's a silly word. And you know that rose tattoo you have been wondering about for the past ten years? We finally got it a few months ago! But I changed the design a little ...

Now -  its nearly our birthday, last year before a big one! Yes, it is exciting for you to be nearly thirty, isn't it? So old! I mean, you are the same age our mum was when we were born and she was considered elderly! Oh - Melissa is that age now! Twenty-eight! No, she hasn't got any children yet - no, not married either. Doing? Oh, well she got back from her UK trip on Friday! I know - we always wanted to do that, didn't we? (I'll let you in on a secret - we aren't dead yet, there is still plenty of time!!)

Oh - hey, thanks for all the hard work making costumes and dress ups for the kids. I know you put a lot of effort into it. And one day, you won't need to do all that sewing! - that will be a relief! Grow out of it? No, not really ...

Kaitlyn? Yes, she is still a sweet thing - no, never did go off the rails as a teenager (even though you think she might after being such a delightful toddler!). She is married and looking forward to starting a family soon. No, it isn't a surprise, is it? By the way - if you think she is baby-mad as a pre-schooler, that's nothing!

And how are you coping with Kieran? Yep - hardest baby of them all! So unsettled and still sleeping in your bed, breastfeeding all day and night - and everyone's a critic, aren't they? And trying to get vegetables into him! I know! Well, you can relax on that front - he still won't eat them and I gave up trying about ten years ago! Oh, but he is such a lovely guy! So witty and such a brain - I have conversations with him that remind me of talking with Dad - only without the bad bits. He is physically like him too, skinny, wiry and strong as an ox. Still lives at home, not studying or working ... but I am not stressed over that: he was destined to take his own path in life, right from the start. Computer mad - studied them and spends all his time online ... Oh, um ... there's this internet thing. ooh - while I think of it: watch out when you are feeding him and nearly finished typing that booklet for Nursing Mums. Make sure he can't swing his arm out and hit the reset button! Did I mention "save early, save often"? Anyway, he helps me fix my computer problems these days, not create them ;)

Yes, that does look like that silly box-thing from Dr Who, doesn't it? Yes, I do remember how we groaned when that came on TV when we were a kid and we had to change channels quickly. BTW - don't blink. What? BTW? Its text shorthand, like on a mobile. No - not the things hanging over babies cots! A phone. Oh, forget I mentioned it! Just remember - don't blink!

Ah - Nursing Mothers'! You just qualified as a breastfeeding counsellor a few months ago, didn't you? Wow - took two years to get through the training and then 6 months waiting for the final assessment (after the assessor left your folio sitting on her desk for ages). Have to stay around as a volunteer for a few years to make that all worthwhile! How long did I do it for? Um ...

It was a good thing you did do that training though. Your gorgeous niece Lynden and nephew Jordan - sweet babies they still are - are only the beginning: there are seven more to come - plus four that Rod's cousin will have in the same time period! Family gatherings are going to be a bit chaotic for a few years!!!

And you have a new puppy! Silky! Oh, darling Silky - she is such a life blessing. Treasure her - she is with you for the long run and will be a great comfort when she is older.

Still married? Yep - coming up to 30 years next year! Does Rod still ride to work every day? And with the family every weekend?

No - he doesn't cycle ... to work ... or with the family ...

Hey - you had your school reunion this year! Wow - look at everyone all grown up! And your closest friends - you just don't see them that much now, do you? Don't worry - you just need to make the time and it will happen.

Well, it's been lovely to catch up with you, Yvette-in-1992. I wish I had time to tell you more - but then, that would spoil the surprises! Spoilers!

From my family ....

... to yours!

I might just leave the last words to Dr Seuss (yes, I know you are a little sick of reading him - and you despair of Melissa ever becoming a competent reader ... relax, that will be the least of your concerns!)

So ...

Good luck!

* My Dad did create a time capsule, of sorts, on film for my friends and I. Enjoy! (Parts one and two)