Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dancing and Parties

Hannah is loving dance. One of her teachers also volunteers at a school for the deaf - so he knows Auslan - which is a HUGE bonus for Hannah who LOVES signing. She has been enthralled with the costumes and the moves and looks forward to going.
We ahve also had a 'festival' here in the DOck for DHs birthday. Family parties and then recently a gathering of old friends for lunch. One of the activities de jour of the kiddies was to sticky tape pencils to each finger ala Edward Scissorhands although Hannah liked it when I referred to her special'rainbow hands'.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I am lucky enough to be able to help in the classroom - today I was helping a little group - we were cutting and pasting a story sequence into booklets. The kids started chatting - it started about brothers and sisters I think - anyhow one little fellow says "I hate girls" and another one (a really good friend of Hannah's!) says "yeah, me too. I hate girls, except Hannah, I like Hannah" lol! It wasn't just cos I was there either - so I chipped in and said that I knew he was a a good friend of Hannah and then I reminded him of his 2 gorgeous little sisters at home. Then a third little boy pipes up with "I am Hannah's best, best, best friend." Gotta love the kindy kids. You never know what they'll do or say next.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


I heard a story from a couple of other kindy Mums the other day - there is another set of boy/girl twins in kindy and the boy half was upset and crying. Kit tried to comfort him but it wasn't working so he went and got the little fellow's sister to help. General consensus was that that was such a 'twin thing' to do. Lovely.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Have a Chat - the tween years

In Sydney I made friends with a girl I'll call K. Adjusting to life here wasn't that hard for me. There are a few humiliating moments - like the way other kids laughed cos I wore the 'wrong' jacket - and then called it a 'Parka'!! (My school in Sydney was very middle class - the one in Brisbane more working class...) and then the fearsome grade 4 teacher who made me repeat over and over 'off' without the 'r' in the middle in front of the whole class - sure cured me of that QLD accent! And in it all I made friends with a girl called K who was to be a very significant person in my life until my early 20s when we lost contact altogether. I still think about her and wonder. I'd love to 'peek' in the window of where she lives now - I can imagine the scene - I hope i am right - cos it would be a loving and warm family lounge that I'd see... just like her family that I belonged to for what in the end was quite a brief time really.

She came from a reasonably well known family(one of her uncles was Police Minister). My family were country queensland - do I need to say more? You couldn't get more divergent political and worldviews if you tried. My parents liked the then Premier of QLD Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen - who ruled his corrupt state with an iron fist. Firmly repressing civil disobedience or even the right of his citizens to protest. He used a gerrymander to maintain his power. My folks loved him. It was all to the power of the individual.

Her family were unionists and/or labor party politicians and/or a bunch of 'lefties'. I recall watching with great joy Bob Hawke win a federal election at her place one year - K, my boyfriend of the time (yep now my DH) and I. Her family were no doubt at the Catholic Club - a regular venue for election events.
But that was later - at first we were just 2 girls who were drawn to each other. She had beautiful eyes and gorgeous skin with glowing hair. I was rough and ragged - a tomboy. We'd argue politics - each repeating what we had learnt at our parents knee - for that was something we had in common - both our families had riotous debates around the dinner table about the world and politics in partiuclar - and children were encouraged to participate. We used each other to test the worldviews presented to us at home.
Sleepovers weren't a big part of growing up but if there was such a beast in my childhood - then it was the first time I stayed at Ks house. I remember her Mum coming in and saying 'goodnight girls' as she made the sign of the cross on our foreheads - it is something that I still do to the twins when I sneak in for a final glimpse of them sleeping before I too go to bed.
And so we went from primary school and endless discussions of the current tv drama series - the Sullivans to highschool together. Here the pool widened and we became part of a friendship group of girls that would see us through to year 10. For our final 2 years of school we moved to a different local catholic high school - and there I met up with the man who I have now been married to for 16 years - of course I didn't realise that was what would happen for quite some time! She and I and a couple of other girls formed a clique - she was always popular. Pretty and fashionable and talented. Me - I was still awkward and 'different' but I was happy with that. With K as my friend I was guaranteed to negotiate some of the turbulent adolescent years without too much stress or pressure. We loved music - my tastes had always been at complete odds with my contemporaries until then. Think Johnny Cash to Johnny Ray an you get a glimpse of the picture! I took to the indie rock scene like a duck to water - I loved that it was 'teen' and 'rebellion' and 'adolescent' but not mainstream - heaven forbid that after all my years on the road less travelled that I should fall into the mundane ticky tacky boxes of poetry and pop. So like many teenagers - we thought we were cool and so were our friends...
During this time K and I went from my attending her family functions and going away for holidays - oh how I loved hearing her father come into our room in the morning booming out a dreadful version of "Oh what a beautiful morning!". I liked her cousins and really felt welcomed into a large loyal family unit. Her father was a large man who was easy to like and someone who you just had to respect - he was a man who had charisma. Her Mum was a stay at home - something I'd never experienced - I saw it as very unusual. She was gentle and kind. K was naturally very generous. I recall once when her sister no longer needed her side chest of drawers that K asked if I wanted it - I had those draws for many many years - in fact even after I had left home and was living with my future DH I had them. Eventually they had to go - as we moved into a small workers cottage of our own that did not have room for lots of furnishings. Anyways we went from holidays with our families to going away with our schoolfriends - no parents required.

K went from school to teacher's college. Me I hadn't planned out the future quite so well but I did a year later join her at teacher's college. She became a primary teacher, me high school. During those wild years we drove to college together went out drinking together (champagne? Absolutely!)and saw lots of bands together. We had a lot of fun.
K finished her studies a year before I did and got a job straight away. I had another year of College before I too started work. These two years proved to be quite pivotal in our losing contact with each other. K was quite clear in what she wanted from life. My family decided it was time to return to QLD so I moved out with DH's sister and a friend from school. This friend is still dear to me today and so is my SIL. I love catching up with them because it is like being 'home' even though of course so much has changed since 3 gals shared a house together for a few years so long ago.
K had a plan for her future. She had matured beyond the seeing bands and hanging out with old school friends playing scrabble. She became quite secretive about her boyfriends - perhaps because she knew I didn't really trust the ones she had had -and sadly when she rang to invite me to her engagement party I had to ask - who are you marrying? It was a boy I knew from school - but I had no idea. I have to confess that I probably would have been a bit judgemental and that may well have deterred her from being open about it. It isn't any comfort that I heard not long after the wedding that the marriage had failed. I had felt so sad that I wasn't at that wedding and when I finally married my childhood sweetheart there was a part of me that was sad that she was not there. I had always thought that we would stay friends. That she would be there. She had been such an important part of my life. Through good times and bad she had known what to do. Instead I had no idea where she was at all. She had disappeared from my life for good. As I still think about her now I know that her support and friendship, the people that she was interested in befriending - had a profound impact upon my life. I still see many of those friends. I am in fact happily married to one of them! So there - I owe her still and where-ever she is I sincerely hope that she is happy.
"Have a Chat' is in fact because of her - it is a 'Dad Joke' from my father that I love. Over the years she would ring our house and ask for me - and when Dad asked she'd say she was just ringing for a chat - hence he'd belly laugh and say to me: "Haveachats on the phone". Sometimes I wish she still was.

Have a Chat - the early years

I have been thinking of a few things lately - mostly because I'm feeling a bit reflective - at the top of the list is who I was, what I expected to be when I was a grown up and given that at over 40 I am undeniably a 'grown up' (of sorts!) - who am I now? What happened along the way - what were some fo the most significant things that have guided and shaped my journey?

I know a number of people on the 'special needs journey' who quote the very applicable and lovely road less travelled ... 'and that has made all the difference'. What bits I wonder have made all the difference for me? I can tell you I have felt that I am on the road less travelled for a long time before I became a 'special needs mama'.

When I was 10 my family moved interstate from Brisbane. There I was part of a pack - my cousins were very close - for my primary education there we all went to the same catholic school - the one that was local to where my Aunt and her three children and my Grandmother lived. I recall being happy go lucky. Family drives. Lots of visiting of rellies - I remember not being able to visit my grandmother on Saturdays as she would be glued to her old radio listening to the 'gee gees' or horseracing as it is more widely known. I remember my eldest sister stage managing us siblings and cousins into 'performances' and dress ups. I was particularly close to one cousin and she and I would walk the streets for hours just passing the time...

My mum's family were country folk - her Dad a boundary rider/rabbiter/horsebreaker etc in swQLD. Dad was a city boy (if Brisbane in the 40s and 50s was anything like a city!!). He met her when he went to visit one of his sisters in the country - and stayed. He was 16. She was 18. They got court permission to marry (as he was under legal age then) and were married on Mum's 21st birthday.

Both my sisters were born in that country town. The middle one of us 3 girls was a rubella baby. She had to go to Brisbane for heart surgery. She was vision impaired and profoundly deaf. I imagine that was a significant factor in the family moving to Brisbane. My grandmother and aunty moved there too around the same time I think. My aunty never divorced but I have no memory of her husband at all - as far as I know he can still be found in that same country town.

As the baby of the family I was very spoilt. I don't recall any resentment of my sister who was deaf. I remember being friends with her, sharing a room with her. I remember her fiercesome temper tantrums and the teddy bear that she has still that she loved - he travelled with ehr when she was very young and she was sent to a baording school for deaf children. I know that she was homesick - especially after an aunt who had been living nearby the school moved away. I remember driving down to visit her.

Now as Hannah's Mum I can only imagine at the stress it must have put my parents under. To send off such a small and cute little girl off to school. It is a school that was very well known at the time and is still well known by many. It was run by nuns. I fondly recall the home film of my sister at the sports day - her cheeky grin as she ran along the logs and jumped around, happy. After a time though it just wasn't working - she was so homesick. How that must have hurt my parents. How they must have agonised over what to do. In the end she was brought back home and enrolled at the state special school for blind and deaf children. I can't recall much of who she was then - to my childish mind she was just my sister. Dad and my eldest sister attended workshops for cued speech I learned a form of pigeon sign language - taught by my sister - complete with 'deaf speech'. For example instead of signing teacher correctly I would repeat back how she said it 'bibi' and she would read my lips to know what that was.

Once we moved to Sydney she went to a school for deaf children here. Adolescence was hard. There are so many things from this time that I wish I could change. I don't know if they would have made a difference but they would have been worth a try. There was a time when i was so angry and resentful of my sister that I hardly spoke her name. I saw Mum and Dad struggle with how to help her. She was furious and so lonely - it must have broken Mum's heart. When she finished school I know how very proud Mum and Dad were of her - She got a regular job. She saved her money and travelled overseas. Dad would drive her into the deaf club each week so that she could socialise with the people she desperately needed support from - the deaf community. This was mostly a good thing but there was also some bullying and teasing which was hard for her to manage. They were also beaming with joy for her when she got ehr licence and bought her first car. Eventually she fell in love, got married and had 3 beautiful children. Her achievements still are wonderful. She has succeeded in living well, in creating a home, in coping in a hearing world. She is a strong advocate within the deaf community. She is a lovely and funny person. Loyal and still fierce. Incredibly intense in her passions and her anger.

She has taught me so much about myself and our family. She is a guide for me as I try my very hardest to be the best parent I can be for Hannah and Kit. The things I look back on and see in my parents - some of those are now my experience. Some things I look back and see in my sister - are Hannah's and well - some of mine - they will be Kit's - with a twist - a very important and significant twist. I truly believe that it is so much easier today - I have wonderful supports available. I have experience to tell me to make the most of them. I have an online community that is pure gold. Knowing that my family 'survived' and 'thrived' means that when I first got Hannah's diagnosis I felt more ready than if I had had no experience of difference and disAbility. That road less travelled? I was born on it. I never knew other kids who had siblings with a disability although of course they must have existed! When I was out with my sister her voice had the tone of the deaf person. Our fingers would fly and people would stare - yes I was brought up knowing that life isn't a one size fits all affair. It has stood me in good stead for the me I am today. I felt comfortable (mostly) being different because it is all I'd ever known.