Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Injuries and Boxes

I was meant to blog yesterday, but I've had a bit of a busy time here.

On Sunday both the girls were playing outside. Suddenly Caitlyn screamed and I rushed outside to find her on the grass. She twisted her ankle. Took her inside, gave lots of cuddles, put an ice pack on her ankle and she settled down on the couch happily watching a DVD. Then it was bath time and we managed, even though it was pretty heavy trying to lift her up in such a way that I could take off her clothes without her putting any pressure on her foot. Bedtime came, we read stories, gave some pain medicines because by then she started complaining again and switched off the light. 9:30pm came and she screamed out in absolute agony. It's been a long time since I felt so helpless watching my child in pain, not sure what else I could do to make it better. So Terence took her to the one medical centre in Paraparaumu to get her checked out. They bandaged it all up and asked that we come back the following morning for an x-ray just to check if there might be a fracture. They came back and we put Caitlyn in our bed because it would be far easier for me to manage her there than at the top of her bunk bed where she normally sleeps. It was a long night. She woke up crying several times and each time all I could do was to let her know I was there and that we would go see the doctor again in the morning.

Yesterday we went for the x-ray. I had to haul out her old pram because there is no way I can carry her around everywhere. She thought it was pretty cool "driving in style" :-)

I'm so proud of Caitlyn, she wasn't scared when they took an image of her foot and she kept it nice and still. She loved seeing her foot (and bones) on the screen.

Thankfully the results came back showing no fractures. It is still sore when she tries to stand on her foot, but hopefully soon, she'll feel a lot better and we can get back to normal.

And then in between I've been very busy with this:

Read more here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

All about hair

Today was Caitlyn's rehearsal for her ballet show that is on the 11th of December. She'll be a ladybug. I panicked a bit because we are meant to put their hair into a bun and I'm absolutely useless with doing hair. I'm so useless that I prefer to keep mine short so I can just gel it into something that resembles an okay hairstyle. So armed with some tips from two friends, a you tube video (or 2), a bun net, some hair pins, hair gel and hair spray I set out this morning to get Caitlyn ready for her rehearsal.

And this is the result:

Isn't she just so pretty!

Bianca asked if I could do her hair as well and whilst her hair is not as long as Caitlyn's it was long enough to make a bun:

We've sure come a long way with Bianca's hair since she was on treatment:

And even when she finished treatment her hair was still very short and very thin:

And the one song that springs to mind is this one. Who knew that a simple thing like hair could mean so much, but for us it is a symbol of just how far we've come. We have so much to be thankful for!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Update on our kittens

This morning we were woken up around 5:50am by a loud screech. I jumped up shouting "bird" to Terence. Sigh! Prince Charming caught a bird and brought it inside. Not a nice way to wake up. So Terence had to get up to go and see what was happening. He got to the lounge and there was one of those black birds with the yellowish beaks sitting high up above the curtains and Prince Charming... sitting high up above the curtains trying to get to the bird. Terence opened all the windows and thankfully the bird managed to fly outside much to Prince Charming's disgust.

For those of you new to the blog we recently adopted these two kittens from the SPCA. Well not really recently, we got them when they were around 4 months old. They are now around 8 months old and not quite as little anymore. When we moved to Wellington we finally got permission from our landlord to have pets. No dogs, but cats would be fine. So we decided to adopt 2 kittens from the SPCA. We didn't tell Bianca because we wanted to keep it a surprise. For so long she's been wanting a pet of her own, but of course throughout her leukemia treatment she wasn't allowed to have a cat and it is hard getting permission for a dog. We then told her that we were going to visit the SPCA and she could donate some toys to the animals. We explained how some animals don't have any toys and they would be so happy. We got there and while the kids were busy looking at the kittens we chatted to the people there and made arrangements to adopt 2 kittens. We then told the kids that we were going to take 2 kittens home and so Bianca adopted Prince Charming and Caitlyn chose Looey.

The kittens are doing very well. Prince Charming is our little hunter, much to our frustration when he catches birds or rats and then proudly comes to show it off inside the house. We don't mind so much when it is bugs that he hunts and certainly it is so amusing when he catches leaves and proudly comes to show us :-). Looey is our little fly catcher which is great because we simply hate flies. So she is definitely earning her keep :-). Looey doesn't like to be picked up / sit on your lap unless she chose to. She loves being brushed and she loves to follow me around the house. When I work at the computer she will often come and sit on my lap.

Prince Charming is so gentle (both kittens actually are and tolerate it well when Bianca carries them around). He is quite vocal and will often chat away "telling us all about his day". Unlike Looey he enjoys walking around outside. Looey also enjoys the outside, but is happier staying inside more often.

Here are two photos I took of them today:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Counting down the days

Can you believe that Christmas is only 1 month away? Wow, I can't believe it. This year has gone so incredibly fast. It feels like every month just goes faster and faster. And it doesn't help that the stores start decorating for Christmas pretty much from October. I must say that I'm feeling a bit flustered at the moment. There is just so much going on that at times I'm really worried we are forgetting something. I can't wait for schools to close 15 December when hopefully things will finally start slowing down a bit.

This year I have decided I want a bit more of an exciting build-up for the kids that will focus on not only the whole countdown to Christmas day, but incorporate things that will focus on quality and fun family time and even (if all my plans go as I'm hoping) give them an opportunity to truly experience "giving". So this is what I want to do. I'm busy making small little cardboard boxes that will resemble little presents. I will be making 48 so the kids can each have 24 to help them count down. I will then put them into a Christmas Tree shape like this image which I saw on this website:

I considered making the boxes look like little drawers as in the picture, but if we do little boxes with lids, then not only is it exciting to open, but you can put the lid underneath the box after you opened it and this way easily see how many more is left. Especially for Caitlyn who doesn't really have a concept of time just yet.

Then just as a usual advent calendar we'll put something sweet in, but then I'll also be putting some notes with fun activities we can do together in each of the boxes. Some activities will be fairly quick, because until the 15th the kids are still in school and they have their after-school activities and so on (Caitlyn goes to daycare actually until the 23rd). Other activities will be much longer like baking cookies and making salt dough Christmas Tree decorations and so on. So now if my plans go as I'm hoping, then I want the kids to make biscuits and paint / draw pictures that we can then go and deliver at one of the retirement villages. The kids love baking and I know they'll feel so proud to share their creations and this way they'll truly experience "giving". That it is not about getting something in return, but simply to do something to brighten another person's day.

My goal is to give the kids their advent calendars on the 1st of December so fingers crossed I manage to finish it in time! I'll post pictures once I'm done.

What will you be doing this Christmas time?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Golden Nuggets and Bloody Butchers and some others too...

A while back (when we were still in Auckland) I discovered a pretty cool show - Get Growing. Basically it is a show where they take a couple and teach them from scratch how to set up a proper veggie garden to be as self-sufficient as possible. They talk about organic ways to reduce pests, crop rotation, what works well when planted together, how to save seeds and so on. So then I got all inspired and wanting to get stuck in, which of course I couldn't because we didn't have any garden except this tiny little courtyard in shade pretty much all day long.

When we got here I thought that the time has come to look at my options. We love this rental home. It is nice and spacious, is all on one level (so no stairs inside), plenty of space for the kids to play outside and in a really quiet and peaceful area. The only downside unfortunately is that we don't have gardens, we have grass and then this big concrete slab in the front which is great for the kids to ride their bikes or scooters on and then a deck at the back. So my only option was to look at planting things in containers. I considered building raised beds on the concrete, but unfortunately for now it is a cost issue. We have permission to dig up some of the grass, but then when we move out we have to replace the grass which will once again be a cost issue (especially since this is not our house). So I managed to get some polystyrene containers from New World and some planter bags from Warehouse. Maybe next year I might re-look building raised beds, but this year it is more about learning when the right time is for our climate to plant things, what works well, what didn't and so on. So for now there is no real planning that went into deciding where to "plonk down" the planter bags and containers other than trying to give them as much sun as possible for most of the day.

Before we came back to Wellington I started saving tomato seeds. I love tomatoes and so growing my own would be just so cool. Right now I have 3 plants (had 4 but 1 unfortunately died) that I bought from New World and they are heritage type tomatoes - 1 golden nugget and 2 bloody butcher. I'm especially excited about the golden nugget because I have never seen yellow / orange tomatoes and can't wait to taste it. One thing I will have to remember though is that the Bloody Butcher one grows really tall and needs quite a bit of space. The Golden nugget has a lot of fruit.

One of my little Golden Nugget tomatoes are nearly ripe - can't wait:

And then I have several plants that I grew from seeds I saved at times when we bought tomatoes to eat at home. So I'm very excited. Look how nice they are doing:

One of my Bloody Butcher tomatoes were so close to getting ripe when some stupid bird came to help itself. It was not even fully ripe and was then left half eaten. Sigh! So now I have bought some nets and will need to buy a few more. One more thing to remember when I do veggie gardening again next year - plan it with nets from the word go.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Doing my bit for the animals

The past few months I have been helping out as volunteer at the local SPCA. I only go on Tuesday mornings and usually help out with whatever needs to be done. The group of volunteers that arrive early i.e. 8am as well as the ones who arrive late afternoon usually do routine jobs like changing cat litter boxes, washing food bowls, cleaning out animal cages / areas and so on. Volunteers like me who arrive after they dropped off kids at school (around 9:30 or so) do whatever is required. So I usually help with doing laundry like the blankets and towels they use, re-filling cat litter boxes after they have dried and putting them on the shelf ready for the next morning, sometimes I spend time with some of the animals because socialisation is a really important part as well. And when animals are brought in / adopted during the day I would help with getting cages ready or clearing it out. Little jobs like that that makes a difference.

Last week there were the cutest, tiniest kittens I have ever seen. They must have been around 2 weeks old (I think their mum was killed by a car) and they still needed to be bottle-fed every 3 - 4 hours. And when they drink from the tiny little bottle, their little ears would move forwards and backwards. So cute! I wish I had my camera there on the day, but unfortunately I did not.

The week before somebody brought in 3 little kittens around 5 or 6 weeks old. They were born under a house or something and their mum was nowhere to be seen. So usually kittens like these would be trapped, brought to the SPCA and they would then spend time with them to socialise them to get them used to people, they would desex them as soon as they are big enough and they microchip them. If the kittens are too old to get tame enough, then they would be released again where they were found, but at least won't be able to have kittens of their own and so prevent any further problems. These 3 kittens are currently at a foster home. Basically somebody keeps them at their house, they feed them, spend lots of time with them and when they are happy to be around people, then they go back to the SPCA for adoption. Bianca and I have been visiting these 3 kittens and they are so cute. Meet Mindy, Mandy and Monty -

Bianca had a great time playing with the kittens. Especially Mindy who is by far the most playful of the 3:

Mandy is so beautiful, but she is still a bit shy and not quite sure about people. Hopefully soon she will be just as playful as Mindy:

And Monty is the smallest of the 3. He is quite happy to sit on your lap and purr loudly.

Hopefully on Thursday we'll be able to go and see them again.

Today I got to meet the cutest, tiniest little birds. I'm not sure where they were found, but maybe their nest fell out of a tree or something, I don't know. They are so small that they don't have any feathers yet and each time you open the box (with air holes) where they were kept they would open their little beaks really wide begging for food. It was so cool to feed them - basically they are currently being fed on some wet cat food with bits of small meat - 2 pieces every 20 - 30 minutes (from early morning when the sun comes up to around 7:30pm). All I know is that I'm sure glad I'm not a Mommy bird, to feed your babies every 20 minutes the WHOLE day, wow!

"Food, food, food... starving, starving, starving!!!!"

Helping out at the SPCA is a really rewarding job. It feels great to help make a difference!


How is Bianca's eating now?

When she was on treatment it was a huge point of frustration. Especially when she went on steroids. She was extremely fussy and very particular about what she would and would not eat. The one thing we did manage to get her to eat was ProNutro and we felt okay about that because at least it had some good nutrients. And I'm pretty sure by now we must have quite a few shares in McDonalds ;-). I tried a few times at the time to give her normal, ordinary, we'll-all-eat-the-same-food-for-supper-meals, but that resulted more often than not in frustration. And if it is something she really didn't want she would easily sit there for an hour or sometimes even 2 hours picking at her plate until you finally give up and send her off to bed (sigh!).

Since Bianca finished treatment, it has definitely been better (even though it took a little while). I think Bianca will always be pretty fussy and there are some definite things she won't be asking for. Potatoes, tomatoes, and so on . I was surprised though when one day she actually asked for broccoli and cauliflower, so this is definitely something she is really happy to eat. It took a little while, but I find now that I can get her to eat most things. Some nights I will make what I know is her favourite and others it might not be her favourite, but I simply remind her that "last night you had something you really liked, tonight we have something I really like". Perhaps it is also better because I started putting my foot down and I just simply don't give in anymore. Or maybe it is just that her taste buds have now recovered after chemo and food starts tasting good again. Or perhaps because she is starting to be interested in learning how to prepare meals, she is more interested in eating. I don't really know. But I'm sure glad that those steroids days are a thing of the past!!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sometimes you just can't keep a straight face!

I'm really enjoying the stage where Caitlyn is at. She is a really cute 3 year old. Well behaved too - no temper tantrums or anything. And she is at the age where she'll say some of the funniest and cutest little things. Things like "that is quite special" or "when I grow up I'm going to be a super hero" or ask questions like "why did they choose red for stop and green for go?"

Today when we went to Warehouse we walked past the garden section and they had these cute little garden ornaments, gnomes and so on. She found a few that she really liked (mostly resembling butterflies) and came to show them to me and then we walked past these rocks with faces on them and Caitlyn suddenly said "look Mommy, real live rocks!" Well, it was a bit hard keeping a straight face after that comment!

A little ballerina

One of the activities Caitlyn is doing this term is ballet. Caitlyn has always liked the concept of dancing / twirling and often she'll get up and "twirl like a Barbie". So finally this term we managed to book her into a Saturday morning beginner ballet class. At first she was a bit shy and didn't really like the concept of being in the class with her dad waiting in the reception area behind the viewing glass. They don't allow parents to be inside the class because it is too distracting for the kids. The first 2 sessions Caitlyn wasn't too happy, but then suddenly she realised how much fun she was having (especially getting some jelly beans from her teacher after the class) and now she is so excited she can't wait for each Saturday morning to arrive. We haven't managed to take any really nice photos from behind the glass, but we did managed to take these two photos before her class started last week Saturday:

The outfit is one that we bought from Farmers. They don't actually have a "uniform" as such for her class, but we wanted Caitlyn to feel like a ballerina.

On the 11th of December Caitlyn will be a ladybug in her very first ballet show. The whole ballet school will take part. I'm not quite sure if Caitlyn will be happy to be on stage in front of all the people or if she'll get all nervous and shy. We'll just have to wait and see. And this coming Saturday I'll be sewing her costume... which will be tricky... because I don't have a sewing machine... so will probably have to do hand sewing. Anybody have a spare sewing machine lying around?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Here I go again...

but this time with Blogger. I guess it is just that you (or I in this situation) find comfort in what I know.

I took a break from blogging for a while. For one I just really struggled to get back into it. For so long blogging was all about life with leukemia and child cancer and hospital visits and neutrophils and blood test results and not much else that when we reached the point where Bianca's port was removed, life felt a bit too ordinary, almost boring and certainly not newsworthy. Not that we're complaining. Most definitely not. But when you experience intense and "on the go" for such a long time, it is hard to find yourself again afterwards. It is challenging finding the normal again and we are certainly getting there especially now that hospital visits are less frequent.

I didn't really think about blogging at this stage to be honest. Life here is pretty busy and I find now with December and the Christmas season right around the corner it feels pretty hectic. But then my one online friend Sharon recently asked if I stopped blogging and so I started thinking about it again. "Maybe it is not such a bad idea". So here I am, trying it out again :-).

I thought I would start with just a bit of an update on where we are at at the moment and I'll answer some of the questions we've been getting to date:

How is Bianca? Is she all better now?

Bianca is doing really well at the moment. She reached one year off treatment in September (and in fact is 14 months off treatment now). There is still a risk of relapse and in all honesty we don't know 100% if she is "cured" as yet, but the first year off treatment is the most critical with about 10% chance of relapse and we've passed that milestone. So that is a huge relief for us. She recently had to get her MMR immunisations again because after the treatment Bianca didn't retain immunity against measles and mumps and at this stage I think we have reached the point where we feel she is protected enough against things like chickenpox and measles that it doesn't become a panic situation each time we become aware of somebody who gets the illnesses.

How often does Bianca still visit her doctor?

Bianca is currently on 2-monthly visits. During these visits Bianca gets a blood test and she sees her doctor for a check-up. She will be on 2-monthly visits until around September 2011 when she has reached the 2 year off treatment mark. Next year (sometime in 2011) Bianca will also get another ultrasound of her kidneys. During her treatment Bianca had kidney stones and this resulted in a slight abnormality with something to do with her kidneys and it is not something we are overly worried about at this stage so will just do another check next year. Once Bianca reaches September 2011, she should (if all go well) go onto 3-monthly visits for the following year.

Wow, the kids look like they have grown so much!

Yes they certainly have :-). Caitlyn is now 3 and will be 4 in February. I can hardly believe it. That means in 1 year and 3 months my little girl will be going to big school and because her birthday is at the beginning of the school year pretty much I expect she'll probably start in Year 1 as opposed to Year zero. And for those of you not from New Zealand, here kids start school typically around the time they turn 5. Depending on when their birthday is in the year, they will either start in Year 1 or if it is later on in the year might be in a Year zero / new entrant class to start off with. Of course legally you could wait until your child's 6th birthday, but I expect Caitlyn will be ready and wanting to start big school when she turns 5.

Bianca is now nearly 7.5. I can hardly believe that she is nearly done with Year 2 at school and will start Year 3 next year. It sometimes feels just like yesterday when she started as a 5 year old. Bianca absolutely loves reading. It certainly is one of her strong points and she reads more or less at a 13 year old level. Her favourite books at the moment are the books from the Goosebumps series and she is so proud that she read a 123 page book in 3 days. I was quite stunned because I don't think I read books like these (or even as fast as this) when I was 7. And best of all - Bianca is finally able to make real ponytails. She is so happy about this :-). But I'll certainly write more about the kids later on in this blog.

Have you settled in the Wellington area?

It is hard to believe we have been back in the Wellington area for nearly 6 months (I think). We are certainly enjoying being back and more specifically enjoying living on the Kapiti Coast. Waikanae is really peaceful and quiet. It is small, but certainly has everything we need close enough around us. I have been playing around with trying to do a bit of vegetable gardening and it has been quite relaxing discovering this. I believe the Kapiti Coast has a great climate for growing things and so far so good. But I'll write about my gardening adventures a little bit later on.

Anyway, this is just a little bit about where we are at. Feel free to ask whatever questions you might have in the comments section :-)

And with this I'm closing off this first post and we'll see how we go along!