Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Fun with Caitlyn

Firstly we supported Canteen and Caitlyn chose a beautiful pink bandanna.  I find the bandannas especially good for when we do baking.

Today Caitlyn and I did some baking.  It was one of the tasks I set for myself on my List of 35 - to have regular baking sessions with the kids.  I baked some banana bread (my grandmother's recipe) and Caitlyn made some chocolate cupcakes.  Here are some photos to share:

Caitlyn thought they tasted very yummy!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A princess in each of us...

My girls, being typical girls, are very much into all things Fairy Tale and princesses and handsome princes and so on.  When Prince William got married Bianca insisted on waiting up to see them kiss.  And she even named her cat Prince Charming (and mostly he is rather charming, except when he catches birds and butterflies and brings mice into the house).

Caitlyn is perhaps a bit more into the whole Fairy Tale thing at the moment than Bianca (who is more interested in Harry Potter, Justin Bieber, Myley Cyrus and her scooter and roller blades) and as far as Caitlyn is concerned we are all princesses.

Caitlyn's most favourite Fairy Tale of all time is the story of Sleeping Beauty and so as far as she's concerned she is Sleeping Beauty:

Bianca is Cinderella:

And Caitlyn has decided that I must be Snow White:

And Terence?  Well naturally he can't be excluded.  Caitlyn decided that he is Belle:

Can you see the resemblance?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It's not perfect...

And it probably has lots of mistakes, but since it is simply going to help cover some ugly shipping container, I don't think it matters.  What matters is that I did my bit.  That I contributed something! 

When I did my List of 35 on my 35th, one of the tasks / goals I set for myself was to knit a square for Christchurch which I saw on this blog.  On the Facebook group it says:

The Christchurch earthquakes have really rocked the Port Hills. To protect us from more rock fall, massive shipping containers are now lining the Sumner and Redcliffs strreets. It is necessary however not a beautiful sight, but we can change it!

Container Love is about prettying up these metal giant boxes.

The idea is to turn the unpleasant look of the containers into a positive feature for peop
le to enjoy and comment on.
The present project is a GIANT CONTAINER COSY made entirely out of knitted or crocheted squares


email me ( and I will give you my postal address, I can also pick up Christchurch and Lyttelton squares.

And here is my creation:

So tomorrow I will be sending this off.  So now I only have 34 more tasks / goals to go!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A - Z of Me

Sue from the Good Life had this totally fun list on her blog (make sure you visit Sue's blog because I had a good laugh at some of her answers) and since I wasn't sure what I wanted to write about today anyway, will do the same.  Post me a comment with a link if you choose to do your own list also!

A=Age; Just turned 35.  I feel old!

B=Bed size; Queen size.  And in the mornings when Caitlyn sometimes decides to join us at 6am and loudly declares that she needs some more blankets it reminds me of "there were 3 in the bed and the little one said roll over".  Thankfully she doesn't always do this.

C=Chore that you hate; Ironing. Dishes. Laundry. 

D=Dogs; No dogs.  We have cats though.  Had the cutest little miniature pinchers years ago in South Africa - Rudi and Bambi.

E=Essential start to you day; More sleep ;-).  Definitely breakfast.

F= Favourite colour; Depends.  I quite like pink, red, blue - most colours I guess.

G=Gold or silver; Ooh Gold!

H= Height; 1.72m.

I=- Instruments you play; I can play a few tunes on a recorder.  Would love to learn a new instrument.  I always thought the violin might be a good idea... if I can convince Terence to let me practice at home ;-).  Which he won't so it would have to be a different instrument.

J=Job title; Home Executive (sounds better than housewife)

K-Kids; 2 girls - Bianca (8) and Caitlyn (4)

L=Live; Born and lived in South Africa until 2004, New Zealand is my current home!

M=Mother's name; Amanda.

N=Nickname; I don't think I've ever had a real nickname.

O=Overnight hospital stays; With the kids when they were born.  And several more times when Bianca was sick.  She spent 117 nights in hospital.

P=Pet peeves; Hmmm...  People who play loud music late at night!

Q=Quotes from a film;
I have great insight. I'd use it on myself only I don't have any problems.  (Alex Fletcher, Music & Lyrics)

Well, that's just ridiculous. Nobody grows up in Florida, unless you're an orange. (Alex Fletcher, Music & Lyrics)

R=Right or left handed; Right handed.

S= Siblings; 1 Brother about 3.5 years younger than me.

T=Time you wake up; Usually around 6:15 to get everybody ready for school and work.  Weekends later if I can.

U=Underwear:  Of course!

V=Vegetable I hate: Pumpkin (although I love pumpkin fritters), cabbage

W=What makes you run late; The kids in the morning trying to get them ready for school.

X=Xrays you've had; Can't think of any I had.  Bianca on the other hand has had about 11.

Y=Yummy food that you make; My kids love my pasta dish, baking I guess (if you can call that a food).

Z=Zoo animals;
I love the giraffes, elephants and more recently Happy Feet our little penguin celebrity :-)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hard to believe it is only 5 months!

One of the blogs I really enjoy reading is this one.  I love it because they always write about something that gives you food for thought.  Things you are able to apply to your life.  In their latest entry 30 Truths I've learned in 30 Years there was especially one point that stood out for me.  One point that really made sense and it was "Enjoy the little things, because one day you may look back and discover they were the big things".  Isn't that just so true?  But anyway, just my thoughtful moment for the day.

Yesterday Caitlyn drew the cutest picture.

I find it quite interesting to see how her pictures have changed.  Not too long ago she would draw this big head with arms that come out the side and legs at the bottom, like this one, but suddenly the arms are now coming out the body rather than the head.

I also love how she writes her own name even if she can't write the "y" correctly just yet. 

Recently she also tried to write Bianca's name and got it mostly right. 

It is really cool to watch her learning develop in this way.

I must say we are really happy with her daycare centre.  They are significantly better than the previous one.  I love that she is in the "get ready for school" class.  It is not school as such.  They certainly don't teach them to read and write, but they are teaching them some essential skills to help them be ready for when they start big school.  They teach them a bit more independence, encourage them to recognise their name and try to write it on their artwork (even if they get it wrong).  And they have had quite a few school visits to date with one of the local schools.

It is quite scary to think that Caitlyn will be 5 in February already.  That is only 5 months away.  And then my little girl will be in big school.  She is starting to get pretty excited already!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Meeting somebody new and a song stuck in my head...

I have discovered a brand new song that Bianca absolutely loves!  And I must say I also find it really cool to listen to - so much so that I now have it stuck in my head and find myself singing parts of it :-).  Listen to this song (click here).  It was written by Paul Forster (Bianca's teacher) - isn't it beautiful? And you can also see him perform some of the songs he wrote.  Now you might think that all teachers have been teachers all their life -  but Paul actually has quite an interesting story of where he started off in his career.

Speaking of Bianca's teacher, in about 2 weeks Bianca, Paul and I will set off to Wellington hospital where we will visit some of the children and hand out a few activity packs.  If you have some ideas for some cool activities for kids stuck in bed, please let me know!  Paul will be bringing along his guitar and entertain some of the kids.  Any bets on how many Justin Bieber / Myley Cyrus requests he might get? ;-)  And some lucky children will be getting a copy of Paul's book "You're not eating me" which is one of Bianca's favourite things.  It is actually quite a fascinating story how this book happened. 

We met Sarah yesterday.  Sarah found us through my blog and we've been in email contact, but today we finally got to meet, which was really nice.  The kids loved meeting her and insisted that she plays a bunch of games with them so it was loads of fun!  I am keen to find out some of the cool ideas Sarah has for our end of the year Christmas project.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Where it started for me

I read a pretty fascinating blog entry here (click here).  And so I thought I too would share my very first job I ever held.

At the end of my matric year (equivalent to Year 13 for the New Zealand readers) I found a job as a photo developer / printer at one of these 1 hour photo labs at the local CNA (one of the local shops similar to Whitcoulls).  It was only a weekend / holiday job, but it was cool because it paid for my secretarial studies at the local technical college.

I didn't have to deal much with any customers as the CNA staff were responsible for that.  My main job was to take the films that the customers handed in, get the negatives developed and then I would have to print it from there.  The only times I really dealt with any customers was when some of them would bring in their camera with the film wrapped around it and then I'd have to explain that it was exposed to light and so no photos would come out. And they would plead with me "please try".  Which I did, and of course nothing would come out.

My machines were pretty old.  Nothing like these fancy digital ones you get nowadays.  When the negatives came out of the developer I would then slide them through this tiny little lit up screen and work out whether I need to adjust the colour or whether I needed to compensate for over or under exposure.  And just for fun my machine would sometimes "act up" and cut the photos in the wrong places and then I'd have to start all over again.  Or my colour adjustment choices would be wrong.  Or the paper would get stuck and I would have to reload it.  Really awkward when the customer stands there waiting for their photos and they can see you struggle and you then have to explain that it will take even longer because you have to re-do them. 

The worst was likely when the electricity went out and I would have to stand there and slowly and manually turn the handle so the negatives could still develop as they should and of course they would then still be wet when they came out so we would need to hang them somewhere to dry.

Oh wait!  The worst was actually when a negative would get stuck in the developer and by the time you realise it there would be about 7 other negatives following behind it.  And the only way to get them out was to open the developer and unfortunately expose these negatives to light.  And in typical Murphy's Law style it would be somebody's wedding photos or a first birthday or some other event that you can't really do over again.  Sure we had a disclaimer on the envelopes, but it didn't make it any easier having to tell somebody that they won't have any photos of whatever the event was.

And oh the fun when the CNA staff accidentally mixed up the numbers.  When somebody handed in a film there would be 2 identical number stickers - one that goes on the negative and one that goes on the envelope so you are able to match them up.  So when these get mixed up it is virtually impossible to sort it out afterwards and somebody would have gone home with the wrong set.

Then we got those who after a drunken party would hand in their films and you'd find naked photos.  And of course these are the people that then come back within the hour.  They don't wait a week or two, no on the hour they are there.  So we would typically wait for them to come back and then say something like "sorry I haven't counted out your photos yet, why don't you look at them as I count them?" and of course they would feel really awkward having an 18 year old girl look at their naked photos with them. I figured I may as well have a bit of fun at their expense...

The most memorable time was when it snowed.  It was something like the first time in 20 years that it snowed (or something like that).  I woke up on the Sunday morning and it was white everywhere.  Beautiful.  And as I walked into CNA it was strangely quiet and empty until I turned towards the photo counter and saw the long queue of people waiting.  And that was the start of what was probably the busiest I have ever been.  By the time the shop closed that day I was fully booked a week ahead.  My machine was barely able to handle 70 films a day and on top of that we also had a double print promotion and because all the photos were of snow, there were many that were very over-exposed making it an even longer process to print them. 

Another memory I have of this time was this really grumpy CNA staff member.  She (for some or the other reason) was absolutely terrified of cats.  No idea why but she could not even look at a picture of a cat.  And sometimes some of the staff would go and get a greeting card with a picture of a cat and put it on her cash register which would then make her completely freak out as she was about to help a customer.

And that was where it all started for me - of course I ended up in a totally different direction, but I think it was a pretty fun and different start :-)

What was your very first job?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Just the way it is for us...

Thank you for all the messages yesterday.  Thankfully Bianca was much much better today.  I knew that it was likely just some or the other bug she was fighting, but the cancer parent in me questioned why she was suddenly so lethargic.  And sadly that's the way it is.  We lost the innocence we had such a long time ago.  The time where a cold was really just a cold or your child was just having an off day. 
The day we found out Bianca's tonsillitis was more than just tonsillitis (much much more) was the day we became "those" parents.  Those paranoid, neurotic ones always questioning, always wondering, always assuming it is not as simple and straight forward as a cold. 

For most of the time I am doing really well.  I mostly refuse to give in to the "what ifs".  I mostly refuse to get all stressed out until I really have to stress.  But last night was different for me and I did what I really should not have done, I consulted "trusty" friend Google. 

Blood tests have become the thing we rely on the most.  It tells us if Bianca is doing well.  It will tell us if we need to worry.  And sometimes the 2 months between hospital visits (and soon 3 months) can feel quite long. It is times like these that it really did feel safe when Bianca was still on treatment and very regularly monitored.

This is life for us and will be for a very long time to come still and today I am once again reminded to be grateful that Bianca is indeed doing really well.  That her last blood test results were normal, that she is no different to any other 8 year old.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


I didn't plan a second entry today and quite frankly I was happy enough just with the swimming update one I did earlier (go see the cool photos of Bianca and Caitlyn during their swimming lesson). But alas - Murphy struck today.  The one day that I chose to take an hour long train trip to the city (and an hour back) the school phoned to let me know that Bianca complained of a sore tummy and is simply just not feeling well.  Sigh!  And so unfortunately as I was waiting for a train back Bianca had to just sit and wait for me until I finally got back to Waikanae just as school was about to finish for the day.  She felt pretty miserable when I got to school to pick her up.

I have no idea what is up, but she's been sleeping since we came back from picking Caitlyn up from daycare and that was about 5:30pm.  That is so not like her.  But hopefully after a good night sleep she'll be back to her normal self in the morning.  Of course now I can't stop wondering what her blood counts are like and the 5th of October is feeling too far away right now.  That's when Bianca's next appointment will be.

I really really don't like it when she is not feeling well. 

Making progress

My girls have swimming lessons once a week with the Raumati Swim Club.  A friend's kids have been doing lessons with them for a while now and at the start of this term (term 3) we managed to get our girls booked in too.  They are more affordable than other swim schools and the feedback we have been getting is that their "learning to swim" classes are really good.  Because both my girls are beginners, they are in the same class - so really convenient!

Bianca and Caitlyn have a lot of work to do to finally be able to swim safely, but they are getting there.  Caitlyn has gone from crying most of the session, to virtually no tears.  And Bianca is also getting more and more confident.

We are so proud of them and so grateful to the people giving up their time every week!

Bianca learning to swim

Caitlyn learning to blow bubbles.  "Look mum, no tears!"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

List of 35 on my 35th

Now this is where I wish I was turning 21.  So much easier thinking of 21 things than coming up with 35...

In my 35th year I will try and do as many of these as I can.  I might not get to do all of them, and that's okay.   It is a fun little project that I saw on Marcia and Julia's blogs. And I'm always up for a bit of fun.

And now in no particular order, here is my list:
  1. Organise and do a Christmas present delivery to kids in hospital over Christmas with the help of Sarah.
  2. Bake something and visit Winara House again.  If I plan it for the October school holidays Bianca and Caitlyn might come along.
  3. Bake some biscuits for Christmas and deliver it to the Sevenoaks Dementia Unit.  We did it last year and it was extremely rewarding.
  4. Plan with the kids and make something for Christmas for the residents of Winara House retirement village.
  5. Plant a good variety of veggies in the new garden boxes Terence is busy building for me.
  6. Reach my goal weight.
  7. Do regular walk / run sessions.
  8. Find and enter (and actually participate) in a 5km event (hopefully a run, but otherwise a walk).
  9. Learn to play some or the other music instrument (other than the recorder which I have been trying to learn).
  10. Learn a new language (or at least make a start of it). I've always loved languages and I seem to have a fairly good memory when I think of the few Sesotho phrases I learned all those many years ago at school.
  11.  Make new little boxes for the kids' advent calendars.
  12. Look for fun activities we can do together for the little advent calendar boxes.
  13. Make at least one handmade Christmas present for Bianca and Caitlyn each.
  14. Shave my hair for the Child Cancer Foundation.
  15. Declutter!  Loads of things to sort out and many things to get rid of.
  16. Visit the huge book sale here in Waikanae end of October and stock up on some great second hand books.
  17. Go and see Roxette in Auckland in Feb 2012.  (Can't wait!)
  18. Make a new Youtube video clip of Bianca.
  19. Start Bianca's treatment photo collage which I really wanted to do in 2009.
  20. My mum's immigration.
  21. Bake / cook something with Bianca and Caitlyn once a month so that Bianca can add recipes to her recipe book.
  22. Go away to either Taupo or Hawkes Bay as soon as Terence has annual leave he can take.  I would say go on holiday to Australia (I've never been there), but am still waiting for the "wonderful" South African home affairs to send my new passport (sigh!).  We do love Hawkes Bay and Taupo though. 
  23. Organise a fun professional photo shoot with Bianca and Caitlyn.
  24. Go and visit Bianca's tree (click here to see) when we are back in Auckland in November for Bianca's cheerleading competition. 
  25. Knit a square for Christchurch (see details here).  Done!  (See here)
  26. Do a special craft activity with the kids once a month.  Bianca asked me yesterday to show her how I made their treasure chests in December (see here)
  27. Have a regular family games evening (the non electronic kind).  We enjoy games like Dominion, Puerto Rico and Bang.
  28. Sift through thousands of digital photos and make a photo book for Bianca and Caitlyn.
  29. Sit down and go through our budget again to make sure we stay on track.
  30. Our business website.
  31. Business product launch.
  32. With daylight savings time just around the corner do more things outdoors like picnics on the beach.
  33. Look at study options.  I started a degree a number of years ago, but then Bianca became sick and I had to put it on hold.
  34. Do a gratitude blog post on a regular basis.  It is easy to take things for granted and to forget we have lots to be thankful for!
  35. Do something nice for somebody else when they don't expect it.

What are some of the goals you are hoping to achieve?

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    Even when we speak the same...

    Some of you might know my first language is Afrikaans.  But I am also fluent in English.  That would be because from day 1 at school in South Africa we had to have both Afrikaans and English right until the last day of school.  I don't know if it is still like that, but it was like that when I was at school. I was fortunate that my one high school was really good.  They put a lot of emphasis on grammar and spelling and things like that.  Now I am by no means perfect.  I make lots of mistakes.  And I will never forget when I was in Year 6 at school and I had to make a sentence with the word stirrup and very nearly wrote "I like stirrup on my bread" and thankfully I remembered syrup wasn't written like that and I didn't write this on my test (can you imagine if I did?  The teacher would have probably fallen off his chair laughing so much).    But then I see people here who are not all that familiar with the apostrophe-s rule (I wrote about it here) and then I don't feel all that bad.  At least I have the excuse that this is my second language :-).

    Whenever we catch up with people here who are from other countries, at times we will discuss how people from different countries speak quite differently.  When I started with a Bachelor of Business degree (which I never finished because of Bianca's leukemia) one of my papers was Business Communication and we had to discuss communication problems at the work place.  I used these examples to show how somebody might say something but actually mean something very different:

    My mum had a colleague many many years ago who couldn't really speak English.  She could speak Afrikaans and very limited English.  One day she wanted to buy a vacuum cleaner and she phoned the one store and the discussion went a little bit like this:

    "Hello, I'm looking for an electric broom"
    Silence... then "Sorry a what?"
    "Yes, you know, that thing you swipes the mats with"

    My second example was about a gentleman I worked with who was from the Ukraine.  He was pretty good with his English and he was one of the team leaders.  In one of his team meetings he turned to his one staff member and said to her "you need to grow up".  She was so upset and felt completely humiliated to be told to grow up in front of her team members. Straight after the meeting she lodged a complaint with the departmental manager.  Turned out that this team leader simply meant "I would like to offer you the opportunity to develop yourself and take on more responsibility because I think you are capable".  She didn't think to ask what he meant and he didn't think to explain further what he meant.

    The third example I based on my experience moving to New Zealand.  At one of the temporary jobs I held, somebody asked me about living in South Africa and one of the things I told her was that there were quite a few people out on the streets begging for money at the robots.  And so about a week after I told this story, she came to my desk and asked "why do you have robots in your streets?"  It never occurred to me to say traffic lights instead... 

    "Just now" is another one I often say which basically means "shortly, when I get a chance, in the near future".  It doesn't actually mean right this very second. 

    And there was once something that I said that turned out to sound rather rude and made the person I said it to nearly collapse on the floor laughing!

    And I found some phrases here that I wasn't familiar with before I came:

    "I feel crook" - when I first heard this I didn't associate it with "feeling unwell" A crook as far as I was concerned meant "somebody who committed a crime".

    "I have to go home and cook my tea".  Why would you cook your tea?  Don't you simply put the tea bag in the cup and pour boiling water into the cup?  Here it means to cook your dinner.

    Morning tea, afternoon tea, bring a plate and it's my shout are all phrases that I've never heard of until I came here. 

    And other differences between South Africa and New Zealand:

    In South Africa we would say bakkie and here they say ute or they say takkies / tekkies in South Africa for a sports shoe.  And braai instead of BBQ.

    So even though both countries have English as a language, different words might mean different things and that can cause some confusion.

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    It is up to you...

    In my life I have learned that happiness is a mindset.  It is up to each one of us if we will be happy or unhappy.  And if you really put your mind to it, you can turn a situation around - even when it feels impossible and incredibly hard. 

    In 2007 after we received the news that Bianca was suddenly in the fight for her life, I made the deliberate decision that I would actively look for things to be positive about.  I wasn't going to allow negative thoughts to fill my mind.  I didn't want to look back and only remember feeling sad.  This was Bianca's life despite dealing with cancer.  She deserved to have some happy memories even when the journey was a difficult one.  And there was Caitlyn too.  Caitlyn was simply a baby.  She was 3.5 months old when Bianca was diagnosed 2 weeks before she turned 4.  By the time Bianca finished treatment Bianca was 6 and Caitlyn already 2 and a half.  That is a large chunk of their lives that would have been totally wasted if we chose to be down in the dumps all of the time. 

    And so in that first week as I sat there desperately trying to make normal and keep happy I made the decision that would end up making the whole journey much more manageable.  And sure, at first actively working hard to find positives was extremely hard work (and sure there were days that were harder than others), but before long the positive state of mind happened more automatically.  I didn't have to put so much effort into it. 

    In those early days each morning I would tell myself if I can get through today, then I will be fine.  And so tomorrow would come and I found that indeed I was fine.  I guess for me it felt a bit like running a race - "just one more step, just one more step" and after a while I started looking back and I realised how much progress we made, how far we've come even when there were times that it felt as if time simply stood still, as if the world kept moving around and we were left behind, forgotten, invisible.

    In 2007 my personal motto became "we can't choose what happens in life, but we can choose how to handle it" and that for me was what made such a huge difference in my life! 

    'Tis the season...

    for head lice!

    Last night Bianca got out of her bath and complained the back of her head was sore.  I had a look and could see that she scratched herself and then I noticed those dreaded creepy crawlies.  All over her head.  Eeeuw! And you know how it goes - the mere mention of the word head lice could make you feel all itchy.

    But we've been lucky so far to be honest.  We've only ever once been affected by head lice when Caitlyn had nits in her hair about 2 years ago.  And other than that, my kids have not had lice / nits.

    And so as I sat there combing out Bianca's hair and she cried and cried and cried (thanks to the knots in her hair) I found myself thinking it was so much simpler when she had no hair...

    Sigh!  The joys of parenthood!

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    After all this time I still believe it was one of the best

    I never realised I was an introvert.  I always thought I was super confident and an absolute extrovert.  It was only when I did a Dale Carnegie course in 2001 (I think) that I realised just what a big introvert I really was.  And as much as I always believed I was super confident, I actually wasn't all that confident - it was more a case of being very determined.  Sure, I fight for the causes that I believe in and I love helping others (people and causes) and I will do whatever it takes (even if it means shaving my hair in front hundreds of people and sharing it with thousands more Dominion Post readers, even if it means appearing on the Good Morning show with Steve Price or one of the local radio stations to help spread the word of the CCF annual appeal), but for most of it, I much rather prefer to be the one organising things or shifting into the background rather than being the one taking centre stage. 

    The Dale Carnegie course was a brilliant course.  It was definitely one of the best I ever did.  It is the one course I will always recommend people do.  And even though I did this course 10 years ago, I can still remember the profound effect this course had on 35 people.  The change 35 of us underwent from week 1 to week 12 was simply phenomenal.   It was the first time I ever came across a trainer who lived and breathed the things he taught.  It wasn't just a job, it was an absolute passion.  I think this is the first time I ever realised the power of positive mind set, that if you truly believed in something you can have the confidence to really go for it.  And the tips and techniques were simply amazing.

    When I did Toastmasters at school I thought I was doing a great job with prepared speeches.  The ones I would write out and memorise and then deliver (what I thought was a great effort), but when it came to topics where they give you limited time to prepare, I really struggled.  And of course it doesn't help that they counted the "uhms" and "ahs" during your speech. 

    It was only when I started Dale Carnegie that I realised I did it all wrong.  That when I wrote my speech in Toastmasters and memorised it word for word, I didn't speak from the heart.  I didn't base it on my own experiences so of course it would not have been believable. 

    The Dale Carnegie course was more than just about public speaking.  It had a whole focus on memory techniques and more importantly some brilliant techniques when dealing with people.  Even really really difficult people.

    Recently I came across my Dale Carnegie books and I have decided it was time to read them again.  They are a really great read.  And each time I read them I find myself nodding my head in agreement.

    So today we went to the city where Terence played tenpin bowling with some of his work buddies and I took the kids to Junglerama and I was reading some of my Dale Carnegie book and suddenly the one man sitting at the table next to us came to my table and asked me about the book.  Turned out that he also did a similar Dale Carnegie course 20 years ago and just to prove my point - he couldn't stop raving about the course and the profound effect it had on his class of 26. So if a man can speak so passionately about a course he did 20 years ago, then it must be a good course :-)

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    Should I or should I not?

    Later this year (in November or December usually) the Child Cancer Foundation will have their Funrazor event.  For 3 years in a row - 2007 (click here), 2008 (click here) and 2009 (click here) I shaved my hair.   In 2007 Bianca wasn't able to help shave my hair because she was stuck in hospital (again), but in 2008 and 2009 she was there courage beads and all. 

    In 2007 I made the front page of the Dominion Post - my 5 minutes of fame (click here).  It felt great being able to raise some money for the Child Cancer Foundation who doesn't get any government funding at all. And of course doing this was my way to give something back and create some awareness. 

    So I'm thinking that maybe I should do it again this year... Who wants to join me?  I wonder if instead of just in the city we can organise a Kapiti Funrazor event.  So many things to think about.

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Making a list

    2 Fellow bloggers (Julia and Marcia) have both recently suggested I consider doing a list seeing as my birthday is next week.  This will be a list of things that I will attempt to achieve in my 35th (cough, splutter, splutter, cough, cough) year.  Sigh!  35 sounds so old! 

    So until my birthday next week I'll have to give it a bit of a think.  It is a great idea, but right now my list mostly consists of doing dishes, and laundry and tidying the kids' rooms yet again (am I the only parent whose kids can't keep their rooms tidy?) - this week was pretty good fun though as I tried my hand at some basic website design (and a welcome distraction to the usual chores at home), but now that I've done it I can't really add this to my list of 35.  I can't exactly put chores on this list either, but certainly my Christmas Project I would think.  I was going to put a 5km run on the list, but now I'm not so sure if that's going to work.  So far my knee is still sensitive.  So maybe I must change it to a 5km walk and do the 5km walk part of the 5km run / walk event.  Hmmm, I wonder how long they give you to walk 5km in one of these fun run events???  I would hate to be dead last!

    So I'll need to give it a bit of a think. 

    And apart from that tomorrow we are catching up with good friends for lunch, Bianca has her cheerleading practice and on Sunday Terence has a tenpin bowling match with work buddies.  I'm hoping to do some more work maybe also on my garden setup, but we'll see.

    So what are your weekend plans?

    Thursday, September 15, 2011


    This week 26 years ago (is it that long already?) my dad committed suicide.  It was about a week before my 9th birthday.  I remember my mum came home late on that Monday night when she came to tell my brother and I that there was an accident and that my dad passed away.  And yes for a while in my life I did wonder why he would choose to do something like this.  And yes there are times that I wonder what it would have been like if he chose to live, the relationship that he possibly would have had with my girls and so on.  But I must be honest for a very long time now I have stopped wondering why.  The truth is we will never know what went through his mind on that day.  There is no point in driving myself crazy wondering about things I simply will never know. 

    A blogging buddy wrote that it is national suicide awareness day in Australia and so it is a good time for me to say:

    Hang in there!  Even when things feel incredibly tough.  Even when it feels you have nowhere to turn.  Find somebody to chat to, find a support group.  There are many who love you and care about you.  Don't choose to take your own life.  It is devastating for those left behind.  They want to share today, tomorrow and every day with you.  Nothing can be so bad that you have to take your own life!  Hang in there!

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    A very exciting project!

    This afternoon after I got Caitlyn from daycare I had to quickly pop into The Warehouse.  And guess what - apart from all the Rugby World Cup merhandise, they have started putting out Christmas lollies and advent calendars.  I think as soon as the Rugby World Cup is finished we'll start seeing Christmas trees and decorations and all sorts of other things.  And we are only in the middle of September...

    I must admit I am really excited for Christmas.  I have a Christmas project in mind where I will take Bianca and Caitlyn and a new friend called Sarah and we'll go and deliver some gifts to some of the kids who will be stuck in hospital.  We'll probably have to dress up in some sort of dress-up, just for fun.  So now Sarah and I are on a mission to see if anybody would like to donate some gifts.  Sarah also has a few other great ideas. 

    So far I've had a few offers from people who are keen and so I guess my project will now be turned into a community effort rather than an individual effort :-).  So if you are interested to donate something - please email me at  Feel free to opt for the present to be an anonymous donation or you might want to include your name on a card.  Please keep in mind that the ages will range from tiny little babies right through to teenagers.  And there are parents and siblings also.  I would prefer gifts to be suitable for kids who are stuck in hospital - so books, craft activities, play dough, games, a soft toy - that sort of thing.

    So let me know if you might be interested.  What are your Christmas plans?

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    An up and down day

    Today has been a rather down day for me.  I don't really know why to be honest.  Maybe that I went to bed really late last night and was listening to a bunch of songs on Youtube and I really shouldn't do that late at night.  Or maybe it is that my birthday is around the corner.  Of course it is exciting to have a birthday and I'm getting the most exciting present from Terence, but I guess it is also a bit of a realisation that yet another year has passed, another year older and I don't think I really achieved much this past year.  Okay fair enough I have managed to learn to play 3 songs on the recorder, but other than that no real achievements.  Which I guess I'm finding a little bit disappointing.  Oh well.  I think I really just need to go to bed early tonight. 

    One thing that was really exciting though was when Bianca and I joined Winara House (a local retirement village) for their morning tea.  Yesterday we baked a whole bunch of biscuits - some Romany Creams, shortbread, Betty Crocker chocolate chip and chocolate hedgehogs.  The ladies were absolutely thrilled to meet Bianca and I must be honest it feels so rewarding when you do something nice for somebody and you can just see the way their faces light up and you just know that in your own little way you made somebody's day, possibly made a difference.  Today was part of Bianca's home learning challenges and this was her 'Giving' task.  She had such a great time last year, that she wanted to do this again.  We'll definitely visit them again really soon I think.  I'm not going to post any photos because I didn't ask if they would be happy to have their photos on the blog, so you'll just have to take my word for it :-)

    And that's it from me tonight.  I will take my thoughts and head off for an early night tonight I think.  

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Looking for a new word for that spelling bee or that game of scrabble?

    So it seems the Wales supporters from my previous entry got their prediction wrong.  Although from what I have briefly seen on TV was that it was a very close match.

    Now with Bianca's 2 year anniversary I have been reading through some old blog entries in our old blog.  And I remembered that one of the biggest words I ever learned was the word panhypogammaglobulinemia.

    This is what I wrote on the 30th of April 2008 (click here for the original entry) -
    "So here is a new word for you: Panhypogammaglobulinemia (wow, I wonder how many years of study is spent learning the pronunciation of these big fancy medical words).

    "Please spell Panhypogammaglobulinemia"
    "Can you use it in a sentence?"
    "Sure, Bianca was diagnosed with Panhypogammaglobulinemia"

    Now that is a spelling bee tongue twister for you... And it is a real word too all you Scrabble fans out there (although you probably won't have enough letters or space on the board to make up this word).

    I noticed this word on the most recent copy of Bianca's discharge notes. Basically it means her immunoglobulin levels were low and as a result she got an IVIG transfusion."
     I think once one of Bianca's oncologists said in the 14 years (I think he said that was how long it took him to study to become what he became) they learned something like 15,000 new words in their vocabulary.  Of course I can't understand why they can't just use normal ordinary words to say what is wrong and why they have to use words that nobody (ordinary people like me) had ever heard of.  Well I certainly have never heard of the word panhypogammaglobulinemia until this day in 2008.

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Where Bulls 'grazed' before...

    Thank you for the messages on my previous post, the messages on Facebook and email - yes it is indeed a very special milestone for us!  I really should do a new / updated video of Bianca as the last one was done 1 year after diagnosis, but I need to find the right song / music to go with the photo montage and I don't really want to use the same one.  So any suggestions would be most welcome :-).

    Today we went to the city and took the girls to go and see Mr Poppler's Penguins.  What a cool movie!  And so funny in places!  While we were there there were quite a few South African rugby supporters out and about and a few Wales rugby supporters.  The city didn't seem as busy as I thought it would be, but I guess the not so good weather must have definitely had something to do with the lack of crowds.  Or perhaps 10:45 on a Sunday morning might be a bit too early for some...

    South African supporters out and about
     After the movie we went to lunch at one of Bianca's favourite places - Hog's Breath Cafe (or the piggy fries place as the kids refer to it).  For my South African followers - yes it is the place where Bulls 'grazed' before...


    Wales supporters predicting their team will beat South Africa by 15 points.

    And then we headed off home.  We were meant to bake some biscuits this afternoon, but it will have to wait for tomorrow.  On Tuesday morning I will be getting Bianca from school just before her morning tea time and she'll be delivering her biscuits to the Winara Retirement Village.  It is one of her chosen home learning challenges.  We were going to do this about 2 weeks ago, but thanks to Bianca having a cold I had to postpone.  Hopefully this time round we can stick to the appointment.

    24 (or 2 if you prefer) is the sweetest number...

    ... for us today.

    From the early days:

    Early days all tubed up - oxygen, ECG and nose tube for NG Feeds

    To the last day of treatment (11 September 2009) stringing the most important bead of all - a purple heart.  And wow - what a journey it was!

    Last day of treatment stringing her purple heart bead

    Looking at Bianca today (2 years later or 24 months if you prefer), it is simply amazing just how far she's come:

    Today, a normal 8 year old wearing her more than 1,300 beads of courage!

    It is hard to believe that it was 2 years ago when Bianca finally finished her leukemia treatment after 830 days.  Some days it feels like a lifetime ago, some days it feels just like yesterday.  I will always have fond memories of the time we planted Bianca's tree (click here to see).

    Today we are thankful that Bianca is doing well.  We are aware that things can change at any time, but for now, we are just appreciating the blessings we have received. 

    Classic Hits has this promotion where you can submit a song that has a special meaning to you and the story behind it and then if you are chosen, they play it on a Thursday night.  So they waited until this past Thursday to play my special song in honour of Bianca's 2 year anniversary of being off treatment:

    Bianca, we are so incredibly proud of you.  Of the way you have always faced the challenges with such a positive attitude.  You showed us your determination, your love for life and you taught us how to live just for the moment.  And one day when you look back at the road you walked, I hope you will know that nothing is impossible.  So in celebration of today:

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    A new blog and a challenging day!

    Bianca's teacher has just started a new blog.  Not only is Paul Forster a brilliant teacher, but he is an extremely talented athlete and very passionate about his music, singing and songwriting.  (It is at this point that I can hear Bianca shout "glossary word" because "extremely" is one of her glossary words...).  I am particularly interested to see what running tips Paul might share on his blog that might help me finally be able to run a 5km fun run.  But from what I can see Paul will be writing about a lot of different things.  Go and visit his blog and say hi!

    Speaking of running, I found today's run / walk session quite challenging.  I didn't do anything different, I had a rest day since my last one and I didn't have sore legs after the last run / walk session.  But today my knee joint area (whatever it might be called) felt stiff and vaguely painful.  Not significantly, but noticeably.  So today I really wondered at which point the running will become easier.  How am I ever going to manage week 3 onwards?  But I guess that is life.  If you really want something you have to put the effort in.  (Now remind me again why I chose a 5km run as my goal...)

    Today I realised again that what drives me is the memory of this day.  (Click here to read about it).

    Tomorrow is going to be an extra special day for us.  I will let you all know shortly!

    Friday, September 9, 2011

    The dreams we have when we are young

    Caitlyn is adamant that one day when she grows up she is going to be a hairdresser.  No idea where that aspiration is coming from and thanks to my friend Verity the kids have their very own hairdresser training head to play around with.  Of course I had to insist that no scissors will come near it.  Can you imagine?  So the kids are having loads of fun brushing the hair and putting pretty hair clips in it.  They haven't settled on a name yet for Mrs Head, but maybe soon...

    So all of this made me think back to when I was much younger and what I thought I might become when I was all grown up.  My mum was a teacher and so was my grandmother, but I don't think I really ever specifically wanted to be a teacher.  I do remember that when I was about 13 I really wanted to be a poet.  And for a few years I actually did attempt to write poetry.  And I once attempted to get them published, but of course the market for poetry is pretty small I would imagine and my poems were probably not all that great so I never really succeeded as a world famous poet (no surprises there).

    I wonder how many of us decide to do something when we are little and then we actually become what we thought we'd become when we are all grown up. 

    When you were little, what did you want to become and what did you end up doing?

    Thursday, September 8, 2011

    So who has started thinking about Christmas yet?

    I know it is only September, but Christmas is only about 3 months away.  And right about this time is usually when shops start hauling out their Christmas stuff to tempt the buyers into gearing up for the Christmas season. I haven't seen it happen just yet, but I'm sure pretty soon the Christmas trees and decorations will start going on display.

    As a matter of fact I have started thinking of Christmas.  For one I want to do the little boxes again.  Not only was it a lot of fun, but it meant that we could do some quality activities again.  And of course the girls were able to experience the true meaning of 'giving'.  So that means I have to make little boxes again.  They didn't all stay nice unfortunately so I can't really re-use them and if I start now then I will have more preparation time to come up with some fun activities.  We will definitely deliver biscuits again to one of the local retirement villages (and in fact just next week Bianca will do this too as part of one of her home learning challenges).  But along with that I am also thinking of getting a few small presents together that the girls and I will take to the children's ward at Wellington Hospital and deliver it there.  I remember when we were stuck in hospital how frustrating it felt at times so maybe we might be able to brighten some children's day.

    Speaking of Christmas - If you are looking for the perfect stocking filler - Bianca's teacher, Paul Forster is selling his picture book titled 'You're not eating me' that he wrote and published (how cool is that?).  It is this really cute story beautifully illustrated and along with it is a CD with 12 songs that Paul wrote including the 'You're not eating me' song!  Bianca has a copy that her teacher gave to her for her birthday and it is definitely one of her favourite things!  And I bet if you ordered a copy and asked Paul, he would even be happy to write a special message for the recipient.  Just think you can give somebody a signed copy of this book! How special!  To order or to get more information please email

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Happy anniversary to us!

    Today 7 years ago we arrived in New Zealand with nothing more than 6 suitcases, a toddler car seat, a backpack, a camera bag, a baby bag, a large stuffed toy dog, a stroller and a very squirmy 14 month old (that's right Bianca was 14 months old on that day).  On that day we started our new life here in New Zealand and while it is always hard to start over, this has become home to us.  There is so much here that I love and that I am grateful for.
    • I love living close to the beach.  In New Zealand you are never further than about 1.5 hours from the nearest beach.  We live about 10 minutes drive away.
    • I love not having any burglar bars or electric fencing or security gates.
    • I love being able to go for my walk / run every day without feeling scared that it might not be safe
    • I will forever be grateful for the medical care we have / had with Bianca.  There was never a delay and apart from paying $30 for one type of special mouth wash that was not covered and a small subsidy on prescription medication (for her leukemia) when Bianca turned 6, we've not had to pay for anything.  Not any of the 117 nights in hospital, not for any lumbar punctures, port insertion, x-rays, blood tests, specialist visits, chemo treatments and many other things that happened during her 830 days of treatment.  Bianca still sees her specialist every 2 months and we still don't have to pay!
    • I am grateful that we have good public school options that are really affordable.  For Bianca we paid a total of $70 for the year for her school fees (or school donation as they call it).  No waiting lists, no excessively early enrolments, and in particular Bianca's teacher this year - he is simply amazing.  One of the best!  
    • I love how peaceful it is where we live.
    • I love how beautiful it is when you drive between different towns or cities.
    • I love the service here in New Zealand.  Doing things like your annual car registration or your Warrant of Fitness (roadworthiness test) are extremely quick.  No sitting forever in long queues that hardly move (as I have vivid memories from my South African days).
    • I love how I can go to the bank and there are virtually nobody in the queue.
    • I love EFTPOS and how everything is done with EFTPOS.
    There are lots of things I love about New Zealand.