The gloaming

She wakes as the sun comes up and thinks, ‘maybe it’s gone’. Then tries to roll over the the pain ricochets through her, sometimes starting from the right butt cheek, sometimes shooting from the ankle. It’s a cruel trick her mind plays on her every single morning. Two panadeine forte are cracked, swallowed and then she waits. It normally takes 15, sometimes 20 minutes before she can feel the codeine coursing her veins, sinking her body deeper into the matress.

She fights the calling to close her eyes, knowing if she doesn’t get up now the pain will be excruciating as opposed to horrible. The first few steps to the shower are always good. Hard hot water streams onto her rump in a daily futile exercise to relax muscles so tight her right leg feels a foot shorter than her left. Getting dry is a ridiculous game of crouching to dry her legs and thinking that’s a good stretch only to have agonising spasms as she stands. Then there is the undies game, she tries the good leg first some days, the dodgy leg others. It doesn’t matter. It always ends badly with collapsing on the bed and an internal pep talk to get them on. ‘

 

The first hour is the worst. You are not dying. Nothing is going to break or snap. Take a deep breath. And another one. You can do this. It’s just nerve pain, brain, it’s OK, just a pinched nerve. Breath. But none of it makes any difference. Once that first hour is done then standing is normally ok. Sitting on anything other than a hard chair with a towel folded in three is untenable. Lying down is deadly only for the fact she eventually has to get up and endure that first hour all over again. Curiously, all she wants to do is lie down.

Meanwhile the household comes to life. Breakfasts, washing on, delegations to unpack the dishwasher, fights to umpire, questions to answer. Just breath.

The pain pre-occupies, like water coursing along a riverbed, filling every twist and turn, finding a path between every pebble of her life, every thought in her head. It makes her snap and cross. Each question, request, conversation adding another weight on the pain load she is already bearing. It stops her from paying attention so she drops things, cuts or burns herself when cooking and basically forgets all the things she’d normally consider. There’s a wicked burn on her bingo wing from the pretty lanterns she bought for the Christmas day tablescape that pains as it brushes against her body. She sees it as a welcome distraction from the leg.

She’s been living with back pain since June and the sciatica since September. Maybe October? There’s been chiro and physio, training and visits to the GP. There’s been talk of steroid injections and resounding medical advice against it. “Let’s just ramp up your pain relief,” is the current approach along with chiro.

But then the anxiety starts to fester. So much codeine, the occasional half an endone when she knows the tightness is in another realm. She tries a day without codeine and ends it completely paralysed, locked halfway between getting up and lying down. Unable to put any weight on her leg and incapable of finding any position where the pain does not shoot up and down her entire right side like a puck in a pinball machine. Involuntarily gasps of pain, tears, locked in a twisted position holding on to the end of the lounge until the neurofen plus and a whole endone kick in. It’s a long 20 minutes.

 

As summer in Sydney gets serious, she can feel herself slipping. The mental war begin waged against the physical pain has been ambushed. The air is heavy with heat and humidity. Cicadas whir incessantly competing with the hum of the fan as the soundtrack to the season as she feels herself sliding into a gloaming, neither night nor day, here nor there, present or absent. Just existing. Knowing it will pass, it will get better, just not today.

 

Onward.

 

CARNAGE

Felix and Harriet, circa 2009

It was warm here yesterday and the day was a bit topsy-turvy with little boys out and big boys here and me almost forgetting my shrink appointment and mum taking my niece to the movies.

Long story short.

RIP Cocoa Taco Powder and Harriet. Two of the greatest guinea pigs a family could ever neglect/showerwithloveandaffectionoutofguilt/neglect/love!/neglect/ADORE! had died from heat-stroke.

Cocoa was already in GP Heaven by the time my niece found her. Harriet was clearly almost touching the light but we brought her back with a (very) cold bath.

What ensured was me trying to cool her down but not shock her, trying to re-hydrate her but not too much as water would get into her lungs and cause pneumonia and so on and so forth. It was so tenuous we were all holding our breath for hours, willing her to live.

We had her wrapped in a damp towel resting on a bed of straw in a box and took her with us as we went to my in-laws for dinner.

Felix and I remarked that she had picked up! just as we were turning onto the Wakehurst Parkway but barely two kilometres later I looked at her, looked at Felix and said, ‘is she OK?’ and no, she was not. He couldn’t feel her heart beating. We pulled over just near Oxford Falls and checked. Harriet had succumbed.

At my in-laws I prised the two little fellas away from Wii and explained to them what had happened. As I did Jasper’s arm around me got tighter and tighter. And as I quietly told them that Harriet had died in the car on the way there, Jasper said, ‘we’ll have to go to the shops and buy two new ones and call them the same names now.’

That’s right son, because nothing overcomes grief quicker than some retail therapy seeking immediate replacements.

Jasper and Harriet c 2009*

Grover’s initial concern was more about ‘his’ one, Matilda, the runty little guinea pig which was Harriet’s sister, replete with mutant extra toes and a wily nature that always sees her as the one who escapes. ‘But what about my one? what about my one? is it dead? Did it die?’ No, she’s fine. ‘Oh, phew,’ he said, ‘that’s lucky. But that’s sad isn’t it. That Harriet and Cocoa are dead.’

Yes son, yes it is.

Two graves dug. Two burial ceremonies held.

Now the eternal vigil that the chickens don’t dig – or scratch as the case may be – them up.

 

*sadly there seem to be NO pictures of Cocoa, despite her being with the family for a year. Or more recent shots of Harriet. #telling

*****

PRIOR to the guinea pig massacre of 2012 I had commented to my MIL that one of the fish was on the out. It had been coming – I’d noticed a ‘sore’ for want of a better word on one of its sides a few weeks back and thrown in some outrageously priced special stress-relief fluid that does actually seem to perform miracles on our marine pets.

She (he?) had put in a good innings for a gold fish, ableit she was white with orange spots on her head. What? My boys have a penchant for choosing the ugliest fish in the pet shop. It’s a gift. But I think she was at least three years old, maybe even older. Pretty good huh.

Then yesterday she was gawping at the bottom of the tank rather than frantically waving at me from the top corner desperate to catch my attention to feed her again (seriously, fish can turn a ‘look’ at you more heart-melting than a dog pleading with you for some of your dinner rather than the chicken beaks and arses in a roll you normally serve them.

It prompted me to *finally* clean the tank, all the while reminding myself that this process would undoubtedly have the equivalent effect as Neil’s punching a fish to death in The Inbetweeners it was long overdue.

Sure enough, post cleaning there she was, gawping at the bottom of the tank but now upside-down.

Yeah, you were a good fish. See ya.

*****

Between the fish death and the guinea pig disaster Felix went off for a bike-ride. Some of the first physical activity he’s done since school broke up WEEKS ago. He was back sooner than expected and just as I went to give him a hard time I saw the red face, the sweat, the tears and then the blood.

Poor kid had GONE OVER THE HANDLEBARS on his bike going down a hill near our place.

Bad grazing on elbow, shoulder and hip, sore wrist and a MASSIVE chunk out of his helmet.

It *could* have been so.much.worse.

*****

So excuse me while today I do very little and achieve absolutely nothing.

Didn’t we have a lovely day the day we went to emergency

So today is Australia Day. Or Invasion Day. Take your pick. It is a national public holiday and features lots of community sausage sizzles and far showier events like announcing the Australian of the Year and this years recipients of an Order of Australia.

It’s kind of law that if you live near the ocean you go to the beach and regardless of where you live there must be a bbq and ideally something like a pavlova for dessert. You know, no pressure.

But in this house of children growing increasingly fractious about the return to school which was manifesting itself in the standard ways of, you know, trying to kill their siblings while driving their mother to an early grave my willingness to do anything remotely celebratory was greatly curtailed. However, I do know that getting out of the house at the time you most want to hide in your bed is generally the best time to go with the former, so off we went.

Just to mix it up we went over to the ocean pool today rather than the beach. When we got there the tide was out and the area where the lake meets the ocean was divine – shallow, crystal clear and packed with families. All the boys wanted to go there and it seemed like a really good idea. At one point Felix wanted to scale the rocks down to the water so I gave him the whole lesson about oysters and oyster shells and how, while I had not experienced it first hand, I was of the understanding that an oyster shell cut was incredibly painful.

So there we were, down in the shallows. Chasing tiny schools of fish. Cooling down instantly. Of course the Death By Sibling game was still in play with Felix and Jasper either pushing each other over or kicking water at the other.

You know that Hugh Grant movie where they have a baby and he doesn’t want to let go of his old no-kids lifestyle and they meet that family at the beach where the parents are Joan Cusack and Tom Arnold and those parents look permanently haggard and the children are delinquents? Well that family is us. We are that family. The one which disturbs the peace, shatters the tranquil ambience of happy children frolicking, the one which has every other parent appreciating their children that bit more. (You know I love it.)

And then it happened. Felix had kicked water at Jasper which had got him right in the eyes after a consoling cuddle from me he ran at Felix and performed a move that featured a jump on his back and a push all at the same time. In the first instance I thought Felix’s reaction was a standard over-reaction but then it just had this pitch and the facial expression was less acted and more, well, more real. Then he kind of lurched at me clutching his leg. And then I saw it. A massive 10cm gash across his knee, the white of the insides of his body showing and then, then the blood. Oh dear God the blood.

There we are, in the channel, Felix with blood gushing from his leg, two little boys and Oscar. And me. I’m all, ‘now what the fuck do I do?’ on the inside and all calmly collected on the outside. And people, what followed was to me what I always want to remember as the thing to celebrate on our national day. Four families in the near vicinity came to our aid.

A guy on a kayak came over and calmed me down completely, suggesting we get to the club house and get some pressure on the wound. Which were excellent suggestions was it not for the cold hard reality of I had three other children with me, it was fiercely hot and while I would not let my child bleed to death I also wasn’t about to nude up then and there to use my cossie as a tourniquet.      

Some other parents helped me get him out of the water, another mum checked the little fellas were coming too, another family moved their beach umbella over him and then, while I was getting a towel from our bag (on the other side of the channel – yes people, there was running. Braless running), a cool-looking surfer dad  totally took over and got one of his daughter’s (clean) nappies and put it over the wound. How freakin’ resourceful is that? We then wrapped the towel over the top of the nappy and stood back to marvel at our collective genius.

Then surfer dad and his wife send a couple of their kids off around to the beach to get the surf lifesavers to come and help us.

Then I realised Oscar was about to hurl. Or faint. Or both. What can I say, the kid is mine. So I get him back into the water to cool off and to just move away from the scene of blood and wounds.

Then surfer dad’s wife say they know Oscar and we try and ascertain from where, which results in one of those conversations of ‘maybe swimming lessons? kindy? school? School!’.

Then the lifesavers arrived on their four-wheeler. They pour some saline on it and wrap a big bandage around it, commending surfer dad on his resourcefulness.

Then we all had to work out what to do now – I had known as soon as I saw it that a trip to the hospital was unavoidable but first there was the cold hard reality of getting back to our car w/ the three able-bodied (kind of) boys and where the lifesaver’s would take Felix.

So Felix scored a ride on the quad bike up to the surf club house and I hustled the other boys back across the channel, down to the ramp, up the ramp, under the tap, along the path, into the car, to the club house (cue lifesaver remarks about four boys! you’re a maniac! look, there they all are! Good luck!), home to drop off boys and to get out of swimming cossies (look, he wasn’t bleeding to death, he wasn’t in excruciating pain and considering it was Australia Day and the beaches were packed I figured better to be dressed than in a cossie and towel if we were going to be there for hours on end. Sue me.)

Once at the hospital we have to wait about an hour (not that bad at all considering the day and fact that so many people do really stupid things on Australia Day) and then, well then I kind of lost control of my faculties.

I was fine, really I was, joking with the doctor, taking pictures of the gaping wound. Then, then, he administered the local anaesthetic. Felix’s tears/laughter-in-shock and the gripping of my hands started to undo me. Then I told him it was nearly done and STUPIDLY looked at what the doctor was doing.  

Driving a needle right into the middle of the wound site was what he was doing.

Cue immediate all-over body sweats. Cue the yawning. Cue the stomach-churns. Cue the ‘oh for fuck’s sake Kim this isn’t about you” self-lecture. Cue the ‘do not faint. Do not faint’ mantra. Grab spew bag even though that means leaning across Felix. Get glasses off incase of fainting. Try and comfort Felix. Fail. Get head between legs trying to be discreet so doctor does not think you are a complete loser of a mother. Almost lose breakfast and last night’s dinner when doctor makes me look at what he’s doing so I know how to remove the STAPLES!  in two weeks time. Make mental note that GP will be removing STAPLES! in two weeks time.

I start to panic that I really am going to vomit when another doctor (a young woman) comes into the room. The doctor asks her if they use these staple guns at (Royal) North Shore and she’s all, ‘oh yeah! They’re awesome for scalps’ SCALPS! OH GOD HELP ME. I manage to say something like, ‘you lot are just so weird’ and it works – taking my mind off mental images of needles injecting wound sites and fainting and spewing. I laugh that I’m about to either faint or hurl and she takes one look at me and goes from joking with me to, ‘do you need a glass of water?’. The doctor apologises that he didn’t realise how bad I was feeling. I notice even my hands have gone pale. Sweat is pouring from every single pore on my body. I’m shaking. I am fucking useless.

Then we all marvel at his handiwork. There are about 15 staples in his knee. I’m shaky but the panic has passed.

We get some extra pads and things for changing the dressing and stare down the barrel of two weeks of not getting it wet, no running, no jumping, no real bending. If it gets at all pussie, red or starts to ooze I’m to simply remove.the.staples. from that area and let the infection work it’s way out.

We’re home now.

There are photos but my stomach needs a little distance between the event and photographic evidence of the event at this point in time.

I’ve eaten two bread rolls, half a banana and an entire packet of dry water crackers. You’ll excuse me if I go lie down now.

Happy Australia Day people!

Scenes from a holiday


There have been more trips to the beach this summer than in the previous eight years.

It is a love/hate thing for Oscar. Love the rock pools, hate the beach. We go to the beach more because it’s a two minute walk.

There was a king tide last week.
which made natural lakes up on the beach, perfect for all to muck around in as the surf was angry and dumpy.
There’s been bush walking

an impromptu trip to my Dad and SM’s place, which involved a night of me trying to sleep somewhere in this
and a trip to a naval aircraft museum. No really, it did:
Sure,
the sibling bickering,
the meltdowns over things like me putting the wrong Thomas the Effing Engine DVD on,
the incredible piles of washing that seemed to accumulate by the hour,
the insatiable appetites of my older children and the beige one of my third
and the fact crumbs and sand would appear within minutes of me vacuuming have seen me increase my meds and resort to alcohol for the first time in two years but the opportunity to have had this time to simply be with my children has been indescribably fabulous.

This photo, that Mum took this evening when we went over to the beach for a play after dinner, is how I hope all of us remember the summer holidays of 08/09.

fast, slow, full, empty, too much, nothing at all

So yesterday I totally over-committed and then dropped the bundle, missing what was meant to be the best part of the day – drinks with E and M, in Aus briefly for a wedding and who had called in the day before for some smooching of the Grovemeister.

My MIL had offered to take Jasper so I could do something with the bigger boys. The choice as to what we did was theirs so it involved swimming (and DIVING off a FREAKIN‘ bouncy board into a very very deep dive pool) at our local aquatic centre (where mum used to take us as kids and hasn’t changed AT.ALL.) AND a movie AND then up to the inlaws for an early dinner (and swim) and then home, to drop boys off, get them settled and then head out to drinks by 8pm.

BuhBOWWWWWWW

Grover cracked it and took HOURS to settle.
Jasper may well have spent a while with a crack pipe with the grandparents as to just how wired he was
and it was all still game on at 8pm.
No drinks.
The pity-party lasted a little while… until I fell asleep in Jasper’s bed.

And I KNOW I KNOW – the over-commitment thing. Bad. Stupid.

*****

So today I did nothing*.

*****

I do believe I saw Coco giving Charlie a head job today.

Yes, that probably was a little bit of vomit you tasted in your mouth.

*****
To clear your mind of that hideous image…

The journey to solids.

Anything off a spoon – except avocado – is frowned upon.
Banana is a big hit.
Cruskits seem to cure all whinging ills.
Last night he had some pieces of a rissole and cheese.
Just little pieces.
Not mashed.
Not pureed.
And tonight, just cut up pieces of pasta.
Taken with a big wide mouth and the kicking legs of excitement.
*****

Tomorrow I take the boys to my Dad and SM’s and have a sleepover.
They’re inland and south west.
It was 36C there today.
About 7 degrees hotter than it was here, beside the sea, with ocean breezes.
While it will be lovely to hang out somewhere other than here, g’ah! to the heat.

* except all the compulsories like washing, changing nappies and feeding children.