21 December 2015

Seasons greetings

There's no actual post from me today. I had hoped to get together some new Christmas craft activities and share them on the blog, but the last few weeks of school and preschool had been crazy busy and I rang out of time.

If you don't already have a copy, here is my Christmas Craft eBook I put together a couple years ago which contains some Christmas craft ideas and activities that I've shared here over the years.


I just wanted to take a minute to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a safe & happy new year!



I hope you have a relaxing Christmas day wherever you are, and get to spend it with the ones who make you happy, whether that's with your family, relatives or a bunch of friends.

I will be taking a well earned rest over the school holidays, and be back in the new year.

xJulie

11 December 2015

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Its hard to believe Christmas is here again, it feels as though it wasn't that long ago when we were celebrating it.

Again we filled the pockets of the advent calendar with little slips of paper containing fun activities, special treats, Christmas craft and outings for the girls. Rather than buy them a chocolate advent calendar, creating our own list has meant the girls are excited to take turns and find out what is happening that day. Unfortunately "Mummy's choice" didn't go to plan earlier in the week! We were going to bake shortbread, but due to our Woollies groceries order being late, it has to be moved to another day!

So I hope today's pick, which is "Daddy's choice", will be a success! The girls quickly thought "Oh I hope it's not a trip to the liquorice shop!"even though they love Daddy's double-salted liquorice!


Decorating our tree
As a family we love to go and pick out a beautiful fresh Christmas tree for our home, sadly we didn't do that this year. The past couple of years the mould from the trees has been playing up with my sinuses and getting me sick, so rather than risk it again this year we purchased our first artificial tree - which looks pretty much like a real one! I'm very happy with the quality.

The girls enjoy going through the decoration box and picking out the decorations they want to put on the tree.

Adding their new decorations to the tree

Yesterday Cherub had her turn on the advent calendar, and got the slip "Buy a new Christmas decoration for the tree". So last night we headed down to Westfields in search of new additions for the Christmas tree. For Popette, she selected a lovely angel, and Cherub an elf holding a present with her name on it!


Do you have an advent calendar? Does your family have any Christmas traditions?

01 December 2015

Focus on the things that matter most

This year I gave myself the guiding word of "Focus". My intention was to focus on the things that mattered most and forget about everything else. I can easily get distracted (esp when I'm on social media) and lose my focus on what is important, and waste time doing little unimportant things, rather than putting all my energy and thoughts in an area (like my fitness levels!) that will make me happy, feel fit and better about myself.

While I haven't achieved everything I would have liked this year. I have spent quite a bit of time focusing on my art and hobbies, ensuring I enjoy those little moments with my girls, and focusing my energies on the good stuff like my family, and reducing my stress with things I cannot control.

This last one might sound easy, but for someone like me, an introverted stress-head I am finding it hard! I can worry like no one's business. I find it particularly hard not to stress about other people and what they may or may not have said about me, and change my train of thoughts.

A few months ago my husband's old boss lost his beloved wife to pancreatic cancer. We had known them both for over 20 years. They (K & E) were such sweet, lovable people who loved a laugh, good food, and catching up with their family and friends.



Of course my husband and I were devastated when we heard the news. We wished we had known, and had attended E's funeral. While Hubby caught up with his old boss once in a blue moon for drinks with other ex-colleagues, it had been a long while since he had heard or seen him.

I felt terrible that we hadn't known E had been fighting this awful cancer (she had throat cancer previously) or that she had passed away until another friend of my husband's told him.

Raising children these past 7 years changed our social calendar, and to that extent our friends. I guess we thought they would always be there, and find time in the new year to eventually have them over for lunch again.

Its when something like a death of a close friend or family member occurs you are reminded of what's important.

This year marks the 4th Christmas without my Dad. It still upsets me that he's not here with us, and to watch my Mum struggle on a daily basis without him, especially this time of year.

This year I am enjoying the festivities a little more cause I know my Dad wouldn't want me to be upset and he'd want me to enjoy Christmas with my family and be happy.

While we can focus too much of our energies on the negative, or toxic people, we need to harness our thoughts on the positive, and refocus on the good that's in our lives.

This year I am cherishing memories such as watching my girls get excited when they see Santa at the shop because I know this time won't last. Too soon they won't get excited about having a photo taken with Santa, or decorating the Christmas tree or leaving carrots out for the reindeer. All the same things I loved when I was little, and were excited about.

The moral of this post - focus on the things that matter most, and let go of everything that brings you down, or doesn't bring you purpose or happiness. Life is too short, so make sure you enjoy it while you can.

I am linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

17 November 2015

Memories of Paris

Nine years ago my Husband and I spent three wonderful weeks in Paris for our 10th wedding anniversary. We loved every minute of our time there, and didn't want to leave.

Paris is one of our favourite cities. We have been lucky to go there on 3 occasions, twice on our first overseas holiday (back in 1998), then again in 2006 for our anniversary.

Watching the atrocities of last Friday's terrorist attack unfold on the TV these past couple of nights has really disturbed me. Like so many other people, I am in complete shock. I can't help but feel for those poor people who lost their lives while enjoying their Friday night. Those people who were attending a soccer match, dining out, or listening to a concert.

I have seen enough of the grim photos from last week, and instead want to pay homage to this beautiful city by sharing some of my favourite photos and memories (I have many many photos of Paris so had to restrain myself by not sharing all of them!)....and yes we did take a lot of photos of the Eiffel Tour!



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I am linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT.


10 November 2015

Feeling grateful

Its been a while since I have written a gratitude post, so I thought it was timely with so much that's happened over the past week or so. I know I can focus too much on the negative at times, so I find redirecting my thoughts back to what I am feeling grateful for reminds me that not everything that happens to us has been bad, and that there has been some good stuff.

So without any further ado, here are my reasons for feeling grateful:

* Last week we received Cherub's MRI results, which have come back all clear. The Dr thinks she's just a little slow in the development stakes, and said nothing nasty was found. Hooray!

* Recently I got to spend a lovely long weekend away with a good friend of mine to the beautiful Snowy Mountains region. The weekend was originally intended for me to attend an interment service for my late Uncle and Aunt, but turned into a girls weekend away. It was so nice to relax (although I was feeling a little anxious being away from my girls for the first time!) and not have to worry about anybody else except myself.

L to R: Boloco countryside, Celebrating 19 years together, Our wedding day, view from our hotel at Jindabyne


* My Mum offered to look after the girls last night, so my Husband and I could go out for dinner in celebration of our wedding anniversary.

* Celebrating 19 years of marriage - even though it doesn't feel like it! I am grateful that we have a good, loving relationship and are there for each other through the good and the bad, we can talk about anything and everything, and have lasted this long.

* For my husband - he is such a sweet, caring, generous, thoughtful person and I am so grateful to have him as my husband and to share our life together.

* A few weeks ago a huge branch fell on the roof of our car, and smashed the back windscreen, left lots of dents and scratches, and a broken tail light. We are currently having discussions with the smash repairer on whether the car can be saved (from the sounds of it, it may be written off!), while it upsets us that we may have to buy a new car, I am so grateful that Cherub and I weren't hurt, or in the car when it happened.

* Getting together with friends - while everyone has busy lives, its so nice to spend time catching up with good friends and enjoy those type of conversations you wouldn't have over social media over food and wine.


What's been happening at your place?
What are you feeling grateful for?


I am joining Essentially Jess for IBOT.

29 October 2015

Kids craft: Ghostly plates




Last week Cherub and I created some fun ghosts out of paper plates. While we don't actually take the girls trick or treating (maybe that'll change when they're older) or celebrate Halloween, the girls still love to make craft for different holidays, and enjoy seeing kids dressed up in costumes.

All you need is:
Paper plates
White paper
Scissors
Streamers
Black marker, crayon, pencils, textas or paint
Ribbon

You could stick with a traditional ghost using a white paper plate, but as I only had some yellow chevron plates leftover from Cherub's rainbow birthday party, I used one of those instead. I think the chevron's add to his spooky effect!

Cherub and I shared our ghostly plate idea with the kids at playgroup, who of course loved it!

They were happy to draw spooky (or happy like Cherub's) faces on their plates, then stick on some arms and streamers to the plate.

Our last addition was a bit of ribbon at the top of the plate, so they can be hung up for Halloween!

The best thing about this craft is it was low mess, and didn't involve glue or paint. Which sometimes you need a break from.

Cherub's 'friendly' ghost

Suitable age group: 2+ yrs
Estimated setup time: 10 mins
Messiness factor: low


Do you celebrate Halloween? What's your favourite craft to make for Halloween?

13 October 2015

A worry warts guide in preparing for a childs birthday party

To say I am a bit of a worry-wart is an understatement! At times, I can suffer terrible anxiety when organising things like birthday parties, or get togethers. I've had it so bad that its made me feel so sick that I want to vomit.

When I started preparing for Cherub's birthday party last week, I had that sick-in-the-gut feeling every morning (Hubby was sure I was suffering morning sickness....I wish!) when I woke up worrying about what chores I still had to complete on my 'to-do' list, and how many days I had left to get them all done.

I also needed to ensure I had enough time to bake and decorate the cake. I was making Cherub a 'rainbow' cake (vanilla cake with rainbow decoration) and needed enough time to do that without feeling stressed. Haha, that so did not go to plan. I was so stressed making the cake, that it resulted in one stuff up after another.


From top left: Popette welcoming guests / Cherub playing "Pin the tail" /
Our 'rainbow' theme deck / Rainbow streamers and balloons

I am ashamed to say it, but I was horrible to the girls, a couple times I screamed at them to get out of the kitchen when they would pop in to see what I was doing. Of course, Hubby would put me in my place and told me a number of times to 'calm the f*ck down!' I eventually got the cake finished, before heading out for the evening with a friend...which I also stressed about...see I told you I'm a worry-wart! I shouldn't had worried, as I had a great night.

Cherub had a wonderful time at her party, and loved the rainbow theme we went with. As Cherub loooovess rainbows and colour so much, I thought it would be appropriate to have a rainbow party! She loves to tell us over and over again her favourite colours (yellow & purple), as well as all our favourite colours (me - purple, Popette - red, Daddy - blue), and tell anyone else that is interested in hearing about it. It made it pretty easy in finding cups, napkins and tablecloths, as they're available in all the colours of the rainbow! I think the hardest thing was coming up with games, and rainbow inspired food!


From top left: colouring-in station / rainbow fruit platter /
Cherub's "Rainbow" cake / Some party treats

Here is my advice to those of you worry-wart parents who are preparing for a child's birthday party:

* Break tasks down - I wrote a list of tasks and allocated them to different days, i.e. Fri - clean kitchen, sweep floors, bake cake, Sat - decorate cake, clean toilets, vacuum rugs, Sun (day of the party) - pick-up balloons, buy fresh fruit, hang decorations etc.

* Pick a few jobs rather than a lot - I spent a little time each day getting a few chores done and ticking them off the list, rather than spending the whole day doing a bunch of chores, than stress when I hadn't completed everything.

* Control your stress - I find if I try and do everything at once, my stress levels get out of control and if people are in my way, especially little people, I lose my shit with them very quickly. (Refer to making the cake!). Try and find a little time for yourself, to chill out and relax. As an introvert, I need a little peace and quiet, and be by myself. On Saturday I arranged for Hubby to take the girls to swimming lessons, so I could stay home and get started on the cake.

* Ask people for help - I was thankful that Hubby understood that I was dealing with some anxiousness about the party, so he helped me in getting some of the household chores done before the party, and with preparations on the day.

* Think of an intimate guest list - If you feel stressed out about having a large number of kids over for a party, think of having an intimate group of friends instead. I made it a small party (8 friends + Cherub and Popette), and only invited a few of Cherub's friends from playgroup and preschool. We didn't invite all of her friends, so I am a little worried that Mums will wonder why their child wasn't invited. To tell you the truth I just wanted the kids who played with Cherub, and who Cherub wanted to be there. I could have invited friends of both my girls, but then I didn't want them taking over the party and distracting Cherub from spending time with "her people".

We found 10 children a great size, as it let Cherub play with everyone. We also could spend money on buying a nice 'thank-you' present (a bubble wand) instead of the usual lolly bag. As we didn't want Popette to feel left out as she didn't have any of her friends at the party, I made her my special helper, where she got the kids ready for the games, and handing out balloons.

How do you handle stress when organising a party? Do you like large or small parties? What your's best advice to a worry-wart?

06 October 2015

Flowers, Cherub's Birthday and an MRI

Hello I'm back. I hope you had a great break. Today Popette and Cherub are back at school and preschool, meaning we are back to the routine of school drop-offs, speech and occupational therapy appointments, playgroup, doctors appointments etc.

It has been a lovely break apart from spending four hours in the Children's hospital for Cherub's MRI one day, and a not so lovely visit from inlaws.

I am thankful that the morning of the MRI went well, and Cherub was okay going into the room and went to sleep without crying. She was quite happy with the bed ride and later colouring in and making craft while eating an ice block, then some cheese and crackers in recovery.

Cherub back in recovery after her MRI
We are now waiting to see the neurosurgeon for his report in a few weeks time. I'm keeping my fingers crossed it will all be fine.

Thanks to those of you who wished me well with my test results. I received my results back from my 2 ultrasounds they both came back good. Now I just have to wait for my colonoscopy in 2 weeks time, which reminds me I still need to drop off my admission forms!

We had a great break and enjoyed some wonderful time together as a family. Hubby took a few days off throughout the holidays. He didn't want to miss Cherub's 4th birthday, which was spent at Sydney Aquarium. She had a wonderful time looking for Nemo, saying Hello to the fish and tickling the sharks in the tunnels.

Another highlight was a relaxing long weekend to Australia's capital, Canberra. We couldn't have asked for better weather while we were there. We spent one day at the Floriade enjoying all the flower displays. If you are unsure of Floriade, it is garden beds of flowers (mostly tulips) created into floral tributes. This year it was the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli. We all loved it. The kids also liked the Circus workshop where they got to try out some circus tricks.


The Floriade in colour
We couldn't go to Canberra without a compulsory visit to the National Gallery of Art, my fave, plus a trip to the Mint, Cockington Green and Parliament House. Popette's teacher has been talking about money a lot in class, so Popette really enjoyed seeing where it was made. I was a little sad that I didn't spot our new PM at Parliament House, but I got to enjoy a coffee and a laugh out of this coffee bean portrait of Julia Gillard!

I wonder what type of coffee she'd make?

I am linking up to EssentiallyJess IBOT.

15 September 2015

Playground antics and getting older

Is anyone looking forward to school holidays? I can't believe we are a few weeks away from the start of Term 4. Is it only me, but does it only feel like the year had just begun?

I will be happy to have a break from packing lunches and the school and preschool drop-off. Preschool has finished a day early for us, due to unforeseen circumstances at the centre so I've got Cherub at home today. 

I've had a stressful few weeks. Without going into too much detail, I've been having a couple of health issues. Over the past couple weeks I've been probed, scanned and tested. At the moment we are waiting on all my test results to come back. I'm keeping my fingers crossed its all good and just a sign of me getting older. Then later in October I'm booked in for a colonoscopy! I'm not at all looking forward to it. But my doctor assures me that I need to get it done as I'm over 40. The joys of turning older hey!

We've also had some issues with Popette in the playground. She had grown close with one particular girl all year, and had formed a lovely little relationship with her. The sort where they send each other letters stating "I love you so so so so much!". It was gorgeous. About a month ago Popette's other best friend, who she's known since forever, started at her school. This has been causing a little tension, and some "third-wheel" problems. I suggested to Popette that she plays with both girls, but it seems at one stage they played together and didn't include Popette, which has upsetted her. I think she feels as if she will lose both her "best" friends. 

Poor Popette hasn't reacted well and been saying not very nice things to her friends, and lashing out. I found out all of this through one of the little girl's mothers. Popette and I had a big talk about friendships, and how you should treat your friends. She seems to be a lot happier these past few days, so I am hoping she has patched things up with her friends. I hate seeing her so miserable.

What else has been happening? Well, my little blog turned 5 a couple weeks ago!! 5 years on, and I am still writing about my girls :)

Next week my hubby and I have to take Cherub for an MRI, following an appointment we had with a neurosurgeon at the beginning of the year about Cherub's poor balance, and coordination. He reassured me that its just to check her brain structure, and rule out anything. I am going to need a strong coffee that day!

Me and Cherub on Father's day

I can't believe this little one is nearly 4!

Cherub is also turning 4! I know I say it every year, but gee it comes by quickly. Lately I've been having a hard time watching my youngest grow up, I just want her to stay little forever. I sometimes ask Cherub "Can you stay little?", and she will say "OK mumma, I'll stay little" Nawww she's just so adorable. 

For Cherub's birthday we are planning a visit to the aquarium. Then after the holidays we'll be having a "Rainbow" party with some of her friends from preschool and playgroup. 

What have you got planned for the holidays? Have you had to give advice to your son or daughter about being a good friend? Have you had a colonoscopy?

I will be taking a little break over school holidays, and will be back here with news of Cherub's birthday party and news of our holidays in Term 4! Have a great break!

I am linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

01 September 2015

After the NICU


Popette was in hospital for a total of 50 days. We were thankful that apart from a little jaundice and being out in the big wide world too early, she didn't have anything wrong with her.

Popette sucking on her premmie sized dummy

Finally at home
We can still remember the nurses saying to us "She's a premmie growing up".

Our darling girl finally came home at 7 weeks of age (equiv. 36 weeks gestation) weighing 2.1kg. She was still so tiny, especially in the new car seat we only had fitted the day before. As she was so small my hubby had trouble strapping her into the car seat, and was scared that she'd fall out so I sat in the back with her holding her hand.

When we finally got her home we laid her in her new bassinette in her room, then after a while, moved her out to the lounge room so we could keep an eye on her and be close to her.

Even though Popette was out of hospital, we still encountered problems with her being born early. As she was so small I had difficulty latching her on to my breast. She also couldn't suck properly as she was tongue-tied. I persisted with the breastfeeding for months as I wanted to give her the nutrients she needed, but with flat nipples and a low milk supply (due to PCOS & trauma from the birth) it made it even more difficult. I expressed every 3 hours and took motilium to build up my milk supply but unfortunately the amount I was producing wasn't enough to keep up with her demands, so for a while we comp-fed then moved her to formula full-time.

She also had a habit of holding her breathe while sleeping, which scared the crap out of us. Thankfully that didn't last too long.

She is now my big girl who will be 7 in January. She is a sweet, funny and caring girl who loves writing stories, painting, riding her bike and playing with her little sister.


As a Mermaid for Book Week parade

This is my last post from my "Having a Premmie" series. Thank you to those of you who have come on this journey with me. I hope that anyone who has friends or relatives going through a similar situation will find my series useful.

25 August 2015

Excerpts from a NICU diary

Today I thought I'd share some excerpts from a keepsake diary we wrote in while Popette was in the NICU to give you an idea of what the days are like for a NICU parent. While most days were repetitive, such as dropping feeds off, watching monitors, and talking to Popette. It was the days when we got to have a cuddle for the first time or when I gave Popette her first sponge bath that made the visits to the NICU even more special. 

The pages in the diary are addressed to Popette.



Day 1: The day after Popette's birth


Today Nan, Pop and Daddy visited Mummy in the Acute Care ward. Nan and Pop gave Mummy a small pink bear, and a card with a 'baby girl' balloon for you.

Later that day Mummy was moved to the Maternity Ward and taken down to the NICU to visit you for the first time, where Mummy & Daddy named you.


Day 2:

During the day you were visited by Mummy & Daddy, Nan & Pop, Uncle N, Aunty K and cousins.

Mummy received some beautiful flowers from Daddy, and your Aunties & Uncles.

Mummy started expressing milk for your feeds.

Day 3:

Daddy came to the hospital early to spend all day with Mummy and you. Some more relatives and friends visited us, and you received some lovely presents.

Mummy and Daddy felt sad that you were born premature, but are happy that your progressing well.

Mummy visited you at 3am as she felt upset and couldn't sleep. Mummy felt so much better after seeing you!

Day 4:

The nurse took Daddy's wedding ring and placed it on your wrist! It looked like a bangle!

Mummy & Daddy love you very much and can't wait for you to get big and strong so they can take you home.

Day 5:

Daddy came in again for the day. We visited you a couple of times, each time bringing down lots of milk for you to have at your feed times.

Mummy & Daddy learnt cares from the nurse looking after you. Mummy helped clean your face and bottom, take your temperature and change your nappy.

Day 7: 

Mummy gave you your first sponge bath where she got to wash your hair. Daddy then helped Mummy change your nappy. It was Mummy's last day at the hospital so she was really upset to be leaving you, but happy she was going home with Daddy.

Day 8:

Today Mummy & Daddy had their first cuddle with you! One of the nurses took you out of your crib and placed you on Mummy's chest, then Daddy's chest where we had skin-to-skin contact.

Today you were off CPAP# for 3 hours and given 4 mils of Mummy's breastmilk at feedtime*.

Day 12: 

Mummy & Daddy had a cuddle with you, then Daddy read you the 'Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree' little golden book.

Mummy & Daddy were happy to hear that you had put on weight (1144gms) As of 2pm you were off CPAP for 40 hours.

Day 13:

Yay off CPAP for good!! You passed the test and have been taken off it for good. Mummy had 'Kangaroo cares' a skin-to-skin cuddle with you, which she enjoyed very much! You're now on 8ml feeds every 2 hours.

Day 17: 

Last night the central line was removed from your foot as you no longer required the supplements in the black bag, and you were taken off the caffeine for increasing heart rate and blood flow to stop sleep apnoea from occurring.

Day 18: 

Mummy & Daddy dropped off some milk, and spoke to the dispatch nurse about transferring you to the hospital near us so we would be closer to you, and we wouldn't have to drive so far to see you (40 minutes each way).

Mummy & Daddy were surprised to hear that the hospital had a bed available, and that you could be moved there today! While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, Mummy & Daddy did your cares and read you a story. Mummy then went with you in the ambulance (your first car trip!) to the hospital with Daddy following behind in the car.



Popette was in hospital for a total of 50 days, once she was moved to our local hospital (less than a 15 minute drive from our home) I didn't keep up with the journal as I found myself spending more time at the hospital.

#CPAP - continuous positive airway pressure
^*feedtime and cares - is performed every 3 hours and was the only time we are able to change Popette's nappy, give her a bath as well as have her removed from her crib to have a cuddle.

Feedtime consisted of a tube inserted into Popette's stomach through the nose, and was mostly a mixture of breastmilk and formula, as I wasn't always able to produce enough breastmilk. 

Have you missed a post?
 Having a Premmie series

18 August 2015

6 tips for dealing with parents of a premature baby


I remember different people's reactions when Popette arrived early. People often say things that can be quite hurtful and upsetting without even realising it. I had one relative ask me if Popette was going to make it. Of course it was on our minds, but we didn't want to discuss the possibility of her not making it. We wanted to show off our beautiful baby girl!

As new parents all we wanted was our baby to be healthy and well enough to take home.

Those first few months were an emotional roller-coaster ride for my husband and I. We didn't know anyone who had had a premature baby, so couldn't ask them for their advice or help. All we knew is what the doctors and nurses told us, or what we read from books or researched on the Internet.

Its a time when you really need the love, support and understanding of your family and friends.

Here are my 6 tips for dealing with parents of a premature baby.

1. What not to say 

Lets say your closest friend has had a premature baby. Please don't respond with "Oh bugger, how awful" or "Is she going to make it ?" I heard both these remarks!

Remember your friends are scared and extremely worried about their baby. They don't need to hear insensitive remarks or to be asked questions about mortality rates or long-term health effects.

Don't say "Oh look how tiny she is" or "How's little Johnny doing?". Your friends are aware of how tiny their baby is, you don't need to constantly remind them.

At this time, what your friend needs to hear is your concern and interest in their baby. Focus on how the baby is growing and developing.

2. Be a shoulder...

For a while your friends lives will revolve around visits to the NICU. They may not be interested in anything else until they know their child is thriving and can come home soon.

This is an important time for you to be there as a friend. Your friends need you now more than ever. Don't turn your back on them because they haven't called or text to see how you're doing or check how your overseas holiday was!

Remember they are going through a traumatic time and need the love and support of their families and friends. You don't need to say something to make them happy whenever you see or speak to them. You just being there and listening will be enough.

3. Help out if you can

I know everyone's lives are busy with careers, families and social lives. But what means a lot to parents with babies in the NICU are the little things. For example, when your friends get home after spending 4-5 hours at the hospital each day, the last thing they will feel like doing is cooking. They are probably sick of buying take-out, and would be grateful for a home cooked meal that they don't have to cook themselves.

Other ways you could help;

* If your friends have older kids offer to babysit so they can have a moment to themselves.

* Offer to pickup some groceries for them when you do your grocery shopping, even if its just bread and milk.

* Offer to do some of their clothes washing for them.

If your friend's baby has come a few months early, they may have not finalised the baby's room or bought things they need for the baby. Maybe ask them if they would like any help.

4. Remember they are still new parents

Just because your friends have had a premature baby doesn't mean they don't want to show off their precious newborn. Yes you can see photos they've loaded on Facebook, but if you can, go and visit them in hospital. Some NICU's allow 1 visitor (not just family) to escort 1 parent into the NICU. If your friend ask you if you would like to see their baby, don't be afraid or put off by the NICU. Say yes and be happy to see your friends sweet little baby.

5. This should be an exciting time for them but its not

If your friends are new, first-time parents, they are probably disappointed not to experience the joys of having a newborn and showing their beautiful newborn off to family and friends. It is hard hearing other people's friends being congratulated on their newborn, and to see deliveries of balloons, teddies and flowers arrive for new Mumma's when you have a newborn in the NICU. Try and make your visit special for your friends too!
                                     
6. Don't compare your full-term baby to your friends premmie

Popette who was a relatively healthy premature baby took approximately 2 years to catch up to her milestones. While she had delays with crawling, sitting and walking, she was doing all the things other full-term babies were doing by the time she reached 2.

Unfortunately some premature babies  may be born with development issues and other long-term health problems and take a lot longer.

Depending on how early they were born, lets say your friend's baby was born at 29 weeks gestation, that makes her baby 11 weeks early (approx. 3 months).

While its ok to be happy about your own child's milestones, try not to compare your little one who may have started walking early with your friend's premature baby, especially if they were supposed to be born the same month. This doesn't help your friend whose baby might be only rolling at the same time.


I can't stress how important your love and support will be to your friends through this tough time. I was lucky and had the love and support of my family and close friends, but unfortunately there were some people who didn't realise how stressful a time it was for us and didn't know how to support us.

Don't expect your friends to get over their child's birth (especially it if was a traumatic time for both mother and baby) or time spent in the NICU quickly. It took my husband and I a long time to be able to talk about Popette's birth without us both getting emotional and teary. Its a thing you never forget.

I hope by sharing my experience and stories, anyone who has friends or relatives going through a similar situation will find these posts useful. Read other posts from this series:

An introduction to my series: Having a Premmie
The arrival of Popette: my experience with pre-eclampsia & HELLP syndrome
Letter to the new NICU Mumma

11 August 2015

Letter to the new NICU Mumma
















Hello Mumma,


I know it sounds strange to be called Mumma when your baby should still be in your tummy.

I know you are scared, terrified, anxious, worried about what you did that could have caused your baby to be born early. 

Nothing you did made your baby come early.

Be kind to yourself Mumma. I know its hard. 

Please don't feel like a failure because you couldn't bring your baby to full term. Its not your fault. 

If you had a choice your baby would still be all snug in your tummy, growing and getting all the nutrients it needs. 

You gave your baby as much as you possibly could. Please don't beat yourself up.

I know it hurts not to have your baby in the room with you, or to be able to hold her, nurse her, or when you hear the joy of other new Mumma's with their newborns in the room. 

Its okay to be angry, to cry, to be disappointed. 


But also remember the joy when you first saw your sweet baby's face. The moment you got to hold her tiny little finger and hear her cry.

Spend time talking to her, let her hear your voice, tell her your dreams, read her stories. 

Touch her through the portholes of the humidicrib so she knows you are there and she's not all alone.

Help the nurses with changing her nappy when you are able to.


Believe that her doctor and nurses are doing their very best to look after your little one. You may not believe it when they say she can come off the oxygen machine and can breathe on her own. Rest assured they know what they are doing.

It will be worth it once you get to hold that sweet baby in your arms and eventually take her home.

You may question the doctors time and time again, and worry about all the different alarms and monitors going off. Remember everything they are doing is for a good reason, and is so your little one can soon come home.



Mumma, make sure you sleep when you can, eat healthy, drink water and try to think positively about your sweet baby. You need to look after yourself.

I know you are finding it difficult, but you need to rest and make sure you have plenty of strength to get you through this difficult time. 

Be there for your partner, cry, talk, hug, share your thoughts and worries.

I know this isn't the start into parenthood you wanted, but its here now so make sure you treasure every moment with your little one.

Lots of love, Julie
ex-NICU Mummy of Popette (6 1/2 years)

I am linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT

04 August 2015

The arrival of Popette: my experience with pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome

Welcome to my new blog series “Having a Premmie". Throughout this series I will be sharing my experience and knowledge on what it is like to have a premature baby in the NICU. 

By sharing my experience and stories here, I hope anyone who has friends or relatives going through a similar situation will find these posts useful.



My Husband and I left it late in having children. We had been married for 13 wonderful years, was paying off a mortgage, had travelled overseas numerous times, enjoyed going out with friends and taking long-weekends away. We both had fairly good careers and were really happy. It took us some time to realise, that what we both wanted was a family of our own.

So in late 2007 we started trying for a baby. We had been trying to conceive for over 12 months, so it wasn't until I was 35 before I finally fell pregnant. 

We were both thrilled, and couldn't wait to see our little tiny baby on the ultrasound. Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be, and at 5 weeks gestation I miscarried. As you could imagine we were devastated. 

Due to my age and history of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), I was considered a high risk pregnancy, so after talking with our GP he put us onto a wonderful obstetrician. The obstetrician placed me on Metformin (to help with insulin levels) and monitored me closely over the next couple months. Thankfully within two months I was pregnant again!

I was pretty fortunate not to have morning sickness throughout my pregnancy. I was eating healthy, doing light exercises, generally I felt great. I loved seeing my little bump getting bigger and bigger. I loved the feeling of Popette (the nickname we gave our bub early on) kicking me. It always gave my Hubby and I the biggest thrill when we felt her kick.

At around 18 weeks gestation, I started to develop Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) that caused my blood pressure to get extremely high during my pregnancy. Before I was pregnant, I never had issues with my blood pressure.

During my 2nd trimester I was a frequent visitor at the Fetal and Maternal Assessment Unit (FMAU) located at our local hospital where nurses took my blood, checked my blood pressure and tested my urine over a 4-hour period for possible signs of pre-eclampsia.

On my last FMAU visit, a week before Popette was born, the Head Nurse told me to get some clothes together as I was being admitted into hospital for a few days evaluation. At the time I was experiencing terrible migraines, oedema (swollen ankles), high blood pressure, and protein in the urine. Just some symptoms of pre-eclampsia. I was 28 weeks gestation + 2 days.

It was 3 days after Christmas, and my husband and I were making plans with our friends to see the fireworks in the City as well as celebrate my birthday, which also happens to be on New Year’s Eve. However my blood pressure had a mind of its own and didn't show any signs of lowering, so I was forced to stay in hospital missing New Year's Eve (my birthday), and New Year’s Day (my husband's birthday).

At 29 weeks gestation + 2 days, a week after I was admitted, the doctor's noticed that my platelet levels were dropping. The first reading at 14,000 then to 11,000 million per millimetre (ml) of blood, the next reading was as low as 7,000 ml. A normal number for platelets during pregnancy is around 150 and 400 million per millimetre (ml). 

I was told by my renal physician that I was developing severe pre-eclampsia and that the baby may need to be delivered soon. 

My husband and I were then given a bunch of fliers on what to expect if our baby was born early. There was details on what it was like having a baby inside a NICU, a list of long-term problems associated with premature birth (i.e. blindness, cerebral palsy etc) and a graph showing the mortality rates for premature babies born at different gestation periods. Reading through the information terrified us both. We didn't want to have our baby now we wanted her in 3 months time when she was due.

The night before Popette was born, I remember having terrible back pain and experiencing reflux. I hadn't been pregnant before so thought it was a normal sign of pregnancy, what I didn't realise was that my body was going into HELLP syndrome. By the morning, the doctors could feel my liver protruding through to my stomach. I was experiencing a lot of pain. My face became swollen and jaundice due to my kidneys failing.
Me the morning of Popette's birth
My doctor's told me that the placenta was rejecting my liver, causing my liver and kidneys to shut down and that it was critical for the baby to be delivered. Due to a lack of beds in the hospital's NICU, I was transferred to another hospital.

I burst into tears as I rang my Hubby who was getting ready to leave for work, and told him the news.

"Popette" was born at 29 weeks + 3 days (11 weeks premature) via an emergency 
cesarean

Although she was tiny, weighing 1.148kg, she was remarkably healthy for a premmie. After the delivery, I was moved to acute care for 27 hours. I had not seen my husband since the operation, or knew if the baby was a boy or a girl as they whisked her away after the cesarean.
The Polaroid photo of Popette
During the course of the evening, I was monitored around the clock by nurses, who had me hooked up to an automated blood pressure machine that took my blood pressure every half an hour, a drip containing magnesium sulfate to reduce the risk of me going into seizures or full-blown eclampsia, a catheter, and epidural.

Before my husband left me for the evening, he gave me a photo of Popette that the nurses had taken when she was first born. This was my introduction to my sweet baby girl.

We sticky-taped the photo to the side of my bed, which I looked at throughout the night wishing I could go see my little girl.
Finally meeting my gorgeous girl 27 hours after she was born

Popette spent a total of 50 days in the NICU. We are
 so grateful that we had such good doctors and nurses looking after my daughter and myself.

Its hard to believe that was 6 1/2 years ago. 

Popette is now in Year 1 at school and is a healthy, happy little girl. Thankfully she has no long-standing health problems from being born early.


You can find further information on Pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome via the links below:

PEARLS
http://www.preeclampsia.org.au/faq.php

Australian Action on Pre-Eclampsia
http://www.aapec.org.au/index.php

Questions about Pre-Eclampsia
http://www.aapec.org.au/Pre-Eclampsia/index.php

Austprem
http://www.austprem.org.au/austprem_2.shtml

Austprem - HELLP general information
http://www.austprem.org.au/journey/pregnancy/hellp.shtml

Austprem - Pre-eclampsia general information
http://www.austprem.org.au/journey/pregnancy/pree.shtml

Please note, I am not a medical professional. This post is a description of what I have experienced, and intended for your information only. Please check with your healthcare professional for further or more specific information on how this condition might affect you throughout your pregnancy.

I am linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT

28 July 2015

An introduction to my new series - Having a Premmie

Over the last 6 years, I have had various friends ask my advice on how they can support their friends who have had a premature baby. At first I was a little worried that I might not be able to help them. As it was some time ago my memory has become a little foggy with remembering all the details of those days (nearly 7 years ago) but there are those things you never quite forget.

It got me thinking of the experiences I went through with Popette when she was in the NICU, and what helped my Husband and I get through such a traumatic time.




So I told my friends what I went through and experienced, and of the different organisations and people that might be able to help their friends. I was pleased when they told me that the information I gave them was very useful.

I know I have talked about Popette's birth and my experience with pre-eclampsia here before, but I thought I would reshare these posts along with a new series of posts on what its like to have a premature baby in the NICU.

Some of the topics I plan to write about include:

* 6 tips for dealing with parents of a premature baby
* The arrival of Popette: my experience with pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome,
* Excerpts from Popette's NICU diary,
* A letter to the new NICU Mumma,

This series is very personal and close to my heart, so hope you will join me. By sharing my experience and stories here, I hope anyone who has friends or relatives going through a similar situation will find these posts useful.

               Here's a sneak peek into the first post                

The arrival of Popette: my experience with pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome


My Husband and I left it late in having children. We had been married for 13 wonderful years, was paying off a mortgage, had 
travelled overseas numerous times, enjoyed going out with friends and taking long-weekends away. We both had fairly good careers and were really happy. It took us some time to realise that what we both wanted, was a family of our own.

So in late 2007 we started trying for a baby. We had been trying to conceive for over 12 months, so it wasn't until I was 35 before I finally fell pregnant.

We were both thrilled, and couldn't wait to see our little tiny baby on the ultrasound. Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be, and at 5 weeks gestation I miscarried. As you could imagine we were devastated. 

Due to my age and history of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), I was considered a high risk pregnancy, so after talking with our GP he put us onto a wonderful obstetrician. The obstetrician placed me on Metformin (to help with insulin levels) and monitored me closely over the next couple months. Thankfully within two months I was pregnant again!

I was pretty fortunate not to have morning sickness throughout my pregnancy. I was eating healthy, doing light exercises, generally I felt great. I loved seeing my little bump getting bigger and bigger. I loved the feeling of Popette (the nickname we gave our bub early on) kicking me. It always gave my Hubby and I the biggest thrill when we felt her kick.


At around 18 weeks gestation, I started to develop Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) that caused my blood pressure to get extremely high during my pregnancy. Before I was pregnant, I never had issues with my blood pressure.

   See next week's post to hear more of this story  

I am linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT

20 July 2015

The things you do to have a baby

What would you do to have a healthy, happy, bouncing baby?

What if you couldn't have a baby? 

Would you adopt, find a surrogate, try IVF? 

What if the doctors told you couldn't fall pregnant or it was dangerous? 

Would you still try?


Some couples use all of their life savings to try for a baby through IVF, we were fortunate enough not have to go down that path. 

For my husband and I, we had to consider was it worth having another high-risk pregnancy, when trying for our second daughter Cherub.


I thought by sharing our story here I could encourage those Mumma's who are afraid of taking a risk, that there is hope.

After the ordeal we went through with Popette, we were terrified that the same thing might happen again. However, we were reassured by both my OB and renal physician, that it would be safe for us to try again.

Trying for Cherub didn't come easy. As a 38 year old Mumma with a history of PCOS, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and Popette's early birth, we had a few obstacles in our way.

We tried to conceive for 6 months but nothing happened, on the advice of my OB I started taking Clomid to help stimulate my ovaries. We were advised to take note of our window of opportunity to conceive, then go for it!

It was disappointing when I would visit my OB to get told that I hadn't ovulated that month, and that we would need to take another course of Clomid, and try again!

The same feeling of disappointment came when my period hadn't arrived, and we thought I might be pregnant only to find a negative result display on the test strip.

After 3 courses of Clomid and nearly 12 months of trying to conceive we finally fell pregnant with Cherub!

Due to the risks of me developing pre-eclampsia, I was placed on various medications throughout the pregnancy - Aldomet (to control my blood pressure) twice a day, Cartia (low dose aspirin to thin the blood), Metformin (to help with insulin levels from PCOS), and Clexane injections (from 7 weeks gest to 6 weeks post birth).

I never thought I would be able to inject myself with a needle. I remember when we were first told I felt squeamish and didn't think I would be able to do it and said to my Husband that he would need to do it for me. Well after a couple of painful injections - I took over from him!

There was a 10-15% chance of me suffering pre-eclampsia again, so the little pain I had to suffer was something I was willing to endure to have a healthy baby.

Fortunately all the precautions and close observation by my doctors paid off. Cherub was born healthy at 38 weeks by cesarean. I would have liked to have tried delivering her naturally, however the risk of me developing severe pre-eclampsia past 38 weeks was just too high. 


Its not to say we didn't have complications.

At 7 weeks, just after starting the clexane, I started bleeding heavily. I thought we were going to lose our baby, and was beside myself while waiting in the Emergency department at the hospital. The ER doctors couldn't tell me at that stage if the baby was going to be OK, as it was still a little early to hear the heartbeat. 

A follow-up appointment a few days later confirmed that everything was alright with the baby, however the bleeding continued on until I was in my 2nd trimester. 

When Cherub was born my blood pressure became unstable resulting in me staying in the hospital a lot longer than I wanted. Thankfully it wasn't anything like Popette's birth, and only required an adjustment on my meds and bed rest.

I sometimes wonder why it was so hard for us to have a healthy, happy baby. I am just grateful that we didn't give up hope, and listened to our doctors and took on their advice, otherwise we wouldn't have our beautiful girl with us here today.

16 July 2015

Being grateful: for time spent together

Does anyone ever feel a little sad when the school holidays are over or is it just me? Its not to say I wasn't a little eager to get Cherub off to preschool on Monday, then Popette back to school on Tuesday. Its when they are both having fun at "school" I miss them not being at home.

As I had a terrible flu the holidays started a little slow for us. I'm grateful Hubby took a couple days off work to take care of the kids, while I rested in bed. 

Overall our holidays were relaxing, with most of the time spent at home. It was a combination of some slow days where I pottered around the house. The girls played together, and did lots of colouring in and drawing. They painted, made some bird craft which Popette then made in to a puppet show. She has such an imagination! 

The girls played in the sandpit and rode their bikes. I even got time to do some of my own art while sitting at the dining table (aka our art space) with the girls while they coloured or drew pictures. 


We also had a few busy days. There was outings with friends, a special trip to see Disney on Ice with Daddy, and a long weekend spent near the Hunter region of NSW, where we caught up with Hubby's Mum for her 60th birthday. Although it was chilly, we enjoyed dining out on her birthday, then a lovely day trip to the Hunter Valley the next day. Hubby and I also managed to go out for dinner without kids (Score!)

Oh I wish I owned a vineyard!

It had been so long since we had visited the Hunter Valley. I think I was pregnant with Popette the last time we had been there, so it was nice to drive around and look at the scenery. Its a shame its become some commercialized, everything seemed so expensive. One winery we visited even charged for their wine tastings! Luckily the wine was nice, so that made up for it.

I am grateful that we spent this time together, although Hubby worked through most of the holidays, it was wonderful when he did get to take a day or afternoon off so we could all spend time together.

What did you do over the holidays? Did you do go away or stay home?

24 June 2015

The school holidays lurgy

Well its that time again where school holidays are just around the corner and what do you know, I am sick again! I. am. over. it! I don't know what it is but for some reason I seem to catch whatever lurgy the girls have had, but get it worse, right in time for school holidays!!

Maybe I'm rundown and in need of a "Mummy holiday"....oh I wish, I guess a girl can dream.

Anyway I'm going to keep this short, as I have a cracker of a headache. I thought I would leave with you some happy snaps and wish you a nice break over the school holidays. I'll be taking a little break from the blog and will be back at it when school goes back.

I am hoping by then I'll be feeling much better and be able to write more than a couple paragraphs :)

Now here's the happy snaps!!

It was a freezing cold day on Sunday and what did the girls want as a treat....an iceblock!
After a couple weeks of scooting, Popette rode her bike without
training wheels for the 1st time!!

Yaaay!! She did it!! A very happy Popette.

19 June 2015

Recipe: Orange cake

Orange cake (serves 8-10 people)



Ingredients:

90g butter
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
3 tablespoon orange juice
1/2 cups of water
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar#
1 1/4 cup self raising flour, sifted

Method:

Grease and line 20cm round cake tin with grease-proof baking paper.

Place butter, orange rind, orange juice & water in a saucepan and stir until butter has melted.

In a separate bowl beat eggs & sugar until thick & creamy.

Fold sifted flour into egg mixture. Then lightly fold hot liquid into flour and egg mixture.

Pour into tin and bake in moderate oven at 180 degrees* for 35 to 40 minutes.

Turn onto rack & cool.


This is a lovely cake. Its very light and quite moist. Next time I made it I would add more grated orange rind, as the flavour is quite subtle.

Suggestions

# Since I didn't have any caster sugar in the pantry I substituted it for raw sugar, which still made the cake very light.

I have made this cake before for my Mum's 70th (shown below), as a double-layer cake with whipped cream spread in the middle using a 23cm round springform cake tin, which took 35 minutes to cook in a 160 degree (fan forced) oven.


*Timing and temperature may vary depending on your type of oven.