Tuesday, September 18, 2007


On Monday I took the Noodle to get his plasters on both feet and lower legs. He chose blue. I took the wheelchair with us because we were catching public transport home and I wasn't sure how the Noodle would balance with plasters on both legs. He was fine; I had forgotten how much weaker he was last time he had a series of plasters on. He managed all day at school without any trouble yesterday.

But there we were in the city, with a kid and a wheelchair and a day off school. Noodle decided he wanted a haircut, and why not get some lunch and make a day of it. The wheelchair certainly makes days out with the Noodle more fun (in that it reduces whining to almost zero).

I felt a bit like I was on Candid Camera. There was a kid with both feet in plaster, being wheeled around, when we come to a set of steps. Out jumps the kid, clambers up the steps with a bit of help, waits while I lift the wheelchair up the steps, and in he hops. It didn't occur to Noodle that this was in any way unusual, but it caused me to snicker a little bit.

The oddest thing, though, was the way people suddenly started trying to touch the Noodle, to grab on to his arms and to pat him. This was a prelude to shouted questions of such startling originality as 'Are you having a nice day?' and 'Aren't you a dear little boy?'. He didn't look particularly dear to my eyes, since he spent most of the day laughing like a drain at pretending to run while I wheeled him as fast as I could, and then trying to grab the wheels of the chair to stop me propelling him into handbag shops. Amusing, yes. Dear, no.

And to the man who chased us down the street in order to continue patronising the Noodle and who creepily continued trying to grab hold of him even after he drew back, you can go to a nasty burning place. We had to cross the road and pretend to go into a shop to get away from him.

But to the other man on the train, thanks for the genuine interest, lovely chat and introduction to your friend. I hope she enjoyed her tea. I hope that my son meets plenty of people like the train man, and also learns to differentiate between weird attention and friendliness from strangers. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Brisbane Writers Festival

Today we went to the Brisbane Writers (no apostrophe) Festival. I think this is the first time we haven't tried to drag the Noodle along since the week before he was born, except for the time I chaired a session at the school's section last year, and that was only because it coincided with a kindy day. He spent today with his Nana instead, and we have carrot cakes to prove it.

The highlight (apart from being unemcumbered by a resentful and hot baby/toddler/pre-schooler) was Damon Galgut. I never read The Good Doctor, but I can tell you I will as soon as possible, which will be when we get to Canberra and unpack all the books. A pleasant side effect is the reduction of the 'I hate all my stuff' feelings I've been having all week as I pack it away into boxes. Wanting something out of one of the boxes reminds me that I will want all of the stuff again at some stage. But Damon Galgut was not only good because he's solved one of my domestic anxieties, oh no. He was serious, considered, thoughtful and reflective, without once being dull. The fellow interviewing him got a bit stuck on the difference between personal and political experience in novels (feminism must have passed him by I guess), and he also kept 'yepping', 'mm-hmming' and interrupting before Galgut was finished. This was irritating, so I ignored him by writing a novel in my head (which was great because I got to imagine killing off my teenage nemesis in a car crash, which is something I haven't done since I was actually a teenager. It was fun, I recommend it).

The launch of the David Unaipon winner for 2006 was also a highlight, because the book, Me, Antman and Fleabag, is so hilarious. The story about Aunty Pearlie, and the one about the mum and dad going on a luxury train trip are some of the funniest things I've ever read. I first heard Gayle Kennedy read them on Radio National earlier in the year, and my husband was laughing so hard that he almost had to pull over and park the car.

Otherwise I listened to my excellent poet friend Carmen Keates read some of her work, which was filled with the most unexpected and perfect metaphors. She is a metaphor queen, no doubt. I can't wait until she gets her work published.

This year I did not embarrass myself in front of any famous authors, and even when introduced to David Malouf I just said 'pleased to meet you' in a quiet and polite kind of voice, and smiled in a non-stalkerish kind of way. Other parents of 5-6 year old children who we have seen dragging their offspring to various festivals in recent years were noticeably absent, but the new mothers were happily breastfeeding their children into quiet submission, and were happily unaware of the years of writers' festival conflict yet to come into their lives.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Hospital, head colds and home again, home again

The hospital visits were, mostly, positive. The OT was very pleased with the Noodle's typing, writing and drawing, and the doctor was amazed at how strong and resilient he has become. The physiotherapists were not quite so happy with his feet, though. He hasn't had his AFOs (ankle foot orthotics) for a month, and a lot of the flexibility has gone. So that means plasters again for a week to get the foot into the right position again for heel-down walking before the new AFOs are ready.

The Noodle's first AFOs only took the orthotist a few days to make. I realise now what a dizzying rush he must have been in to get them done so quickly, and how urgent it was that they were ready when his plasters came off. We didn't have a clue, back then, what the Noodle's rehabilitation would take, or how well he would recover. When we arrived back in Australia he couldn't walk more than a step or two, on absolute tip toes. To watch him getting around independently is as wonderful as it is possible to be while still wishing that he didn't have to be conscious of his stability and his fatigue all the time, like other kids at school.

The eye doctors were a little less satisfactory, but nothing unexpected really.

I'm sure there's a joke about seeing an orthoptist and and orthotist on the same day, but I can't think what it might be. Maybe it needs a third concept like op shop, optometrist, optimist or option anxiety. If I think of anything I'll keep you posted.

The Noodle was exhausted by the experience, though, and needed Wednesday off school. Now he has a head cold. Snot makes him more miserable than anything else. He can tough out all kinds of things, but a runny nose just brings him to tears.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

de ja what?

So here we are in the middle of packing up all our stuff again, for the seventh time in ten years. I have come to the unsurprising realisation that I hate all my stuff, and never wish to see it again. My husband keeps telling me not to throw things away. He caught me trying to toss my favourite pasta plates into the rubbish, so things are clearly not going to the usual plan.

I have, in the past, refused to let go of even my Fashion Plates, from when I was a wee kiddie of limited artistic ability but great ambition, so this is quite the turnaround.

The only thing that keeps me going (slowly) at stuffing things in boxes is the fun it might be opening them up in February when we find a place to live in Canberra. Although right now I am convinced that the gods of dramatic life-changes are frowning upon me and will return me to my rut with a kick in the rump for good measure.

I hope not.

Last time I moved interstate I packed up some stuff in some plastic bags, boarded the bus to Brisbane at Spencer Street Station in Melbourne, and found myself the cheapest, dumpiest house still standing to live in. That version left the Fashion Plates in storage for a long, long time, though. This time I'm hoping to be drawing up an 80s inspired fashion storm within months, at least.


Me: China Mieville short stories. They remind me of the husband's writing, although I am fairly sure they have not been holding an unofficial writers group from opposite sides of the planet. The one about the ball room at the thinly disguised IKEA store left me feeling badly spooked. That's what you get for hiding in the toilet to read when you should be packing boxes of crockery. Homewares will have their revenge, it seems.

Noodle: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. He was oddly unmoved by Fudge eating the turtle, although he is usually greatly distressed by this kind of thing (death, rather than ingestion of turtles. I'm not sure that he's experienced the ingestion of turtles before, either in reality or in fiction). I don't think I'm ever going to get to read him a whole book ever again. He sneakily wakes up early in the morning and finishes the whole novel after I've read one or two chapters out loud. It makes for peaceful mornings, but I was looking forward to serial reading for years to come. I borrowed Beezus and Ramona for him from the library. I suspect he's wishing he had a little brother or sister.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Medical days

Tomorrow is a big hospital visit day. First up, at 8am, we have a visit to a new eye doctor. The Noodle has a ptosis (droopy eyelid), Marcus-Gunn jaw wink syndrome (which means that when his jaw moves in certain ways one of his eyes winks in a neatly matching rhythm) and problems with elevation in the affected eye. Eye doctors find him the equivalent of a day out at the Ekka*.

However, they also cannot decide what to do about the various issues. He has his eye patched for two to four hours a day (honest guv'nor, it is two hours, it just seems shorter...). They intend to do surgery at some time, but we can't know when, since his underlying mitochondrial condition might be responsible, and also has implications for anaesthesia. So tomorrow we go to face another doctor to answer the same questions, to watch the Noodle put through the same tricks and to hear the same answers back. We have been most obliging to the various doctors, attending student learning sessions and exams, going along to grand rounds and being gawked at by students, residents and diverse other doctors at normal appointments. I am frankly getting the point of wondering why they bother with all this information sharing, since none of them quite seem sure what to do anyway. Oh yes, I know medicine is not precise, and I very much appreciate a doctor who can say 'I'm not sure' rather than a doctor who pretends to know what they are doing when they don't, but it would be nice to hear something definite(ly good).

The other appointment should be more fun (and yes, these kinds of things do alter your definition of what 'fun' might be). We'll be going to the rehabilitation clinic at the Other children's hospital. The rehabilitation doctors and the crew of physios, OTs and the guy who does the plastering and AFO building are amongt the best collection of health professionals we've come across. They got the Noodle walking again, with the help of the good people at Montrose Access of course. But they also just 'get' him as a human being. Unlike other specialists (and yes, eye doctors and neuroscience types, I am talking about you), these people always see the kids as real people, with desires and frustrations and families and so on. Actually, the best of the neuroscience types are pretty good here too, because tracking down neurology symptoms is a pretty wholistic kind of process. But the worst of them, my goodness. You'd think that they'd spent their entire youth locked away in a series of rooms thinking as hard as they could about abstract concepts without actually discussing anything other than medicine for about fifteen years.

But we haven't had a big hospital day for a few months. The only time I've been inside either of the hospitals recently has been to pick up the Noodle's supplements at the pharmacy. I'm grateful for the break, but I'm also grateful for the level of care and interest that doctors and nurses have given the Noodle over the past years. Mostly. Sometimes I really want to smack a few smartly on the cheek, in a metaphorical and not at all against the hospital-policy-on-violence kind of a way.

*The Ekka is the Brisbane version of an agricultural show with rides and exhibitions and so on. It takes place quite near one of the hospitals.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

life without books

Horrifyingly we are in the process of moving again. Since filling out my records for the new job I realise I have moved six times in the last ten years. We'll be doing it twice in the next six months, although only packing and unpacking once and storing the stuff in between times.

But this is the problem. All my books will be in boxes, stored in a shed somewhere where I am not.

How will I be able to maintain my personality when all my lovely books are hidden from view? How will I keep myself whole without walls of words to browse from? Oh yes, there's always the library. But those books, however full of satisfaction between their covers, are not mine. Any old person can invent themselves using those books. And library books run out so quickly; as soon as you get them home they are nearly finished (just like ice-cream, Belgian chocolate and conversation with old friends you haven't seen for a while).

This is starting to become a serious reason for buying a house. If all my books could live somewhere safe and secure (even without built-in-bookshelves) I think I could expend a lot more of my energy on such things as a career, writing, being a good mother and so on. This constant worrying about packing books into boxes, unpacking books out of boxes, and finding a house large enough to fit books, boxes and bookshelves into is absorbing too much of my power for good.

It's either that or get rid of the books, I suppose. Of course, if I hadn't spent all that money on books in the first place I'd probably have enough saved up to buy a house, even at current inflated prices. Or perhaps I could build a house out of books, and invite Kevin McCloud from Grand Designs to come and follow the project. I'm sure if I could only find a way of waterproofing the outside a house of books would be very comfortable, well insulated and quiet. The jackets could face inwards to make the process of interior design easy as well.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A small good thing

So now you all know I like Raymond Carver.

The good thing is that we bought ourselves electric toothbrushes.

They really are better.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Teaching is bliss

Today I had one of those moments of teaching that you dream about after watching sentimental movies like Goodbye Mr Chips or that one with Robin Williams and the desks.

I'm lucky enough to be teaching undergraduate education students in a unit of Indigenous cultural studies, aimed at helping them embed Indigenous perspectives in their teaching practice. Some of the students have been having a hard time learning to understand that their cultural and historical perspective is not the only one. The responses have been varied. One young fellow ignores everything everyone else says and repeats the same comments every week. One women struggles away silently, but occasionally introduces a novel or insightful way of thinking. And today someone just got it. He changed his mind. He really, really did.

In his own time, he came to me to discuss his A- essay to ask how he could improve his work. He then discussed, with great insight, the topic of that assignment in a way that demonstrated that he'd continued to think about it after handing it in. In fact, if he'd included the analysis he made during our conversation in his submitted work he would certainly have been an A+.

After this moment he went on to talk about his developing views on Indigenous education and cross-cultural education, and how the material in the class was challenging his cultural assumptions. He talked about how one of the teachers from the school he went to said to him 'Indigenous studies, why would you want to do that?' and he had his first inkling of the institutionalised racism that Indigenous kids face, and the willingness of non-Indigenous kids and adults to let Indigenous people be invisible in the education system.

I've taught all kinds of things over the past few years. But this is the first time I feel like I've watched someone learn something that really matters. Something that will continue to matter for a long time after I say goodbye to him. And something, of course, that I could never really teach him. Something that he learned for himself. So I don't really have any reason for feeling as proud as I do, but I do!