Monday, March 29, 2010

Teenagers

On a blog that is now required reading for me, I've just been reading about a wonderful act of kindness by three teenage girls. This blog is now set to private, the girls took the time to pause their travels and care for and comfort some children who were injured and upset.

What these girls did was amazing and selfless and brave.

And it got me thinking about how great teenagers are, and how little we (by 'we' I mean we as a society) recognise that.

I am well aware that a great deal of the blame for that rests with the media, who love a good tale of teens out of control: teen joyriders, teen hooligans, teen party animals, reckless teens, violent teens, teen vandals....you get the picture....(do a Google search on news+ teens, and you won't get too many 'feelgood' stories, that's for sure).

For a while now, I've been contemplating a move to high school teaching. Most of the people I know are fairly supportive, but many people make comments on how hard it would be to work with teenagers, how much attitude they give etc.
In my experience, a 10 year old can give as much (of not more) attitude than a teenager anyway!

Take Samuel for example. He was a bit of a ratbag, yes, occasionally bad-tempered, sometimes rude, often cranky, but he was a nice kid. Even when he was cranky or rude, he generally found a way to make up for it later. And really, it wasn't that often. And when thousands of strange hormones are running through your body, of course you're going to be a bit 'odd' (just ask any woman in their childbearing years!) And he had certainly 'mellowed' a hell of a lot by the time he hit high school! In fact, I'd say that his most horrible years were firmly based in primary school.

Sam had time for everyone. He chose his friends based on common interests and comparability, not popularity. He was funny and smart and optimistic. He could write well and was good at science and maths. He was a talented mimic and good at music. He went out of his way to help people and willingly spent one night a week with his nanna. He took on the responsibility we gave him willingly. He did as he was asked to do. He put up with a couple of workaholic, stressed, slightly crazy parents with good humour and grace. He followed the rules. He persisted with things that were hard (most of the time).
He was just a wonderful kid. To not have seen the kind of teenager he would have become is just criminal. Though I can make a pretty good estimation.

I get a glimpse of what he could have been through his friends and peers. Some of the things they have said about him confirm everything I had hoped he would be. He was such a good friend to them.

And then I see some of the things they do and it gives me hope. Why just tonight as I finished reading Kate's blog, I logged onto Facebook and saw a photo of Sam in my news feed. One of the lovely girls in his friendship group had taken a photo of him, added a poem and some lovely edited touches. Of course it brought me instantly to tears, but I thought it was just beautiful.

These kids constantly amaze me with wonderful gestures like that. And I can't help but think that if these kids, and Sam, and the girls in Kate's blog can be like this, then surely there are a whole heap of other teens that are just the same?

I'm not stupid or idealistic enough to believe that every teen in the world is wonderful and faultless and 'savable', but as long as I know there's a few, I know that the world's probably going to be OK. Hey they might have faults and make mistakes, isn't that what being a teen is all about? At least their faults and mistakes generally don't affect lots of people.
Come to think of it, I don't know a whole lot of adults who are wonderful and faultless, do you?

So I'd like to put it on the record that I think teenagers are OK. And the more I think about it, the more I think that high school is where I want to be. Yes there will probably be times when I think 'what the hell am I doing?', but who wouldn't want to be in on the wonderful roller coaster that is adolescence?


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday afternoons on the deck

Disclaimer: this post was written at the end of a lovely day of company, with a few alcoholic type bevvies involved. Please read it with that in mind...

For about the last, oh, I dunno, 8 weeks or so, people have been dropping in on Sunday afternoons for a drink with us. I have really come to relish and look forward to those afternoons. Sally and I had been doing it for a long time before that (usually Saturday - and sometimes as well as Sunday!), but lately other people have been dropping in.

From about 2pm each Sunday, people come around and have a drink, a chat, and sometimes something to eat with us (usually cheese and lots of yummy things like that). Our front deck is kind of perfect, as in summertime it's shaded and cool, but in wintertime the sun streams in (we have three huge grapevines covering it, which lose their leaves in the winter).

The company is always wonderful. We have fantastic conversations with groups of people that sometimes would never be together in the same place. What a great way to pass an afternoon, and forget your trouble for a while.

There are two hard things: knowing that Samuel will never be able to join us, and knowing that it probably wouldn't be happening if he hadn't died.
It's not that we weren't sociable, or that we didn't see people, because we did, but maybe not so regularly. You know how it is, you get busy doing pointless, repetative stuff that you have to do every weekend (I mean stuff like shopping, cleaning, work, not useful stuff like sports and other socialising), and then all of a sudden it's Monday again. Same old cycle begins.
We all try hard not to - we try to see each other and make time for each other, but life just gets in the way, doesn't it?

Well, I've resolved that it won't get in the way any more. As much as time (and finances) permits, I'm going to make time to share my time with the people that mean something to me. Because I don't want to go to their funeral thinking 'I wish I'd seen them more often'. I remember vividly when my mother-in-law's friend had a son who had a big role in a stage show a long way away. He didn't think he had the time or the money to go and see him perform, but she said something that has stuck with me since then. She said to him "you'd go to his funeral, go and see him now!"
Every time I start to think that way, that's the thought that runs through my head - and it's why I'm seriously considering a trip to Melbourne in the holidays to see my family.

I know that I have always tried to fit everyone in, but people and experiences have sometimes slipped through the cracks. Sometimes family, sometimes friends, sometimes even my own kids. And now, I know that my priorities have changed a heck a lot. And I'm glad that these Sunday sessions are the result of that. It's a testament to my new commitment to enjoying people and enjoying life that they go on, and that people keep coming, and that I make time for them. I know it might sound a little selfish that they're always coming to me, but it works for now (and we've got a fairly kid-friendly house - soon to become more so), and in the future I might start going elsewhere. Who knows??

In the past, I would have willingly done all the chore-type stuff, then spent most of the weekend working: marking work, assessing, writing reports, planning, reading etc. But I'm happy to say I'm not prepared to do that any more. I used to read (and hear) a lot about work/life balance, but really, I had no idea. Being able to spend a whole weekend playing board games and chatting with my son; gardening; socialising, and sitting on my deck on Sunday afternoon is work/life balance!

Thankfully the job that I am doing this year means that I can do this. Because I am working in a 'release role' (on paper as the teacher/librarian, but in reality something completely different!), I don't have to worry about marking, assessing, reporting, planning (as much). Any thought I had of seeking promotion is definitely on hold for now, and I'm enjoying working to live, not living to work.

When I started teaching (after finishing my degree), I thought it would be something I would do forever. I do love the job very much, but the workload that goes along with it (that I have cheerfully put up with for the past 4 years) is not something that (having seen where my priorities should lie) I am prepared to do forever.
As I've said before, it's too soon to make these types of decisions, but I do know that this is the most relaxed and happy (?ish?) I've been (while working) for a while. Not that I'm bludging - I still work hard (not sure I could do otherwise), but not for as long, and not as over the top.

But as for Sundays, they are wonderful. I love sitting and talking with people, it's one of my favourite acitivities! I'm so glad that people keep coming, and I hope it doesn't stop.

So if you're in the neighbourhood on a Sunday afternoon, we'd love to have you...

Look what I made!

I spent most of yesterday afternoon creating a HUGE photo collage. I'm very happy with it, except that when I picked up the glass to put back in the frame, I picked it up in the wrong place and it snapped!
You can't see it until you're close, but I was very pissed off with myself!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

How are you?

What a question.

Why do we ask it? Is it because we really want to know how someone is? Or is it just small talk - an easy way to start a conversation? It's become such an automated question/response that it really seems pointless sometimes.

Not that I'm a paragon of conversational perfection. Quite the opposite: I'm afraid that I'm a fairly terrible conversationalist. I'm not quick enough for witty replies, I can never remember jokes, I often think of something I really want to say while someone else speaking and then butt in (before I forget it), the things I think to say almost always sound better in my head, I think of the perfect thing to say much later than I needed to think of it (but still butt in), I tune out (sometimes)...etc. I'd much rather write it all down, edit it, then present it to someone.

Having said that, and in my defence, I'm a very good listener when I need to be!

But 'how are you?'. Has there ever been a more hollow enquiry? I know I've been guilty of asking 'how are you' when I don't particularly care to hear the answer. But I've also known people who have given me their life story when asked.

Sometimes I wonder why people ask me how I am. I lost my son three months ago, how the f*** do you think I am??
And yes, sometimes I do get the impression that they don't want to hear how I actually am. They just want to hear "OK" or "Good, and you?".
I have a standard response now, terrible that it is to do so. I say "up and down". It pretty much describes my life lately, and it covers both 'how are you?' scenarios.

Because sometimes I think that if I say 'good, and you?', they'll be thinking; 'she seems to have gotten over it, phew!', or perhaps 'she's so cold, she's got no right to be "good", she's just lost her son'.
But if I tell then how I really am (sometimes I actually am 'good' by the way), i.e. sad, grief-stricken, missing Sam; then they'll think 'oh god, she's going to go on and on about it' or 'gee, this sadness is making me uncomfortable'.

So dear reader, what do you think?
Do you ask 'how are you' because you care, or because conversational etiquette demands it? Do you care?

When's the right time to break in and change the subject?
Or should we just be blunt and say 'I don't really want to know how you are'.

(Don't get me wrong, I do like it when people ask, I'm just curious about its place...)

The Newspaper Article

I came across this the other day and thought I'd add it to the blog.
Not long after we published the return thanks (we put a big ad in the classifieds thanking the police, paramedics, celebrant and funeral director, because they were all so wonderful), we got a call from a reporter from the Canberra Times. He came with a photographer and interviewed us, and then this article went in on the 10th of January.

We were pretty happy with it, though they made us out to be more concerned about the inquest than we actually are.
The way I see it, knowing what happened would be good, because if it's a genetic thing then we could get Ollie tested for whatever the problem with Sam was (that's my biggest fear, that what happened to Sam could happen to Ollie). But it's not going to change anything - we can't change what happened, we aren't looking to blame anyone. In fact, whenever we get the results, the only thing it's going to do is bring the whole thing up all over again.
But, I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Here is the picture that they didn't use:


Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday's Fabulous Five

Geez it's hard to pick the photos for my five!
Here are this week's:
A great photo of Sam
Samuel, aged about 18 months. So cute! Such a big smile!

A great photo of Oliver

This was taken at the fete at my school last year. I've adjusted the exposure a bit, as it was a bit dark. Oliver LOVED riding the horse. He then went back and got on a donkey.

An old photo
Me, aged about 2?

An interesting photo (from any time)
Some tomatoes I picked a couple of weeks ago.

My weekly entry into the EB photo of the week challenge:
The challenge this week was 'graffiti'. I had a fair bit of trouble finding a photo for it. I don't really like this one enormously, but don't really have the time/energy/inspiration to go fiddling...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Oliver - a positive

OK, so I thought I'd better share a couple of positive stories about Ollie, as the last post made me sound like some kind of over-protective helicopter mum.

This one made me laugh. This one is a conversation we had in the car a couple of weeks ago.

Oliver: I like the name Karen.
Me: That's good, I like that name too. I've got two aunties called Karen (Karren).
Oliver: When I have a baby, I'm going to call it Karen. I'm going to have two kids: one boy and one girl, and the girl's name is going to be Karen.
Me: That's great! What's the boy's name going to be?
Oliver: I'll let my wife decide.

I wonder if he'll stick to it...

The other story is about swimming. Despite having a mother and brother that loved the water, and plenty of trips to the beach in his early years, Oliver didn't start formal swimming lessons until last year. He did one term, and then the pool closed for refurbishment, so altogether this is his 3rd term of lessons.
I'm amazed at his progress. At first he was very nervous about even getting in the water, and especially putting his head under. Now, he jumps confidently off the blocks into the deep end and swims to the side. When we were in MErimbula, he was swimming all the way across the pool underwater.

He does pick things up quickly. So I guess I should interpret that as a sign that he'll pick up all this stuff that I spoke about in the last post. He's just got a bit on his mind at the moment.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Oliver...

Who could ever know the mind of a six year old? I will never understand the thought processes of a child, they come out with such interesting stuff.

Like today, he was watching a kid's show about Greek gods. He said "when we die and turn into gods (he pronounces it 'gourds'), we'll meet Samuel, 'cause Samuel's a god now".

What do you say to something like that??? I just said, "well we don't really know what will happen."

And then there's the stuff that makes me sad. Last night, when he was getting into bed, he talked about the game he and Samuel had played on the Monday before Sam died (something to do with Sam chasing him and whacking him with a rolled up newspaper. I guess we can't say what's fun for him). He said 'I really wanted to play that game with Sam today'. Then I had to say that Sam wasn't here and he couldn't play that game any more, he'd have to play other kinds of games.

Ollie has some interesting theories about Sam. A couple of times he has said that Sam has another home now, and he's got all his stuff with him, and he's referred to Sam as a god (not an angel) a couple of times.

Lately, Ollie's been doing stuff that could be a little concerning. I'm not sure if it's his grief manifesting in strange ways, or if it's normal 6 year old behaviour, but there have been some things that may worry me if they go on.
He's still wetting the bed at night (well, actually, the night-time nappy), not just once in a while, but soaked, every night. I'm not too worried, as he's only six, but he had been having some dry nights last year.
He's been very muddle-headed: last week, he wore his shorts back-to-front two days in a row (I think one of those days he even had his shoes on the wrong feet as well).
He's forgetting to do things: hand notes in at school, do stuff he was asked to do only minutes before.
Today he got into trouble at school. He was spitting water on people, and he kicked some girl's lunch box away from her. Small stuff, but not what I'd expect from him.

Of course, all this could be nothing, but if all of it continues, I might look into getting someone to talk to him. I can see that he might start to fall behind at school if we're not careful - his handwriting's pretty rough and he's finding some of the stuff he's bringing home for homework pretty challenging. We don't want to push him too much - we know how motivation levels can go up and down for us as well - but at the same time, we want him to progress. Things will be even worse if he falls behind and has to catch up.

Of course, all of this could just be normal behaviour, but I can't help but worry a little. It's funny how everything is so much more important now.

I know he doesn't love school all the time. On Friday, when I was trying to get him up out of bed we had this conversation. I think it sums up his current attitude to school:

Ollie: I don't want to go to school today mum.
Me: Why? What's happening at school that makes you not want to go?
Ollie: Work.

Needless to say, I sent him packing. Hopefully he'll find his mojo again some time....

Monday, March 22, 2010

Another month passes

It's 3 months today since my beautiful Sam left us forever.

Some days it seems like so long ago, other days it seems like only yesterday.
I hadn't even registered it at first. When I left for work this morning, Anthony was a little upset, but didn't really say anything. I was cranky when I got to work but couldn't work out why. Then, about halfway through the morning session a kid came up with 19/3/10 on their work and I said 'that's not today's date'.
Then I realised today was the 22nd.

I managed to have an OK day, but was a little cranky and impatient. Not very good at expressing myself at the staff meeting either.

I miss you so much Sam. Everything I saw on the way home today reminded me of you: the teenage boy pushing a trolley for his mum at the deli, the checkout operators, the kid (no helmet!) riding along by the road, the teen running with his little sister (?) on the oval...all those things you'll never do again. It pisses me off. I'd do anything to have you back.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Friday's Fabulous Five

(On Sunday)

I know, I'm two days late, but the photo I wanted to do for number 5 (my challenge photo), was only possible today, so I waited.
Here they are:
A great photo of Sam
Samuel (and Oliver) loved playing with Photo Booth on my MacBook. I love this photo. We used it in Samuel's order of service, and I put it on a t-shirt for Laura with the words 'Llama Tamer' underneath. (You'll understand this if you recall what Phillip said at Sam's funeral).

A great photo of Oliver

This was taken last night at Skyfire.

An old photo
Dad and Ollie. I love the look on Dad's face.

An interesting photo (from any time)
Also from last night.

My weekly entry into the EB photo of the week challenge:
The challenge this week was 'reflection'. This boat was on Lake Burley Griffin last night. I loved the colours.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Another one down

Tonight we went to Skyfire.

For those of you who don't live in Canberra, Skyfire is an annual fireworks show set to music. It has been going for 22 years, and takes place every March, ostensibly as part of the celebrations for Canberra Day, but I think it is more a commercial enterprise these days. (Actually, I could be wrong, maybe it was never for Canberra Day, but it is around the same time).

I have missed one Skyfire night since I first went, aged 14. I missed it because I was still in hospital after having Samuel.

Samuel always said that Canberra put on a fireworks show for his birthday. In the last couple of years he had been bringing a friend with him, and they'd put on a bit of a show of indifference, but I think he (they) still secretly enjoyed the spectacle. Last year, he recorded the whole thing on his phone.

Every time we go, there are groups of teens drinking hiding in shadows, carrying on, but I really don't think that Samuel would have ever been one of those (I guess it wouldn't have helped that we were always going to be there as well). He would have gone off with his friends, yes, but I don't think he would have gotten too much into the whole drinking/drug-taking thing. For one thing, he just didn't like drawing attention to himself, but mainly just because he was a good boy.

So we determined (once again) to carry on with the events we had always done when Sam was here, like the Christmas/birthday/holidays we have already struggled through (blogged here and here).

This one wasn't so bad. We'd spent a lovely afternoon at Meg's place: chatting, laughing, watching the kids get up to mischief, and by the time we drove to the lake I'd consumed multiple beers and was feeling very happy.
We picked up Laura on the way, and off we all went. We had Jack with us too, and by the time we met up with Lorraine (Anthony's mum) and Christopher, we had a nice little group going.

It was the same as any other Skyfire we'd been to. Too much Lady GaGa music (I really can't stomach that horrible creature), but otherwise a great, fun evening. There was a moment when the fireworks first started that I thought I might cry, but I didn't, and it ended up being a nice evening.

It was a very warm night, the only Skyfire I can remember that we didn't need to rug up. We all said that perhaps it was a gift from Sam. Once again, contradicting all my beliefs, but it was a nice thought.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Dragonfly

You may (or may not) have noticed a dragonfly on the mural. Today I'd like to tell you about it.

A few days after Sam's funeral, a good, old (not old as in elderly, but old as in I've known her since high school) friend called and told me she was going to drop something off for us. A little while later she drove up, put an envelope in my hand, and then drove off again.

In the envelope was a letter, and a lovely dragonfly ornament (which now hangs just below a framed photo of Samuel - the one we had on display at his funeral - in our lounge room) :
In the accompanying note, my friend told us about how at the funeral, she and our other friends watched a dragonfly fly into the chapel, perch on the curtains (near where Samuel's friends were standing) for a while, and then hover over our (Sam's family) heads. Apparantly it did so for a while, and then flew away.

I had never noticed the dragonfly, and neither had Anthony or Oliver, but my Dad had seen it near the curtains.

In some cultures, dragonflies are a very significant. They are different things to different people, but commonly they are said to represent renewal, positive forces, and change. The native Americans believe that dragonflies are the souls of the dead.

Now as I have said before, I'm not an enormously spiritual person, but for some reason this story touched me. Some of it was that my lovely friend had also been so touched by this that she went out of her way to find the dragonfly ornament, but some of it was also a hope that the dragonfly was (in some way) telling us that everything was OK.

Maybe it was just a coincidence (there are many water features in the grounds of the crematorium), but then again, maybe it was the spirit of Sam. I'm not prepared to discount that altogether, even though I don't know if I understand it.

Whatever the explanation, all of us were happy to take on the dragonfly as a symbol for Sam. Dragonflies are beautiful things, and it gave us something tangible to plant a memory in. Some would say we are silly, superstitious, maybe even hypocritical considering my feelings about religion and 'the soul', but it has been a nice symbol to use.

I felt so strongly about it, that I bought this brooch in Merimbula (please excuse the picture quality, I will take a better one later):
I never buy jewelery, in fact, I hardly even wear it, but I was drawn to this and Anthony convinced me to buy it. I think it's beautiful.

It's funny too, we never noticed (or saw) dragonflies in the past, except this one that landed on the door of our unit when we first went to Merimbula in 2004:
But now we see them everywhere. I know it's because of a consciousness thing (we're subconsciously looking for them?), but it still gives us a little thrill when we see one. When we went to Merimbula in January, one was flying along with us as we drove through Mimosa Rocks National Park; when we went blackberry picking recently there was one just sitting on a plant; and Anthony told me about the one that hovered around him while he was working in the back yard, then hovered over the playground (we have a big playground in out backyard that we bought when Oliver was born, so that Sam would have something to do if baby care got too boring for him), flew around the yard a bit and then flew off.

Each time this has happened we think of Sam, and a little bit of us believes that it's him keeping an eye on us. I kinda like that he is...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Survived!

I'm sure you've been on the edge of your seat, wondering if I survived my time with the pre-schoolers...

Well, dear reader, I survived. Actually, I think I did OK with them. Still, don't know if I could do it all day every day!

Dad commented that I wasn't supposed to make big decisions yet, and I agree absolutely. I think until we work out what the heck our lives are going to be about now that Sam's not with us, it's not wise to make other life-changing decisions. But I'm still going to put some thought into it all (and probably share my thoughts with you, you poor souls!)

You've probably noticed a little up-downiness to my posts, and that's exactly what life's like living with this great loss. You wake up one day and things look OK. Some days you can actually have a good time: laugh, relax a little, enjoy...then BANG, you go down.

I guess I should be thankful we have those 'up' moments. I guess a roller coaster that only went down, or that went in a straight line (hang on, isn't that called a road?), would be one most people wouldn't want to ride...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Back to Work

Well I went back to work today. As I have mentioned, it has been a good 12 weeks since I worked, so needless to say it was a shock to the system - just the physical act of getting up and organised was draining.

The Moment

I had a little moment in the car on the way there. It's funny how you get so used to a routine: driving the same road, seeing the same cars going the other way (and on my trip there I drive past back-to-back traffic banked up for a long way - cars with single occupants all going to the same place). On the roundabout I drove past a friend who worked with me last year. She's at a different school now and when she turned off, I got a bit of a twinge. I realised that most of the people that I would lean on if things got tough were now gone from the school. Even though I've been there 3 years now, I felt like I was the new one. That feeling eased off a little once I got there, but my eyes did mist up a bit. And knowing that the routine is the same but things are so, so different...

The day was OK. Despite working with an age group I haven't taught for a good four years, I think it went pretty well. The kids were lovely, the other staff were lovely, and the parents were amazing. Such lovely support and comments. It was a nice feeling.

I can't help but think that everything is different though. I mean, of course it is, but (and I may be paranoid) I feel like people are treating me differently. Maybe they should, I dunno, maybe if they didn't I'd want them too, but there's something different.

People do this every day? I did this every day??
We had a staff meeting after school, and despite the fact that there was interesting stuff going on, I felt very, very tired just sitting there listening.

Tomorrow is another challenge. I start the day in pre-school. An age group I have never seen from a teacher perspective (but funnily enough the age group that inspired me to start teaching in the first place). I've only got them for a little while, but I think that will be more than enough.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair...

Tonight I draw your hair.
A hair of simplicity,

With a mysterious beauty,
That no one can ever resist,
A hair that blooms with the sun,
That always shines every sunrise,
And turns into deep black at sunset,
A hair of smooth silk,
That touches my face like a baby,
And comforts my soul into a sleeping baby,
Like the lullaby that can put me into sleep,
Your hair blooms unlike any other.

-GanNi
Samuel had beautiful hair. He had curly hair that was a beautiful blonde/gold colour. Actually, it wasn't just one or two colours, it was many different shades, highlights. The type of colour that (mostly) women would pay hundreds of dollars for. And the curls! So beautiful!
He got his curls from me. The blonde I'm not so sure. Anthony had blonde hair when he was younger but it got darker. Oliver started out blonde, but his hair's pretty dark now. But Samuel kept the blonde hair all along.
There were many times that he hated his hair (don't we all though). We kept it longer when he was little, mainly because we loved the beautiful blonde curls. He did get mistaken for a girl once or twice, but people just mostly commented on how gorgeous he was.
When he was about 3 he decided he wanted it short. I think some of that might have been related to a terrible battle we had with head lice around that time. The little buggers were completely resistant to the first 3 or 4 treatments we tried, so we spent many months (and about $100) trying to get rid of them. So he joined Anthony in the razor brigade and for a long time was a 'number 2'.
When Sam got to about year 5 he started keeping it a bit longer. His nanna would take him to get his hair cut and he kept it like that for a while.
It was about then that he discovered his unruly cowlicks were never going to allow him to have the spiky,
straight hair styles that were du jour for kids his age. So he started keeping it a bit longer.
Everybody loved it long. It just really suited him. He still had his moments of being uncomfortable about it all (Samuel never really liked being the centre of attention - unlike Oliver!), but I think he secretly liked the compliments he received.
It wasn't always pretty though - every morning we all laughed at his unruly mop as he emerged from the bedroom, and he wasn't always pro-active about brushing it. But it always seemed to look OK anyway.
He also still had the occasional bout of head lice. The most recent was in about September last year. It sounds weird, but spending an hour with him, brushing gunk through his hair, listening to music and chatting, was pretty nice. By last year he was spending much more time with his friends than with us, so I quite enjoyed that little moment. (Enjoy them while you can parents, they move on pretty quick!)
There was also a time early last year where the girls at his school 'attacked' Sam with the hair straightener. I didn't hear much about it until I went to the parent/teacher night and a couple of the teachers told me about it. It's funny he never mentioned it until then, I think he might have been a little embarrassed about the attention, especially from girls (he wasn't as confident around them as his friends, but I think the girls did like him).
And then there was his last hair cut. Money's always a little tight for us, and I had a bit of trouble coming up with money for him to get his hair cut. So I cut it. Let me preface this story by telling you that as a hairdresser, I make a fantastic teacher. So I was actually very surprised when he allowed my to cut it. We had agreed that if it didn't look any good we'd get out the clippers and shave it all off. But he said it was OK. I thought it looked dreadful, and many people told me to never go near his head again, but he wore it proudly. I like that.
When I went to see Samuel at the viewing, I didn't really want to touch him. I didn't want to feel how cold he was. But I did touch his hair. I loved his beautiful hair. A few days later my parents turned up with a lock of hair that the funeral director had cut off for us. I was so happy to have it. I put a little bit of it in my locket, behind a photo of him. It's nice to have that close to my heart.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I miss you Sam.

Tattoo Update


The tattoo is looking great. The scabs have all come off (sorry about the grossness!) and in another week or two it will be healed completely.
I know Sam looks hairy, but Anthony's waiting until it's completely healed before he shaves again.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday's Fabulous Five

Over the past few days I've been going through heaps of old photos. Since we have had digital cameras we have amassed thousands of them (I'm at 12000 and counting in the iPhoto library), and then there's all the ones we took with our old 35mm camera. Samuel was my first child, my parent's first grandchild and my grandparent's first great-grandchild, so you can probably imagine just how many photos were taken when he was born!

I think every house has a box of photos lying around waiting to be sorted - I have several. So I thought while I was off I'd at least start putting them into albums or up on the wall.
I must admit that some of this is inspired by the passing of Sam: I have been scanning and putting all the files onto CDs and hard drives to make sure I never lose them, and I wanted to have more photos of him (and my lovely Ollie) up around the house. That's been a challenge in itself, as every time Anthony sees a new photo of Sam he gets upset (although he says they're happy memory tears more often than not lately), but as I have said before, I don't want to hide things from him, and I also need to do what's good for me.

So as you can imagine, I have been finding some gems in the collection. So I've decided to celebrate and share my photos by posting 5 great pictures every Friday. I've decided on 5 categories:
  • A great photo of Sam
  • A great photo of Oliver
  • An old photo
  • An interesting photo (from any time)
  • My weekly entry into the EB photo of the week challenge
So here are this week's:

A great photo of Sam

This is one of my all-time favourite photos of Sam. He got the trampoline for his 3rd birthday (we were never going to match the house he got for his 2nd birthday, but this was close). This photo was taken not long after that.

A great photo of Oliver
I took this one of Oliver when he was about 19 months old. I was always captivated by those big blue eyes...

An old photo
Thought I'd better include one of myself this first time. This was taken for the yearbook when I was in year 10 at Chisholm High School. I would have been 15.

An interesting photo (from any time)
This is our dog Merlin, taken a few years ago now. We got Merlin about 4 months before we had Sam. He's 15 now, almost completely blind, deaf, stubborn and showing signs of dementia (he frequently barks and howls at nothing). But he's a good ol' thing. It's a great photo of him.

My entry into the EB photo of the week challenge
This week's theme was 'Myself'. The photo is meant to symbolise my current situation. The empty hand represents Sam and the other hand is Ollie's.

If you'd like to look at any of my other photos, they're on Flickr.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My first post was about blogging: Should I do it? Will anyone read it? It feels like such a long time ago, but believe it or not, it was only four and a half weeks ago that I set off on this blogventure.

So, dear reader, 34 posts later, what do you think?

For me, it has been such a great way to deal with all the stuff that's been going on. When I'm writing I can process things; I can link things together; and (the best bit I reckon) I can include photos, videos and sound. So much better than a diary! It's been quite therapeutic too, I honestly believe I've gotten more out of this than I would have from 5 weeks of counselling.

Powerful Words
Today, I received a beautiful letter and card in the mail box (thank you beautiful friend - you know who you are!) Coming after some of the lovely comments I have received from people about this blog, it confirmed for me that I have been doing the right thing. I mean, this blog has been great for me, but to know that someone else has gotten something out of it too, that's very special to me. That they took the time to tell me how they felt was such a wonderful gift. It made my day!
The letter also said that my blog would gave them ideas about how to help loved ones experiencing loss. That really made me feel good. (I've got to work out how to say this without sounding terribly conceited, and I hope I don't come across that way), but I feel most happy when I know the people around me are too. If I can make someone more comfortable, make them smile, solve their problem, teach them something, then I feel like I have achieved something. It doesn't have to be Earth-shattering, and it certainly doesn't happen all the time, but it is one of the ways I find fulfillment. Conversely, all the times that I have been powerless to help really bring me down.
So to hear from one person that the words I write here have made a little bit of difference, well that makes me feel great! Thank you again. xx

So I think I'm going to keep writing. I hope that I can find the time, now that I am about to return to work, and maybe I won't post as often, but I'll definitely keep it up. Hopefully I can keep it up well.

Don't panic!

If my blog looks weird when you look, please bear with me. I am playing around with some code to try and make it better.
Thanks

The Mural

During Samuel's funeral, we invited his friends (and anyone else) to come and write messages for him on the coffin (I know, I haven't written about that, I'm getting there...). It was a really nice moment and it got me thinking.

We didn't want to leave Samuel's ashes at the crematorium; it's a fair way away from our house and we wanted him close. We thought about the cemetary closest to us, but we didn't really have any connection with that. So we brought him home with us. The ashes currently live in his bedroom, wrapped in a The Living End t-shirt, and that's working OK for us right now. Who knows what we'll do in the future, but I figure we've got time to work it out.

But that did leave the problem of where would people go to pay their respects? That's one good thing about a grave or memorial site, you can go and visit talk (or just sit).

So we decided to create a mural. It's on the side fence, so people can do it without having to come and see us, and so far there's been no vandalism or anything.
The paint was donated by a friend of Anthony and I did all the spray work. The small panel on the right is what Ollie did that day. It says "Samuel I had so much fun from Oli". We put our own messages on (this is mine - I know, I spelled gorgeous wrong, DOH!):

We have had a lot of people (especially kids) coming and writing messages on the mural, which is really nice. On Sam's birthday, all his friends went out there and wrote birthday messages.
It might be a little unconventional, but it's working well for us. When we get our act together, we're going to put a little garden bed out there, and plant a couple of blueberry plants (Samuel loved blueberries).

We're very happy that people are using it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Oscar night (of all times)

I started writing a post about the Oscars (the winners and such), but it just seems like old news now. I will share though, that I was quite affected by Monday night's telecast.

Since I was a little girl I have been utterly, utterly fascinated with the Oscars, and the movie industry in general. It's mostly my Dad's fault. He is a BIG movie buff, and he brought me up on a steady diet of musicals, Barbra Streisand and the occasional classic (The Godfather etc).
What you've gotta understand, dear reader (particularly any of you born after 1980), is that when I was growing up, there were only three TV channels for a very long time, and video players didn't really arrive until I was a tween. So on a rainy Saturday afternoon, we could either go to the movies or watch what was on TV (Of course once videos came out, Dad bought musicals, Barbra Streisand and the occasional classic, so I still had to make do). But the thing is, all these movies were AWESOME! Because we didn't know any better. We couldn't log onto IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes to see what other people thought or wait for Jim to post his review on Facebook ;)
Simpler times?

But despite the apparent lack of good cinematic fare, I did manage to become a bit of a buff myself (to be fair to my poor dad, he did have good taste in movies, and he did introduce me to some good ones, as well as the musicals, Barbra Streisand and the occasional classic, I just wanted to tease him a little).

So Oscar night was always a BIG DEAL. We maintained media silence for most of the afternoon, and if anyone dared tell Dad who had won something, look out! Of course, I picked up this attitude after a while, too. We'd write out our predictions and tick them off as each award was given out, and for 3 or so hours felt like we were part of it all. I must admit I had gone off it all in the past few years: perhaps too much god-thanking, and there were a few awards that seemed set up or a little bit political.

**Confession Time**
For a very long time I wanted to win an Oscar. I went through a quite serious acting phase, discovered I probably wasn't as great at it as some of the others in my drama class/group. Then I thought I'd maybe direct or even edit. Working in a cinema probably didn't do anything to dampen those thoughts.

So, back to the telecast. As I've mentioned before, I haven't done a lot of crying about Sam. In fact, I've found it quite difficult at times. But not on Monday night. I don't know what it was (and no, it wasn't hormones), but there were many times that things happening in the show made me cry. Some of it was 'I wish that was me', and some of it was Samuel-related:
  • When they screened the 'In Memoriam' part (all the movie types who had died during the past year), I thought of Samuel. No surprises there.
  • When Sandra Bullock thanked all the mums. I wonder how many other mums reacted to that?
  • Every time a good-looking young man came onstage, I thought about how that could have been Sam one day.
Et Cetera. Funny huh? Something just pushed my buttons. I guess in a way it's good that I did that because I had a chance to do some 'emoting'.

Somewhere around here, I have a photo of me with an Oscar. If I can find it I'll post it. It's kinda cute. In the meantime, here's Oscar.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Reigniting old passions. Part 2

Photography
I've always loved photos and photography. Since I bought my first digital camera I've been experimenting a lot more (which of course means I've had to buy more data storage, better cameras, and so on), as it's much easier to experiment when you see which ones 'suck' and which ones are OK before spending $20 on developing!

Over the past few weeks, I've been visiting Essential Baby, a parenting forum I was quite active in after Oliver was born, but drifted away from when things got crazy around here. It's a great community - sometimes controversial, sometimes annoying, sometimes thought provoking, but always supportive. Even though I'd been away for a couple of years, I was welcomed back and supported by people who know what I'm going through.
Anyway, on EB there is a photography group/forum that I've just discovered. Some of the people on there are way more advanced than me, but it's a nice way to share/talk about photos, and I might even learn some new things.
I recently posted in a thread about my three favourite photos (that I've taken). It was very hard to pick them, but I think they are 'good' photos. There are photos I like more, but if I'm thinking about what makes a good photo (and believe me, I'm no expert), these are the ones I chose:

I chose this one because it's a nice portrait, and Ollie doesn't have red 'flash' eyes.

I took this one at Hobart Beach one early morning in January 2007. I love how the kangaroo is staring out to sea. It's probably not technically the best (in terms of light etc), but I love the 'moment'.

I took this one on my iPhone last week. I love that I've captured that moment before Ollie hit the water, but that it's not blurry. I also love that I can take a nice photo like this without a fancy camera and lens.

Of course, as anyone who knows me a little would know, I've always got the camera out. The kids in my classes over the years have always grumbled about all the photos I take (but I think they secretly like it), and my boys are fairly accustomed to me with a camera in my hand.

My next challenge is to improve my knowledge of photography. I'm going to experiment with exposure and shutter speeds and setting up shots. I'll keep you posted. In the mean time, perhaps you'd like to check out some of my other photos? They're on Flickr.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Reigniting old passions

It's OK, don't panic, I didn't find an old boyfriend on Facebook and run away with him. To tell you the truth, I don't have that many ex boyfriends, and less interest in reigniting anything at all with them (I certainly knew how to pick them in the past, but that's another story).

No, today I'm talking about reconnecting with things that make me happy, that give me some sense of satisfaction. In the past week or so I rediscovered a couple.

Renovating
As I have mentioned, we are currently renovating. I guess you could say we've been renovating since we moved in here 12 years ago (as of yesterday), but in the past few months, we have been gathering a bit of steam.

We've had a fairly rough/interesting couple of years, with lots of ups and downs, and with me starting a new (and very demanding) job, we have let things slide a bit.

Anyway, I got a bit keen and decided I'd paint one of the walls, mainly so that we could live with the colour for a few months and see if we liked it. When Anthony does the kitchen, we will be replacing the ceiling in the lounge/dining/kitchen area and repainting, so I wanted to get a feel for what colour might be OK there.
Once I started preparing the wall, I thought it might be good to put a new window in. The old one was almost falling apart and looked pretty shabby. In fact, most of the room did
9sorry, forgot to take a 'before' photo (again), this is a kind of old one):

So we went out to the Handyman's Trading Post and bought a new window. Actually, we bought a new window, a glass door and a beautiful big set of cedar French doors which we will use in a shed/rumpus room we're building, but the window was the one going in first.
I'm very lucky that Anthony (as well as being a very talented woodworker) is one of those 'handy' people. So replacing a window was no problem for him. I did some bits and pieces, but I'll give him all the credit. I did the painting though. It turned out quite well:

We went for blinds because I like how they are tidy and hide away. We still have to finish the valance, but I think it looks much better.
The only trouble now of course, is that now that that wall looks great, the rest of the room/house looks a bit shabby. Actually, I guess that's probably a good thing in many ways, as it prompted me to do a thorough clean and sort. It's very nice and tidy now (in this end of the house anyway).

While we were doing it, I thought how nice it would be to do that for a while: buy a house, do it up, sell it again, buy a new one. I think it would be a nice way to love for a while. You could even do it in different states if you were really adventurous!

In the meantime though, we have quite a task ahead of us. At the moment, Anthony is building a BIG retaining wall out the back. He hadn't been lately, first because of the Samuel thing, and then because of the buckets and buckets of rain we've had lately. The wall is looking great though. We've used concrete sleepers so that it will last a long time, and they are very effective.

I just hope we'll have some dry days soon so we can get it finished! (we are actually much further along than this, I must go out and take some more photos.

Once the wall is finished, we are going to build a big shed, which will be like an extra couple of rooms (lined, insulated, power etc). Somewhere to put the pool table! (and all my teacher crap)
Then (the bit I'm excited about) Anthony is going to build me my kitchen. We have already bought a nice Lofra stove, and a sink and range hood, so I am very keen to get it all going!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Melology

I need a break from the heavy stuff. I found this on another blog and it reminded me of how much I used to love filling out these types of things, and reading other people's responses. When I had penfriends (I had lots of them between the ages of about 16 and 24) I used to send them these types of surveys all the time. So here's mine...

Rules: YOU! Yes, you, reading this. You're tagged. Now that you know more about me than you ever wanted to know, play the game, it's fun! Let others know a little more about yourself, repost this as your name followed by "ology."

FOODOLOGY:
What is your salad dressing of choice?
I quite often have my salads undressed. But if I had to choose, I'd say good ol' Italian.

What is your favourite sit-down restaurant?
I don't get out much, but La Porky's is always OK. Well, except for the time I got food poisoning after I ate there. But I've learned not to eat the seafood there.
Oh, Sammy's Kitchen, Sunny Kitchen and Chairman and Yip are all pretty nice Chinese.

What is your favourite fast food restaurant?
Sumo Salad.

What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of?
Ice Cream. There are so many yummy flavours you could eat a new one each day for two weeks.

What are your pizza toppings of choice?
Lots of vegies and CHILLI!!

TECHOLOGY:

How many televisions are in your house?
3, but only 1 of them is ever on with any regularity. Usually tuned to Foxtel's music channels.

What color mobile phone do you have?
Black

Mac or PC?
Mac. Love my Mac!

Could you live without it?
Yes. Actually no. I'd need music (and maybe the internet!) But I could live without TV! Does that count?

BIOLOGY:

Are you right-handed or left-handed?
Right. I always wanted to be a lefty 'cause it's different. My mum is and my grandma was (along with some other relatives).

Have you ever had anything removed from your body?
My wisdom teeth. Oh, and my two lovely babies. Sad to say I didn't push either of them out by myself.

What is the last heavy item you lifted?
Oliver. He's at least 25 kilos these days. Feels like twice as much when he's sleeping.

Have you ever been knocked unconscious?
Nope.

Have you ever fainted?
Nope.

Active or Couch Potato?
When I'm in the mood/habit: active, though I still seem to manage to pack on the weight, even when I'm exercising madly/daily.

BULLCRAPOLOGY:

If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die?
Not sure. Yes, so that I could tie up loose ends. I have resolved to live a full and happy life so I'm hoping I wouldn't have to suddenly run out and do all the things I'd always wanted to do (OH goodness, I can tell this will be a future post) but no because I'd always be anticipating it.

If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
I wouldn't. Actually I already kind of have. Nobody really calls me Melanie any more. Except maybe my grandpa.

How many pairs of flip flops do you own?
3. My goodness, that's extravagant for me!

Last person you talked to?
Anthony and Oliver (simultaneously).

FAVOURITOLOGY:

Season?
Late Spring/Early Autumn. I love it warm enough to sit outside at night and go to the beach, but cool enough to be able to do stuff.

Holiday?
I guess that means 'celebration'. Not a big fan of any of them, but I do like birthdays.

Day of the week?
Sunday. Especially now that people come over and have drinks with us in the afternoons.

Month?
Used to be December. Now I'm not so sure.

Color?
Purple.

Drink?
Bourbon, Vodka, Beer. Oh god what does that say about me?? I do love mango smoothies and I do drink a lot of water. Really I do!

Alcoholic?
Oh whoops. Already answered that.

Music?
Foo Fighters (I think you all knew that!)


CURRENTOLOGY:


Missing someone?
Yep. You're familiar with that story.

What are you listening to?
I'm not good at doing one thing at a time, so at the moment I'm listening to/watching 'Grand Torino' while I'm writing.
Currently as in not right at this minute - a lot of Foo Fighters, Them Crooked Vultures, Led Zeppelin.

What are you watching?
As above.
If I'm not answering about this minute, I don't really 'watch' anything. The only show I really try to watch regularly is 'Spicks and Specks', but I haven't even got my act together enough to watch that every week. I'm not a big fan of TV. Will watch it if it's on, but don't go out of the way.
I do like watching music videos and movies.

Worrying about?
Going back to work. Actually I'm not worried about that, more about all the things I was going to do (but haven't) while I have been on leave.

What's the last movie you saw?
At the movies? Avatar.

Do you smile often?
A qualified yes. I am renowned for my smiley disposition, It's just been missing a little bit of late.

If you could change your eye color what would it be?
Hmmm...No. Well, maybe green.

What's on your wish list for your birthday?
Not sure how I feel about my birthday now. I'd like a nice little block of land (or perhaps 20+ acres) near the coast.

Can you do a chin-up?
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!

Does the future make you more nervous or excited?
Excited I guess. Things can't get much worse.

Have you been in a car wreck?
No, only a couple of small accidents.

Have you caused a car wreck?
No.

Do you have an accent?
An Oztrayan one perhaps.

Last time you cried?
Friday.

Plans tonight?
Watch (sort of) this movie. Bed. My life is a thrill a minute.

Have you ever felt like you hit rock bottom?
Yep.

Name three things you bought yesterday?
I actually didn't buy anything. That's not bad for me.

Have you met someone who changed your life?
Yep. Samuel. I think I've explained how.

For the better or worse?
Better.

How did you bring in the New Year?
I've posted about this. Down the river with Sally, Jack and my boys, then here.

Would you go back in time if you were given the chance?
Yep. To the 21st of December 2009.

What songs do you sing in the shower?
I don't, but Oliver does a great job:

video

Have you held hands with someone today?
Yep. I like that Anthony and I hold hands almost every day. After 15 years that's not bad.

Who was the last person you took a picture of?
My very clucky son holding my lovely (nearly) 4 week old nephew.

Are most of the friends in your life new or old?
A little bit of both. I have wonderful friends that I have known for around 20 years, and others I have known 2-5 years.

Do you like pulpy orange juice?
Yes. The pulpier the better.

Last time you ate peanut butter and jelly?
When I went to the U.S in 1990. I like bananas (or honey) with my peanut butter.

What were you doing at 12 a.m. last night?
Sleeping. I was a little tipsy (OK, I was more than a little) when I went to bed, so it's a good bet that I was sound asleep.

What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up?
I wonder if I have a hangover. (No, I didn't).

Thanks Pundelina for this little bit of fun.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

This is a poem I read on another blog (thanks Kate and Karen).
It's very nice and I thought I'd share it.

~Please~

Please, don’t ask me if I am over it.
I will never be over it!
Please, don’t tell me he is in a better place.
He isn’t here with me!
Please, don’t tell me he isn’t suffering.
I haven’t come to terms with why
he had to suffer at all.
Please, don’t ask me if I feel better.
For bereavement isn’t a condition that clears up.
Please, don’t tell me,
At least you had him for so many years.
What year would you choose for your loved one to die?
Please, don’t ever tell me that,
God doesn’t give us more then we can handle.
Please, just say you are sorry.
Please, just say that you remember him.
Please, just talk to me about him.
Please, just mention his name.
Please, just let me cry.

Happy Birthday Sam


Sam's 13th Birthday

Yesterday was Sam's birthday. He would have been 14. It would have been very easy to dwell on all the things that he is missing, all the things he was yet to achieve, but we did actually manage to have an OK day.

Thursday night was probably the hardest, when I started to think about the day I had Sam, and all those things I mentioned above. I had a little cry and felt better. Last week I talked about how I'd heard that the week leading up to the birthday is harder than the day, and I think that's true. I'm very glad we went away, because I would have been cranky and emotional. That's not a bad thing I guess, in small doses, but if we hadn't escaped to the beach, I don't think I would have liked myself very much.

On a side note, thinking about the beach, I mentioned to Anthony that I always feel like I'm going home when I go to the coast (he said I probably grew up there in a previous life). I've felt that much more strongly the last couple of times. I think I mentioned in an early post that my first instinct when Sam died was to pack up and run. That feeling faded a bit, but I can't shake the feeling that I should be somewhere else. I love my house, but more and more lately I'm feeling like I won't live here much longer. I really wish I could move to the coast. There are practical reasons that we can't of course (hard to get teaching work there), but I feel like I really need to work towards it. I think I would actually give up teaching if it meant I could live down there. I know they say that you shouldn't make big decisions for at least a year after this kind of traumatic event, and I won't, but more and more I feel like I'm in the wrong place, and if losing Sam has taught me anything, it's that time is precious (something to mull over for another time
perhaps)...

What do you do on a day like this?
The first thing I did when I woke up yesterday was post to Facebook. Sounds weird I know, but it's only because I can do that without getting out of bed (I love my iPhone!). I put a happy birthday message up there for Sam. Then I actually did get out of bed and went and said happy birthday to him (well, to his ashes). I know some people hate Facebook or think it's a waste of time, but I do love that you can share things with people on your on time, on your terms. We got lots of lovely messages on there, from people who we just wouldn't be able to see, and that was really nice. As were the text messages that I got from some lovely, thoughtful friends.

Our usual birthday routine is (was) a lot like what I used to do with my parents. We'd all sit on our bed and give the presents to whoever was having the birthday. Possibly a little cheesy, but nice. Then we'd go to work/school (or somewhere exciting if it was the weekend/holiday) and have dinner somewhere nice in the evening. There was usually cake and then a 'family' celebration on the weekend closest to the day. Lots of food, cake etc.

I spent the morning painting the wall. We put in a new window in the lounge room just before we went away, and I was making it look all pretty. We wanted to test a colour for that wall, as when Anthony builds me my new kitchen (YAY! Can't wait!), we are also going to redecorate our long neglected lounge/dining area. The wall looks quite nice now. It's certainly given us a jump start, got us excited about renovating again.
I'm not really sure why I chose this to do, but it was good. It kept me busy and I wanted it to be done before anyone came over.
The boys and I then went to Bunnings and, after a fair bit of dithering, chose some blinds for the window. Anthony has one up so far, and they look great!

We went out for lunch with my parent and Jezz, at La Porchetta. Not Samuel's all time favourite, but there's no Sizzler in Canberra any more. He liked La Porky's too; we'd had a few birthday dinners there and he, Olllie and I had a nice dinner there when we went to Melbourne together a few years ago. It was a nice lunch, good food, good conversation, a little bit of missing Sam, but not too bad.

Bad choice?
Then I went grocery shopping. I had intended to do it the night before but was feeling too low. In hindsight it probably would have been better to do it then because I wouldn't have been rushing it (it's funny how many unnecessary items you buy when you're rushing - a very expensive exercise!), because I raced in at almost 3, and not long after that people started turning up. Actually, when I turned the corner in the car I said to myself 'please don't let anyone be there yet', but there were two cars in the driveway. Luckily it was Dallas and Sally, mine and Anthony's best friends. And they're more like family anyway, so I didn't feel as bad that I was running late. But it did mean that I was running to catch up and the house wasn't quite the way I wanted it, but it didn't matter in the end. And it's not really that unusual. While I'm fairly organised with food when we're entertaining, I'm almost never on time.

Great Company
When we asked people to come around and help us celebrate Sam's birthday, we weren't really sure what we would do or who would turn up. I must say I was surprised when at 3:15pm about 12 of Samuel's friends from school turned up. It was so great to see them. I gave them coke and chips and sent them into Sam's room, and they seemed to be OK. It was really great to see them and talk to them. What a great bunch of kids they are, but then again we didn't expect anything less from Sam, he wasn't really the type to hang out with idiots.

Samuel's closest friends Jake, Ryan, Patrick and Harry all came over, and we also caught up with their parents. That was great. It's always nice to hear stories about Sam from other people. Patrick's dad Bob brought around some great photos of the boys (they have been friends since Samuel was 3. Actually, Jake and Ryan have been Sam's friends since then too). Ryan was able to solve the mystery of something we had found in Sam's room (and had no idea where it came from) and show us some text messages. It was really nice to talk to Ryan, who has always been a bit shy around us.

The McLauchlan clan were around too. It was very nice to see everyone together (and get to hold baby Ashaan, only 3 weeks old), and we even talked to Tim and Rach (Anthony's brother and his partner, who live in Queensland) on the phone. They bought us some board games (naughty of them, but a nice gesture) and promised to come and play them with us. We used to have lots of games nights: Risk, Settlers of Catan, even Monopoly or poker sometimes, but hadn't done that a lot lately. That will have to change I think. We all played Uno occasionally, and the boys played a few games together, but we haven't had a good games night for a few years.
We ate a lot, as we generally do at those sort of things. We had most of Sam's favourite foods going: fairy bread, chocolate, sweet chilly philly, twisties etc, and Aunty Sue made a lime cheesecake that we enjoyed immensely (Sam loved Sue's cheesecakes), along with mouthfuls of whipped cream pumped straight from the can (another of Sam's loves).
We didn't sing happy birthday or blow out candles, but we did say happy birthday and shared funny memories of Sam, and talked until late at night (Ok, 11pm, but that's late for me!)

All in all, a nice day. Only one thing would have made it better, and that thing's not going to happen. But in the absence of my beautiful Sam, I couldn't have asked for a better day. It's always going to be hard celebrating the birthday of someone who's not with us, but I'm so glad people acknowledged it.

Thanks everyone.