Sunday, October 31, 2010


I've never been really big on Halloween. Until a couple of years ago, I was under the (incorrect) assumption that is was a dumb American tradition that didn't deserve a look in.
For the last couple of years, I've kept lollies aside for the night, and have had a couple of trick-or-treaters come to the door (mainly Sam's friends).

This year, I thought I'd like to get involved. For obvious reasons, I'm fairly down about Christmas, and thought it would be nice to make a fuss about something else. After all, it's about the dead - honouring the good spirits and scaring off the bad ones. Also, I do like to dress up!

One of Oliver's friend's mum (check out her blog if you like) invited us over for a Halloween party. We got a little bit excited about it, and got all dressed up. Oliver as Dracula:
And me as a witch:
We had fun at the party; there's something cool about being around people (adults, kids and teens) that are dressed up in funky stuff and are just relaxing.

Oliver was going trick-or-treating with his nanna tonight, and I was kind of hoping we'd get a few kids here too. I picked up a couple of big pumpkins for $3 each (reduced from $20) and we carved them this afternoon. This is Ollie's:
His and the one Anthony made looked very cool in the dark with candles burning within:
But sadly, I only received one little visitor, and that was my neighbour's granddaughter.

I'm a little disappointed, but I guess Halloween hasn't caught on yet. Still, it was fun, and we've got a big stash of lollies here now!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Same but different...

This is Samuel at 7:
And this is Oliver at 7:
For a while, they looked very much alike, especially when they were babies, and when they were around 4 years old. But as you can see, Oliver is starting to look less like Sam as he gets older.

They've always had very different personalities too - Oliver is the more boisterous, friendly and outgoing, whereas Samuel was gentle and caring and reserved (sometimes).

And as Oliver gets older, I notice some things that are very similar and some things that are very different...

There are still similarities there. Obviously in a house full of music they both grew up with an appreciation of it (and both went through a 'turn it down mum!' phase).
One thing though is that Oliver sings. All the time. He's always singing to himself (occasionally throwing up some amusing lyrics as he does. And he can actually hold a tune. There's a audio clip of him singing in the shower in this post. He also has a great ear for music, and remembers it really well. Yesterday when we were driving he was singing a tune and he said 'does this sound right?'. I asked him what song it was and he said 'it's the one from Harry Potter when they're walking through the hallways' (or something like that). I didn't even notice that music in the movie, but he's singing it!
I am trying to encourage him to get singing lessons or learn an instrument, but he says he'll only do it with me. But I can only play saxophone well enough to teach someone. I'd rather he played guitar or piano. Perhaps I should learn with him...

Samuel liked to draw, and we often bought him pencils or drawing books. But it was something he did every now and again. As Oliver got older, he would try to draw with Sam, and get frustrated when he couldn't draw the same things.
Lately, Oliver's been drawing a lot. It seems that it's his activity of choice lately. He'll sit for long periods of time just filling pages with little drawings (I've got a really good one at work, I'll bring it home and scan it in).
He takes a lot of time and care with it, and gets upset if it's not working out like he wants it to. I keep telling him he's got good skills for a 7 year old, but he's very intense about it.

Around the house
At the moment, one of the most noticeable differences between Samuel and Oliver is the way they are about housework. Samuel did do a lot of jobs/chores from an early age, but was never really interested in helping out.
Oliver does jobs too, but (very strangely considering the rest of us slobs!) also keeps his room clean, and volunteers to help out quite a lot. Yesterday, he weeded a whole garden bed for us. Yes, I did offer to pay him, but even when he was sick of it and complaining of a sore back, when I told him to take a break he decided to finish.
He's also very different to Sam when it comes to school and homework. Oliver is up, dressed and ready by 7-7:30 most mornings. We always had to drag Sam out of bed, even when he was young. He also used to like watching TV in the mornings, but Oliver often leaves it off.
Oliver also has a really great attitude about homework. Even if he (we) forget and leave it until the last minute, he'll make sure he finishes all of it and hands it in on time. Samuel was never that conscientious about it!

Activity and TV
And Oliver's the sporty one. As I've said before, Samuel liked sport, and went through active phases, but he was never a runner and didn't seek out opportunities to be active.
Oliver loves to run. He runs to school each day and enjoys being outside and active.
He also doesn't watch as much TV as Sam used to. The TV is on a fair bit (bad habit I know!), but he's often off doing something else. There are TV shows he likes, but he's just as happy doing other things. That's OK by me because I don't like TV much either.

Sometimes I wonder if all this is natural. If Oliver would have been like this if Samuel was still alive. Is some of it because he wants the attention, because he wants to please, or is it him? I guess I'll never know, but I'm not complaining. He's nice to have around.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I love to read. I guess growing up in a family who enjoyed books didn't hurt, neither did having a librarian mum (and dad for a while...well he wasn't really a librarian, but they did both work at the National Library...); Nor did growing up in a time where the most exciting thing playing on the TV on a Saturday afternoon was an old movie...

Anyway, I've always tried to encourage reading in the house. I've filled it with books and Anthony (who is not a keen reader but understands the value of good role models) and I have always read to the kids and listened to them read.

When Samuel was little, his favourite books were the Dr Seuss ones I read to him over and over: 'Green Eggs and Ham' (how could he resist a book with a character named Sam I am?), 'One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish', and one called 'Sam and the Firefly' (again with the name!).
He also liked an obscure little book called 'Apple Mouse', which I read to him again and again.

We did all the home reading stuff (I even volunteered at school to change them every morning), and he picked up the whole reading thing pretty quickly.
When he was in year three, Sam's teacher noticed that he 'drifted off' from time to time. His handwriting was also pretty awful, so we got a heap of tests done.
It turned out that Sam did have some fine motor problems, and he had to do some occupational therapy to strengthen his hands, but that was the only 'problem'. The IQ test results were high, and in grade three, he was reading at a 12 year old+ level.

Which was good for a while. He got into books, especially ones like the 'Captain Underpants' series, and a wide range of non-fiction.

But after a while he started to lose interest. He found other things that he enjoyed more - friends, video games, bikes and toys, and was reading less and less. By the time he was 12-13, he didn't read books at all. It wasn't that he couldn't, it was more that he didn't want to.

It didn't help that his friends didn't read much either. In fact their attitude made me giggle sometimes! I remember saying to Jake (one of Sam's best friends) "are you going to read the new Harry Potter book?" and he said "why would I read it? I can just see the movie."

Actually, when I think about it, I'm not too worried. Sam (and his friends) were (are) all intelligent, articulate kids who did pretty well at school anyway. And the more I learn about new ways of learning (through my fabulous new job) the more I let go of the 'kids must read books' mentality.
I do like it when they do though - it gives me something to talk about with them!

But despite not reading much for his own pleasure, one thing that Sam did do well is read to Oliver. And most of the time he did it willingly. I talked to him about being a good role model (not saying that books, school was boring was my main point), and he was. He quite often read to Oliver, even right up to the week before he died. Oliver loved snuggling up next to him and hearing him read, and I think Sam secretly loved it too.

Oliver's showing some signs of being more of a book lover, even now. He'll happily listen to me read (we're up to Harry Potter 4 at the moment), and is pretty enthusiastic about reading for himself. He likes the same books that Sam liked, and more. I'm hoping that he'll keep it up!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sam's School Memorial

A while back, I wrote about the memorial ceremony at Sam's school. I took lots of photos, but as of today they are still trapped on my camera (I know, I know, I could have been more pro-active about getting them off, but I haven't).

However, lovely Gilly at Sam's school (his favourite teacher who has been so great to us over the last 10 months), who I saw last week when she came in for a workshop, sent me a disc with some photos on it. So I thought I'd at least show you the lovely plaque they have placed in the main school corridor:
And these are the three lemon trees:
Apparently they were well watered in the holidays, lots of keen volunteers! So they will go well I think...

The Human Condition

3 reasons why I'll never understand us humans.

We drive around and around to find the park closest to our destination.
Most of the time, we drive around for longer than it would have taken to park further away and walk. Of course I understand that some people need to park near the entrance, but they're not usually the ones I see circling the carpark!
One place where I understand this behaviour the least is the gym. Each Thursday night I go to a 6:30 class. At that time of night the gym is really busy, so I usually park in a distant carpark. What always cracks me up is the people that drive round and around looking for a park next to the entrance. You're going to the gym people! Surely an extra 100m of walking wouldn't hurt??

We drop everything to go to a funeral, but not to other more happy occasions.
Not that I didn't appreciate it when everyone came to Sam's funeral. But this one has always puzzled me. If someone dies, especially unexpectedly, we do all we can to get to the funeral, but we rarely visit those people 'just for fun' or for birthdays, Christmas etc.
I'm guilty of it too, I admit, and I know it's a time/financial thing, but something my mother-in-law said to me years ago has always stuck with me: "You'd go to their funeral, so go now when you can enjoy them".

We worship beauty and physical talent, not intelligence.
I don't think I need to elaborate. But look at the salaries of elite sportspeople and actors...
And, I always loved this ad:

What things do we do that make you ponder?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Another month passes

It's been 10 months since we lost Sam.
He's the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I think about at night.

Cakes are important!

I like to make a big fuss about birthdays. I'm not really a big fan of Christmas (even less so now), so I tend to go a little overboard with birthdays.
Ollie's party was a big success, and he was very pleased with all his pressies.

But he loved the cake. It took me several hours and two cakes, but this is what I ended up making:
It was my first time using fondant, and I won't be commissioned for a wedding any time soon, but Oliver loved it, so that's what counts!

I've always liked making awesome cakes for the boys. This post was going to be about some of them, but I haven't been able to find the photos yet. Perhaps when I find them I'll put them up.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Hole

By the end of yesterday I was missing Sam a whole lot. I guess it was the combination of the busy week (and a dumb movie we were watching), it just brought a few feelings to the surface. We both were feeling it - a bit of a sad moment, but it was good to talk about it and have a cuddle.

This grief thing is so strange. It's been nearly 10 months, so things are different (and I guess you could say better): we have established some different routines, and we can laugh more, have fun...

But there are also the hard things. The memories are starting to fade a little- sometimes it's hard to picture his face, or there are those moments that are just below the surface, out of reach.

It's like I'm carrying a big hole around with me. Most of the time I can carry it easily, I hardly notice it's there. Then other times it gets so big I can't hold onto it, I feel like I'm going to fall in.

And I still find myself (most of the time unconsciously) trying to fill that hole. With new pursuits, with busyness and, sadly, with food. I don't know how deep my hole is, but I hope I find better ways to deal with it.

Ah well, new week, positive start. More from me later.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Take the bad with the good

It's been one of those weeks of mixed emotion.

I've had lots of nice stuff going on: some inspiring and challenging days at work, Powderfinger concert, and of course Oliver's birthday yesterday. But all of them have been tinged with sadness that Sam's not here to share them.

Sam would have loved the way education seems to be headed (at least where I'm currently sitting!): exciting new collaboration tools; online stuff that makes learning much more relevant and interesting; more autonomy for kids; etc...
We've had Stephen Heppell (an education/technology 'guru') here for the last couple of days sharing some interesting stories with us. As I sat there hearing about wonderful places around the world doing amazing things with education, I was also thinking of how much Sam would have enjoyed visiting these places with me. I miss my travel buddy!

Then, Powderfinger was pretty amazing. It was the first time I'd been to a concert that was being recorded for DVD, and it was so cool! The band was on-form, the crowd was pumped up and having lots of fun.

Oliver's birthday has been nice. I think he's enjoyed it. He had his family party last Sunday, with way too much food (I can't help it, I'm a feeder!); lots of presents and a lovely time with family.

On Thursday it was his actual birthday, with more presents, a cake at school, Goodberry's with his grandparents and then dinner at the club (he wore his suit of course!).

Tomorrow (I started this post on Wednesday but am finishing it on Saturday!) is his other birthday party. I'm attempting a 'Tardis' cake, hopefully I'll be able to pull it off!

It was sad having a family birthday with no Sam. He loved parties (especially the yummy food!), and was always good at entertaining people, getting them drinks and helping out (sometimes under sufferance, but usually without complaint!)

Also, the older Oliver gets, the more he looks like Sam. Not all the time; there's just the odd moment when we really see Sam in him. It's not bad I guess, but it is hard sometimes, depending on our mood at the time.

Anyway, gotta get organised. More later.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Concert Shirt

I know I've already rambled on a bit about music this last week, but as you know, it's one of my favourite subject to ramble on about!

I've also written before about Sam's love of music, and the wonderful experience he had (Green Day concert) with his Uncle James just 11 days before he died.

Why are these memories rising to the surface again? Because tomorrow I'm going to a concert.

As I have said, Samuel was going to be my new concert buddy; starting with Them Crooked Vultures and then, we think, probably as many as he could drag me along to afterwards. And I wouldn't have minded. I loved sharing music with him. It was one of the things that we had just for us.

So tonight while I was getting my concert shirt out, I started to think about Sam. I was a little sad. I miss him every day, but there are times when I miss him much more. This is one of them.

What's my concert shirt? It's just the one I wore first to Them Crooked Vultures with Sam; but then I wore it again when I went to Groovin' the Moo in May. I'm going to wear it again tomorrow night. It probably sounds weird, but it's like a little part of him comes with me. He would have wanted to go to Powderfinger; he liked them quite a lot, so he's gonna come with me. I get funny looks and probably look a bit strange, but this is one time when I don't care!

I've shown it to you before, but this is what the front looks like:

And this is the back:where I'm going to sew on some kind of reminder of every concert I take Sam to (once the shirt wears out - the photo on the front is already fading). I couldn't get a patch at Groovin' the Moo, so I just sewed my wrist band on!

I should start planning for the long term though - does anyone know a good screen printer?

I'll be back with my Powderfinger experiences later. I'm tired now and going to cuddle up on the lounge with Anthony.

Night Night...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Party Season

Time to kick off the party season...

Today, we're having Oliver's first 'party' for his birthday week. Today's family for afternoon tea (always way too much food but lots of fun!); Thursday's his actual (7th) birthday, and then next Sunday's his real party (with friends).

We could have both of them on the same weekend, but as Anthony has 4 brothers, family things are never small. It's best to separate them a bit so that Oliver doesn't become completely overtired and feral!

Just over a week later, Anthony's brother Tim has his birthday, and then it's Anthony's the next day. No parties here, but we'll all get together for breakfast.

Then, in early November, Anthony's brother Phil, (foster) sister Ange, and brother Christopher have their birthdays one after the other (3 days in a row). I must say, Anthony's mum was very organised in that way!

Then in December, there's James (Anthony's younger brother), then a week later it's my dad's, then 3 days later it's my birthday. (I'm trying not to think too much about what comes after that).

So as you can see, we're in for a busy 3 months, and that's just birthdays! Don't even get me started on work, home, etc etc!!

I'll be back later for an udpate. I think it will be a nice day though!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Dickhead Mentality

I just got yelled at by a passing car.

It's not that I'm upset. In these enlightened times; these days of cyber-bullying and far more sophisticated forms of harassment, I was surprised to hear it.

While I was walking along the footpath not far from my home, a couple of (no doubt) gorgeous hunks of manhood with (probably) genius IQs thought it would be funny to yell "fat whore" at me as they drove past.

Now I admit, I am dressed in shorts that are about 4 sizes too big, an old ratty t shirt and thongs, but it is Saturday morning - I'm in my cleaning clothes! I'll also admit that I'm fat, but a whore? I've never sold my body for money, and it's unlikely that I ever will.

It's not that it upsets me or hurts my feelings, it's more that I thought we'd moved on from that kind of yobbo behaviour. I've obviously led a sheltered life for a long time.

I've never understood it. While I admit that I have self-esteem issues, I've never understood this behaviour. My mental well-being and self-worth is not going to depend on what two passing idiots think of my appearance.

So perhaps they get something out of it? Are they the kind of people who can only feel good if they (think that they do) make other people feel bad? Are they so miserable and unloved that they have to project it onto everyone else?

My response? I gave them the finger. I, too, can be a dickhead.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Me me me me

I thought it would be nice to ramble a bit. Here are some things that you might (or might not) know about me; that you probably don't really care about, but hey, it keeps me bloggin', and don't we all love to talk about ourselves?

Music - one of my favourite subjects!
I think I've made it pretty clear that I love music. I love listening to it, talking about it, and even playing it (me and my sax - that's another story for another day!).
I'm not really sure where that love came from. Well, actually people on both sides of my family love/play music, so maybe I do. I spent my really young years with a fairly interesting playlist consisting of showtunes, Barbra Streisand and the odd Beatles/Isaac Hayes/classical/etc song.

When I was old enough to start thinking about it for myself, I didn't. I listened to what top 4o radio told me to listen to, sitting hunched over the radio waiting for my favourite songs so that I could tape them and listen to them over and over again. I'm sure many of you dear readers are old enough to remember tapes; how the start of every song on the tape had the DJs voice over the top!

So my early favourites were pretty standard 80s teenybopper fare: A-ha, Culture Club, Tears for Fears, Madonna etc. Oh dear.

Luckily, I then met Meg, who was the first to broaden my musical horizons. She moved in next door when I was 12, and we've been mates ever since.
Meg loved Metallica and Megadeth and metal stuff like that, and quickly I discovered that I liked it too. From there, I developed a deep love for Guns n' Roses - I even went to see them in concert in 1992 (that's an interesting tale for another day!)

But being the kind of person that I am, I couldn't stay with one genre/artist for long. There was just so much music out there!
By the time I got to college (at 16), I had discovered Nick Cave and The Cure, and loved the darker, more melodic (but not quite as heavy) stuff they produced. I also found The Doors, Queen and Led Zeppelin, all from well before my time, but bands I still love to this day.

In the 90s, I realised that I could like lots of different kinds of music; and I did. I started going to concerts as much as I could. Some of the amazing acts I've seen include The Ramones (great gig!), Soundgarden, Nirvana (sort of - another story for another day!), Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Living End, Pearl Jam (amazing band - not such an amazing gig. Bummer!), Hunters and Collectors, Marianne Faithfull and U2.

My goal now is to go to at least one concert a year. This year, so far I've been to 2 (Them Crooked Vultures and the Groovin' the Moo Festival), with 1 to go (Powderfinger), so it's not a bad effort for 2010!

As you know, my favourite band is the Foo Fighters. I've seen them 3 times now, and they are by far the best band I have seen live. They are recording at the moment, so perhaps a Foo Fighters gig is on the cards for 2011?

Sometimes even just the kind of music I like makes me feel so different to everybody else. There are a couple of people (now) that I know like the same types of music that I like, but it's different when you're meeting new people, or working in a school where there are mostly people who like pop music (Lady GaGa, Beyonce) or kids who like current top 40 stuff (I guess I can't judge them, I was like that once ;p )

There are other things that make me feel different. Like TV. I just don't like watching it. There's no way I can say this without sounding like a snob, but there's just nothing interesting on there!
Actually, that's not strictly true. I do like Spicks and Specks, and I don't mind a bit of Dr Who with Oliver; but that's about it. If something interesting is on, I'll watch it, but I rarely remember to watch it the next time. People are always lending and buying me TV series, but I can't find the time or the motivation to sit down and watch them!
As for the shows that seem to always be the talk of the town, I don't think I've ever watched one! So I always feel a little left out of those conversations. Not enough to make me want to watch TV though!

Perhaps I should just embrace my differences. Let's face it, less time watching TV means more time blogging!

And that's me for today, enough rambling. But don't worry (I'm sure you really were!). I'll be back! :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Finding my phojo

You might have noticed that I haven't posted (or mentioned) photos for a while.

There are a couple of reasons, and I hope I am addressing them, because I am missing it a bit.
It was the same with blogging - I got a bit distracted etc and wasn't doing it regularly, but I think I'm back on track now!

Firstly, at the concert and memorial dedication at Sam's school I took a lot of photos. Photos that I would really like to see, but I can't because they are trapped on the XD card. They are RAW files, and it was the first time I had used the card; and I just don't know what's going on. I can view them in the camera, but cannot upload them onto a computer. I have tried online recovery software and mum took it into Ted's for me, but no luck yet.
So I haven't used that camera since then. Which is a bummer.

Also, the last lesson in my morguefile course was about panning shots, and I just could not get it right! So I've kinda given up on that for a while.

And then there's that "I'm not that good at this" feeling that keeps creeping up on me. I am trying to get over it, I promise, but all in all, it's made me lose my phojo!

But I am going to try and get excited again. In the meantime, here's a couple of gorgeous shots of Oliver in his latest obsession - suits and ties! The first one my mum took, and I took the next two.

What a little poser! Isn't he gorgeous?

Must haves...

I've already talked about how Sam liked to keep up with personal transport fads, and I've briefly mentioned his love of fashionable clothing (particularly surf labels).
But there was one other area where Sam liked to keep up with trends and fads. Like most other children, he liked the latest toys.

Perhaps he got it from me (or his father, we both have that kind of nature), but once he latched onto something, he wanted more and more of it (actually, when I think of it, Oliver is the same too).

I guess the first real 'collection' was tigers. From an early age, Sam loved tigers, and he had lots of soft and fluffy tigers. He still had them sitting on top of his cupboard the day he died.
His favourite was 'Gritty Kitty', which sits on the top shelf of his 'shelf' in the lounge room:
Just like Oliver (and Anthony!), Sam went through a Lego phase. His main 'sets' were the Star Wars and Harry Potter ones; and for a while he was really into Bionicles. He didn't spend quite as much time on it as Oliver and Anthony, but he did build a lot cool stuff.

Another big fad that Sam got sucked into was the Beyblade phenomenon (which I was very surprised to find out, is still going in some countries!)
Beyblades were these spinning tops that you 'launched' into an arena against another person's top. Whichever one fell over first was the loser.
Samuel (and many other children) got very excited about the whole Beyblade thing, and bought lots of them. When he asked for an arena (a flimsy plastic thing that went for about $40), Anthony built him a wooden version, complete with a place to store all the toys:
I took the photo today, so as you can see, he had kept all the toys safe and secure, despite not playing with them for at least 5 years!

Another toy fad that Samuel got REALLY involved in was Yu-Gi-Oh! Which was a trading card game that was always way too confusing for me to understand, but somehow easy for 9 year-olds to play! Samuel and his friends (mainly Patrick) would sit for hours playing and refining their decks. Sam must have spent hundreds of dollars on the cards, and from what I can tell, he had a pretty good collection (which is still around here somewhere!)

His other major collection, which are technically not toys, is his massive rock collection.
For a long time, Samuel was very interested in rocks and shells. We really thought he was going to go into geology, and in fact, science was probably his best school subject. This box is most of his collection of smaller rocks, including 2.4gms of gold that I bought him for his 10th (I think) birthday. It would have been nice to see where that interest took him...

Of course, by the time Samuel died, he'd moved on to more 'teenage' collections: music, pictures of cars, video games, DVDs...but I like that he kept all his toys too.