Sunday, 6 October 2019

Autumnal Adventures: Forest Walks - Mushroom Hunter Edition

Skipping as lightly over the 1.5 year blog absence as we did the beautiful autumnal leaves, suffice to say a few things have changed in the Kollhofsphere. One of the major ones being a move not only of countries but also hemispheres! We’re back in the north again and no-one is more excited about this than me, getting to document my most favourite of all the seasons - autumn. My second favourite is winter. Probably not best to dwell too long on why we moved to a country that is sunny all year round.

Anyway, now we live by lakes and woodland, giving me a fantastic chance to get in touch with my inner leaf-kicker again, whilst also introducing my now-nearly-2-year-old everything-kicker to something she’s allowed to put the boot to.

But what we’ve seen so many of on our walks here so far have been mushrooms! They’re everywhere and in many different varieties. None of which I know the poison potential of, so mainly walks have been accompanied by a lot of hysterically yelling “no touching”, somewhat disturbing the peacefulness of nature. But at least Lily isn’t dead, even if she does shout “no touching” and “no stepping on” at every fungi she sees now.

Anyway, here’s some pictures of our finds so far! I’ve included official fungi names for reference.

Mushroom hunters at the ready.
Less than 5 seconds after I took this, Lily stamped on it. Hence the “no stepping!” rule.
Wall-clinger-onners. Official name, promise.
”Ice-keems”. According to Lily.
Your standard umbrella model.
More like a parasol with the frilly edges.
Double umbrella.
Two-tone toady.
Sleeping beauty.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Six months

Wow. You’ve been here six months already. Where the heck has that gone? Probably to the same place that mama’s ability to string a coherent sentence together went. (When exactly does this ‘baby brain’ thing go away? Because it sure would be nice to remember what I’d done in the past week - heck, in the past five minutes would be a plus).

This time last year, you looked like this:

You’ve filled out a bit since then...

Of course, I and the avid two readers of this blog*, have been sorely disappointed that your presence in the world hasn’t turned it into some huhlarious and oft-updated blog about the chaos of early parenthood, but frankly you scuppered all of that by being a shockingly lovely baby. The midwives at the hospital warned us of the “Armageddon” we would face on the second night of your life, when you ‘woke up’ and went on some kind of feeding frenzy to bring my milk in. You kinda grumbled every hour and a half and went straight back to sleep again after we fed you. 

* Hi, mom and dad!

Then there’s all the stories of ‘poo-splosions’ we don’t have because you’re quite a conservative poo-er. Well, minus that one bus incident, where there was significant leakage, and papa had to effect a between-stops stealth change. But, come on, everyone’s done that once, right?

You took to breastfeeding like a pro, and survived mama’s complete paranoia over that whole deal admirably well. And now you’re so big! In a very petite kind of way! And you can roll, and drag yourself along the floor, and sort of vaguely sit up, as long as you don’t notice you’re doing it. You make an interesting amount of noises, include a Shining-style “Redrum” inward breathing thing, another inward breathing style excitable squeak, and a highly polished “WAH”! You also say “mam-mam-mam” when you’re upset, which mama is totally taking as your first word - suck it, papa! And you do a great laugh, especially when we do the “zombie eating your guts out” bit, which for some odd reason you find hilarious. Also making you jump brings out the giggles. I’m guessing you’ll be into horror films and Stephen King when you’re older. Just don’t expect me to read you “It.

We’ve been keeping one of those “Baby’s first year” books with all your little leaps and doings in, but we’re already romanticising it all, truth be told. So here I will record the real truth of your life so far, for posterity and whatnot.

My favourite toys:
Electrical cables, phones, computers, mama’s glasses. Is it dangerous/for grown-ups/going to hurt me? GIMME NOW. Is it soft, plush, colourful, musical, whimsical? Meh, I’m dropping that s*&t on the floor.

My favourite people:
No-one. I will stare unblinkingly into your very soul at your futile attempts to try and make me smile, stranger in the street. I care not that you stopped to tell me how cute I am, or how blue my eyes are. Shrivel under my gaze and feel your self-consciousness slowly making you wither.
Mama and papa are ok, I suppose.

My favourite foods:
What on earth have you just put in my mouth? No, seriously, what is this muck? 

My favourite activities:
Pranking papa: See how I’ve dropped that serviette I shouldn’t have been chewing on in the first place? While you reach down to get it, Imma tip that glass of water over so you look like you’ve wet your pants! Who's the baby now, papa?! I’m HILARIOUS!
Being contrary: See how you’ve given me a nice chair to sit in with the dangly toys to play with? Imma tear that bar down and wave it all over the place, narrowly missing smashing my own skull in! HAHAHAHA!

Being a bit, uhm, special: See how I received a gorgeous playmat to play on? Imma shuffle off that every single time, then complain about being on the floor. Or I’ll just straight out chomp it to death...

Places I like:
My house. Mostly. Unless I’m tired, or hungry, or grumpy, then I hate every single place except mama’s arms*.
Yoga - watching mama’s red sweaty upside-down face is hysterical!
The baby music class at the library. Kind of. All the nursery rhyme singing passes half an hour, but don’t expect me to smile about it or anything. And WTF is with that parachute thing you keep waving over me?

* Squee! 

Places I don’t like:
The gym crèche. I’m now known as the “sensitive” baby, because I will cry if you leave me in the pram, but DAMMIT WOMAN, don’t pick me up! See what you did? Now I’m crying!
The pram. It’s fine for ten minutes, but then the seat turns to lava - GET ME OUT! GET ME OUT!
The hospital and doctors: every time I go to those places the b*$#@&ds jab me with needles! And mama just stands there laughing as my face turns ever redder and I hold my breath for ages to get myself ready for the loudest yell I can muster. (Ed by mama: In mama’s defence, it’s a super cute face!).

We’re getting ready for our big trip to the other side of the world to meet the grandparents soon. Maybe Lily will provide us with another public transport related poo-fest on the plane I can blog about.... But in the meantime, she’s perfect, and I think we’ll keep her.

Thursday, 16 November 2017


There we were, 41 weeks pregnant at our weekly antenatal appointment, and there was still no sign of getting closer to giving birth. This is our first, it is normal, they just take a bit longer to cook. Of course, but still!
Can we and should we push it to 42 weeks? The week before, the midwives had already suggested to start with the induction process on Wednesday, 10 days past due date, but we didn't really like the idea of being induced.

This was weighing heavy on Cate.  She had been so anxious about the whole birthing process, but come around to be very calm and relaxed about it, so much that she wanted to avoid as much intervention as possible. It was amazing to see the transformation of her feelings towards birth throughout the pregnancy. We read a few books and took a few classes, which all helped.
In the week before, we had tried all of grandmother's recipes to help things move along:  eating spicy food, eating lots of dates, drinking raspberry leaf tea by the bucket, clary sage baths and showers, went for walks, had lots of cuddles - Cate even had a couple of acupuncture sessions. Stretch and sweeps by the midwifes also didn't go very far, as the cervix was just not cooperating.

That Monday was a long and gloomy day. It is odd how you can patiently wait 9 months, but once past that due date your mind starts playing tricks on you. Cate was still full of energy, very unlike being 41 weeks pregnant, though her confidence started sinking. So we went out for a walk along the cliffs. We talked a lot and I tried to cheer her up the best I could. There was no reason to worry, but the dreaded Wednesday was getting closer and closer and the induction appeared to be unavoidable.
So, I let in a bath for Cate in the evening, put on some relaxing music, lit some candles and just tried to help her find some peace and a positive outlook.
We still had a few more days and if nothing was going to change by Wednesday we would just go with it. Having had stillbirths and miscarriages in the family, and friends with pretty awful complications during labour, all sorts of scenarios started racing through my mind. We both agreed we didn't want to push it too far, putting baby or mum at risk.

Surprise surprise, the bath, the talks, the walks, all the things we tried, must have done something. At least the mucus plug had come now. Not that that is much of an indicator, you can lose it weeks before birth, but it is something in the right direction nevertheless.
Cate started cheering up again and returning to her more confident self.

Well, I guess, we asked for it. Around two o'clock in the morning that Tuesday, Cate was sitting up in bed with some new sort of pains. Within half an hour it was clear that these were not some practice contractions, but the real deal. "Hooray, it is all happening!" We knew things would ramp up slowly and we would get some rest before things got too strong. Good, because it was only 2:00am!
Now, that didn't pan out the way we had thought. The contractions happened every 4-5 minutes with each being roughly one minute long. There were a very few breaks of maybe ca 8 minutes, but other than that, the contractions just kept coming, again and again and again.
By morning Cate started to feel nauseous and lost whatever was left in her tummy.  She had trouble drinking and really could not eat food either. This was going to be interesting.

The day continued like this, we charted all the contractions and the baby's movements. At some point in the early afternoon it felt like the baby was moving less than usual, so we called the delivery suite and went up there to get things checked out. Of course the contractions suddenly were a bit less frequent and a bit more bearable as soon as we got into the car. The midwife checked Cate and monitored the baby. It was all looking good, except that Cate was rather dehydrated and only 2 cm dilated. Though the contractions were frequent, they were just not strong enough. As we expected they sent us back home.

At this stage Cate started to doubt herself again - she was exhausted, had not eaten, and was dehydrated. Back home we let in a bath and put some more relaxing music on.
It was a long bath, probably not helping the dehydration nor the body to progress as we were told later.  But, it did help Cate shift her mindset. She relaxed and went inwards into her thoughts. Sometimes there was just a lift of a finger, while her eyes were closed, telling me this was a contraction and not a good time to start a chat. She was quiet and super calm, taking deep long breaths in and even longer ones out.

Eventually she got out of the bath, sat on the exercise ball, or walked around the house, calmly going through the contractions. I massaged her when I could, or just held her. The contractions started to visibly get stronger and a bit more frequent. We were approaching the 1+ minute every 3 minutes sets, though it did not feel like that was enough yet.

At 20:00ish things started to intensify quite a bit, so we rang the delivery suite again and went up there, though thinking they would probably just send us back.
They checked Cate and monitored the baby's heart rate and the contractions again.
Cate was still only 3cm dilated and the contractions were just not intense and long enough.
They did not send us home though, because baby's heart rate kept dropping and would recover slower than expected. So they kept us there for monitoring.

Great, this was the moment to make use of all of our preparations for the delivery suite. We had made a cute birth preference plan, we had a bag full of snacks and energy drinks, we had some electric wax candles to make the room more cosy, a speaker for music.... Nothing - we used absolutely nothing of it! Cate was exhausted from now almost 20h of contractions. She was still not properly hydrated and only eating the tiniest amount of food. Our mind was just not there to care about candles and birth plans, we just needed some rest to gain back some energy.

They put Cate on a saline drip and also gave her something for her heartburn and nausea so that she could hopefully eat a bit more. This was the first time Cate also asked for some pain relief, so they gave her some morphine. The morphine started to act and the litre of saline was also almost gone when she started to feel a bit chilly. Then, after a bit, she started shaking, and then more and more. It caught both of us by surprise. It was a horrible feeling of not being able to help or do anything about it. The shakes finally calmed down again and in-between contractions she started to drift off a bit. Time for me to have a good cry as emotions just overran my mind.

She has been powering through this for almost 24h, somehow quietly and calmly. Sometimes she laid down, sometimes she sat, and sometimes she walked around a bit. Whenever there was a contraction she just held on to me or hugged my neck tightly and breathed through it. It was amazing how well she was still holding up. Though looking at the monitoring charts I did start to worry. Baby's heartbeat kept dropping, and the contractions did not change much in strength or frequency.

At 4:30am on Wednesday the midwife broke Cate's waters as an attempt to get things moving forward. At this point we did not care much for our birth plan anymore, we just wanted the labour to progress and hold a healthy little girl in our arms.

A couple of doctors had come in during the night to check on Cate and the baby. They were not too concerned yet, but if things wouldn't progress we would need to help things out with some syntocinon, the drug they use for inductions. By 5:30 not much had changed - Cate was ca 5cm dilated, so she was put on a drip of a little dose of syntocinon. As the morphine had already worn off long ago, they offered another dose but Cate declined. Instead she was now giving the gas and air a go, starting with a mix of 30% nitrogen and 70% oxygen.

This was also around the time we got a new midwife as their shifts changed. Natalie was the first one to ask us about our birth preferences. We talked how things had been going and what we originally had imagined and hoped for. We talked about how things are likely to progress and about potential interventions and complications. She was very supportive and super lovely. It was very heartwarming to see someone care so much and taking their time with us.

They increased the syntocinon every 30min as things were not progressing much, but then around 6:30ish everything changed. The contractions got stronger and stronger. They checked Cate and by 7:30 she was ca 7cm dilated. The docs checked the baby with a little scratch on the head to test the lactic acidity of her blood. Though the heart rate was still dropping and not recovering as fast as it maybe should, they were all super positive and holding out for a natural birth.

The contractions started to get more and more intense, so much that they lowered the syntocinon dosage a bit. By 9:00 Cate was fully dilated. The docs checked the baby again and started talking about using a ventouse to help her along, but they wanted to give Cate a chance to have the baby herself. By this time the consultant had also joined the party.

Cate was now pushing like a trooper and everyone was cheering her on. The baby's head started to appear and then recede again. Cate started doubting herself as she was running out of energy, so I took a video to show her how well she was doing. She was only a contraction away from the baby's head just staying there.  She pushed, and pushed, she felt the baby's head herself and pushed more and harder.

In the corners of my eye I saw a pair of episiotomy scissors. We had about 2 contractions left before they needed to intervene and pull her out. Everyone was cheering Cate on. With perfect timing there was a push and a snip and out was the head at 9:25. Little one had the cord wrapped loosely around the neck, but that was an easy fix for the midwife. It was indescribable to see that tiny head, and before having any chance to process anything the last contraction came, the midwife gently tugging on the baby and out she was.

They put her on Cate right way, just as she was. I vaguely remember me cutting the cord. Another doctor/paediatrician showed up to check on baby's heart and all was fine. She was breathing and quietly crying, clearing the water out of her lungs. She started to pink up all over her body. I remember her feet looked huge and blue!? She had brown hair and a sceptical stern look.
We laid there snuggling the baby, holding each other, crying, smiling and feeling so proud.
We put the little one straight on the the boob just so she could give it a go. We were not really processing anything else going on around us. After 31 hours and all the excitement the brain just does not appear to function normally.

While we had time with our new baby, the midwife took care of everything else. Cate got another saline drip and some more hormones to help the placenta come out quicker as there was concern about blood loss and a slower contraction of the uterus due to a couple of fibroids. The placenta didn't appear to want to cooperate as expected, so the consultant was back helping the midwife. We later found out that Cate had a velamentous insertion of cord, which can cause quite some trouble with rather awful outcomes during early labour and birth.

Once everything was checked and deemed to be OK, Cate was stitched up. The midwife was quite proud of her job and had me check it all out. Then the baby was measured and given her first immunisation and vitamin K injections. She was a healthy 3395g, and 53cm tall.

They wrapped her up and all of the sudden it was just us three in the room.
Cate went to take a shower and I got some snuggle time with the little one.
We were transferred to our room in the recovery ward. We unpacked a bit, put down a mattress for me next to Cate's bed and Lily was asleep. Then it hit us, and we basically just passed out for a bit. Nurses checked on us,  we texted friends, video called family and had some dinner - the first real meal in probably 48 hours.

The first night was very uneventful: we changed her when she was wet/full and Cate gave hear the boob whenever it looked like she wanted it. Both looked like they were taking to the feeding like fish to water. When it wasn't quite working, Cate was the loveliest mum I could have ever imagined her to be, so patient and so caring. We had lots of skin-to-skin time with her and just enjoyed being with our Lily.

The next morning there was a hearing test which she passed with flying colours, and we went to a talk by Dr. Howard Chilton, the author of the excellent book "Baby on Board", which we both had read.
Everything was going so well that we contemplated going home if they'd let us. Cate dropped by the breastfeeding class and they were super happy with both her and Lily, so we asked if we could be discharged. They got the paediatrician to check the baby and again she passed with flying colours.
At 16:00 we were discharged and went home, ready for the adventure.

It took me a few days to be able to process the whole labour and each time I tried it would bring tears to my eyes. Birth is an amazing adventure, even only experiencing it second-hand. I am grateful to have had the chance to be there with Cate all the way. She has been such a trooper and I will never really know where she found the strength and the serenity to have made this all happen.

The staff at the Royal Hospital for Women in Randwick have been absolutely amazing, caring and supportive. A big shout out to our lovely midwife Natalie and Dr Lee for believing in Cate and being such lovely people through the whole time.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Nine months later...

Well, when we announced the pregnancy, I totally geared myself up to regale you all with HUHLARIOUS stories of antenatal mishaps - being sick in bins at work whilst live on air*, ridiculous things that I did/said/thought, and my waters breaking in the most embarrassing place possible, and it has all come to naught! Well, except the waters thing, which could still totally happen. I’ll keep you updated.

* Stenography is a unique profession where once you’ve started, you can never, ever stop for any reason whatsoever...

But honestly? We’ve had the most boring pregnancy ever! Except I can’t say ‘boring’, as we got frowned upon in antenatal classes when I described it this way... because pregnancy is magical and special and so very precious and all. So I mean ‘uneventful’ and ‘#blessed’ of course. I’ve had precisely no morning sickness (puking in shock at a positive pregnancy test totally doesn’t count apparently), no cravings, no exhaustion and no crazy mood swings* or anything. I’ve really enjoyed it all, genuinely - minus a slight trauma over the removal of my stomach piercing and the subsequent stretchy hole that’s developed (all hail to Bio Oil!). And now I’m on maternity leave and we have somewhere between the next 5 minutes and 2 weeks to go, and it’s all gone so quickly, but also, I’ve been pregnant for pretty much the entire year, which seems like forever, and I feel like I should probably at least write about some of it. So here’s a few things we’ve experienced over the months...

* Shut up, Jan..

Going for scans...

Putting a face to the puncher of my bladder...

The first time you go for your dating scan, you will be all excitement and nerves - is there really something in there? Is this where I awkwardly find out I’ve made the whole thing up in my head and it’s been really bad trapped wind for all these weeks? What the heck’s going on? And they give you very specific instructions about exactly when and how much to drink before the scan to ensure a nice full bladder, so the uterus can be seen properly.

Now, I am a total people pleaser - especially with authority figures - so despite thinking, “Huh, a litre of water that I have to hold for an hour before the scan seems rather excessive”, I dutifully sipped my way through the requisite amount, and then insisted on getting the bus to the scanning place, cos I ain’t no fool. Except... when we got to the sonographer, we realised we’d totally forgotten the doctor’s referral, without which they refused to see us. But neither would they let us leave to go fetch it. They insisted we ring our doctor from there and have them fax it through. 20 minutes later and still no fax in sight - but what was in sight was me dancing around the waiting room in the age old “dear god, I can’t hold it any longer” pee dance of doom. In fact, so compelling was my performance, the receptionist finally took pity on us and said we could see the sonographer without the form, and would I like to try and “let some out” in the ladies? All I can say is if there’s one thing worse than the exquisite torture of needing the loo and not being able to go, it’s the pure hell of trying to stop halfway through the most desperately-needed pee of your entire life... Twice. Because once just wasn’t enough. Then the sonographer STILL commenting on how full your bladder is, whilst pressing down hard on your stomach with the scanner. And you having to pee twice more during the scan. So, newly-pregnant ladies, for God’s sake, REMEMBER THE DAMN FORM.

It’s not always you that gets the hormones...

When you start reading pregnancy literature,  all you hear about is hormones, hormones, hormones! Morning sickness? It’s the hormones coursing through you! Sobbing because the person in front of you in the queue took the sandwich you wanted? Hormones! Staring in a crazily stalkerish manner at all babies/pregnant bellies/variety of prams as you walk down the street? Hormones, oh pregnant one! Only... well, it wasn’t me who got the hormones in this pregnancy.

It wasn’t me who started nesting for the gods, trying to build our own baby monitor, and declaring he really wants a shed for carpentry projects; it wasn’t me who cried at all the scans we’ve had; and it definitely wasn’t me who sobbed at every birthing video we’ve watched so far... I fear my face was more of the totally-grossed-out-and-traumatised variety at the “miracle” of birth.

And if that makes me sound like a stone-cold, emotionless robot, well...blame it on the hormones.

There will be baby brain...

Finally! A symptom I did get! Anyone who knows me well, knows I’m not the most, ahem, organised person at the best of times, but wow does pregnancy really up the ante. I’ve waltzed out of countless cafes without my handbag, on multiple times forgotten my antenatal card (which I’m supposed to carry everywhere) to routine appointments, and on one occasion even booked an appointment with completely the wrong doctor. Convinced my doctor’s name was Young, I confidently booked in a check-up, only to discover on the day that my doctor is Dr Ryan. There’s no Dr Young at my surgery at all - although annoyingly there is a Dr Yong, and much hilarity ensued when the receptionists discovered the mistake...

The best thing about all this though is (HORMONES) you totally don’t care about any of it at all, it’s just so nice that people are willing to chase you down the street with all your abandoned belongings, or politely indulge you in letting you waddle off to collect all the paperwork you’ve forgotten. And speaking of waddling...


This is one* of my new names now. It basically means “waddling duck”, although I prefer to view myself more like an oversized penguin trying to make it back to penguin home base with a stomach full of fish.

Either way, it’s somewhat dispiriting when you get all dressed up in your spiffing new maternity togs, proudly walking down the street with bump in full “miracle of life” mode, only to catch sight of yourself in a window and realise you’re walking like you’ve just **** your pants...

The other is Jan relentlessly singing “Big Belly” at me, to the tune of “Black Betty”. He has been firmly warned that any continuance of this after the birth will be looked upon most severely...

People are lovely!

There’s something about a baby bump that makes you instantly approachable. Complete strangers will come and strike up conversations with you out of the blue, purely because you look like you’ve eaten a cannon ball for breakfast. I’ve met an artist from the next suburb over, a woman who has had three children herself, talked about numerous birth stories, and had a man on a bike ride past and shout, “there could be twins in there”! Which... well, OK, uhm, thanks?! And suddenly you’re the special one on the bus who people jump up to give a seat to! And goddamn it, I will take the seat, regardless of the fact I’ve just left the most sedentary job ever where I’ve been sitting for the last 8 hours. You’ve got to make the most of this! And I won’t tire of people making a fuss and telling me how cute and lovely my bump is, because... it totally is!

So that’s about it from pregnancy land. We’re almost ready to move on to labour land, with every twitch and movement now being anxiously assessed to see if “this is it”. Although, I’m getting the feeling this little lady has her parents’ sense of humour already and will hang on in there until the absolute last second just to really freak us out...

But don’t worry, little bubba, we’re ready for you....

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Antenatal Adventures

So for Facebook friends, I guess we posted our happy news, then I left you with a lovely picture from Uluru, with Jan contemplating his future in the corner, and we've told you nothing else! For non-Facebook peeps, uhm, hai there, Jan and I are having a baby! Surprise!

So for everyone keen to know the "usual" news - I'm feeling fine (criminally fine, but more on this later); we are 15 weeks along; everything is looking good so far; and the due date is 30 October. Which, come on, I'm totally going to cross my legs for an extra day to get a Halloween baby, purely for the joy of bringing it home in a costume. With The Omen music playing in the car. Or something.

As for the other big question, not only do we want to find out the sex, WE ALREADY KNOW! Thanks to the wonderfulment of modern science (and a chunk of cash), we had a test called the NIPT (non-invasive parental testing), which takes some of the mother's blood, whisks it about a bit in a fancy flask, and gets the baby's DNA out to test. With the added extra bonus of finding out sex! And....... Jan is overjoyed to tell you he will now be bossed about by two* women in his house! Which maybe accounts for the look of fear on his face in that Uluru snap... Or it could be the dingoes.

* As in, me and Baby Girl. I re-read this and realised it sounded like we were having twins, which... PLEASE LORD, NO.

In all honesty, though, I think it's me who is actually the terrified one here. When we did the test and it came out positive, Jan was overjoyed and shed some happy tears, and immediately wanted to text his parents. I.... paced the flat wild-eyed and breathing heavily, and then decided to just up and get the morning sickness out of the way in one big go. And then do a bit more wild-eyed pacing. And then... nope, wait, not done with the sickness quite yet, thanks. I mean, we had been trying, but I honestly hadn't quite believed it could actually happen TO ME and MY BODY and, oh crap, one and one really does make three, and what now, OMG WHAT NOW?!?!?! IT'S GOT TO COME OUT AGAIN AT SOME POINT AND... gah, time for more puking.

Anyway, I'm coming round to the idea, what with it actually being real and really happening and all. And it really is real cos they've given me scans and everything and there's actually a real live human bean all up in my womb, taking up valuable bladder space and everything:

Subject at 11 weeks and chilling...
So now it's time for the biggest (scariest) adventure of all - and it doesn't involve moving to the other side of the world!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Love Bingle.

We don't tend to celebrate Valentine's Day in the Kollhof house*, as we're sort of all bah humbug, stupid confected commercialised rubbish our love is perennial and needs no one single special day for 'tis special every day sort of thing. That and we're really rubbish at remembering dates.

* We celebrated it once. Jan made a beautiful dinner of mushroom soup followed by steak, but we had to eat it at 10pm as that's when I got home from work. I'd bought him a CD but had no wrapping paper, so had to make my own out of random bits of coloured card.

But this year, we've inadvertently made our biggest grown-up purchase yet around this date, so we're totally pretending it's our VDay gift to ourselves! Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Ravi:

She is BOOTIFUL. I also may have made lots of unnecessary squeaking noises over the bow when we picked her up. The last car we had, I was just plain thrilled that it had electric windows and a CD player. This one has CAMERAS FOR REVERSING. REVERSING. That thing I'm hopeless at because I'm too darn tiny to see the stupid kerb or anything else you're supposed to be able to see to reverse successfully. I. AM. ECSTATIC.

The reason we upgraded from our old car is because it got totally smushed in November. Or, as they say here, "I had a bingle". Let's just say it involved emergency stopping, and me being the rather shocked filling in a metal car sandwich. The main things to remember are: no-one was hurt, it wasn't my fault*, and WE GOT A FANCY CAR WITH REVERSING CAMERAS.

* Important for self-esteem (and insurance) purposes.

Now all we need to do is take her for a big drive somewhere exciting!

Sunday, 1 January 2017


Well, what a year. As so many people have stated on t'interweb already, that's another trip around the sun and what an horrific, traumatising, nightmarish, sh*tstormy, craptabulous interesting trip it's been.

Usually, I'm one of those people who looks around at the end of a year everyone else has found horrendous, and apologetically says, "Well mine was rather good, actually". But nope, this year has pooped on my head too.

That's not to say it was all bad! It actually started off quite well!

Friends visited us...

..and we visited family and friends (and watched them get married <3):

But after that, well... things took a turn. Brexit happened. Trump happened. Countries turned their backs on innocent people needing help. Other innocent people died at the hands of those who would spread fear. People we've grown up with died (and so many so young!). Well, you all know the global horrors we've been through and thanks to having to caption the whole sorry mess every single day at work, I'm slightly world weary as we slip into 2017.

Things in our own smaller world took a tumble too. My parents were involved in a car crash in July - and it was a bad one. Dad was mercifully unscathed thanks to the airbags*. Mom was not so lucky, and spent nearly 4 weeks in a coma. It's amazing how one voicemail message instantly shows you exactly what living on the other side of the world means. We'd always comforted ourselves that if anything happened we were 'only' 24 hours away. But boy, that's the longest 24 hours you'll ever spend. I'd never been to an airport feeling nothing but dread before, never flown somewhere not happy to be going on a new adventure, never sat sobbing in Singapore as my friend insisted she was coming to meet me at 6am in the morning and drive home with me to face everything because people were worried about me driving alone. Never sat in a hospital, watching someone's life being held more in the machines around them than in their actual bodies. Never seen so many darn plug sockets to keep all those machines going! Never been to my parents' house before without my mom being there. Never been in her kitchen, with all the pots and pans and spoons and forks from my childhood**,  and no-one to tell me where to find things, or what to do. But we got through it, with much help from family and friends, and I really learnt how wonderful and special support like that is - from kind words and thoughts, to coffee sent from my favourite place here, to all those people who've helped my dad get around and not kill himself from food poisoning!

* Or 'hairbags' as he likes to call them - one of the very few things that made me smile about the whole episode.
** I had a favourite teaspoon as a child. Seriously. And they've still got it!

More importantly, mom got through it all too. She's still in rehab, but wow - watching her get better has been amazing. I see a determination in her I kind of knew was there, but never expected to see so much of - she was scaring the nurses pulling herself up on the bed and trying to get off when she couldn't even walk! She's got straight back on the computer to re-teach herself, instructed my dad about all things household, insisted on still writing all of her Christmas cards and even made a Christmas cake for all the nurses! Fingers crossed, early next year she will be home again properly.

I guess from there, things could only get better! And they have, towards the end of the year. We made a promise to ourselves to get out there and do 'stuff' this summer - and we have been doing. I'll post more about some wonderful summer December* weekends soon!

* December = summer. Still can't get used to that 3 years on!

And Jan turned 40! Again, a whole other blog on that, but suffice to say, he's still lookin' mighty good:

For now I'll just say... TFI 2017!

For all of us who've had a tough 2016 (and also for those quietly saying "actually mine was rather good"), may 2016 be like this ice sculpture and slowly melt away into a misshapen lump that no-one will remember - and may 2017 prove to be the year we all win the lottery* and live happily ever after!

* We actually have won the lottery already this year! And we'll be getting the best bottle of vino $14 can buy...