A celebration of parenting with Katrina Roe

Monthly Archives: November 2010

The triplets, photo used with permission

I received an interesting email at work yesterday that I want to share with you.  It went like this.

Hi Katrina.  Wondering if you can help.  I have a friend with triplets who has been given sooooo many newborn nappies that her 3 have outgrown them before she has used them all.

They are all Huggies and all still in packaging, but with no receipts the shops aren’t letting her take them back.

Is there any chance we could get behind her and see if people who need newborn nappies would be willing to buy a bigger size and then swap them to support her?  Happy to arrange a drop off and collection from anywhere in the area.  Thanks, Helen.

Of course this email touched my heart.  Firstly, I remember how expensive it was buying nappies all the time and can’t imagine what it must be like for triplets.  Secondly, I just thought it was really sweet that Helen would go to such lengths for  her friend.  So I gave Helen a call today to find out more details.

Helen’s friend, Sarah has six-month-old triplets.  She also has a two-year-old daughter, so she’s probably actually buying nappies for four kids!  Ouch.  Sarah’s triplets were born ten weeks premature so even though they’re six months old, they’re a little smaller than most.  However, they’ve outgrown their newborn nappies and are ready to move onto the 3 – 8 kg size (or bigger).

Both Helen and her friend Sarah live near the Hills District in the North West of Sydney (Glenwood and Castle Hill) so if you live not far from there and need some newborn nappies, they’d love to hear from you.  Thanks to the generosity of her church friends Sarah has plenty of newborn nappies to spare. She has 2 boxes of 4 x 36 napppies, 6 packets of 36 nappies and 3 packets of 54 nappies.  That’s a lot of nappies and they ain’t cheap, so you can see why Helen wants to help her exchange them.

So if you live in the Northwest of Sydney and  are expecting a baby, have a newborn, or have a friend with a newborn, here’s how you can help.  Either offer to buy some of the newborn nappies from Helen at the retail price, or buy a packet of 32 nappies in the next size up (3 – 8 kg) to swap with her!  Then all you need to do is contact Helen by email to arrange the pickup and drop-off.  Her email is nolanmh @ bigpond dot net dot au.  Or if you comment here, I can get your email address and pass it onto Helen.

Thanks Sydney Mums.  Hope we can help each other out!


We’ve been doing a bit of a spring clean this week.  Well more of a re-organise than a spring clean, but somewhere in the process Birdy’s cot got dissembled and packed away.

I would have thought that packing up the cot would have been an emotional time for me, especially as we spent most of 2008 and 2009, as well as a few months of 2010 being pregnant and hoping for another baby.  I would have thought that I would have just taken a moment to observe the end of an era.  But it was really quite pragmatic.  One day I came home from work and the baby gate was taken down.  Another day I noticed a kiddy lock was missing from the kitchen cupboard.  Then it only seemed a small step to pack up the cot to make room for a new toy shelf.  Some time soon the nappy change table will make it’s way out to the shed.

So now, although we’d still like more kids, we are looking forward at a future as an only child family.

I know that for some people the concept of a one-child family isn’t such a big deal, but I was raised as one of four siblings and would never have planned to have an only child.  Even though my mum was an only child and I have several close friends who are only children, the stereotypes persist.  There’s this idea that only children are spoilt rotten, grow up too fast and don’t know how to relate to other kids.  Part of the problem is with the language.  Only child sounds so negative and inadequate.  It’s like when people ask how many children I have and I find myself saying, “Just one.”  Just.  In French and Italian they say “unique child”.  It sounds so much more positive and special.

In fact, research from the UK shows that only children are happier than their counterparts with siblings.  There’s some evidence that only children are more motivated to achieve, have higher self-esteem and better relationships with their parents because they don’t have to compete for their attention.

Like most only children, Birdy is self-assured at speaking with adults.  She’s also good at entertaining herself and has a vivid imagination.  She’s also developing a great ability to make friends.  Again, the research supports this.  Some studies have shown that only children are actually conditioned to be outgoing because they have to win over their friends, rather than just relying on siblings for company.  Birdy has recently made close friends with a much older girl at church, who also happens to be an only child.  I think in some unspoken way, this friendship seems to be modeled on a “big sister/little sister” pattern of relating.  But still, how many three-year-olds can confidently and independently make friends with an eight year old?

But there are down sides. Without fail, every single one of her friends and cousins has a younger brother or sister.  On nearly every play-date there are moments when she is left out as siblings naturally fall into play with each other.  After those times, she will usually ask me for a baby brother or sister which is hard to take.  Some research also shows that only children can have trouble fitting into groups, and tend to dominate.  They can also become aggressive as they struggle with introvert or extrovert tendencies.  (An only child has to be both introvert and extrovert depending on the context.)  But as long as they’re not overprotected, which is a natural trap for parents of only children, they should grow up to be confident, independent and motivated to achieve.

Whether we like it or not, only child families are becoming more common.   There are 20 million only child families in America today and China has millions of them.  In spite of all the talk of “Little Emperors” the Chinese experience has shown that, in general, they have turned out to be very well-adjusted adults.  There’s one other major fringe benefit to growing up as an only child: peace.  Studies have shown that only-children’s recollections of childhood are overwhelmingly peaceful.  I’m sure their parents appreciate that too.

Do you have an only child?  Or did you grow up as one?  How did it affect your personality and social skills?  Is there any truth to the stereotypes of only children as spoilt?  Would you be happy to have an only-child family?

In every family, there will be pain.  In every family, there will be times of struggle and stagnation.  Times when the daily grind of cleaning and nappy changes and cooking spaghetti bolognese for the 500th time gets you down.  (I actually love cooking spaghetti bolognese, but you get the point.)

And in every family, there will be moments of joy.  Simple moments.  Ordinary moments.  Forgotten so easily if not captured in an instant.

We had a moment like that, just the other day.  Walking home from the shops, we came across a carpet of purple flowers.  A Jacaranda was dropping its blooms.  Birdy, Dad and I raced to catch the twirling, swirling petals as they fell from the sky like elusive feathers.  There was much raucous laughter, squealing and delight and before we abandoned our game we’d caught five Jacaranda flowers in mid-flight.  A precious prize indeed and Birdy carried them home in her hat like we’d found gold.

It’s those kind of moments that Lisa Jay captures in her children’s and baby photography.  The moments that stand out from the daily grind because they are perfect.  Perfect in their simplicity, their purity, their innocent joy.

Not because life is always like that.  But because those are the moments we live for.

If you have enjoyed Lisa Jay’s photos on my blog, you might be interested to know that her new blog, Days Like This is now live.

Visit www.bylisajay.com

And share the joy.



Photo by Lisa Jay

The party season is almost upon us.  This year, we’re trying something different in our house.  It’s a moratorium on all presents for the month of November.  When I say presents, I mean everything from a new book, or a water bottle, right down to a lollypop.  Birdy is completely banned from presents.  We’re saying ‘no’ to everything for the whole of ‘no-vember’.  I’m happy to buy her a milkshake when we’re out a café but that’s as far as the generosity extends.

It all started a few weeks ago when I bought Birdy a princess dress from the local $2 shop.  She’d been complaining for a while that she doesn’t have any dress-ups, so on impulse one day, I agreed to buy her a $16 princess dress.  Then when we were driving home she put on a big sulk and asked me to buy her another dress-up because she didn’t ‘like that one so much’.  Well, that went down about as nicely as a sardine smoothie.

I’m pretty sure I lost my voice I lectured her for so long!   After that, my husband and I decided that Birdy needed a break from presents so that she would learn to appreciate them again.  We don’t actually buy her that much stuff, but between all the grandparents and aunties she probably gets a gift of one kind or another nearly every week, even if it’s just a packet of stickers or crayons.  (I’m not complaining!  It’s wonderful that so many people love her and want to show it through gifts.)  But also, all three of us have our birthdays close to Christmas… so from December to January it’s just non-stop presents!  So we thought it would be good to rest up a little before the gift giving marathon kicks off.

So does this mean she no longer asks me for stuff when we’re out shopping?  Oh no, she’s still asking, and I’m still saying ‘no’.  No presents for ‘No-vember’.  I just keep repeating my self-made mantra.  I’m hoping if I keep saying it loudly enough in the shopping centre it might catch on.  Then Birdy will think I’m normal instead of the world’s meanest mum.  Shortly after the Council of Parents (that’s me and hubby) voted on the No-present Resolution, I took Birdy shopping to fill up a Christmas shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.  It was a really interesting experience to buy all those toys and teddys for another child, but not buy anything for Birdy.  The whole afternoon she was saying, “Mum can I have this?  Can I have that?  Oh please, can you just buy one for me too?”  And I had to keep saying, “No we’re buying these for a little girl who won’t get any other presents.  IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU OK!”  Or words to that effect.  It’s almost easy to be mean when you’re doing it for charity.

The other thing we did a few days later was to get on the computer with Birdy and choose a Compassion sponsor child.  It was another opportunity to talk about how we have so much but there are other kids who don’t have any toys and we can do something to help them.  She’s certainly been talking about our sponsored child ever since and keeps asking me about sending her some Christmas presents.   (Actually, I’m pretty sure she thinks our Christmas shoebox will go to our sponsored child… If we ever visit her she’s going to go looking for that teddy.)  So yes, she’s still asking for stuff, (sigh!) but hopefully next time she gets a present, she’ll appreciate it a little bit more.

Of course, one day she’ll realise the best things in life are free.  But in the meantime, there’s only 19 days left in ‘No-vember’.  I just have to hold my ground for a few more weeks.

Do your children appreciate what they’re given?  Do they get too many presents from well-meaning friends and family?  How have you taught them to appreciate what they have?

It’s a Sunday night.  We’re driving out west to have dinner at a friend’s house.  The M4 is cruising along nicely.  Then the traffic starts slowing down a little.  Ahead, in the distance we can detect the blue flash of a police car but can’t see what’s going on.  We slow to a stop.  “Looks like there’s an accident up ahead,” I comment casually to my husband.  Time passes.  We’re not moving.  Whack.  Something smashes into the back of us.  “We are the accident,” I think, still not really registering what has happened.  After what seems an inordinately long time, our car crashes into the stopped car in front of us.  I have visions that we’re in one of those 20 car pile-ups that you see on TV.  Maybe somewhere at the back there’s a semi-trailor.  As I’m thinking that, a piercing scream cuts through the air.  It’s Birdy.  Is she OK?

The scream turns to a wail – a penetrating cry of distress.  I don’t know if she’s OK.  I can’t see her.  I can’t reach her.  I’m not thinking clearly.  She doesn’t say anything, just cries.  We’re all sitting there stunned and I don’t know what to do.  A man appears at our window.  “My foot slipped.  It slipped on the break.”

“We have an infant,” I say and then repeat it, like a broken record.

Eventually we realize that we need to move off the freeway into the breakdown lane.  I get Birdy out and hold her as she weeps.  I still don’t really know if she’s hurt, but after a time she calms down so I figure she must be OK.  It’s still a distressing situation – we’re standing on the edge of a freeway with trucks roaring past at 100 kilometres an hour.  The man who crashed into us introduces himself and inspects the damage to our car.  “I don’t care about the car!” I say, “as long as she’s alright.”  Fortunately, my husband was driving, so he deals with the business side of things, the swapping of numbers and addresses, the showing of licences, while I comfort Birdy.  After a while, it occurs to me that holding her on the edge of a freeway is probably not the safest option, so I strap her back into the car and after half an hour or so we’re on our way, the car thankfully still drive-able.

I’ve heard horror stories of people in car accidents having all sorts of medical problems later on, so all night at the dinner, I’m watching Birdy closely for any signs that something is wrong.  After all, she was in the back and took most of the force of the crash.  Later than night, we drive home cautiously, still feeling nervous.

Just a few days later, on Thursday, I collect Birdy from daycare and the staff tell me that Birdy didn’t play all day.  She just sat there.  They thought she had a bit of asthma and had given her ventolin at 12 pm.  When I pick her up at 1.30 pm, I can see she needs more ventolin, even though the normal recommended interval is every four hours.  I give her six puffs at 2 pm, then go home and let her watch television until we can get an appointment with the GP.  She is miserable the whole time, cries and complains of abdominal pain.  By the time we get to the doctor at 5.15 pm, she’s hysterical.  So hysterical that the GP can’t examine her abdomen.  I tell the GP we were in a car crash a few days ago in case it’s relevant.  I also tell her that Birdy’s had asthma that day.  The GP can’t figure out what’s wrong with her.  Birdy is crying so much that the doctor doesn’t notice how much her stomach is sucking in when she breathes.  I mention the asthma again before we leave.  The GP says that she can’t hear any wheeze and that she doesn’t think it’s asthma.  She suggests I give her Panadol for the pain, wait an hour and that if she doesn’t improve I take her to hospital.  I take her home and give her Panadol, but there’s no way I’m waiting an hour.  We go straight to hospital.  By this time it’s 6 pm and I’m stuck in a queue to turn west-bound onto Victoria road, where the traffic is crawling.  Birdy is growing more distressed.  I find my eyes welling up with tears.  I pray and ask God to clear a path for us.  Moments later, I turn the corner, and as far as the eye can see, for a kilometre or two, Victoria Road is empty.  At peak hour.  Heading out of the city.   It feels like a miracle.

Even so, it takes almost an hour to reach the children’s hospital.  We wait in line 20 minutes.  Then when the triage nurse see us, she looks at Birdy and says, “You’re struggling to breathe, little one.”  She measures her oxygen.  She doesn’t tell me the result, but takes us straight through to emergency.  A doctor sees us immediately.  She starts her on ventolin every 20 minutes and administers prednisole, a steroid that reduces the inflammation in the airways.  After an hour, I have a different child.  She sits up and starts colouring in.  Only afterwards does the doctor explain why we weren’t hearing any wheeze – she simply wasn’t getting enough air into her lungs to make an audible wheeze.  She explains that once the air passages open up, then we’ll hear the classic asthma wheeze.  That’s exactly what happens.   At the same time, the abdominal pain disappears.  The doctor explains that it was probably the effort of trying to breathe that was placing so much stress on her abdomen.

As we sit there in the asthma bay, families in the same situation as us trickle in.  We hear our story told over and over.  Sydney’s mid-spring winter has taken it’s toll on the asthmatic children in town.  Thinking winter was over, the parents have all stopped giving their children preventer medication.  Then along comes a second winter during spring.  The air is freezing but loaded with pollens.  The asthma ward is filling up fast.

At around 10.30, the doctor tells us there’s no way we’ll be going home tonight.  Birdy is still only just coping on hourly Ventolin and they won’t let us out the door until she’s down to three hourly.  So at 11pm they show us to our cosy little private room.  Before we bed down for the night, I call work and tell them I won’t be in the next day.   We won’t be released from hospital until mid-morning at the earliest.  It’s bright and I can’t sleep, but I’m happy that Birdy is already improving.  Through the night, the nurses come in and check on her and administer ventolin every two hours.   Only the next day, when her oxygen is back to 100 do they tell me her oxygen had been 93 the night before.  That’s the lowest you go before you’re into the danger zone.  Or that’s what they told me.

The next morning, sleep deprived, messy, still wearing my jeans from the day before, I load Birdy into the car, thankful she’s recovered so well.  I’m relieved Birdy survived both the car crash and the asthma attack.   I’m thrilled to be finally heading home.  But I still can’t bring myself to take the M4.

Have you ever been concerned for your child’s safety?  Have you seen your child suffer an asthma attack, anaphylaxis, convulsions or some other frightening health problem?  Have you ever had a car accident with your child in the vehicle?  How did you cope when your child was in danger?

Hi all, thanks for your patience over the past few weeks as this blog has been somewhat neglected.  As you probably know I usually update on Fridays but the last few weeks we’ve had a few health challenges.  Right after Birdy recovered from her tonsillitis, I came down with it.  Then on Sunday night, we were in a car accident (we’re all OK, but got a fright).  Then last Thursday we were back in hospital as Birdy suffered quite a bad asthma attack.  We were in overnight (exhausting!) and returned home late on Friday morning.  So hence, no blog post last week.  Birdy is doing fine now, but yes it was quite scary as her oxygen levels were dangerously low and she was really struggling to breathe.  In fact, the GP questioned whether it was asthma because she couldn’t hear any wheeze.  We were later told that there was no wheeze because she wasn’t getting enough air into her lungs to create a wheeze.  However, once she started receiving treatment for her asthma she improved dramatically.  Needless to say we are extremely relieved.  Thanks for  your patience and please check back soon.

%d bloggers like this: