Escaping, The Build and The Kid

 

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Yesterday was overcast and rainy all day, then suddenly the sun popped out for a few minutes in the afternoon and threw out an amazing light, the whole place was literally luminous. In the country, there is always something interesting and beautiful happening in the sky.

Escaping

I think it’s essential that primary parents or care givers get some time out now and then, it makes them a better parent. I had my turn on the weekend when I drove solo to Sydney to have lunch at China Doll at the Woolloomooloo finger wharf with 2 girlfriends. We’ve been lunching together three times a year for over 20 years. Our lives are quite different, so it’s pretty much the only time we spend together, yet we know each other’s lives in detail including all our secrets. This time, we hadn’t caught up for over a year, and I don’t think we drew breathe for the 5 hours we were together. It was also heaven to eat Chinese – we tend not to with a peanut allergy child – and China Doll is bloody yum and the people watching is second to none as well.

I like my wine too much to then drive 2 hours home, so invited myself to stay at another girlfriends house for the night. Three of us – school friends from the 80s – drank more wine, devoured a cheese platter and shared the familiar banter that 30-something year old friendships allow.

The Build

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The slab is down – the first milestone reached. Apparently there’s a lull now while the steel gets fabricated, and we should have a frame in a few weeks.

Mum

Thinking about Mum a lot. She had her routine, post chemo blood test which showed an increase in cancer cells, dammit. Then a full body scan shows something sinister lurking in her spleen. She has no symptoms, so no treatment required just yet, but the doctors advised them to bring their trip to Europe forwards, as symptoms (and therefore more chemo) are probably only 2 months away. So next week they are off to England to see their 4 grandchildren, and my sister and BIL for 6 weeks, and all the time Mum has to try not to be thinking “shit, I’ve got cancer”, and not be terrified any time she gets a bit of indigestion.

The Kid

Speaking of Chinese, am nervous about 2 firsts happening this week with Tippi our 4 year old child with severe allergy to peanuts, and what was once a severe allergy to egg that now seems to be diminishing.

A couple of weeks ago, Tippi’s preschool teacher called me aside to tell me they were looking at Chinese culture, and wanted to take the kids to the local Chinese restaurant for lunch. For most people with a peanut allergy, Chinese is unthinkable. I would never consider it, and when the teacher raised it my heart started racing, and tears sprung to my eyes as I thought of Tippi’s devastation at missing out. She just loves eating out, we do it quite regularly and to eat out with her friends would be a dream. In that moment, I decided I would have to take the day off work and keep her home so that she was not left at the preschool when all her friends were playing grown ups at the restaurant.

As it turns out, the owner of the restaurant has a peanut allergy child, so I was willing to listen, and long story short have decided she can go, and I will go too. Tippi is so excited. Me? I’m shitting myself. This is FAR from comfortable. But various things I wont bore you with have lead me to allow it – I will be there with 4 epipens in my handbag, and my stomach in my mouth. I’m cross with the preschool – at which Tippi has been since she was 1 – for putting us in this position, however I do acknowledge that they are incredibly careful with allergies, there’s not been once incident in over 3 years and they wouldn’t do it if they weren’t completely comfortable. The preschool director goes to this restaurant with her nut allergy son.

On the upside – maybe we’ve found a safe Chinese restaurant, not something I ever thought I’d find, certainly not in the Southern Highlands.

And then, next weekend Andy and I are both leaving Tippi with my mum and dad for 2 nights as we go to the Yarra Valley for a weekend of frivolity with old, old friends most of whom I’ve known since we were kids. This is the first time in her 4 years she’ll be waking up without either of us, she’ll deal with that, although will no doubt kick up a little fuss.

It’s the food thing that worries me – Mum is careful but has made mistakes in the past (that have been caught just in time, so no disasters) and is pretty terrified of the epipen. We’ll be doing a full training session on epipen use for the 1034th time, and after that it’s up to Mum. Outings will be the hardest part – they cant stay home for 3 days, and Mum isn’t used to ordering for Tippi when out. Pack her food, mum, I will be requesting.

Anyhoo, I’m determined to go, trust, and have a wonderful time with my husband and lifelong friends whom I see only every few years these days. Kids are left with their grandparents all the time, Tippi adores hers and at the ripe old age of 4, she’ll cope. Wont she???

So I tentatively step in to this week of fearful firsts and tell myself that it will all be fine, and it’s worth it. Don’t make a liar of me please Universe

How do you go leaving your kids? Have you been able to escape lately?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fireweed and burnin’ shit

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I don’t participate much in the physical running of the farm, it frankly doesn’t interest me, but autumn brings what is becoming a family tradition – the picking of the fireweed. Although it looks kind of pretty with it’s bright yellow flowers, fireweed is dangerous for cattle and if left can spread over an entire paddock in a very short space of time. Some of the properties around us haven’t kept on top of it, so it inevitably spreads to us.

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So every autumn when the fireweed begins to show, we all head out to the paddocks to fill big hessian bags full of the stuff. Tippi has fun because it feels like picking flowers, and what little girl doesn’t love that. So we walk, and pick and chat in the cool, afternoon sun.

I’ve learned a few things on these fireweed missions:

1. We have paddocks in Australia, not fields. They are never to be referred to as fields.

2. Baby cows are NOT calfies. They are calves. No exceptions.

3. It is apparently not funny or cute to refer to alpacas as llamas, its irritating. Which is funny, don’t you think? Farmer Andy doesn’t seem to think so.  And no, we can’t have one for a pet.

4. Blackberry bushes are also a weed, even if they do make good pies, so they all got ripped out and now I wish we had just one.

5. We also can’t have geese, or a peacock, or goats for pets, although I haven’t given up on some of those yet. Peacocks eat baby snakes. I want a peacock.

6. A heifer is a girl cow, a steer is a boy cow that’s had his privates removed. Actually I’m not sure if I’ve got that right.

At this time of year, there’s massive moths – or are they bats – as big as my hand fluttering at the glass doors at night trying to get in to the light and scare the crap out of me. But at least the snakes have gone to bed for the winter. Although, does the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having mean they might still be up?

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And it’s bonfire season. Still, clear nights spent outside in big, warm coats eating sausages in buns, talking shit, burning shit, stars like you’ve never seen them before. Pass me the red, will you?

 

 

The Grown Upness of It All

I’ve been playing grown ups for six years now. I became “we”, cohabitated, turned 40, bought a farm in joint names, had a baby, got married, got a will, life insurance, a self-managed super fund.
I’ve had earnest discussions with other mums about schools, sat in meetings with school principles (now that’s intimidating – tell me it gets easier), managed anaphylaxis and the health issues of ageing parents, changed careers, worried about child nutrition and stopped racking up my credit card to its limit.
But nothing has ever felt quite so grown up as this:

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We’re building a house, a real house, a family house – from scratch. Formwork, earthworks, footing, slab pour – all words that I don’t think I’ve ever used in my life have become part of our daily vernacular.

Our Grand Design, 5 years in the planning, is on it’s way.

And that, my friends, is grown up.

SLAB PARTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let’s get a few things straight about food allergies and food bans in schools

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It’s Food Allergy Awareness week here in Australia, so it’s timely for a post from me on this very polarising topic. I have tried very hard to keep emotion out, and just be logical, but I’m afraid it’s impossible. It’s an enormously emotional and personal issue for me and all families dealing with anaphylaxis.

An aspect of being a food allergy mum I find difficult is the attitude some people have towards kids with allergies (and their parents) and the online war raging about food bans at school. There’s been plenty of blogs written on the topic and the comments that come up are breathtakingly nasty. This one here, also reproduced on Huffington Post here was particularly inflammatory and inspired a slew of highly emotional comments, blogs and articles slamming the author and defending the rights of allergy kids to have a safe environment at school. I’m not sure the author intended to imply that her kids birthday cake was more important than another kids life, but that is how the article was taken by many.

When I read the comments on posts like this I note that there is a lot of support out there, but  a lot of real hatred and resentment too.

So here I am, weighing in. Fortunately my audience is small, so I shouldn’t get too much hate mail, but I’m thickening my skin just in case.

1. “Kids with allergies need to learn how to manage them – when they get into the real world, no one is going to protect them there”

Yes, they do, absolutely. Let’s be absolutely clear here – the advocates for nut bans in schools are referring to infants/primary schools where kids are as young as four. As far as I’m aware, no one is suggesting food bans in high schools. These kids, including mine, are being taught each and everyday about management of their own allergies from first diagnosis when they were babies. When my daughter was 2 she sat at birthday party tables with the other kids frenzying on lollies, chocolates, fairy bread, cakes, sausage rolls and all other unsafe foods while she ate only from her own plate without complaint. Not once, not ever did she try to reach for other food or cry about missing out. At 2 she knew that it is what it is.

But these little, little kids are not immune to mistakes. They can get caught up in the moment, accept something they shouldn’t, and at school there isn’t someone watching them every minute of the day. A child held out something to my friends 7 year old tree nut allergic child to ask her if it was safe for her.  Before realising what it was she took it in her hands and ended up in hospital for 3 days. It was a muesli bar still in it’s wrapping.

2. “Nut bans create a false sense of security – you cant guarantee a nut-free environment”

I’m sorry, I don’t buy this one. Managing allergies for very young children is about layers of protection: keeping dangerous food out of reach is one layer of several in protecting from life threatening situations. Carrying epipens (or equivalent) that are accessible and in date, having staff trained to both recognise and treat anaphylaxis – they are all essential layers in keeping an anaphylactic child safe at school.

Of course there’s no guarantees of a nut-free environment, but it certainly helps if a five year old child with a peanut allergy is not surrounded by peanut butter sandwiches. If using the word “ban” although technically incorrect discourages a parent from packing a deadly food into their child’s lunchbox, then let’s keep using it.

3. “You have no right to dictate to me what I can and cannot put in my child’s lunch box”

True. I can only appeal to your sense of decency, to your desire to not have children get sick or worse in school. I promise you, if you had an anaphylactic child you would feel very, very differently. And if you don’t wish to see it from an allergy parent’s perspective, see it from your child’s. What do you think would be the long term psychological effect on your child if it was their food that put one of their classmates into anaphylaxis?

4. “Allergy parents are exaggerating, they are just helicopter parents”

No, actually we’re not. We’re just not. A trace amount and 15 minutes is all it takes. The tragic story of Natalie Giorgi here is just one of many demonstrations of how serious this all is. A girl educated and vigilant, a mistake bite spat out, her father a doctor administering 3 epipens couldn’t save her.

Emotional, yes. Tiger mums, maybe at times. But exaggerating? No. Just no. We are advocates for our kids who have a serious medical condition that they didn’t ask for. As for the helicopter parent thing, I hate that sometimes I have to be that. But only in situations where there is unsafe food around, and less and less now the older my daughter gets.

Apparently there are parents around that have not had their child diagnosed, and are acting on their own assumptions without medical advice.  Others that lie about being allergic to get out of eating a food they don’t like. Others that don’t get their children tested to determine if they’ve outgrown the allergy. Trust me, we get as exasperated over those things as you do. They discredit those who suffer genuine, serious and life threatening allergies.

5. “If it’s that bad, the child should be home-schooled”

I’m not  really sure how to respond to this. These kids are entitled to be educated at school along with everyone else. They are normal kids with a medical condition that can be managed with care. And home-schooling just isn’t an option for many.

6. “Why should your kids allergies mean my child cant have a birthday”

This is the title of the article linked to above. I think it was poorly chosen by the author, although it is inflammatory so it probably had the effect she was looking for.

I’m actually dead set against treats and birthday cakes at school, not because of allergies, but because of the growing obesity rates in Australia and most other developed countries around the world. We did not have cakes at school when I was there – this is a tradition that has crept in sometime in the last 20 years. Every kid having cake at school on their birthday adds up to a lot of cakes in a year. Celebrate with non-food rewards at school and save the treats for the weekend and after school.

7. “Why should I have to cater for your child”.

Actually you don’t, I’d rather you didn’t. All due respect, I don’t trust that you’ll get it right. It took me months, years to feel confident that I was getting it right, and I was motivated by keeping my child alive. Please don’t cater for my child, but don’t exclude her either. She can come to birthday parties, she adores them, but while she’s little I have to come too and if after talking to you about the catering I’m not comfortable that the food is safe, I’ll bring hers. I won’t ask you to change the menu. Other kids birthday parties are hard work for me because I stay up the night before making party food she can have, trying if possible to make it similar to what you are providing so she doesn’t feel too different. But I do it, because she’s my kid and that’s what we do.

Exclude the food, not the child.

To be honest, I’d be really grateful if you didn’t have bowls of peanuts lying around, or if you didn’t do egg and spoon races, but if you do, I’ll be there and we’ll manage it. I think when you see a little girl or boy’s sadness at being excluded you might change you mind next time.

8. “So we ban nuts – where does it end, do we have to ban eggs, dairy and wheat too?”

This is a hard one, and one where even the allergy community don’t agree. Many allergy mums wont agree with me here. I think we stop at nuts (peanuts and tree nuts). Why? Because they are the most common, the most deadly, the ones that generally don’t get outgrown and the ones that are not “staples” in the average western diet.

My daughter has been anaphylactic to dairy in the past, and she’s outgrown that now, but even if she hadn’t I wouldn’t be demanding a dairy ban when she goes to school next year. Raw egg is dangerous for her, but I wont be asking for a ban on mayonnaise. Tiny amounts of peanuts can kill. By school age many of the other allergies have been outgrown, but peanut and tree nut allergy is often for life. And nuts are not difficult to eliminate for 5 out of 21 meals and 10 snacks a week.

I do support banning cakes and other treats and junk foods from school for health reasons other than allergies (see No.7).

9. “My child will only eat peanut butter on his/her sandwiches.” 

Three words: Eskal Freenut Butter. It looks and tastes very, very similar to peanut butter, but is made from sunflower seeds.

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Make sure you write on the lunch packaging what it is so it’s not mistaken for peanut butter and gets your child into trouble, or thrown away. NOTE: Sunflower allergy exists but is not in the “Top 9” most common allergens. It may not be an option if there is a sunflower allergy at your childs school.

10. “These allergies weren’t around when we were kids”

That doesn’t mean they aren’t real now. Something is going on to cause it. There is research going on all around the world. There are theories, but no answers yet. We just don’t know. And please don’t tell me I am too clean and hygienic so my daughters immune system has gone whacky. Did you put your 3 month old baby in dirt to play? I rarely vacuum, don’t use many cleaning products, have dogs that lick, and live on a farm. It’s a theory, not an answer.

It absolutely is a hassle being mindful of allergies, I get your frustration. I have no choice on the matter, I do it every single day so I know all about it. And yes, you have a “right” to put whatever you want to in your child’s lunchbox.

But please if you can, just understand that allergies are now a fact of life, they are getting worse not better. Your children will always go to school with and have friends with allergies. It’s the new reality, and until there’s a cure, we need to accept it, adapt to it and keep these kids safe.  This isn’t a time for righteousness, its a time for empathy and acceptance.

Be frustrated at me, hate me if you like, but don’t hate the kids with allergies, they didn’t ask for it. They wish it away everyday. Oh and you know what – it’s the teachers that want the bans, they don’t want to be jabbing needles into kids legs, and all that hand washing is a time consuming pain in the rear.

To those many friends and family who are supportive, mindful, and empathetic and go out of your way to ensure my daughter is safe and included, I thank you and I love you.

That Moment When

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Last year late afternoon in June I was at my friends house bundling our 3 year old girls into my car. I was taking her Miss R to our place for a sleepover, my poor friend was heavily pregnant and having a shocker in and out of hospital.

My phone rang, and normally with two 3 year olds heading towards the end of the day I’d leave it, but a glance at the phone told me it was my mum, and I wanted to talk to her as I knew she was getting test results that day. Not that I was worried, I wasn’t. She’d had some persistent abdominal pain, more annoying than anything else. No loss of appetite, nothing to worry about.

“I have cancer.”

Jesus. Of the nasty kind? We didn’t know yet, more tests, urgent ones.

I’ll never forget that drive home, done in autopilot. The delightful Miss R chitty chatting from the back seat all the way home. “Lexy!” she’d yell if she sensed I wasn’t listening, “Lexy!”

I wasn’t listening (I’m sorry Miss R I wasn’t but I’ll make it up to you). The oceans were pounding in my head as I drove into the orange sun. My mum has cancer. My mum has cancer. My mum has cancer.

As a family, we’ve all been smug in our absence of cancer and heart disease. Rolling our eyes at our inevitable longevity as all the oldies got to their 90s before dying of…. well of old age.

So there we were. Yep serious, but treatable and surgery straight away please, oh and don’t go Googling it because it’s unhelpful and it’ll only tell you that peritoneal or ovarian cancer is known as the “silent killer”and knowing the survival rate is just not helpful. Unfortunately, by the time I agreed with that advice, I’d googled and googled and I’d seen.

My mum, my amazing beautiful mum has been extraordinary in this journey. So strong, so inspiring.

She went through 2 hell surgeries, damn near died with blood clots travelling through her heart, lost god knows how much weight. Chemo, hair loss, some weird foot injury requiring more surgery and delayed chemo, then more chemo.

In all that time, mum has stayed so positive, so strong. She refused to get sick, she got on with her life. Once she’d recovered from the awful awful surgeries, we almost forgot she was in chemo. She got on with it. She has chosen to believe the doctors who tell her things are looking good. She believes them, so I do too.

She just hates her lost hair. I think she’s looking like Judy Dench now it’s growing back.

Cancer – which I’d always sympathised with but never really considered as an issue for me – not only touched us, it grabbed us by the neck, picked us up till our feet were dangling and shook us into submission.

So this Mothers Day, which I usually acknowledge with a phone call if I remember, I am thinking about my mum. Not because I don’t think she’ll be here next year, I know she will. But for the extraordinary inspiration she is, for the wonderful, tireless mum, wife, sister and grandma she is.

And the friendship her and I have grown since I became an adult.

And so much more.

Mumma, I treasure you now and for the next 20 years you’ll be around and forever.

To those individuals and families who have been touched by cancer (‘touched’ being the polite word) I’m thinking of you too. With love xx

FIFO Wife, FIFO life. It’s Great, and it Sucks.

 

 

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Last year, on a hot Australia Day weekend, Andy and I got married on a lawn overlooking a sparkling blue Sydney Harbour. Then we had a party, a big, noisy, boozy party. We loved it, then followed it up 2 days later with a lawn party at our farm. It was a wonderful, exhausting, perfect weekend. And we were married.

A few weeks before that, Andy dipped his toe into the FIFO world, and there he has been ever since. For the uninitiated, FIFO stands for Fly In Fly Out. The term originated – and is still mostly connected with – those who work in the mines in remote places, but now refers to anyone who flies to their job, then home for breaks. FIFOs work in any number of “swings” – 3/1 (3 weeks on, 1 off), 2/1 (2 weeks on, 1 off), 7/3 (7 days on 3 off) and so on.

The day after our party weekend, a partied out newlywed flew off to the Pilbara for 3 weeks and oops, we forgot to consummate. Now I know most couples who get married after having been together for a while don’t get around to too much loving’ on the night, but 3 weeks! Ah well, needless to say we got there in the end. Enough said!

Now Andy works closer – Melbourne, Brisbane – and flies out pre-dawn Monday morning and home Friday night (5/2), but still, in the 1 and a bit years that we’ve been married, he’s been away for most of it, adding “FIFO wife” to my list of credentials

I get “I don’t know how you do it” (because I have to)  or  “you’re amazing ” (thank you!)  or “don’t you get scared” (sometimes, not often) or “why do you let him do it” (money).

So what’s it like? Good and bad, of course. ..

The Good

– The money

– Downton Abbey, MKR, The Bachelor/ette and all the other mindless and crap TV that comes with having total control of the remote.

– The money

– No one is snoring anywhere near me.

– The money

– Limited time to annoy or be annoyed by another

The Bad

– Sole parenting (hats off to you single parents – at least I get some form of relief on the weekend)

– Winter; home in the dark, freezing, 3 wet dogs jumping up demanding dinner, light fire, tend to four year old; dinner, bath, stories, bed. Collapse on couch, hello wine.

– Bin night – there’s a 100m walk from our house to the road. In the dark, and rain, and freezing cold. I fucking hate bin night, especially in winter.

– Lonely, and sometimes a little scary

But probably the hardest of all is the impact on our relationship. There is no doubt it takes its toll.  I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that causes the strain.

It’s not the routine being interrupted – our daughter is 4 now and she’s easy, routines aren’t too important. It’s not handing over the remote on the weekends – I’d rather a marriage than a TV. It’s not the snoring – I’m one of the lucky ones who can sleep through it.

I think….. I think it’s the fact that we are losing that closeness that couples have. There’s a distance between us, we don’t laugh together as much as we used to. We’re not always friends. We are living separate lives, weekends are short – too short to nurture our relationship to any extent – there’s a farm to run, wood to chop, a daughter to raise, a new house to design and build.

Yes, that’s the worst part.

So, we work at it. Go on dates (not often enough admittedly), be respectful to each other, keep up the contact when we’re apart, cuddle a lot when we’re together and throw in a little “fake it till we make it”. There’s no lack of love between us – it just takes work to direct it the right way.

Is FIFO worth it? We think so for now, for maybe another 3 years. The FIFO life either works for families or it doesn’t. The money is getting our dream home built far earlier than we expected. We’ll make it work. We have to. We WANT to. One day, Andy will have a local job, we’ll have a lovely house and this will be a distant memory. And we’ll laugh together again.

 

 

 

 

I Did a Tree-Change But it Didn’t Make me a Gardener

When contemplating a tree-change, images of weekends spent pottering in the garden came to mind. We would eat an abundance of home-grown fresh produce and any excess will be pickled or frozen for use when out of season. We would never shop for fresh produce at Woolies again – on Saturday’s I would frequent the local farmers markets to buy anything we haven’t grown. When visitors came to dinner, everything on the plate would be home-grown, including the meat.

The first two years, I had reasonable success with snow peas and zucchinis.  Tippi would go out to the veggie patch and pick and eat her own crunchy snow peas – I’m a natural! The strawberry plants thrived but didn’t fruit very much, but I was undeterred – they’ll do better next year!

The problem with veggie patches is that they require attention ALL THE BLOODY TIME! Turn your back for a few days and the weeds start to take over, the snails slide on in and the birds have a party. On a fine spring day, I will happily spend an afternoon in the veggie patch clearing, weeding, digging, planting, fertilising, watering. Allen Seale would be proud! (to readers too young to get the reference, he was a gardener on TV in the 80s famous for his whistling lisp)

Then I’m done. Until the next warm spring day that is a) on a weekend and b) on a day that I FEEL like gardening again – that can be weeks for even months later. Damn, stupid veggie patch doesn’t just look after itself. By the time I get back to it, I have to start again. And then the same happens, so I start again. Then the same happens again. And then it’s winter and there’s no bloody way I’m digging around in dirt when it’s 4 degrees outside.

Five years on, that veggie patch and I are still not friends. This year we actually got a few strawberries – all of which my daughter ate – and I have a huge bush of parsley of the old fashioned kind – you know, the curly stuff no one uses anymore – and that’s about it. No snow peas, no zucchini, nothing. Zip.

Wouldn’t you think that the very act of making a tree-change (rather than just talking about it forever) would automatically grant you magical gardening abilities?

It doesn’t. Here is the fruit of my every now and then labours:

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There’s actually some tomatoes in there, but they’ve been there for weeks and just stay green.

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Oh, and I still haven’t been to a local farmers market. I’m going this weekend I promise! Our guests do eat home-grown beef and lamb, but I can’t take credit for that – that’s Andy’s job.

My Kid Gave me Goosebumps Today

Minnie Mouse reincarnated?

Minnie Mouse reincarnated?

…And made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

Miss Four and I went to the medical centre to get her vaccinations done, she was being surprisingly calm about it, actually she felt quite grown up.

I parked in the parking lot next to another car and in the drivers seat was an old lady – maybe 85 or so – glaring at me I assumed for parking so close to her. I live in a rural area dominated by seniors and they get really cranky about all the SUVs in the car parks in town. I mean, if the car spaces are too small, take it up with the council, right? What other car could be more practical for both farm and family life? I shoved and shunted a bit to give her more room to open her door, but really I was perfectly positioned in the middle of the marked out space. So I was internally eye-rolling at yet another cranky old “dear” tch tching me.

As we were getting out of the car, Tippi – Miss 4 – said “I like that lady, can I talk to her?” and straight to the window she went and said “hello!” with a big, gorgeous smile and a wave. The lady was nice to her, but said not a word to me – not that she had to mind you but I’m just making the point that she wasn’t exactly engaging us in any exchange – this was all driven by Tippi. We walked in to the doctors surgery and went about our day.

When we came out of the nurses room some 45 minutes later, Old Lady was sitting, waiting for her turn. “Hello!” says Tippi.

This time Old Lady was quite lovely with Tippi and they had a little chat. I should point out that my daughter is charming as all four year olds are, but she is also OFTEN extremely shy and whilst not unheard of, it is very rare for her to initiate conversations with strangers. I needed to go to the loo so Tippi begged me to let her stay with Old Lady while I did that. She didn’t seem to mind, so I went, gobsmacked wondering where my shy little girl went and bursting with maternal pride. Tippi was being utterly delightful and the Old Lady couldn’t help but be charmed by her.

As we were leaving, we said our goodbyes, and then Tippi ran back to Old Lady and said: “Excuse me, can I come to your house for a play one day?” The poor old thing spluttered out an excuse that she didn’t live in a house, she lived with lots of old people who might not like her to come and play. Tippi accepted that and off we went.

In the car on the way back to preschool, she was quiet for a while then suddenly said: “In the olden days, when mummy wasn’t around and daddy wasn’t around, I played with that lady but I cant remember her name.”

Hellooooo goosies! It reminded me of a time around two years earlier when she would be in the bath and occasionally looked past me out the window and said “who’s that?”. There was never anyone there, but it always rattled me a little.

Tippi must have seen a look on my face, because she then said: “But it’s just a story, Mumma.” I told her I thought it was a lovely story, and that was that.

If I did give her a look that made her think she’d said something wrong, I deeply regret that. I’m not taking this as some kind of evidence that reincarnation exists, but equally I don’t want to stifle her imagination with grown up perceptions. If it was just a story – and it more than likely was – what lovely creativity is starting to come out, I would only ever want to nurture that.

Do I believe in reincarnation? I’m open to it, but I tend to shrug it off with the belief that if it does exist, we’ll know soon enough when we’re dead.

Have your kids ever said or done something that spooked you just a little?