Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mrs. W - a personal account of a childhood in care

Attention - some images and text in this blog post may upset those people living in denial that child abuse and youth suicide exist

I was born January 1977, that makes me just over 34 today (april 2011).  In the 70's there was not much room in society for single mum's so there was alot of abortion's or fostered out children in those times. My life started out a little lucky, I was born into an already large family of my mum still at home with her Mum n Dad and 3 sisters and one brother, so I had a Nan n Pop and 3 aunties, 1 uncle and we all lived under the one roof.  Life was great, even though I don't remember my Mum much at that stage - my Nan was always there for me she was never a particularly cuddly women but neither was my mum!  So I was used to a distance in that way but my Nan somehow by just being there for me-always - it was like a cuddle.  Dinner was at the same time EVERY night so was bath and bed - there was such a strict routine it hugged me like a blanket! 

I remember kinder and I remember Nan and I remember the family dog and sometimes I remember my aunties n my uncle-I struggle to remember my mum..
Even though we shared the same room together-she used to come home very late at night I was already tucked up fast asleep.  It wasn't until I was' around 13 my Nan would re-call stories that made her cry, she said when my mum walked in the door, I would run for a cuddle...but she used to push me away...maybe it's lucky I don't have these memories, for my sake.

My mum had a few boyfriends, but one guy stuck, when I was 8 yrs old, I was introduced to "Bill", he was an overweight, stocky, short man - not  particularity attractive, with those scary tinted glasses - when he came to the door to take my mum on a "date" I do remember getting a "chill" I did not like him from the moment I met him!  But Mum must have seen something in him, a few mnths later they were married, and I was whisked away with her to live with him, less than 6mnths later my step brother was born (you do the math!)

While all this was going on un-be-known to me - "Bill" was legally adopting me, so I now carried his surname, also they took over the local Cake shop,  things (on the outset) looked rosy for my Mum...but that was not the reality, the following is quiet a chilling but brief account of my next 4 yrs within this family unit....take a breathe  (me too), and...lets go......

While business was strong, we had a life plentiful, we ate out nearly every night (which suited mum as she could not cook), we could have anything we wanted.
And my mum did - she had drinks on tap - yes she became an alcoholic-almost overnight (to me anyway), her judgment was blurred - she became extremely abusive to me and I now became my step brothers carer - I was just over 8.5 but had to grow up over night, I was changing nappies, feeding him, bathing him, because my mum either couldn't or she didn't want to, all I remember my baby brother eating at one stage was custard - I did not know what else to give him-know one told me-I did what I I also grew to resent him-something I regret, even to this day!

While my mum was drinking scotch for breakfast lunch and dinner- my new "dad" paid alot more attention to me-something that was new to me and as I was having a particularly tough time with my mum, I was coerced into spending alot more time with him. He showered me with attention -which was something new to me, and turned me against my mum who now had resorted to withholding me my breakfast as I had to clean the house every morning-top to bottom, before school, so I had to wake by 6am, feed and clean my baby brother-who sensed the stress by this point he started to eat holes through his blankets, then I had to vacuum, mop, scrub the whole house- EVERY morning before school, so my first meal would usually be lunch-maybe a packet of chips and a big M from the canteen. 

Anyway  the alcohol she inhaled everyday almost all day turned my mum into a monster, she would beat me endlessly either with her fist, the vacuum cleaner steel rod, a wooden spoon and once she came at me with a kitchen knife, it was now official - I did now also resent my mother.  So "Bill" pounced, I had to work in the family business, I worked after school every day AND I was forced to go in to work 5am Sat morning, just with him...alone, a good 3 hrs before any staff were due to start - that's when it started...

"Bill" by the end, had raped me for over 4 yrs, he used more than his personal bits to do so-anything that was lying around would suffice, there was one time I saw some remorse in him, it was one particular time he made me bleed...I ran and hid, he never came to find me - now this stuff is very hard to talk about so I am skimming over lots, but I have not to my sadness forgotten much at all, it still feels like yesterday-at times-especially now-now that I have children of my own.

My once sheltered life with my Nan had now been ripped from me, I was whisked away, adopted, and then raped and abused, physically, mentally and emotionally by both my mother and my step dad, but I found a way out When I was 12, my school had a "say no" seminar. 

That day I found out all about what's right and what's wrong and what was happening to me was VERY WRONG!  I did a runner I was found by my best friend and her mum. They took me to their house, I told my story and they rang CSV.  So in one day I went to school just like any other day, but all this unfolded there after, and before the school bell rang I was taken by CSV back to my locker to collect my things - kicking and screaming I was taken to a country police station

And now I just remember sitting in a corner of the police station with just the clothes on my back hugging a bear a constable gave me (I called it "Dakin" :) ) and much later again - I was taken to my first ever  foster home to later spend another 3 weeks there - it was not the saddest time of my life being taken out of home - but it was the scariest. 

I begged them to take me back home even though I knew what would await me there - I just wanted to go back home-to what I knew-the untold future that awaited me, frightened the hell out of me!  I was so frightened of what my mum would do to me once she had me back home-that I begged to go back-they would not and  could not take me back they said-so I cried for days not believing them when they said I will never be back home-I thought my mum will find a way to get to me somehow-someway!  I knew how much she hated me-resented me!  This was sure to take her over the edge!

Now in a turn of fate, while I was staying at my new foster home-completely miserable, crying and alone...a call came-it was for me they tell me it's my "Pop" - I couldn't beleive it!  But it was true, while I was in my foster home - my "parents" were interviewed and charged - my mum fessed up to the police and so did he- and only a bit was said to my Pop, but it was enough, he found me and I was now back with my Nan and my Pop-life was good again........for just a little while.

Before I turned 13 my Pop took very ill, I had to go-they couldn't keep me-I ended up in a youth Hostel in Melb's North, I was on my own-with new faces, new issues, new problems. The one thing that I did have from all this was, I was back to where I came from - I had some friends I had known and we met back up again-one of them was my now current husband who I love with all my heart and always have-my one-
and only true love!  

This hostel was very different for me-we had a live in family-but they looked after sometimes up to 6 of us at a time-plus their own kids too, there was kids that came and went like a revolving door - but there were some like me who stayed on for years then were old enough to move on, one of the "stayer's was "Trevor" he, like all of us there had an awful childhood, he was abused by family
and pretty much neglected.

I got on with my life pretty much I got a p/t job to earn money so I could have nice things (but I was also still at school), now Trevor was one of the ones who decided he'd use his time at the hostel by dropping out of school, running a muck-causing a bit of grief for all of us - we had lots of "group meetings" but he couldn't stick to the rules - he used to escape through his window at night, we had a curfew-but he didn't listen.

The boys got to sleep altogether in one room, they used to play up all hrs of the night, they were in the next room to me-we were never aloud locks on our doors for our own safety -they used to tell us-but when the boys kept escaping they put window locks on all windows - that didn't stop "Trevor".  

See he was like a puppy that just needed a cuddle and some acknowledgment at times - when he didn't get that-he would do silly things - one night (after much a strange smell wafting from the boys room-yes drugs) he tapped on my window in the wee hrs of the morn - I yelled at him to go away, he said he had something to show me - so I crawled out of bed and go to the front yard - well he had stolen a car and was very pleased with himself so much that he had to show me - much like a puppy brings a bone to show his owner, I said he was crazy-and going to get in big trouble-he just laughed at me, jumped in the car and sped off running straight through a roundabout and on the wrong side of the road!

All was quiet again for a bit, but then weeks later, "Trevor" asks me for a razor - I was suspicious and asked him why-but he assured me just to "shave" - he looked scruffy so I said "OK, use mine but I want to see it when your done!"  

Well, I had gone to bed, and later I awake to find him standing over me with wrists out - I turn on the light with a find he had slit both wrists so badly that blood was spurting out and sprayed his face, I nearly fainted but my brain said "save him"!  

So I grabbed both his wrists and ran with him upstairs to get our, the carer and "Trevor" went to the hospital-me still holding his wrists as tight as I could in the back seat, we got to the hospital-and he came up with some lame excuse that it was an accident-but because he lied the Hospital staff wouldn't treat him!!!???  I am still amazed at this, even today-they turned us away!  But Trevor needed stitches!  It didn't matter-we didn't matter or he didn't matter - after long hrs of arguing and back n forth with the hosp...we went home-he was shattered!  We all were. 

He was kept up stairs with the carers that night-then all I can remember one night-a few weeks later, our carers sat us down-minus Trevor. we asked where was" Trevor" - they said he had been taken by police, he has stolen another car-this time got caught-and he had caused an accident, he was charged and placed in youth detention.  Life kinda was still after that-see "Trevor" was cheeky and naughty - but he was still just a boy-and he did crave what we all do, that is someone to love us-but he chased it in all the wrong ways

...6mnths later, just as I was starting to wonder about "Trevor", we were sat down again by our carers - this time was different - this was no usual house meeting-the air was grim, and after a long pause our carers spoke - they told us......
the reason we haven't been able to get onto "Trevor" lately is, "he was found dead - they say it was suicide"................

And so that was that - I can't remember what we all did that night- or what we said there after - all I know is we were all extremely sad - even though my life and the peoples around me in that house had encountered some things that would shock the pants off your regular citizen - this bit of news pretty much took the cake for a lot of us - it was a huge thing to be in your early teens going through -what we're been through-to then hear one of your house mates is dead-that was a first for me, and a very sad one at that.

After a few years we all took our leave one way or the other from this Hostel, I kept working, left school at end of year 10, work and earning money was more important for me than study, just so I could buy things and have nice clothes n buy a car - I did all of that - so did many of my ex-Hostel house mates-we all found our path eventually - even though our road wasn't paved as much as other kids our age - it had its fair share of bumps and pot holes - but we got through.

Here's to holding your head high, believing in yourself and remembering it's never too late to become what you might have been.

Mrs. W
(names and dates have been changed to protect people)

I would like to thank Mrs. W, for her honest account of just some of the things that have happened in her life. She wrote this post herself, which as far as I'm concerned was a very brave thing to do. I began to edit it, but decided that the way it was written came from a very personal place and it reads as such. I hope this brings some light to someone's life who has struggled with similar issues. Mrs. W, now has a loving husband and family of her own.... des.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Calm Photographics

I am pleased to introduce you to Katey, a wonderfully generous person who is living her dream. She has donated prizes to our project and has been my 'official' photographer for publicity shots :o)

I started taking photos at around 11 years old when my mother gave me her old instamatic camera. I love the feel of it in my hands and my passion was grown when I did work experience with a cairns photographer at 15. On returning to school I spoke to my art teacher who began to tutor me after school. He is a well-known portrait photographer with some of his work being shown in galleries around Australia. 

The smell of the dark room and the magic of the image appearing before my eyes confirmed it, I was hooked!!  In year 12 we were asked where we wanted to be in 10 years and my goal was to have my own studio.  It then took me 13 years to realise my dream!  
The couple who were told they could never have children - Rick and Chloe, they are now expecting a little boy in June!! (next lot of maternity photos done on 10th may so look out!!)
At Christmas 2009 I was a stay at home mum to my son Jonathan, who was one at the time, when I decided that 2010 was going to be the year of “yes”. I had been asked by friends over the years to do photos for them and always said no being too scared they wouldn’t think my work was good enough. So I went on eBay, upgraded my 35mm Nikon F70 to a digital Nikon D100 and then set about designing business cards, doing free shoots to work up my folio and the ever impossible task of deciding on a business name. 

I came about the name Calm Photographic while teaching my son the sounds of letters. We were doing the letters of my name, Kathleen Helen Mary – Ka Ha Mm, Calm, and the rest is history!! I did everything possible to expand my business from running Facebook competitions to donating photo shoots for raffles. I found the Connect to Aussie Mums an invaluable resource and made a lot of wonderful contacts in the process.

I decided to specialise in family, pregnancy and confidence photography. 

Some of the greatest jobs I have done were the year 12 formal of a group of disabled students, a 15 day old little girl on a Harley Davidson chopper, pregnancy photos of an infertile couple and the confidence photos of an opera singer who had lost her waist length hair to chemo. The joy on their faces when you give them the end result and they see just how beautiful they are regardless of what they have been through is just priceless. 

I love to hear the stories and have been told my business name is very appropriate as I have a manner which puts the client at ease and make the whole process extremely enjoyable.  (I even got hugs from an autistic girl who doesn’t even hug her own mother!)
Miss Ella on Chopper Mikes Harley Davidson. This was done for daddy as a very special surprise. Mummy and Daddy are the couple who were told they would never have children so she is a very special little girl and is about to be a big sister!!
Meanwhile my husband and I had been trying to have our second child and imagine my surprise when I discovered I was pregnant in February after only 7 months of trying! (Jonathan had taken 3 years to conceive) I decided I was going to continue doing what I loved right through my pregnancy as it was after all the year of “yes”! This proved to be a struggle in itself as chasing toddlers is difficult at any time let alone rolling around on the ground with them at 8 months pregnant! 

At 7 months I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes which was a HUGE shock as we have no family history of diabetes. So on top of it all, I felt sick and tired most of the time but business was picking up so it was no time to quit. In September my grandfather, who I am very close to, was hospitalised with what was thought to be gall stones but was later diagnosed to be gall bladder cancer. We had visits from my brother and sister (who was also pregnant with her fourth child) and I were also doing my sons day-care school photos! I was starting to struggle both emotionally and physically. 

My last job before going on maternity leave was a wedding in Townsville so we drove down at 5 in the morning and I worked through till 11pm that night! (32 weeks pregnant mind you, I gave birth at 36 weeks) While it was my first wedding I was thrilled with the results as was the couple, I stressed immensely over the work fearing they would hate it! 
L-R Alex, Hannah, Kate and Hayden. This was their year 12 formal for Cairns state high, on the night Alex won an popularity award!! They were such a beautiful group. Hannah does not show affection and came up and hugged me several times, she dosnt even do that to her mother!
In November I delivered the last of the school photos and our second son Joshua on the same day and decided to resume work in January after a short break. Two days after his birth my grandfather passed away and I was told as I had had a C-section I was not to drive to Innisfail for the funeral. Yeah right!! With the help of some wonderful drugs and the support of my family we made it through. 

I thought with great anticipation that I would still resume my business the following January. This was not to be as Joshua fell ill and had to be hospitalised 5 times between January and March of this year. During all this time I had not dealt with my grief of losing my grandfather or the stress of the past 12 months and succumbed to a bi-polar depressive episode. (I was diagnosed with bi-polar in 2006) I sought help from the wonderful staff at the Cairns base mental health unit and am now adjusting to new medication and having regular therapy to deal with all the emotional issues incurred in the past 12 months. 

Kriss and Emily - Kriss has Aspergers, really fun kid!! We had a ball doing these pics - were also first client in my studio!
Needless to say, I did not go back to work in January, rather in April of this year. I have since set up a studio in a friend’s home office and have started advertising on my Facebook page again. In response to a few call outs on this page I have now got 3 pregnancy, 3 newborns, 3 confidence and 2 family shoots booked for next 12 months after not quite a month back! I am so excited about the future and everything seems to be falling into place again, the creative juices are flowing and the babies are all healthy and happy! I think the thing I have learned from my year of “yes” is that no matter how hard it gets, you can’t give up, it will only get better – eventually! While my business may not earn us a huge amount of money, it is the most rewarding career (besides motherhood of course!) I have ever had as it is mine, I have grown it from nothing and it is something I love!  
Joy has stage 3 breast cancer and this picture was taken during her 2nd round of chemo when she lost all her hair (she had waist length jet black hair!)She is an inspirational beautiful woman!!


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Jillybear... a young girl with a big heart!

Jill started beading at age 3. She loves it and always makes new little
things and comes out to me to get them tied up. I've been massively into
voluntary work. I get my kids involved and have them come along to things
that are suitable.

I used to be a family day care provider and I liked to teach my kids and
others about world issues in a gentle way. I would talk to them about less
fortunate people or situations and then we would follow the conversation
with an action/activity to help or show their understanding Eg a
fundraiser or auction. I had friend who went as far as spending their
holidays in bali to help kids who were orphans. My kids were shown pics
send back via email about what a difference only a few dollars can make.

We moved from SA to NSW 12 mths ago so I became a bit of a fb addict to
keep in touch with people. I came across WAHM's who made thigns for sale
and auctions so often Id get my kids to pick things and we would bid or
buy them. Jill came to me one day before her birthday and said someting
along the lines of "mum I want you to make me a shop on facebook so I can
sell my necklaces and give the money to kids overseas who have nothing to
eat." I just about cried! A few days after her 6th birthday I collected up
all the latest things she had made and put them up on facebook. Her nick
name was always Jillybear so that why its her shop name. Things just
started selling ...from people I didnt know, so we decided to get her a
propper site.

Approx 7 mths later her online shop was ready with the help of a lovely
stranger I didnt know from a site called (now very
good friends and I met her last time I was in SA) she gave jill all the
design work of the store for free.

So young, so v-e-r-y busy: How does Jillian Pace feel about having her own website for her jewellery business?"Very excited, very happy."Picture: Gary Warrick

After the site went up she gave herself a goal of $1,000 before Christmas
and shes currently around $470.

We chose the company Australian Lutheran World Serive vs a well known
charity as they have much lower overheads than most places that forward on

She saw a few other great sites like yours and wanted to donate bulk lots
to them to use. She decided she wanted to also help smaller groups so she
has 1 album that changes every few months (from not for profit causes she
finds on fb). Currently she is helping Asppired Ltd.

We love your cause as we used to do special needs teens fostercare (crisis
care) until Jill was 2.
We are in the middle stages of being foster parents again for babies (0-9
mths) for emergency/crisis care.


(we love you too Jilly! and Mummy of course)


You can read more about Jill here:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Super EASY Brownies! Recipe by Richelle

Super EASY  Brownies
These are super easy to make and a favorite in our household with everyone!

You need:
125g butter
125g chocolate
1 1/2 cups castor sugar (normal white sugar is fine)
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup walnuts (optional)
icing sugar to dust

1) Melt butter and choc together
2) Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla
3) Add choc /butter mixture
4) Add sifted flour, cocoa and nuts (I don't sift my flour because I’m too lazy and don't want any extra dishes)
5) Pour into a greased & lined tin
6) Cook in a preheated oven @ 180 degrees for 40min
7) Allow to cool in tin, cut into squares, dust with icing sugar and demolish!

My notes:
·         I use block chocolate or choc drops/buds, milk or dark, it’s good for whatever you have avail.
·         I melt my chocolate in the microwave... you want soft choc that will go smooth when you stir it! Do NOT keeping heating it until you get liquid everything as the chocolate will most likely go yuck! I do mine for just 1 minute in a pyrex (glass) jug.
·         I use castor sugar or white sugar – both work well!
·         I rarely add the nuts, mainly due to the little mouths in our household (under 2yo’s should not have nuts)
·         And most importantly, the beauty of this recipe is if it's not cooked enough, you have gooey brownies, if it's cooked a bit too long, it's more like a slice... So long as it’s not running out the tray or blackened, it’s going to be YUMMO! 

Enjoy :)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Extract from our Facebook fan page

Extract from Facebook page 
I get sooo pissed off when I hear about kids moving placements and turning up to their new family with hardly anything!!! Dear Carer, what were you spending the money on? Where are their clothes!!!???

    • Bryce -- i totally agree it is discusting behaviour | 

    • Emma --That's terrible Des :( So sad that some people do it for the money - the genuine people know the money is barely enough to support the child!

    • Kim --Its very sad.. I had the same problem when i was doing emergency care.. And Daycare.. It made Me so cranky.. Sometimes id sit there and cry..

    • Melissa --My neighbour is a temporary carer, she is one of the few who will buy the children what they need and send it off with them. She had 3 little girls come in once and all they had was a tiny suitcase of clothing between them. One of the girls was the same size as my daughter so my daughter ran over and gave her some stuff. But your right it is unfair and these children need everything. Why are they not being supplied with it when carers get reimbursed and money for the things they spend on these kids.

    • Backpacks 4 Aussie Kids I know right?! If you have a child for 3 months or even 1 month and they move placements, they should have a least a bag of clothes that fit them as well as other bits and pieces. wtf?

    • Jane Grech-- Its disgusting isnt it! Maybe people should be paid in vouchers but then, there isnt a store that just sells reasonably priced kids clothing and supplies and nothing else!

    • Paula --
      Why would you not send their belongings. I have had my little darling treasure boy since he was 5 months old. Now 20 months. I don't get an allowance but when that horrible day comes when he goes away I will send everything with him. I will... be heartbroken. His first pair of shoes, his first hair cut. They all belong to him not me. I have just been blessed with a gorgeous child that I will forever treasure. Money shouldn't be the issue. You foster because you want to share your love and you are passionate about children. Money shouldn't be the reason you do it! Unfortunately people do it for that reason! 

    • Jenny-- i have to send kids dvds to tasmania for my friend who has 5 children in her care

    • Sandra -- they cld state what the vouchers are for. i know that you cannot get cigarettes on vouchers from vinnies etc so they cld do a similar thing for these kiddies surely

    • Melina -- Yes and stop keeping items given for the child. they are the childs not yours or your childrens

    • Yasmin --lol i had this issue a few days ago 2 kids been in the system for 7 months and have just come to me with a plastic shopping bag of clothes each and a pair of thongs disgusting is all i can say

    • Yasmin --on the bright side shopping spree !:)

    • Danielle --
      It pisses me off. It happens pretty regularly and it's always second hand clothes they come with so the carers get out of it as cheap as possible it's just so wrong. I have just recently had two kids move into permanent care that I had for ...12 months they needed a car and a station wagon to take the two kids and all the stuff I had bought them to their new placement. I have 4 of my own kids and their is enough toys here for them to play with but I always will buy the kids I have somethings of their own whether I have them for 2 days, 2 months or 2 years.
      Sorry to rant but this is one thing that gets my blood boiling.
      See more

    • Sandra -- Grrrrrrrrr when we start fostering that will NOT be happening with any of our kids! Even if I get most of their clothing second hand (most of MY kids wear second hand clothing) they'll still be taking it with them! It's THEIRS not the carer's! Makes you wonder what they were wearing during placement! How awful to be shipped off with only the clothes on your back :-(

    • Jane --The positive from this discussion is that it highlights there are some wonderful carers armong YOU, doing it for all the right reasons. Be encouraged by each other, and by those of us who are inspired by your passion, your generosity and love for these children requiring love and care so desperately. Keep up the excellent work, and don't let the bastards get you down.

    • Sarah -- Unfortunately we had to move our last child on to more experienced carers, he had a lot of stuff and EVERYTHING when with him, after all they were his. However this was not appreciated at the other end and we were told he was spoilt. He certainly didnt have a lot of toys, there was a volume of clothes but these had been gifts etc. As previously said this is their belongings, something familiar to them, of course it goes with them.

    • Michelle --As a carer i'm horrified that this happens. We have accepted placements that come from other carer's @ some of these children have come with nothing. i don't understand how care's can do that. We always send any clothing @ toys we have brought for the child, weather they have been with us for 2 years or 2 weeks. It is hard enough for a lot of these children moving around a lot, let alone not having anything they can call their own.

    • Backpacks 4 Aussie Kids It's just ridiculous! I'm going to post this comment thread in my blog, but I'll leave out your last names (no profile pix either don't worry), I think more people should know that this happens

Monday, March 21, 2011

What do you do when a child turns up at your place?

People have asked me, "What do you do with a child that has just been dropped off at your place for care?"
So I thought I'd share some of the things we usually do. Of course, please keep in mind that this is a general overview and we change things according to how many kids we take and their personalities and ages etc.

It often starts like this -
4.20pm ~ring, ring~ I answer and this is how it goes, "Hi Des, this is such and such from Families Plus, how are you? (general chit chat for a min or so, and then this - ), What's your capacity to take a placement of a (age, gender, number of ), child?"
Then I say, "Why are they in care? How long have they been in care? Why are they moving placement? How many times have they been in care? How long will the placement be? When does the placement start? (usually asap), Plus a whole heap of other questions to which the worker either answers as honestly as she can or says she'll find out. And then I always ask, (because it's a small town), would I know the family?"
Once I've got all this info I let the worker know that I'll call my partner Bruce and get back to them.  Bruce is usually flat out at work so we have a bit of a conversation and a think about how we can handle a placement right now, consider the things going on in our lives and make a decision, yes or no.

So, let's say we decide yes!
I call the agency back, let them know and then I make sure I have a backpack for the child and run to Coles to get some child friendly food, (because unlike popular belief, some foster carers don't have a neverending supply of lunch snacks, poppers and tempting desserts always on hand). I bolt home, make sure the child's room is ready with fresh sheets and the backpack and toiletries on the bed along with a teddy and their new torch.

It's now 5.10pm.

About now I realise I haven't cleared the dining table off for dinner, (because my partner and I eat in front of the tv when we don't have kids and use the table as a dumping ground for 'stuff' lol), so I do that. I tell the dogs and the cats that we are getting a visitor and have a handful of treats ready to keep our AmStaff calm. She adores kids, but it can be really overwhelming for a little person to see a big dog all excited.


Bruce is home by now and we talk about what to expect. We make dinner and wait.


A car pulls up in the driveway. The dogs go nuts and I give them treats and shut them in my office or on the patio.
Out of the car jumps a little person with a bag full of Maccas, (thanks for that dear social worker or whoever you are). We are introduced, my cat Capt. Jack rubs up against the little person, which usually breaks the ice.

The Capt. and Bruce


The social worker, or random drop off person leaves, and we are left to work stuff out.
If there are bags, Bruce and I show the LP to their new room and help them unpack, (the cat likes this part also). By this time the dogs are crying and I tell the LP what to expect. I go and get the little dog first and introduce them. Then I get the big dog and put her in a sit/stay while the LP has a pat, then I send her off to her mat while we finish unpacking.
Of course, the whole time we are chatting and talking about which draws to put things in and 'Oh, that's a cool shirt!, or 'Can I wash some clothes for you?"  We look through the backpack and then we say, 'We'll be just in the kitchen making dinner, you can come out when you are ready'.

Mr. Woofy
Kairo, (or Rosie as we call her), looks scary huh?
Milo, terrified of little people for some reason and hides the whole time, lol!

I like to give the LP some time alone, but where they can hear us, to process.  Usually the animals go and get the LP and we all have something to eat. Then because it's getting late, bath time and quite time before bed. We show the LP how to get to the toilet, we practise with the lights off and use the torch and we show them how to get to our bedroom and knock on the door really loudly!

I always to the first bedtime routine, unless we specifically have information that a male should do it. I have this great set of books called, 'I feel loved', 'I feel sad', 'I feel jealous' etc. There are 7 or 8 of them.  We go through the titles and the child can choose a couple for me to read. Yes, even if they are 11 years old I use the same set of books.

We had one LP who chose the book, 'I feel angry', for the first three nights, on the fourth he chose, 'I feel loved' . . .  the next day he was reunified with his family.

I've made a quick vid of the story, it's not great filming and there are no special guest star voice overs.. just me! I am camerman, crew, and narrator... the editor had the day off :o)

8 - 8.30pm sometimes later depending on how hyped up the LP is.

I ask if the LP wants a light left on, a lamp left on or the door open etc. and I check on them every 5 or 10 mins till I go to bed.

We don't really sleep that well on the first night.

6.30am or earlier

Bruce is first up in the morning and he does breakfast and the teethbrushing and getting dressed for school or day care or whatever. (I am not a morning person at all! lol).

At some point before school, I ask the LP if they'd like to go to Kmart after school to buy some new pjs, (or whatever I can see they don't have or may soon need replacing). I NEVER throw anything out that the child brings with them. These things are their only belongings and they BELONG to them, not us.  Buying new things is a nice bonding experience for both of us and I make sure they know that they now own these things, because they usually ask anyway :o(

8am ish

I walk with the LP into school, visit the office to let them know I'm caring for such and such. The school is usually the last to know. Then I pop over and visit the teacher and let them know and encourage them strongly not to expect too much homework or even quality school work until things are settling down again. Sometimes the teachers take my advice, and sometimes they don't.

9am ish

I go home for a nap LOL! I wish!  These days I have to go to work, but last year I was able to take a breath and organise a menu and lunches etc. and chase up my agency for all the info they have, if the DOCS worker hasn't called me by midday I call them and insist that I get the 'authority to care' forms by that afternoon.

I must say, that the agency I'm with is awesome!! Very helpful, friendly and supportive and I'm so glad we joined with them.  Usually we get a call from our support worker or sometimes a visit the same night the LP comes to stay (yes, out of hours... imagine that!) or the next day.

If you have any questions or comments or you are a carer and do things a little differently, please leave a comment below.

Again, this is a very general outline.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Book Review.. Twilight

Stephenie fans! What makes her so special to you? – “…Seriously, her writing is just so awesome. The books are like drugs!...”

Does anyone else find it disturbing that an official fan site openly compares literaure to drugs?

I had not heard about Stephenie Meyer and the Twilight series till 2008, when I read an article in Time Magazine (,9171,1734838-2,00.html ). I am an avid Harry Potter reader and J. K Rowling admirer, so the title of the article caught my notice. Having read through the article I was still not much interested, though my then teenage daughter had her fantasy caught.

She borrowed the book from a friend and raced through it, immediately developing her love hate relationship with it. I was intrigued by her ravings and her determination to lay her hands on the rest of the books. I read the first 100 or so pages of Twilight, and simply could not read through the rest I was so revolted.

All of Stephenie Meyers books became sensational in their fan following. Movies were made. The media was alight with senseless stories of screaming fans wanting to be bitten by Robert Pattinson who starred as the lead vampire in the stories. I felt vaguely disturbed when I heard that mothers of teenagers, women in their 30s and 40s and even 50s were reportedly “getting hooked on to” the books. There was  something very wrong about the scenario, but I did not take more than a passing notice of all this.
When I started writing for these pages, and was asked to review books, I decided to go back and read the series. I thought I would give it another chance, since the popularity does not seem to have waned. I read Twilight and this writing will refer to only this book, as I do not want to read the whole series.

Let me begin by referring to a book that has already dealt with this phenomenon of young women going berserk about unrealistic novels.
It is part of received wisdom that Northanger Abbey is a satire on Gothic tales of horror. … M. H. Abrams, in A Glossary of Literary Terms (1999 ed.) under 'Gothic Novel' remarks that Jane Austen 'made good humoured fun of the more decorous instances of the Gothic vogue in Northanger Abbey'. (Read more:
Published nearly two hundred years ago,  Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen is the story of Catherine Morland, and ordinary young girl of 17, who has had neither wisdom, nor the benefit of formal education. She has built up an idea of the world through her vast reading of the many Gothic Novels that were popular during Jane Austen’s time. She has had a strict moral upbringing, and a very practical minded mother, who has so many children that she has not been much able to attend to each of them individually. Left to formulate her own view of the world, Catherine has formed the habit of relating all she sees to the unnatural Gothic world between the covers of her favourite novels. She is too unassuming to hold forth her own opinions, or even to formulate them independently. It is a clever story of a girl who learns to form her own opinions from observation, who learns through the embarrassment of experience that life is not lived within the pages of the popular romantic novels she is so fond of. She even learns to reach conclusions of her own, make her own decisions and become her own woman. Edward Tilney (supposed to be Jane Austen’s voice in the novel), who becomes her husband, makes the distinction between reading a novel and believing it literally, and in reading it and extracting such truths from it as enriches one’s life. He makes Catherine aware of the difference of reading blindly, and reading with discernment.
Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait b...Image via Wikipedia

Jane Austen was in her early twenties when she wrote Northanger Abbey. She later reworked on it before her death, and it was published posthumously. Jane Austen was mostly home schooled or schooled by family members, and spent a year at a formal school. She grew up in an age where women’s rights were still a novel idea and possibly read Mary Wollstonecraft’s works on feminine liberation and equality. Though she never refers to them in he works, her own notions, and that of her characters reflect an understanding of, and impatience with the female destiny in her day. She died when she was 41, and packed her life with wisdom, wit, intelligence and a contribution to literature, that is relevant and deserves attention even today. (Read More:

Twilight, on the other hand seems to be a celebration of unthinking romance, with emphasison unthinking. The author, Stephenie Meyer, with a degree from Brigham Young University, and all the independence, freedom, choices, and equality enjoyed by women in the 21st century, Wirtes a book that in a standard Australian school would get pulled up on each page because of grammatical errors and poor writing skills. She creates a heroine who though “independent” and self sufficient enough to take over and run her mother’s household and life, and her father’s household when she lives with either of them, falls apart when the stunningly handsome, impossibly strong and, may I say, completely weird Edward does not come to school one day. Bella, an impossibly awkward girl, who cannot even drive in a straight line, unless she is very careful, looks down upon her hapless parents, who are cardboard cut outs of real humans, thinks of all her schoolmates as small town non- wonders, is inexplicably bedazzled by an impossibly beautiful face. Virtually at first sight. Once she does admit her feelings for Edward, she thinks of him as a “god”, and wonders about what he would have been as a “young god”. In the end I was left wondering whether anyone in the book, and even Stephenie Meyer really understands what love is all about. There seems to be no depth to the feeling that love brings. In the story “love conquers all”, but the form of love that is described seems more like an addict’s dependence on drugs.

Yes, the word “impossibly” occurs  many times in the previous paragraph. The characters are truly impossible.

Let us look at the characteristics that make Edward a hero: He is inhumanly strong, incredibly handsome, with  a sculpted body, has a “mellifluous” voice, can move like lightning, has a grace that is naturally lacking in all the other true 17 year olds around him. He has all these qualities because he is a vampire and lusting after Bella’s blood. He falls in love with her because he is attracted to the smell of her blood. He likens his need for her as that of an alcoholic to cognac, or a drug addict to heroin. Of course let us not forget that he is 118 years old, and presumably has had a couple of lifetimes experiences. Bella finds it attractive that he lusts after her blood and is constantly aching to drink her blood and kill her.

Once Edward and Bella declare their love for each other, they stay together ALL the time. When she sleeps, he sits in a corner and watches her. The only time they separate is when Bella needs her “Human minutes”  (read bathroom and shower breaks). They kiss and canoodle continuously, but do not have sex for reasons that are only hinted at, and when Bella, in a surprisingly coy manner asks about it, she is told in no uncertain terms that it was not on the cards. Is this an implicit message of no sex before marriage stemming from Ms Meyer’s religious background? But wait, Ms Meyer does not want to send any messages. She just writes for herself. “I never write messages. I always write things that entertain me, and one of the things that I find really enjoyable to explore is the idea of love.”

(Read more:,9171,1834663,00.html#ixzz1GcJhGbuO)

. “I didn't write these books specifically for the young-adult audience. I wrote them for me. I don't know why they span the ages so well, but I find it comforting that a lot of thirtysomethings with kids, like myself, respond to them as well--so I know that it's not just that I'm a 15-year-old on the inside!” Really? Real life15 year olds in the 21st century behave like Bella with their real life boyfriends? Wow! If Stephenie is to be believed, so do the thirty somethings! Do they really like to be petted and cosseted and taken care of continuously and do they really want to be entwined around their new found loves 24 hours a day? Sorry, except for when they need to wash!

I wonder that millions of readers and (gasp!) their mothers have been reading these books and swooning over it. The small sample of readers I have spoken to, seem either to hate it, and spent a long time just getting angry over the book, or to love it: a book shop owner, recommended it saying, “it is like those age old romances like Jane Austen and all, nothing really happens, but there is this underlying tension, so there is no, you know, .. all of that…” No, Madam Bookshop Owner. It is not like Jane Austen. And no, I do not agree that “Nothing happens” in Jane Austen’s books. Though I know that is not what you were saying.

I plead with all of those who have read and gone maniacal about the Twilight saga, book and films, to turn back and read those novels written by women in a bygone era. Please read the books that have survived the centuries and are now groaned over as school texts. Perhaps a good place to start will be “Northanger Abbey”: the story of the girl who had to learn the hard way that life was not a Gothic Novel, and that she had a mind and a soul. The story in which a girl had to grow up  and know herself before she could be happy in the love of another.

Books of Stephenie Meyer: The Twilight Saga: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, all of which have been made into films which have proved immensely popular.


And lastly The Host.

The Most Well Known Books of Jane Austen:
Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Love and Friendship.

Post Script: My daughter has not read Breaking Dawn, and only half of Eclipse. She has outgrown her love of the books, and has moved on to other literature, with no prompting from me at all. I recommend people to make intelligent choices for themselves, and if their choice leads them to the Twilight series, even after they have read and assimilated other books and literature, then so be it. 
You can read more of Sonelina's work here
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