Category Archives: parents


He refused to go to the doctor today – “There’s nothing wrong with me”

It can’t help that today is his 76th birthday.

I made a couple of phone calls and got the “Um, yes, emergency room” response, so have bullied him into getting a taxi there – am just on my way over now.

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Posted by on August 27, 2007 in health, parents


And now …

Phone call from my mother today.

She and dad went away for the weekend (Friday to Sunday) for a fancy dinner at a winery in the north of the state.

She said he was a bit weird on the drive up – said a few things that didn’t make sense, but she assumed that was because he has always been a bit vague.

Then he was a bit weird at the dinner as well, she couldn’t point to anything specific except that he drank a glass of Tokay which he has always hated, and when she commented on it, he just shrugged and said it was nice.

The next morning, she went to check out of the motel & the woman who ran it said, “Your husband said the dinner was a bit of a disappointment.”

“That’s funny,” she said. “I thought it was great.”

When she asked him about it, he said that there was less food than he had expected.

Turns out, he didn’t remember anything after the entree.

The Australian entree – as in, the starter. He doesn’t remember the main course(s?) or the dessert, or the wines (he had 3 glasses, so hardly enough to cause memory loss like this).

So what did she do when she found this out? Got back in the car to let him drive her home for 4 hours.


We would have driven up and driven both cars back, if they had rung us. Or they could have got the train and we would have gone up later.

Or, you know, they could have gone to a HOSPITAL.

She’s promised they will go to the doctor first thing tomorrow morning. The concern is that he may have had another minor stroke – although he’s on medication that is supposed to prevent that.

Either way, it all adds up to “worried”.

My brother doesn’t read this blog, which is a good thing – he and his wife & daughter are travelling in Europe at the moment. If something serious happened, I’d have to call him – but  otherwise I’ll let things wait until he gets back.

I am starting to think I may have squashed the wrong cockroach or ant somewhere early this year. 😦

Meanwhile, from the Things That Make Me Happy file comes my new camera which has incredible resolution and clarity. Pictures soon (when google recovers – I can’t access any of my google services right now)

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Posted by on August 27, 2007 in health, parents



Meeting today with the council care co-ordinator, who had recommended my parents for additional care.

Some good news:

  • they are increasing the personal care in the mornings from 45 minutes to an hour. I suspect this may be because dad is having extra-long showers because it’s winter, but it means that they will be able to do extra housework while they are there.
  • Adding the half hour a fortnight (= every 2 weeks) to do extra cleaning. I thought this was agreed at the last meeting.
  • Arranging for my mother to be referred as well as dad – at the moment, it’s all in his name.
  • Adding two hours a fortnight for laundry – mum and dad don’t have a tumble dryer, so they are currently going to the laundrette to do their towel and sheet washing. The part of me that is eeevil giggles at the idea of my barely-mobile father helping my barely-mobile mother with a full basket of wet towels.

The bizarre:

  • After the last meeting, the social worker came out to do a review of dad’s condition & refer him for an Aged Care Assistance Package – which would supply money for mum and dad to pay for additional care. I wasn’t at that meeting, and mum and dad reported it to me as “she came to check what dad could or couldn’t do” – but apparently a letter came back to council saying that my parents had REFUSED an ACAP. Gaaaaaaaaaaah. Either someone is making this stuff up, or there was a big misunderstanding when the social worker asked, “do you want me to arrange some money for you to pay for these essential services?” and my parents thought she asked, “do you want me to make you a cup of coffee?”
    Council care person is going to refer this back to the social worker and get her to call me, as well as getting me to refer mum for assessment as well.

Meanwhile, my parents STILL have not been paid for the business they sold in December. And my brother goes overseas next Friday & is relying on his share (he was a junior partner) to fund much of the holiday. No indication of when they will be paid.

Ah, families. Always amusing … when they don’t make you want to gouge out your own eyes…

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Posted by on July 27, 2007 in health, parents


Friday night games

Our Friday night games group is a weird beastie.

It is very informal, alternating between our house and our friends’ house. They have two daughters who are not much younger than Biggie, who come over every second Friday and go to sleep on our spare bed, then are woken and taken home at the end of the evening.

We have tended not to go to games at their place on the intervening Fridays, for a couple of reasons:

  • Our kids aren’t great at going to bed (and get really cranky when they are woken to be moved).
  • Otto is still beyond terrified of animals, and they have a cat and a dog. It feels rude to expect them to shut their animals away or put them outside when we go over, but it is the only opportunity.

Despite this, we decided to give it a go this week.

They were expecting 8 or 9 people this week, so asked us to bring some games that would be suitable for a biggish group. That really means lighter fare from our collection, which suits this group anyway – half the night usually goes in chat before we get a game out. As it happened, there were only 5 of us, but the mood there was firmly in the light camp.

Incan Gold

We started out with a game of Incan Gold. Druid and Jane have played this before as Diamant, but it was new to Dave.

Game 1 went quickly (and disastrously for me – but it is one of those games where, once you get behind, you often stay behind). In the final round, I was 5 gems behind Jane and was sure I only needed one more room to equal or better her score – and of course fell victim to the scary voodoo doll.

Final results:

Dave 19
Jane 41 (winner)
Fraser 34
Melissa 4
Druid 24

“Let’s go again!” said Dave.

Game 2 was very tight, with Fraser and Jane matching pace with each other right through, and Druid and I valiantly bringing up the rear. At one stage, I commented that he had double my score; “triple!” he replied. We were both still on 0.


Dave 17
Jane 40
Fraser 41 (winner)
Melissa 7
Druid 7

Time for one more game before we go on? Of course!

The Druid got a great head start on this cave, scoring about 25 gems from his first foray. By cave 4, we had lost two of the giant spider cards (which led to the third one being mocked by Dave when it came onto the table). Cave 5 – where we all needed desperately to get some points on the table – was sensational: Snake, 2, Rockfall, 5, emasculated giant spider, 1, voodoo dummy, 15, 13, 5, voodoo dummy. Of course, I was still in there till the end – my Diamant strategy usually relies on getting the 17 after everyone else has left. It’s almost as good as the “leave as soon as you get any gems at all” strategy.

Final results:

Dave 25
Jane 17
Fraser 22
Melissa 11
Druid 32 (winner).


Our next game was Pickomino, which we bought at the Australian Games Expo last weekend. The game was disastrous as we all lost tiles and worms left, right and centre, and competed over small and relatively valueless tiles. The best moment – described by Dave as a glory of “arse beats class” – was when the Druid was down to 1 die, needing a worm, and managed to roll it. Actually, I lie. The best moment was when Fraser rolled lots of 5s, then a 3, then only 3s and 5s and went bust.

Final scores:

Dave 4
Jane 0
Fraser 4
Melissa 0
Druid 4

It really was not my night. Everyone enjoyed this one a lot, though, with some surprise at just how nasty it could get.

Dave’s wife and kids arrived to pick him up while we played Pickomino, so we waved him goodbye before sitting down to a final game for the night.

Stack Market

The chosen game was Stack Market, Z-Man’s rerelease of Gra-Gra Company. I played this at Expo, and thought there wasn’t a great deal to it, but it was one of those “fun with the right group of bastards – oops I mean people” games. And it was only $30 so what the heck.

The first thing I noticed was that we – or at least I – played this wrong last time. While you have to set the order for putting the dice on top of the stack, you don’t actually have to put them all on in one go. It’s quite possible that I just missed that rule on the first play.

Important house rule: You may not lick the dice to make them stick. Because, eww.

We had fun playing this game, but there seems to be a lot wrong with it.

  • There are some ambiguities in the rules. If there are not enough cubes in the supply, do you need to stack them legally (ie not stack all of them) or can you just stack them in any order? And do you have to stack as many as you can, or can you just put 1 on top and then cut & run?
  • It’s too long. One round is not bad, but going beyond that would have felt like 3 separate games. The length doesn’t fit the weight.
  • There are too many rules for “a silly dice game”. Maybe that will get better if we play it again, but we all felt that 4 pages of rules is too many.
  • The scale marker is wrong! We found that the divisions were bigger than the actual cubes used – we had to count cubes, not use the paper.

We also wondered whether using one hand to steady your arm counts as using 2 hands. Especially when trying to rebuild the 16 or 18 storey skyscraper.

The game (well, the round) finished one Jane’s turn. She and I were in purple company, and our building was now 18 storeys high. Checking the rules for mergers, she quickly decamped to Fraser’s brown company (the smallest company) – a clear vote of no confidence in me.

I made it, though, stacking the 3 little cubes on top of my building. Unfortunately, Jane had collected so much money during the game that she was unbeatable.

Final scores:

Melissa $60k
Druid $50k
Jane $80k
Fraser $40k

Druid rates the game a 4, Fraser a 5-6. I think I’d give it a 6, but not really any higher. That said, it was fun to play.

That was it for games night, so we loaded the girls into the car. It’s incredibly foggy here tonight – on the way out, we drove down Gatehouse Street with Royal Park on the right – knowing that the Children’s hospital was just ahead, but completely unable to see it. Coming home, we came along College Crescent with Princes Park on the left and the Melbourne Cemetery on the right, and estimated that we had between 25 and 30 metres’ visibility.

A game night like this is a bit like fairy floss – fun at the time, but insubstantial. I feel vaguely dissatisfied, and would have liked to play something a bit meatier, even if it was still only light-medium. Still, we have a date for Die Macher on Sunday – so by next week I will probably be craving the light filler games again.

And now? I should probably get to bed. Mum is back in hospital, so the agenda for the weekend is fuller than usual:

  • am – get up, go over to parents’ house (20 minute drive if not foggy) to supervise dad having shower & dressing. I’ve had to pike on a BSW double-date for Thurn und Taxis, which sucks rocks. I was looking forward to playing it.
  • 11am – gym, training
  • Buy pasta for Sunday lunch
  • home, housework (house is a disaster, die Macher will be here). Buy a birthday gift for Otto to take to party on Sunday morning. More housework, including investigating why all the clothes that were in the dryer smell burnt (oops!)
  • Post jacket to sister-in-law
  • 7pm babysit baby niece. No wireless internet, but at least I should be able to get some work done – assuming she really does sleep 🙂

Sunday is not much better.

  • Otto is at a birthday party (15 minutes or so away) from 10-12; one of us will really need to stay with her.
  • 12.00 is when the die Macher players are arriving (so we can be lunched & set up ready to go by 1).
  • Grocery shopping (at some stage).
  • Laundry etc – all the usual getting-ready-for-the-week stuff. Having no heating in the bathroom/laundry is a bit of a problem when it comes to drying clothes in winter.

And I really need to catch up with some work this weekend – hopefully Saturday night will be enough.

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Posted by on June 16, 2007 in games, parents


Cleaning products

My mother’s cleaner came today.

I had bought a new vacuum cleaner from the council’s list and the recommended mop & bucket. I had to go to four supermarkets to find the right mop bucket. Three of them were missing a part.

The council worker said she liked the vacuum cleaner.

But she didn’t know how to use the mop bucket.

The one that the council said we had to have.

I just … this is unbelievable.

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Posted by on May 28, 2007 in parents


Fantastic news

Just had a call from my mother.

They did a CAT scan yesterday to check on the progress of the tumour.

It has GONE. Finito.

She still has some chemotherapy & lumbar punctures to go, and probably radiotherapy too, which won’t be fun, but for now the news is excellent.


Posted by on May 25, 2007 in parents



I had a meeting on Friday with one of the care co-ordinators at mum and dad’s local council. She came out to their place to discuss whether the care they are receiving is adequate.

They currently have:

  • a personal care worker for up to an hour 3x a week. This is necessary if mum is in hospital or unwell, as dad is too wobbly to shower & get dressed on his own. In practice, they do nothing until he is ready to put on his shoes.
  • a private personal care worker (funded by me & my brother) 2x a week. She does enormous amounts of housework while dad showers & dresses, then puts his shoes on him & leaves. She rocks!
  • a house cleaner for 1.5 hours a week.
  • Meals on Wheels – hot meals delivered 7 days a week (in practice, I think dad gets them hot 4 days a week with frozen meals to cover the other 3 days)

The cleaners have apparently complained that the house is not clean enough for them to clean.

Let me say that again.

The cleaners say the house is not clean enough to clean.


I think the real problem is that it’s not possible to clean a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom unit in 90 minutes a week. I think the woman from the council agrees.

Outcomes of the meeting:

  • She will try to get a personal care worker for 1 or 2 additional mornings a week. (This would be helpful but it would be sad to lose Liz, the private care worker, who does so much to help. We may keep her on for other assistance.)
  • The personal care workers will be told to do some housework when they are here. Specifically, hanging out washing, loading the dishwasher and making the bed. (This will be *very* helpful)
  • The cleaner will be increased to 2 hrs every 2nd week. (This will mean that the spare room & study only get cleaned once every 2 weeks, which should be fine).
  • We are to try to get an industrial clean done of the house. (The issue here is that they may expect mum & dad to have moved things out of the way before they clean, which is just not possible. I have to do some research on this.)

The other issue is that they don’t have the right cleaning equipment. If we are using council’s  home help, then they have very strict OH&S requirements. Mum has already had to replace all the (environmentally friendly) cleaning products she used to use with products from their list of things they are willing to use. Now she has to get a new vacuum cleaner, because their old vacuum cleaner is an upright & not on the recommended list. And a new mop, because she doesn’t have the special kind of mop they want. And a special kind of mop bucket to go with the special kind of mop.


It hardly seems worth having the subsidised cleaners, when you have to spend hundreds of dollars complying with their requirements, and when they’re unable to come for any longer than that.

The other good outcome, however, was that this woman is going to refer mum and dad for “a package” – federal government funding to help meet costs of care for elderly people staying in their own homes. The last package meeting turned out to be a dud (it was for paying carers to stay with someone who couldn’t be left alone – not our problem) but this time we may be getting somewhere.

I just wonder whether they will pay for the recommended vacuum cleaner as well.

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Posted by on May 21, 2007 in parents


Quick update

Saw mum’s oncologist today and … nothing. They won’t even re-run her tests until she has had 3 chemotherapy cycles.

What was delightful, was that it was his birthday and his staff and colleagues had gone all out. There were “happy 50th” signs in the foyer, chocolate frogs on the front desk, and glitter shaped like the number 50 scattered all over his desk and the chairs in his office.

A community group that I have been very involved with has degenerated (briefly, I trust) into a horrible environment of rules lawyering. Unfortunately, some of the rules lawyering touches on things I have been responsible for (and which have been done within the rules) so I am going to have to respond to point that out. And “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” is not really appropriate, although it is tempting. I guess if it was going to go this way, this is not a bad time. I have already said I will scale back my involvement as of next month. Now I am wondering whether I want to be involved at all.

But spending money things made me happy today! I picked up my copy of the perfect punctuation pop-up book. Also a loaf of pumpkin and chive bread from the Natural Tucker Bakery which even smells like pumpkin when it’s cut.

Also, I have a (n unsolicited) phone message from a recruitment agency. And Otto wrote the word “TRAM” on her drawing board. Then she wrote it in mirror writing, because she is left handed. Smart kid 🙂

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Posted by on March 21, 2007 in parenting, parents, shopping, work


Loose ends

I realise that I have left a few issues hanging, without ever responding to them, or explaining them properly. (Thanks to Jon, who pointed this out ever-so-nicely)
Local Council job

I spoke to the woman at my local council, and they are not paying enough for me to be interested, even after I factor in the nearness of the work (I have spoken to other people and they agree that the council is under-paying). She was very nice, though, and there may potentially be some outsourced components of their project, so she asked me to send something through to her.

I put together a bit of a prospectus about my skills & the clients I have had (more detail & more overt sales pitch than just a CV) and sent it to her. We shall see what happens – at least I have the prospectus together now 🙂

Work stuff

Other job hunting is mostly on hold at the moment, due to my mother’s health (see below). I’m just wrapping up two projects but I have a few things to go on with:

  • Content Management System training – design a training/user manual for a content management system, incorporating not only what the users have to do in the system but also best practice-type information about how to make the CMS work for them. Approximately 8 days’ work to go on this, will put a lot of time in next week.
  • Online teaching system – last year, I redesigned their training manual and also developed an implementation workshop package to expedite the process of – well, of implementing 🙂 The workshop means that, instead of a flurry of emails and missed deadlines, the initial planning session elicits all the information that the implementers need. They have just moved to a new version of the base software so I need to refresh what I did last year. 5 days’ work.
  • Information portal development – we developed a strategy for a client to implement an information portal for collecting relevant research  & sharing it with an online community. The client wants us to manage the implementation. Unclear how many days’ work or what my exact role will be.
  • Implementation & process manual development – a client has a new product that revolutionises the way that fast food restaurants deal with their reporting. They retained me to write a user manual (delivered) and now they need me to write their implementation manual. This will be interesting because I will be going on site with the techs to see what they do and then describe it.

I also have a bid in for 100 hours’ work rewriting a system manual for a government department. They apparently only had 2 bids so I hold out some hope, although the company has had no work through this department for about 3 years and something like 17 unsuccessful bids.
It’s weird that I am getting all this writing work, when I think my strength is more in analysis. It’s good, because writing work can be done in chunks and even on-site, so I don’t lose all the down-time. The concern is that it doesn’t look great on my projects record – I need to do some more analytical and strategic work so that I don’t start to look like a tech writer with ambitions above her station 🙂

I am also doing two voluntary projects:

  • Design a new IA (Information Architecture) for Biggie’s school – this will be as big or as small as the principal wants it to be. I want it to be reasonably big as there are a lot of interesting things schools can do with their websites if they want to – and our school’s families are typically highly educated and internet-savvy.
  • Design an IA (including content templates) for a volunteer group. This is about 70% done (needs refinement). It’s a good project, because the content is interesting and because most groups in this area have really lousy site architectures. Really lousy sites, even. I expect I will end up building the site, too, so I am trying to learn more about Joomla and other free CMS tools.

My mother

The full story here, because I have only touched on it peripherally.

In late December, she noticed a swelling and associated soreness on the right side of her face. She ignored it, because she thought she had toothache and she hates dentists.

She finally saw a dentist in mid January, and was referred (the same day!) to a cranio-facial surgeon who sent her for MRI scans. They found that her entire right sinus was blocked by  “a mass”. (It was amazing to see on the scans, actually – there was no hole at all where the sinus should show up as a hole). She was referred for a biopsy.

The biopsy showed that she has a quite aggressive “diffuse large B-cell lymphoma”. She was referred to another specialist, who admitted her to hospital the following morning.

The lymphoma is quite advanced, and it’s very close to her brain, possibly already starting to establish itself (not entirely clear). This type of lymphoma grows very quickly, so it is a risk to her, although the fast growing-ness makes it easier to treat.

She’s having to go through 6 months of chemotherapy, which has (her doctor estimates) a 50-60% chance of curing this lymphoma. They administer it through a lumbar puncture, so it will get straight into her central nervous system.

Even if that works, her doctor told me there’s a high chance that it will recur, and it’s likely to recur in her brain or central nervous system.

A website I read suggested that people over 65 who have recovered from normal lymphomas have a 56% survival rate at 5 years. I gather that my mother’s chances are much, much lower than that. She’s 70 and has diabetes, and there’s the complication that it may get into her brain.

It’s extra complicated because she is the primary carer for my father, so we are having to arrange care for him at the same time as making arrangements for her. Knowing what I do about her prognosis, I also need to think about longer-term plans for dad (One nurse said to me, quite bluntly, “you need to understand that your dad is, barring accidents, going to live considerably longer than your mum”)

I feel I can hardly look for work when I’m having to take time off to go to her medical appointments with her, etc.

And the really important question

Did I get to bed by 10pm on Wednesday 7th March?

Well, no. But I was in bed before 11.30, which is a start.

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Posted by on March 16, 2007 in parents, sleep, work


Old age sucks.

There is a disconnect in health care services in this country.

Good support is available for able-bodied carers, although this is not widely publicised.

There is support for elderly people who wish to stay in their own home – again, this is more than adequate for people who are in good health.

There is excellent palliative care support for people for whom treatment is no longer effective.

There are networks who support people with  health problems to assist in recovery or in management of their condition.

But there is a huge gap right where my parents fit – where one partner requires assistance to continue living in the family home but the other partner is temporarily unable to assist them.

This is the frustration we have now.

The local council provides dad with 3 days a week of personal care assistance. We have been able to source emergency care for 2 days a week for this week and possibly next week. But beyond that, we will have to pay market rates (and they are considerable) for a personal care attendant to help him put on his shoes and socks, and to be in the house while he showers in case he has a fall.

The council also provides them with 90 minutes’ cleaning a week – enough to do the floors, clean the bath and shower and toilets, do any left over dishes, and maybe a load of washing. But mum needs someone who can hang out and bring in the laundry two or three more times a week.

They’re really tiny things that they need, but there’s no-one to provide those services (and no real way to deliver them, I imagine). I imagine that there are many elderly people who end up in institutions simply because of the small things – even though they are quite capable of living independently.

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Posted by on March 8, 2007 in parents