Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ladies who lunch

Amy enjoyed an Afternoon Tea At Café Societea on Saturday with a few of her friends.

Amy said there was huge tray of homemade cakes and she kindly brought 3 of them back for me and the kids. The rest were scoffed (in a lady-like manner I'm sure). Here's a couple of pictures;

Real Construction

Eli's mate Leo bought him a 'Real Construction' set for his birthday in April. It was one of those toys that needed time investing in it and so we 'put it away' until we could give it some time and poor Eli has been desperate to play with it since then. We'd promised him that we could do it on a 'rainy day' and so he endured several months of looking out of the window and asking us if it was raining. There was never ANY worry of him forgetting about it.

Today was a quiet Sunday afternoon and so the two of us finally opened the excellent kit and started work.

The pack uses foam to act like toy wood and you can fashion pretty much anything from it. There's a range of plastic nails and screws to hold things together. It's obviously super-safe - I guess you could hit your thumb with a hammer but not much else.

We spent a nice time variously cutting, hammering and screwing things. We made a really good digger which both son and Dad were pleased with. Mum and Audrey returned from the shops and like good tradesmen everywhere Eli and I downed tools and enjoyed a well earned tea break.

It was definitely worth the wait and Eli loved it - there's also plenty of 'wood' left for future projects.

Play School at the Albert Hall

TV-wise our children have pretty much grown up on a diet of Play School. Sadly dropped by the BBC in the UK the programme still attracts wide support here in Australia.

I've just looked up the Play School website and it says the programme's objective is to encourage a child "to wonder, to think, to feel and to imagine" and in my opinion it achieves that hands down.

Play School has a touring show which comes round every year or so and we caught the show in Canberra on our return from holiday.

In truth the show is probably aimed mostly at pre-schoolers so kids are getting a (little) bit old now so (sadly) this might be our last trip to see them, but we may just be able to squeeze another one in next year hopefully!

There's a rotating cast of presenters. This time we were entertained by Rachael and Alex (a Playschool stalwart) and they kept things moving along with songs and jokes (some for the parents too) during the 50 minute show. Of course the 'big 4' (Humpty, Big Ted, Little Ted and Jemima) take star billing with the gift shop selling replicas of your heroes at the back of the hall that seems to have grown ever bigger as the years have passed. This time the kids left empty handed - we'd already purchased much of the merchandise from previous shows(!)

It was great fun though. Both Audrey and Eli danced and laughed through the show and I hope we can get another one in next year!

Here's a few pictures

Audrey and Barbie(s) get ready for the show

Eli watching Humpty on stage

Eli and his Mum

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Hickman's trip to Darwin!

We've just come back from a lovely 10 day holiday in Darwin. We stayed with Amy's sister (Catherine) and brother-in-law (Michael). It was my first trip to Darwin and it was great seeing what the Territory had to offer.

As well as spending time with family we got out and about a fair amount and enjoyed a weekend's camping in nearby Litchfield where we were all overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape. We swam in creeks and sat under tumbling waterfalls. We did something new every day - Michael loaned us one of his cars - a powerful 4x4 which was fun to drive and allowed us to go to some off the track places.

The kids delighted in meeting their cousins (Josh, Camden and Emily) and even though there was many years between them Audrey and Eli had great fun variously teasing, playing with and cuddling them.

The weather for the whole of our stay was fabulous - 30-32 degrees everyday with a light cool breeze. We were sad to board the plane home (not least as it took off at 12.30am!) and head back to the cold Canberra winter.

Here's a short clip of some of our best pictures. They don't really do the beauty of the place justice.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Update on Amy

I went to see the registrar at the hospital on Tuesday morning to get the results of my scans and to find out what the next stage of my treatment would be. The scans showed that both cancer in the bones and in the liver is stable (hasn't shrunk but hasn't grown either). This was a relief as I'd been on a 'chemo holiday' for 5 weeks due to the nueropathy in my hands and feet. Neuropathy is nerve damage which causes numbness. The best way I can describe it is that it's similar to when your feet 'go to sleep' but, in this case, mine never wake up! Anyway, I had expected the cancer to have run rampant in the break so it was relief to get these results.

So, the next step in my treatment is to try another hormone treatment, rather than chemo. There is a combination drug which isn't currently available on the PBS (similar to UK NHS) but I was fortunate to receive compassionate access to it - which means I don't have to shell out $4000 odd a month as the pharmaceutical company will cover it. For those interested, the drugs are Afinitor and Aromasin. Afinitor is the one not listed on the PBS. I started taking the tablets on Thursday and will now wait to see if I am hit with one of the many side effects listed on the product leaflet. The most common are mouth ulcers, nausea and fatigue. Hooray! Then I wait and see if the drugs are doing their job.

I go to see my new oncologist on 26 July but it will be too early to tell much by then. This will be more of a chance to get to meet with him and discuss my history etc. My original oncologist has gone to Canada for 8 months. I'll miss her as she's been with me from the start but, who knows, a new set of eyes might be just the thing I need to keep the cancer stable (or, even better, make it go away!)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Audrey's ballet lessons

Audrey has been having ballet lessons for a little while now and at the end of term parents are invited into the dance studio while the kids put on a show.

Here's a couple of pics

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Eli and his new football boots

Nice back flick son!

Mastering the art of the step-over!

My visit to the legislative assembly

As a new Australian Citizen I was invited to an evening at the ACT Legislative Assembly (basically Canberra's local council)

They laid on some nice food and drink and showed us round the building. I got to sit in the Speakers Chair and looked at where some of the politicians 'work'. We got to meet a few of the MLAs - they're an odd bunch.

Here's me trying my hand at filibustering..

Yes, other people came along too! (it was a quiet night on tele)

self portrait (which explains the cross-eyes!)

pretending to be important

Open Day at Cotter Dam

For the past 5 years a monumental new dam has been under construction just outside of Canberra which will provide the city with water.

As with many civil engineering projects the project went way over cost - costing a whopping $417m (it was budgetted at $363m) and along the way there have been floods and bad weather which have affected construction.

Nevertheless one of Canberra's wonders is now nearing completion and held an open day for the general public to walk along it. It was billed as a 'Once in a lifetime opportunity'. Audrey, Eli and I took a trip up there (spotting Emus along the way) and enjoyed looking at where Canberra's water is going to be kept.

Our guide on the bus had worked on the dam since 2007 - a lot of the project had involved Americans (they've got a number of similar dams in the US) and Irish workers (up to 3,000 at a time apparently!)

It was made of VC Concrete (the Americans term it 'very cheap' concrete) and because of the type of concrete it is it had to be poured on top of the last section (and not allowed to dry). Pouring took place 24 hours a day for 18 months. That's a lot of concrete!

It may not have the elegant charm of Sydney Opera House nor the majesty and history of the MCG but it's ours!

The beautiful Cotter River

Audrey pleased to find that the dam builders also dress in pink

On top of the dam

Eli with the viewing platform in the background

Audrey with the top of the dam behind her