Tuesday, 13 February 2018

My #phelanmcdermid boy

Isn't he gorgeous?

My boy who will never grow up.

My boy who will never want for much more than the basics.

My boy who will never talk.

My boy who cracks up over Dinosaur Train.

My boy who covets biscuits like he has never eaten.

My boy who delights in running around the backyard.

My boy who knows not what jealously is.

My boy who always wants kisses and hugs.

My Phelan-McDermid boy.

My Nicholas.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Celebrate the small things

It is finally 2017 and 2016 feels like a blur. Before the year starts to get busy, I want to just take the time to write out some goals.

I aim to make time to write more.  Even if it is just 15 minutes a day. It is something that I enjoy doing and I want to do more of it.

I aim to finish creative projects.  I am pretty good at starting them, but then things happen and I have to pack them up and then I have to fight for the time to finish them again. Sometimes it is all too hard to continue.

I aim to grow stronger.  Last year I made a start with a personal trainer to build my strength up. It was amazing how much difference it made to day-to-day tasks when handling Nicholas. The ability to just pick him up was liberating. Since then I have ruptured a disc in my neck and then have bruised my coccyx when I fell on it during Rollerskating.

I aim to read with more purpose. Our society reads more than any other generation with social media, but how often do we read with purpose?

I am to spend more time with my friends. Having a child with a disability can be socially isolating. It is hard to get "time out" at home when caring for him, so often I choose a quiet afternoon over socialising. Friendships suffer as a result.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Moscow Design Museum

Yet another example of Visual Communication being an inspiration for patchwork!

The Moscow Design Museum have some lovely icons to go with their establishment. This images screams patchwork sampler to me.

This blog post by UnderConsideration shows how they came up with the designs, truely an inspiration!

Hope this provides some inspiration!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Memories of days past

I have a box of old diaries and poetry books from my high school years. While tidying the linen cupboard I came across them again and spent 10 minutes reading through some of the diary entries laughing at the hilarity of some of the statements and assumptions about life.

Amongst the normal stuff that teenagers go through, there are notes about boys that I had crushes on and tags from things like my first bra, concert tickets and "Anywhere" travelcards.

In one of the entries I mention is the movie Somewhere in Time, as I wanted a boy to take me to see it. I couldn't work out if I ended up seeing it with him. But there was a whole entry on how romantic the movie was.  I still love listening to the soundtrack in the background while I am doing work.

Every once in a while, I entertain the idea of using this material of my turbulent years. for some kind of writing project. Then life takes over and I forget that I have them.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Blackwork adventures with Marknad

I have always loved Blackwork Embroidery. The stark contrast between the black thread and pale fabric allows the embroidery to stand out.

I divided the runner up with a sewing thread running thread. The table runner was sourced from Ikea, in Australia the Marknad was $5 per runner. Great value. The black perle embroidery cotton sits well on the natural coloured runner. The plan for my embroidery is to make four blackwork samples either end of the 40x140 cm table runner.

I have the "Made in France" Blackwork book, it has some lovely designs in it.

But if you don't have access to this fabulous book, check out the Elizabeth Almond Sampler Tutorials and Mary Corbet's Needle and Thread.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

But he doesn't look disabled

When I post pictures of Nicholas online, I am conscious not to post pictures that show him in a negative light. We certainly document "the bad times" so that we can remember what happened and when, but when it comes to posting online I do try and post the most beautiful pictures of Nicholas that I can find.

Pictures that can #sparkjoy

To me, my son is Nicky. I do not know him in any other sense. So when someone meets him for the first time after talking with us about his diability, they often say "but he doesn't look disabled".

Most of the physical indicators of his syndrome are hidden away.

His hypotonia is hidden by his clothes.
His lack of talking is hidden by his smile.
His lack of eye contact is hidden by his long eyelashes.
His lack of social interaction is hidden by his jittering energy.

Our friends, meaning well, will say "oh but all kids are fussy eaters" or "all kids are mischievous". We have even had people say "boys will be boys" when they saw Nicholas dismantle something in their home.

But for us we know that he will essentially always be a fussy eater, he will always struggle with strength, environment, sound and social interaction. All of these factors will influence his ability to play and therefore learn.

But he is Nicky, and I love him to bits and I can't imagine him in any other way.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Old Top Gear: Morris Minor

This documentary reminds me that my Morry needs a bit of loving. It has been far too long between sunday drives.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Reflecting on Rare Diseases 2016 #22q13

Another year has buzzed by and we are yet again reflecting on rare diseases and how we care for people with these disabilities in our community.

On this rare diseases day, we don't need pity or a campaign to raise money, we just want to be acknowledged and for our governments to acknowledge this changing healthcare landscape by properly funding science and research into rare diseases.

Up to 400,000 children in Australia have a rare disease (condition that affects less than 200,000).

My son Nicholas is one of 70 children in Australia with his condition and 1 of 1000 worldwide.

Nicholas has started school this year, at a Special Development School and he is blossoming. His learning needs are severe as he is still non-verbal and has difficulty communicating. But we are kicking some goals as he learns how to communicate his needs to us.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Mondrian inspired Society6 blanket

Society6 have their throw blankets marked down for today with free worldwide shipping.

I found this little patchwork or Mondrian inspired blanket.

I have washed a number of their products and the colour stay has been quite good.

Happy shopping!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Why I am not Phelan Lucky

Since my son's diagnosis, lots of people have asked me about whether I am a part of support groups that can help me. Give that there is only a handful of kids in my town that have his condition, support groups aren't quite the same as if he had another more well known condition.

So when groups to do with my son's condition try to raise awareness or money they need a catchy phrase and "Phelan Lucky" is the phrase that has been coined over the last year or two. I applaud them on their initiative, but I would never really wear one of these t-shirts that they produce, because I am just not Phelan Lucky about my son's condition.

Last year I was asked to present to a group of Year 10's about my son's conditions. They were doing a unit on Ethics with Gattaca as the stimulus. In a world like Gattaca, Nicholas would probably not exist.

My presentation was part of the Religious Education lecture on the value of human life and I spoke about how although Nicholas is hard work, his life has added value to mine that I couldn't imagine.

Recently I have shown a number of friends my speech and they have encouraged me to share it online so that others can read it.

Here was my talk (now with added hyperlinks!).


Dear Phelan-McDermid

It has been an interesting journey, this last year.

It was in May 2014 that my two year old son, Nicholas, was diagnosed with you. We had spent the previous 6 months coming to terms with his diagnosis of “Low functioning Autism”. Not the trendy Asperger’s or “high functioning”, but the darker, harder to handle “classic autism”. But it wasn’t until we talked with our assigned Genetics Councillor, that the enormity of the diagnosis hit us.

In one sense, my scientific mind finds you fascinating. How the deletion of something so small called SHANK3 can cause so much havoc to someone’s brain development. I’ve learnt about chromosomes, proteins, human growth hormone, and like the nerd that I am, I stalk research scientists online in the hope that they might share a bit of the puzzle with me and perhaps even a pathway to improving Nicholas' quality of life.

People comment about how positive I talk about his condition. Perhaps it’s years of training to be a teacher that allows you to put on that mask when you are talking about something that is so personal and difficult to fathom.

Just like every other chromosomal syndrome, the effects are circumstantial and never the same as another child with the same diagnosis. This is both a fascinating and frustrating aspect of chromosomal deletions. Nicholas is 1 in 1000 kids worldwide diagnosed with you. 

How lucky are we? 

We should buy a lotto ticket!

Christmas 2015

But then the reality hits, although all the science might be interesting, the diagnosis is very real to me. Because of you, Phelan-McDermid, my son won’t experience the world in the way I had hoped he would. 

At a metabolic level his brain doesn’t make the protein needed to create new pathways, new synapses. Any skill that he learns can be very easily lost and regression is a key characteristic of his condition.

I see how excited my daughter gets as she discovers something new and I know that because of you, Nicholas will never be able to embrace the rich learning opportunities that this world has for him.

In 20 years time, as my husband and I approach retirement, we will still be caring for a man that will be fully dependent on us to be fed, for his nappy to be changed, for him to be washed. 

There is a high likelihood that your presence in our son’s life might lead to epilepsy and maybe kidney disease as both of these conditions are a characteristic of Phelan-McDermid.

Christmas 2015

There is this moment in the mornings before the dawn breaks, in my dreams, when I can imagine that my life is normal, or perhaps as I had always planned it to be. That I have a normal family, with normal “first world” problems.

When I was pregnant, people asked what I was having and I said that I didn’t care so long has he was healthy. When Nicholas was born, we counted the fingers and toes and a wave of relief washed over us.  Those first few months you dream of how your child might develop and grow. You look into those eyes and wonder what life holds for him.

And for us there were no early indicators that anything was “not right”. We did all the tests that we needed to do while pregnant so that there would be no surprises.

Nicholas was slow at crawling and not talking much, but that didn’t stop you looking forward to possible conversations about life, the universe and everything. Being part of the audience as they graduate, giving them relationship advice or having heated philosophical discussions.

You look forward to how you might pass on your values and beliefs to them, and how they might become productive happy adults creating lives and families of their own.

To then hear the news several years later that your son will most likely never speak, will probably be dependent on you for the rest of your life and will never find recognizable enjoy in all the things that you wanted to show and teach him; It is heartbreaking.\\

But then I look at him playing on his trampoline and slide, and I see an innocence that he will never lose. He will never worry about things like money or war and he will look at the world in a totally different way to the way that most people do.

He will sleep when he needs to, he will communicate that he needs food and drink and when he feels like dancing he will take my hand and motion for a twirl on the kitchen floor.

We will continue to hear squeals of delight when he hears Justine Clarke’s voice, and he will never grow “too old” to enjoy Sesame Street.

He will never tire of lining up his cars, and a sheet of stickers will continue to be a source of enjoyment for him and frustration for us when tidy up at the end of the day.

Spending time with the family will always be exciting, we will never have to experience the moody teenager stage that many of our friends experience at the moment. He will always wear the combination of clothes that I look out for him, although he would much prefer to be running around naked.

Mummy’s hugs will always be welcomed and he will never be too old to “hold my hand”. He will never be manipulative, nasty or jealous - Happiness for him is a genuine feeling, not a mask to be put on for others to see.

When we walk to new places he notices the texture on the ground or the reflection on a wall. He looks at the sky with a sense of wonderment and when he is sick, he wants me in his bed next to him guiding my hand to cuddle him.

He will never tire of the Benny Hill tune to cue to him that it is bath-time. Faithfully he grabs our hand each time and drags us up the stairs, and is often standing in the bath trying to undress before the water is switched on unlike my daughter who avoids having a shower like the plague.

His disability has brought our friends and family closer together. Meeting his needs means listening to each other and supporting each other.

Birthdays and Christmas’ are not about the multitude of gifts but rather the experiences that we can share with him. We have had the best belly laughs by the unpredictable way in which Nicholas tries to get to the cookie jar or the way he tries to play Humpty Dumpty with you on the couch.

We have found out who our true friends are, as they offer to babysit this special needs child for no other reason than they are our friends.

Although there are days when I hate the fact that you have come into our lives, I hope that I will be able to turn this problem into an opportunity to learn, grow and support those around us who are struggling far more than we are.

At the end of the day, Nicholas being happy is the most important thing in my life at the moment, not the job, not the new car or new iPhone, but seeing a genuine smile on my son’s face.

So while I am not "Phelan Lucky" about my son's diagnosis, I am trying to see the positive side.


Nickie’s Mummy