Big Bands and Brisbane

Um… excuse me… but did you know Brisbane is beautiful? Seriously it is amazing… and that’s not just my frosted Melbourne heart talking. 23degrees in winter, beautiful buildings, incredible public spaces and it’s so clean. I love Melbourne, but Brisbane, it turns out is pretty great.

Dave, Isaac and I have just spent the long weekend up in Brisbane with the Salvo Big Band, Dave playing his Alto Sax (and a little bit of Clarinet) and me singing. We also had my Mum come up with us to help us take care of Isaac when both Dave and I were needed in the band… she was a total life saver. This trip not only crossed number 8 off Isaac’s list but it was also my first proper band tour. Previously I had travelled with the band to Sweden for the Salvation Army’s World Youth Convention in 2010 where the band performed but we also attended the convention. Since then we have missed a couple of trips due to our untimely trips into hospital, so in the lead up to this weekend I had been playing it very safe… determined not to end up missing out again.

The weekend was full on, with back to back gigs, but just like any camp or trip when you get to spend more time with people than you usually would it was also wonderful. There is something really nice about seeing people all day everyday, experiencing new places and events with them and getting to share your gifts and talents in combination with theirs and present them to people for the first time.

I find it really hard to write blogs like this without it quickly becoming my dreaded grade 5 journal piece… so in an attempt to avoid that I have summed it up into 5 little highlights… 5 might seem like a lot, but it was actually pretty hard to do.

1. Catch ups with family
I am lucky enough to be part of a big family… my mum is one of 6 kids and for as long as I can remember I have had at least one uncle/auntie living interstate or overseas. My Uncle Ken and Auntie Marg live in Brisbane, so it was the perfect opportunity to have a quick catch up between sets.

2. Singing in public 

Before our first performance on Saturday morning I hadn’t really given my role in the band a lot of thought. I had spent the week worrying about what I needed to take for myself and for Isaac. What the days would look like and what I needed to have ready for mum so that taking care of Isaac would be as easy as possible. I hadn’t thought about what I would be doing or where it would be happening from a personal performance perspective. I love to sing, really love to sing… and I love to sing with the Big Band, but I am often very quick to dismiss my contribution. I am not a trained singer as such, but have spent my life singing in church. Getting up in front of people I know and singing is usually more daunting that singing in front of those I don’t know… but when you put me out in the open… that’s another kettle of fish. Our first gig was in Queen Street Mall, right in the heart of Brisbane CBD. We performed after the Navy Band which made me a little more nervous than I would have liked, but I got up there and I sang, and more importantly I held my own. At the end of the weekend, after I had sung in the city, at a concert Fassifern, sung and lead worship at Carindale Salvation army and performed at both Westfield Garden City and Nudgee Secondary College, I was reminded that even just getting up to talk at many of these places is a huge deal for lots of people, for lots of reasons. Being able to sing, and sing well, is huge. I didn’t sing it all perfectly, and thankfully in jazz you can get away with some of that, but even just the fact that I had the courage to perform in such a public place is pretty amazing… and to my amazement, people seemed to enjoy it… I am pretty chuffed.

3. Isaac
 and his Nanna
Where do I start with this? A couple of months before we left my mum made a through away comment about coming to Brisbane with us to help with Isaac… Dave and I heard her and thought that actually that would be really helpful and rang her to find out if she was serious. Turns out she was… so up to QLD she came and my goodness me, was it great to have her there. One thing about having a baby that I haven’t quite adapted to yet is the fact that they need someone with them all the time… which means on a trip like this if Dave and I are both performing we need someone to look after him, or one of us doesn’t perform. Believe it or not, I can get very distracted by people, especially when I am in performance mode… which is not ideal when your husband is packing up his instruments and you are supposed to parenting. But having mum with us to fill the gaps, and more, was beyond amazing. Plus it was really nice to watch Isaac and her together… Isaac really loves his Nanna.

4. Nudgee College
NudgeeOn our final day of the trip the band spent some time at St Joseph’s Nudgee College. While we were we put on a concert and workshop for the grade 5 students. In the workshop the instrumental musicians from the band were dispersed through the schools grade 5 band to help them learn the new jazz techniques they were learning. It was so nice… actually I think pure joy is a better description to hear the difference in the band and watch the faces of the students as they achieved things they didn’t think they would be able to. Watching kids learn is one of my all time favourite things to do… wonder is an incredible gift.

5. Remembering why  

This weekend has also been a really good reminder as to why I am in the big band. The Salvo Big Band has a really unique opportunity to meet people in places that other salvo groups may not be able to go. To witness and bring the gift of music to people from all walks of life and to share in worship with corps and salvationists in places and in a style that is different from the everyday. The Band’s purpose is to shine light… and that’s what I think we have done this weekend… shone light, in both dark places and light places, but still light.


So that was my long weekend… now I need some sleep… well at least I can hope for sleep… I still have to parent 🙂

A Time to Weep and a Time to Laugh

Today is a pretty special day… well tonight really… tonight is a really special night, because tonight Dave and I dedicated Isaac back to Jesus.

For those unfamiliar with what a dedication is, it is similar to a child being baptised of christened in other churches. In the Salvos we have babies dedicated and it is actually a ceremony more about the parents than the child. Tonight Dave and I had the opportunity to publicly acknowledge the miracle that Isaac is and God’s provision and guidance through our journey so far. And we promised to do our best by Jesus and Isaac in how we raise him.

For me, tonight was also the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next. When Josh died, we had some of the elements of the dedication included in his funeral. Which is tricky because lots of the parts that we weren’t able to include were promises for the future which was a constant reminder of what we weren’t going to be able to do for him. We know that he is with Jesus, but having lived through losing him, for much of Isaac’s first 7 weeks, and even every now and then, still, I fear that we won’t get to keep Isaac earth side either. Isaac is thriving and doing all the right things, but in the back of my mind there is still a chance we might not get to keep him despite the prophecy that he is our keeper. I know that I will probably have some anxiety around this for a long time to come, and I think some of it is just because I am a mum… and mums worry… but it is something that I need to keep under control… something that I need to learn to trust with… and I think that tonight is the starting point.

Tonight’s dedication, being able to celebrate his life and to hope and make promises about his future in some strange way feels like we made it. We made it past the point we made with Josh. Which I know we did ages ago in an earthly, he’s alive, sense… but it feels like the scary chapter of ‘will he or won’t he’ is finally finished and a new chapter of parenting and Isaac growing has begun. That now we are back on the normal path and doing what we should have always been able to do. It almost feels like a fresh start. I think this has been helped by the fact that we are slowly reducing the amount of appointments we have to attend and the oxygen seems to be the last hurdle to jump… and even that hurdle is different and feels achievable with time, but there is also a real peace to this new season…

During the dedication Bram used a passage from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 which says:

There is a time for everything,
 and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
 a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
 a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
 a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
 a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
 a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
 a time for war and a time for peace.

For us, Joshua was our time to weep and our time to mourn, and I truly believe that Isaac is our time to laugh and our time to dance… after all laughter is in his name.

So tonight was not only special… but a time to start over, to claim the promises we have been given and a time to rejoice and hope for what’s to come.

Our Curious Life: Week 13

 

 

 

You know a week is going to be good when it starts with Brady Bunch Dinner and ends with a public holiday and a trip to the beach! That, my friends, is how to week!

This week we have spent a lot of time with family… Starting with Dinner at Dad and Naz’s with all the siblings, partners and bonus siblings… just like the Brady Bunch… hence Brady Bunch Dinner. We had a visit from Nanna to deliver the cutest mustard cardigan you have ever seen and ended with Good Friday Lunch with Dave’s Dad, Sister and Brother-in-law.

We also got the best milestone every… our first giggles… and I tell you there is not much I wouldn’t do to hear more of Isaac’s little chuckle.

This week also sees the end of March… but not quite the beginning of April… so you just the month worth of pictures… but you’ll have to wait until next week to see Isaac tick over another month milestone…

On Thursday I also ordered my first box of ‘Who gives a crap’ toilet paper… This year I have been thinking a little more about the things that I buy and the waste they make… so in addition to my Thankyou nappies and wipes which we love and which help mothers in less fortunate countries… I have decided that it’s time to give some recycled toilet paper that helps build toilets a go… so hopefully they will arrive next week… I’ll let you know how we go!

Oh and seeing as it’s today… Happy Easter… at the George’s we are very glad that Jesus is risen…

One

Dear Joshua,

Hi mate, it’s mummy here. It’s been a long time since I wrote you a letter but today would have been your 1st birthday, so I thought it was time to write again.

To be honest, it’s been really hard to write to you, losing you has left a huge hole in mummy’s heart and while it has been mending slowly, it will never be quite the same again. Since knowing and losing you, I am now afraid of things I had never thought were even possible, but I know how to love deeper and with a fierceness that I didn’t know I had.  As I sit here at Monash Medical Centre writing this from the same place we met you one year ago, it’s overwhelming.  I miss you so much and really wish you could have stayed.  I wanted to watch you grow and to see what kind of man you would have become. I am pretty sure you would have been a champion, with your defiance and determination… you would have been unstoppable!

For a little while this year I have had to try not to think about you for too long, because a lot has happened in the past 12months… and remembering has made it scary and hard… You now have a baby brother, Isaac, and even though he has helped mummy heal, he isn’t you. I know that there is no way I could have ever had both of you on earth at the same time, but I really wish it could have been possible somehow.  That you could have stayed, and that you and Isaac could have grown up together.

While mummy was carrying Isaac she couldn’t look at pictures of you, or wear the necklace she had made with your hands and foot prints because they reminded her of how hard it would be to lose him too.  I’m sorry I couldn’t wear my reminder of you all the time… but now that he is here I think about you a lot. I think about how similar the two of you are, what you might have been like if you had stuck around and how much I have learnt from knowing you.

You, my dear boy, have taught me how much I wanted to be a Mum. It took me a little while to get there and you were a big price to pay, but losing you made me realise how ready I actually was, and how much I had wanted to complete our family.

You have taught me that life is hard, but even in the darkest times there are beautiful moments, like holding you, singing to you, and kissing your tiny nose.  That we are loved by so many, and that even though your wider family is very large and a bit messy, this family of ours is supportive and reliable and even more important than I had ever realised.

You have taught me to be stronger, to hold on, and to hope even when it isn’t easy. You have taught me to trust and because of you my faith is deeper and more real. I know I will see you again and I know there was a purpose for you coming and going… but I just have to wait, heaven is not so far.  You have taught me that I can get up in the morning, even if I need daddy to help me… and that the sun will shine and I can get through the day… even when it is really hard… thanks for the beautiful wether today to remind me.

Because of you I got to watch your dad become a great dad and an even better husband. He is so much stronger, more faithful and loving than I knew before this.  You have made us an even better team.

You have taught me I am not alone, since losing you I have spoken to, heard from and read about so many other women and families that have been through this grief of losing something so precious. That as ugly as it is, 5 babies are born sleeping everyday in Australia, a country with the best medical care and resources… and this is a stat that still breaks mum’s heart.  You have made me advocate and encouraged me to speak out about heartache and loss so that hopefully no other babies have to go too soon, and no other mummies are left with empty arms.

But most importantly my sweet baby boy, you have made me a better Mum. Because I loved you first, I hold Isaac tighter, I speak up when I am worried and I don’t take any of it for granted.  You have taught me that I could do it… that I was made to be a Mum.  Of course because I now know that precious little boys can be taken away, I am scared, but I am holding on to him with all that I am. I tell him all about you and I know you have been watching over him, because there is no way he would have known to go limb first without your cheeky influence.  You two would have gotten into all kinds of trouble together.

Today daddy and I will visit Isaac, but then we will go and have some pink donuts and a Turkish delight milkshake and think about you… how you made us parents, how you taught us to love and together we will try to work out how we go on without you for another year.

I love you little one and I miss you,

Sleep well precious boy,

Love mummy. 

26weeks & 56minutes…

Ok… it’s been a while… months in fact.. but there has been a really good reason…

When I posted my last blog… right before my birthday, I was 9ish weeks pregnant and pretending to be upbeat and excited about my birthday, rather than crawling back into bed to sleep the whole of the first trimester away.  I had been waiting to post about the second little baby George because I was really really nervous about letting people know.  I was scared that we would lose this baby as well, and I wasn’t sure how I would ever be able to cope losing another child let alone telling the world that it had happened. So… after losing Josh at 24 weeks last year, and the doctors telling us that if we could get to 26 weeks the baby would have a much better chance, 26 weeks became my magic number.  The number after which I would tell the world about baby George no. 2, I would start clearing out the room again and I would start purchasing things we would need like a cot and pram etc. It was the number that I needed to get to before I would let myself believe things would be ok… that we would get to keep this baby and I could let myself breathe…

26 weeks was 9 weeks ago… and the last 9 weeks have been quite a rollercoaster. In week 25 of my pregnancy I was admitted to hospital for bed rest in the hope that it would delay baby George from making an unexpected arrival. After the initial shock of potentially having to stay in hospital lying down until November, I had settled in and was ready for the long hall and secretly pretty excited that I could ride out the rest of winter in air-conditioned comfort, because if all went according to plan, I wouldn’t be leaving until it was pretty much summer… but it wasn’t to be… On Tuesday 1st August, 56 minutes into week 26 Isaac Ezekiel arrived… 35cm long and 827g.

Isaac arrived in a hurry, and just like his brother, had turned around at the last minute to make his entry more dramatic, needing an emergency caesarean as he had decided to come feet first. But, he arrived, breathing and even letting out a small cry which is a moment that I will never forget. Despite all the panic and fear that I felt that night, hearing that cry and knowing he was alive brought so much relief.  That night Dave and I took up a joint residence, in many ways, at the hospital, as even though we could go home after a week, Isaac had to stay.

Once again our lives were turned upside down. I had been expecting that taking a baby home… preferably at full term, would change our lives totally, but I wasn’t expecting the ups and downs of having a baby that had to stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). It has been so bitter-sweet visiting him, first in his isolette (humidicrib) and now in his cot… because all the emotion of having a baby is still there, but you can’t just pick him up, you can’t hold him until he falls asleep, and you are always wondering what will happen to him.  Even little things like changing his nappy is quite a task through the little arm holes in the cot, especially if you have tiny little arms like mine. Yet, he is here, he is alive and he is ok… and that is all that really matters.

Fast forward to today and Isaac is still doing well, I think I would even say really well… although there is still a huge part of me that is still waiting for something awful to happen that will take him from us. Dave and I have spent every day of the last 9 weeks traveling from home to the hospital and back again between breast pump expressions, baby store trips and tiny pockets of sleep. Our lives look and feel totally unrecognisable, and while that is probably true… and maybe even standard, for most new parents, I feel like our newborn phase one, the phase while he is in hospital, would have been totally unfathomable to me, if you had have described it to me before now.

Isaac is so strong and much braver than me. He has already faced so much and it is impossible to describe how proud I am of him. There is still fear… fear about whether or not his difficult and dramatic start to life will have any impact on him as he grows… wondering if everything has continued to develop and grow the way it should have if he was still inside, but there is also hope and faith.

Just before we found out we were having Isaac, I had been praying a lot about having children and really felt like I had to give my desperate desire for a family over to God. I knew that my faith was bigger, and my relationship with Him was more important than the plans I had for my own life.  That ultimately God’s plans for Dave and I were better… even if they didn’t look like the ‘good’ plans I had come up with… so one night a church event, in tears, I handed it all back, making peace with the fact that if God called me to follow him childless… I would. Minutes after praying this alone and with Dave, a man, whose name I do not know, asked to pray with us and unprompted, specifically prophesied children in our future… at the time we didn’t know we were already pregnant, but we knew there would be a child… a promised child and that was enough. So when we found out we were pregnant again we were pretty excited and I really felt that this was the promised baby I would get to keep.

So when Isaac arrived so early and so little I had to choose to hold on to the promise I had for him and to remember that God loved him even more than I did, and that even though it didn’t look the way I thought, protection and promise would look… that God was holding him and knitting him together just as He said he would.  This choice to trust and declare good things for his little life were why we chose to name him Isaac Ezekiel… Isaac means “he will laugh, he will rejoice” and Ezekiel means “God will strengthen”.  We liked them together and thought of them as a bit of a prophetic declaration over his life, regardless of what we could see then and can see now.

It’s really hard to trust and hope when things have gone so badly before and when you are a bit of a control freak and think you know how things should be… but I have had to learn to… and God has been faithful.  Isaac is here and he is healthy and now he is getting bigger and stronger everyday.  In fact so dramatic has his improvement been in the last week and a bit, Dave and I have had to get a wriggle on with setting up his room, because he could be coming home very soon. Most likely we will need to wait until his due date, so still early November, but in the chaos of the last 9weeks… that’s now only 5 weeks away… and then phase two, the newborn at home phase will begin…

Between now and then there is still a lot to do, finish the room, learn to breastfeed, work out what the heck we are doing… oh and the list, I haven’t forgotten about that… its been buzzing away in the background… but it was time to write, time to share and time to add Zac to the Curious George family.  Hopefully now as we settle into this new routine of being parents, I will get back to blogging a little more regularly, because I have missed it… but it was hard to know where to start… but here it is… the last 6 months of our crazy and very unpredictable life…

170929_GBlue_Isaac_2516_Lge

P.S Until recently I hadn’t read the original Curious George book… we read it to Zac in the hospital… and it’s pretty nuts… who just takes a monkey from the jungle and expects it to be house trained?

P.P.S This wonderful photo is thanks to Heartfelt, who, once again, have given Dave and I a beautiful gift of photographic memory of this really difficult chapter in our families lives… they are truly wonderful.