Monday, October 15 2018
I posted on social media the other night (well, last Thursday) a teasing photo of a delcicious hearty stew I had brewing in the Slow Cooker, it sparked so many asking for the recipe, so here is the stew recipe and story behind it.
Please note: I have not been paid by any of the companies I mention when it comes to ingredients I use, you can always opt for your own preferred company of choice, but this is my stew and how I have made it for over a decade.
Story behind the Stew:
I first learned about this stew when I was staying over at a friends house in year 12 and we went to spend the day at her Grandmother's house and she said "girls since you're leaving home soon I better share an easy stew recipe". So we cooked it and she talked us through it and she gave me a copy, I started experimenting making the stew and adding in different ingredients and was determined to make it my own.
It is one of those stews that are perfect for wintery cold nights or if it is raining outside and will be rainy days ahead it is nice to just pop the stew on to cook in the slow cooker and wait for it to cook, meanwhile enjoying the smells as they fill your house for the next 8 hours.
I also find that we can get a few days worth of meals out of this, we put as much as we can into chinese containers and pop them in the fridge and freezer, but one chinese container is one bowl full for one person.
But don't ask me the calorie intake, I have no idea but it is just delicious, and Russ loves it too! You'll want seconds it is so good!
You will need:
Ingredients: (I get all my ingredients from my local Woolworths)
☞1 x large bbq chicken [ or you can cook your own chicken, ] for time management and ease I use a BBQ chicken (it is the most costly component), sometimes you can find cold chickens which is just as good to use and cheaper too
I think that is all the ingredients, now for the making of it
Step 1. Locate your slow cooker and plug in to power, add 1 cup of water and turn to high
Step 2. Wash your fresh vegetables like sweet potato, carrot, potatoes just wash but keep skin on (when it is ready the skin just easily fall off), if you're adding in fresh brocolli or brocollini or cauliflower wash these too.
Step 3. Add in the cans of Campbell's condensed cream of chicken and corn or cream of chick soup cans into the slow cooker.
Step 4. Add in the canned vegetables.
Step 5. Add in the Continental cup a soup creamy garden vegetable and creamy chicken and corn with croutons sachets.
Step 6. Mix all the soup together
Step 7. Next add in the BBQ chicken by tearing off small bite size pieces but not adding in the skin, bones or stuffing
Step 8. Mix the chicken and soup mixes together
Step 9. Add in the shell pasta and mix it all together, add more if you think it needs more, but not too much more.
Step 10. Add in the pieces of cut chunky fresh carrots, sweet potato and potato. Stir it all together.
Step 11. Add in the frozen vegetables and stir it all together.
Step 12. Leave on high for 2 hours, check roughly hourly and stir, it can be messy as it will rise and thicken as it cooks.
Step 13. After 2 hours turn to low for 6-8 hours and check hourly and stir
Step 14. Leave it on low for another couple of hours if you think it needs longer.
IF DISCARDING STEP 14, turn it off and serve.
Step 15. ENJOY your delicious thick stew
* We love to buy the packs of dinner rolls from the woolworths bakery and pop in the oven so they are hot and fresh for when we serve up our dinner, we cut them along the tops and we stuff spoonfulls of stew in there and then eat it like that. We also use bread not toasted but buttered to scoop up the soup and it just is delicious.
Step 16. Fill up containers, we use takeaway chinese containers and pack these to the brim and pop 3/4 in the fridge and 1/4 in the freezer. We find with the 2 of us we can eat this for lunch and dinner for a few days using the fridge containers, often Russ goes back for a second bowl.
I have made this when I have had my kid siblings come and stay over the years or my MIL and they have loved the stew. It is so easy to make and all the effort is in the preparation and the slow cooker does the hard part. I would cook this if it were cold and miserable weather, or if it is raining, nothing says snug as a bug as a hearty winter stew whilist nestled under blankets enjoying a movie.
We made this Thursday night, and I say we as I sat and supervised Russ and told him what to do as I wasn't up for standing in the kitchen for even half an hour or less (pain). But Russ loves when "we" make stuff together, he loves learning how to cook some of my meals that he loves.
We started cooking this at 7pm Thursday night and was cooking when we went to bed, and the aroma wafting through the house had my tummy rumbling all night. We would check it every hour and then we turned it off and put it in chinese containers and went back to bed. So it was exciting to wake Friday and have stew for lunch, and dinner and we still have a couple of bowls left.
But I have to be careful with my stoma, luckily all the veggies and chicken break down so soft they just fall apart and then i try to take the skin off to avoid a blockage, but as I have had so much and it has caused my output to be rather thick and caused a blockage, so just keep that in mind if you're an ostomate prone to blockages that it does make things thick.... but it is so delicious!
Our Slow Cooker:
This is an adorable story, we got our slow cooker the first Christmas we were together (2009). We spent Xmas Eve with Russ' family who were up from Melbourne as we planned on spending the next day with my dad and family. So we unwrapped our gifts and our joint gift from Russ' family was a George Foreman slow cooker. I was so excited as I had been saying to Russ I wished we had one as I was missing being able to cook my stew.
So the next day we went to Xmas at my dad's and he handed us a joint Xmas present which was a slow cooker! we laughed as what are the odds of getting 2 slow cookers! I was really appreciative and thanked my dad but Russ' mum made a comment how she beat them to it and we had one already, so dad took it back to the store as it was unopened ( we already opened the one the night before as I was keen to make pinterest desserts) and he bought us something else.
I remember one Xmas dad wanted an electric sander so he bought one for mum so she could use it, and that same Xmas mum bought dad an electric sander so she could use it. It still makes me smile even though I was 10, it made me laugh that Xmas with the slow cooker remembering the electric sander gifts.
So we have been enjoying our slow cooker for quite some years now, I used to use it more when I could easily jump in the car and go get groceries and was more independant, but I am wanting to make slow cooked lamb shanks for Russ next winter.... but I have been trying to convince my nan to get a slow cooker as she would love it, pop the meal on in the morning and smell it cook all day.
Tell me, what is the favourite slow cooker recipe of yours? Mine is definitely my hearty stew.
If you do manage to make this please let me know how you went!
Sunday, February 25 2018
Did you know: there is an International Day for just about everything!
Feb 20 was International Love your pet day, but that is just about everyday amiright?? It is made easier when your pet is beautiful, funny, compassionate, photogenic and clever.
Dusty is my (well, I should say OUR) beautiful little ragdoll kitten who will be 2 later this year! He came to live with us when he was just a wee kitten and it was a matter of love at first sight, Russ and I fell in love with him straight away. He was just so, so tiny and adorable!
Dusty was so tiny he refused to go anywhere without me and often demanded I carry him or he slept on my chest, of a night he refused to sleep unless he was snuggled up to me in my bed and he has snuggled up to me every night since. He is like a soft, plush teddy bear but he helps to make you calm when he purrs.
We have been gushing over him ever since he came into our lives and will show off pictures and talk about him every chance we get and to anyone who'd listen... yes, we are THOSE type of fur-parents.
Russ and Dusty have their own special bond and routines, just as I have with Dusty.
I can honestly say with my hand on my heart that Dusty saved me and has made my life significantly better!
Life BD (before Dusty) was fairly lonely and boring, to be honest the days were long!
But since, it has been filled with: love, friendship, so many cuddles to count, laughs and companionship. He senses when I am sad and forces me to cuddle him, he is incredibly emotive and he has the most beautiful big blue eyes that just melt your heart.
Russ leaves for work at 8am and I am no longer alone while he is gone for the day, Dusty looks in on me when I am sleeping and often is close by. He can even sense when I am in pain and unwell and is extra affectionate! Dusty also makes me laugh a lot and makes me feel so very loved.
Did I mention he is so clever too? He plays fetch with me everyday! I throw his toy and he fetches it and brings it back for me to throw all over again.
I never realised I could love my kitten as much as I could, I always never understood people when they said their cat is not JUST a cat and is a member of the family... that was until Dusty came into our lives!
Dusty is our child, he is our furbaby and he has helped to make our house a home. He greets everyone who enters with excitement and love and he tries to protect our home too, he also seems to know everything that is going on within our house often you'll find him at the door or window being a stickybeak. But his most important job is excitedly greeting Russ when he walks through the door after a long and hard day at work.
Dusty is famous:
So when OstomyConnection shared their "15 ostomates who love their pets more than anything" I was so honoured to see that not only did Dusty and I make the list, BUT we were number 1 too!
I have been sharing Dusty's shenanigans on Instagram and Facebook, he gives me so many reasons to smile and he has become a reason for many others too, often I am emailed and they make mention of how they love Dusty or when I run into someone down the street they say he makes them smile too.
He has THE BEST facial expressions!
You can find more of Dusty on my Instagram/facebook account under @feelingostomistic, he also has his own page @fabmewlous_Dusty on Insta and facebook.
I am grateful to the joy and love Dusty has given me and I am sure it is one of the major factors in me still being here. He helped improve my spirits and my outlook on life.
The best advice people gave me when I got sick was that I should get a pet as they are the best therapy, I am just glad I listened! Maybe a pet will help you too!
Wednesday, February 07 2018
Poor Russ has been a little stressed and stretched these past couple of weeks. Poor guy is feeling buggered, which is no wonder with all the excitement going on here at our humble abode.
I joked to him yesterday, that it looks like he has greyed more in the past month.
Time spent with cats is never wasted:
While I spent my first night in hospital (see previous post to read), Dusty managed to somehow get outside and got into it with one of the neighbour's cats who is forever at our place tormenting Dusty.
Dusty, naturally, was only protecting his domain and his house... but while he thinks of himself as this almighty alpha (who dreams of becoming a firece lion when he is older), really just is an egotistical testosterone fuelled teenager who is all talk and can't fight.
We got a quote recently to get the "crimsafe" mesh screening on the doors as he keeps charging through the flimsy flyscreens to get outside. But at $3k, it just isn't something that we can readily organise or budget for just yet.
The night in question was rather hot, Russ didn't want to unnecessarily use the air con if he could avoid it, so he even went to all the extra measures of making a barricade using MDF ply board so that he couldn't get outside.
Yet, somehow he did.
Not only did he get outside, but he managed to get back inside climbing back over the board.
Russ found him the next morning curled up in the laundry crying and whimpering in pain, he wouldn't even let Russ touch him or anything. Russ said he was curled up on my blankets and towels in the laundry, so he might have been wanting to feel comforted by me since I wasn't home, but Russ said he spent most of the time in there sleeping while I was away... Dusty doesn't cope well when I go to hospital.
So Russ only realised Dusty had gotten outside because he was filthy and he had to give him a bath, but he also noticed he had scratches and bite marks on his back/sides.
So Russ wrapped him up in one of my towels and put him back in the laundry and headed off to work.
This was the day where I nearly died, had my seizures and was a bit of a worry.
I remember around 7.30pm Russ said now that he knew I was okay, he needed to get home to Dusty as he was worried about him too.
So fast forward a few days and Dusty started eating again, Russ said he was a bit depressed which could have been from needing and missing me but also because he was in pain and he went off his food but started eating again a couple of days later. Then gradually over the days to follow he would slowly get back to his old self.
I came home from hospital last Friday, I got out of the car and hadn't made it to the front door yet when Dusty was at the front door meowing as if he was excited to see me home. Russ said that was the happiest he has seen him in that time.
Every night since his first night with us, he always would sleep in our bed cuddled up to me of a night. So when I am not home and in hospital he doesn't come in our room to sleep and usually sleeps on a lounge or on a cat bed he has hidden under the coffee table. So he slept there and in the laundry.
But my first night back home he jumped up on the bed and cuddled up to me and was purring so much, it really made me feel a lot happier to know that he was feeling safe and well again.
Since then he has been acting more and more like his usual self, today he ran around chasing flies or ghosts, he even jumped up to the top window in the dining room (where he looks out over his kingdom) and has been enjoying having me home.
He hasn't let me out of his sight and even will lay at the door looking like a Sphynx guarding the room, being home with Russ and Dusty certainly has been the best medicine for me, so hoping it is the same for him with me being home. But it broke my heart knowing that Dusty needed me but I wasn't here to console and comfort him, I feel guilty.
Dusty's visit to the vet's today:
When I cuddled him the first night I was home I noticed he had a couple of bumps along his back near his spine, I was worried and concerned, by Monday these had grown bigger. So I called the vet and asked them for a consult today (Russ had the day off).
Russ and Dusty trotted off to the vet today and he said Dusty had a temp and that the bumps were abscesses because of the other cat he fought with likely had something on it's claw or teeth.
He has a course of antibiotics to take twice a day and to see if the infection and abscesses clear up, if not he will need to have surgery to remove and drain these. But the vet said that they look close to bursting any day now, so fingers crossed!
So it's been a pretty big and exhausting couple of weeks here at our household, just hoping that Dusty can quickly understand he isn't an almighty Lion and he is just a precious little cuddly bear. Hoping this phase passes soon, because we can't quite fit $3k just for new thicker screened doors into our budget to appease his testosterone alpha male ego character he has going lately.... I thought having him desexed he wouldn't be so, well, male?
I am proud that he loves our house enough to feel he has to protect it, but he is just far too precious and is really just a soft cuddly pretty boy!
But the best part of being home is feeling like he needs me and being spoiled with all of his cuddles. I am just grateful he is okay and nothing too major, but I don't know what I would do if anything happened to him.
Tell me, did your cat ever settle down as he got older?
Or any old wive's tales you know of that have cat's leaving your property alone?
P.S Did you know Dusty shares his own antics on Instagram and fb search @Fabmewlous_Dusty to follow
Sunday, January 14 2018
Russ, as of 4pm this afternoon, is off work for 10 days.
Cue the party blowers!
I noticed he was burning out, it is hard working full time and being a primary carer too, it can understandably be a bit overwhelming and exhausting at times.
It can feel like you're burning the candle at both ends too.
In 8 years of being together I have gotten good at recognising what Russ needs even before he says so himself.
So I realised around Christmas he was tired, he was more snappy and irritable than usual and he was just grumpy. I told him that he should find out the earliest he can take holidays and take them, as I was worried about him. Our GP agreed it was good idea for him too.
So he finished this afternoon and heads back Australia day or just before.
I don't want to overwhelm Russ with a jam packed daily itinerary, he doesn't do well with plans as the fallout of when they don't happen can be hard, so I am choosing to do things to spend time together but shouldn't be too overwhelming either. We don't have a holiday planned or anything but there are 5 things we want to try and do:
#1. Go for a couple of nice walks together:
#2. Go to Bunnings:
#3. Do some house stuff:
After all, happy wife happy life they say.
I have also just started doing the Barefoot Investor, so hoping to work on whipping ourselves into financial shape this year, so probably try and sell a bunch of stuff to find the $2k needed for one of the steps. I have A LOT of work to do to find this amount so I can begin.
#4. Do our belated Xmas:
#5. Go Swimming:
So it is safe to say I am feeling pretty excited for the next couple of weeks, I like days Russ has off and we can hang out - even if it is just playing board games in bed. Days I am in bed it is a comfort to know he is close by. Also means if there is an hour or two I can manage getting out of the house we can do stuff, those are my best parts of the week.
Here is to quality Talya and Russ time - Can you tell I am excited?
Sunday, December 10 2017
You don't need me to remind you that Christmas is around the corner and fast approaching, I am sure everytime you step into the supermarket you're reminded with visual cues.
But just in case you live under a rock.... there are exactly 2 Sundays left until Christmas.
so #keepcalm, don't panic - you've got this!
I have always had this dream of hosting Christmas one year, not realising the full extent of what that might involve, I naively and dutifully spent time preparing and getting the house and ourselves ready last year - as it was indeed my turn.
As my family live 2 hours away, this meant they needed to travel up the night before (for those who stayed the night) or the next day (for those who didn't stay). I am the oldest of 10 kids, then there are our partners and now nephews, so there were a lot of people coming for the couple of days.
So here were the things I did to help myself prepare and get ready for having guests over the holidays or throughout the year, based off of various guest's experiences or feedback over the past year....
My 10 top tips to getting ready for guests at Xmas time:
#1. Ensure there is plenty of toilet paper:
#2. Knowing the meals or menu ahead of time:
Yes, I designed and sent out a flyer for Xmas day - I informed the menu plans, what they needed to bring, accommodation options and also offered to wrap presents... I think the last part people may have thought I was joking about. But Talya doesn't joke when it comes to wrapping presents - I love it!!
#3. Prepare things before Xmas day:
#4. Ensure your guests have easy access to items:
#5. Have plenty of towels available:
#6. Have empty and clean bins near all toilets:
#8. It's okay to need 'me time' and step away for a breather
#9. Have a fan or cooling option available, especially if it is summer
bonus tip #11. Have plenty for your guests to do
So while I know there are plenty of ways to help prepare yourself and your house for guests, whether it is the holidays or anytime during the year, these are just some of the ways I have tried to ensure my guests had a good time when they visited.
Wishing you a lovely holidays, hope that you have a wonderful time with your family or friends and thank you for your support during this year and beyond, it really means so much to me! Every comment, message or email doesn't go un-noticed and are very appreciated.
p.s what other tips do you have for getting your house ready for guests or to ensure guests have a good stay? Let me know in the comments
Saturday, November 11 2017
CW: This post talks infertility, miscarriage and other heartbreak caused by having a faulty body
If you follow me on social media, no doubt you have met the gorgeous little furball Dusty who is a ragdoll x blue russian kitten. He has the most gorgeous blue eyes and has made every day over the past year filled with love, fun, adventure and cuddles.
Wait, 12 months on, is he still a kitten or is he a cat? I hate to think of him as a grown cat as he is wholeheartedly my little furbaby. I still like to think of him as this tiny little ball of fluff that relied on me.
Dusty has filled a void that I have had for far too long, and I know Russ will say the same.
Dusty is our baby, he is our child we never had and he is a spoiled little shit. I say that with lots of love. He has destroyed everything because he can, he makes a habit out of biting my ankles or backs of my knees, and he just throws tantrums if he doesn't get what he wants.... I love him, I do, but some days he can be a handful.
However, I know the huge benefit Dusty has had on my wellbeing, I believe he is a major part of why I am still here, he has filled our home and hearts with so much love, laughter, joy, and I know the last 12 months would have been a lot more lonlier and isolating if it weren't for him.
Our Hopes for a family:
Russ and I have always wanted children, even before our first date 8 years ago he said "I am looking to settle down, to have a family, to find the one person to spend the rest of my life with". At the time the then 18-year-old me was like "hmm ok we'll see" it wasn't in my life's plan to have kids until I was at least 24, married and had a career and house. But then once we got to know each other, he supported me through several brain surgeries a month after we started dating, I knew there was something special about Russ and when he proposed a couple of months later I said yes. I was excited for what the future had in store for us, it was my chance for a new beginning and hopefully a family.
We had one misscarriage in February Valentine's Day (was the day of our engagement party) and it was the only successful attempt. We were shattered. We were hopeful that we would be a family one day.
Later that year we got married (July), then sometime after the wedding we learned that my dad was terminal with bowel cancer at 39 years of age and that it were a rare hereditary form that it was high probability that I too shared this gene.
My doctors forewarned that I were likely to have cancer myself but wouldn't be until around 30 (boy they were wrong) and suggested we try and plan for a family right away and live our lives before surgery and cancer took over.
Our hopes and dreams as newlyweds of having the family we longed for were shattered now that we were gambling the life of a future child in our hands. We started meeting with geneticists, specialists, gynecologists, fertility specialists and counsellors to fully go over our options.
In 2012, 2 years after my diagnosis of FAP, I had investigative surgery of my pelvic area including my bladder and bowel.
I woke from surgery being told that I was in a medically induced menopause and that on top of the FAP I had severe stage 4 endometriosis and the chances of having a child with IVF was less than 1% and would be too costly.
So it was then that we put the plans of us having a family of our own to rest, we then said we would foster, adopt or get a kitten as Russ isn't a dog person.
In 2013, in the months that I were free of bowel cancer and rejoicing for my new lease on life after having surgery to have an ileostomy, we started training to be foster parents. In 2014, we learned of the new tumour where the bowel used to be and was told that I now couldn't be a foster parent until I had been 5 years cancer free and had a stable life - bringing a kid into a house with a sick parent could be traumatising for the child - so we said we would wait for that day to come.
Which brings us to 12 months ago:
We had moved into our own home, now as home owners we could have a kitten. We were scrolling through facebook one day when a lady posted a photo of Dusty and said he was available in 2 months time (late october). I quickly messaged expecting him to have been sold already, but to my surprise he hadn't found his forever home yet. Later that day Russ dropped by on his way home from work and paid for him and had his first cuddles with him.
Russ was completley smitten and in love.
It filled my heart with so much joy seeing the bond they've shared over the past year.
Dusty cuddles up to me a lot through the day and the night, but as soon as Russell's alarm goes off he shoots off the bed and meows all excitedly as he knows he is about to be fed. When Russ comes home Dusty runs to the door to greet him, Russ will pick him up for cuddles and often rolls around on the floor playing with him.
It is a comfort some days knowing that Russ will not come home to an empty house once I've died, that he will always come home to seomone who loves him and needs him and I think (hope) that Dusty will be a great comfort for Russ.
I know a cat isn't a child, but Dusty is our little baby. He is funny, mischeivious, smart, playful and loving.
Dusty is so clever! He plays fetch. He learned when he was really little that I spend a lot of time in bed when I have bad days, so he learned if he wanted someone to play with that he needs to play on the bed as I am laying down, and it has worked really well.
He at times has sensed when I am upset or anxious, he often checks on me during my bad days, he also sometimes wakes me up by poking me in the face with his fish-on-a-stick-toy, but he has made me feel full and loved. He is so protective of me it is adorable.
I now feel like we are a family and we have Dusty to thank for completing our lives.
I know I post a lot of Dusty posts on social media, but most days he is the best part of my day and I want to share that with the world.
I always had been told that pets are theraputic, but until this past year I wasn't a believer. I get asked why I haven't died yet and what has changed in the past year and my answer is Dusty.
Thursday, September 21 2017
This is not a sponsored post, we purchased the car using finance through the car yard, not a brag post either just celebrating a milestone I never thought I would be alive to see.
A year ago today I experienced 3 things I never thought I would ever live to experience such as purchasing a new car with a big red bow on it or even buying my dream car of a Hyundai ix35...
One was also driving a car again. 18 months earlier I was unable to drive a car due to a large rockmelon sized tumour that sat under my stoma, As the steering wheel already sat on my stoma and stomach already it was near impossible to drive safely or comfortably. Then I got the PICC line in and that made things difficult, then surgery and chemo again I really wasn't up for driving at all. Plus everytime I drove it was painful as I felt every bump in our old car.
So imagine how excited I was to drive again!
It was great timing too as we had just moved out of town Russ needed to take the car to Coffs for work and I was stranded at home without a way of getting to the shops or doctors/hospital if I needed to, so a second car came in handy at times.
I don't think I could have lived and experienced as much as I have this past year without this car, this was one of the best decisions we have made. Yes we were struggling week to week drowning in all the debt, but the car gave me so many memories and opportunities to get out more.
This car has seen so many adventures and so many conversations, and many games of i-spy. We started our own game versions including "name all the different types of wood" and "name all the different names for water" and so many other nerdy variants of I-spy. Russ even compiled a playlist on his phone of perfect Talya and Russ road trip songs.
I never realised a car could help me to live life as much as this new car has, being higher off the ground it is a lot easier for me to get in, as it is also higher it is easier for Russ to get the wheelchair in/out so he is more inclined to want to go out.
The car even has butt warmers, these help to keep my back and bottom warm which helps with pain, stiffness and inflammation. I only discovered this 2 months ago and would have made all the long road trips and day outings better if I knew earlier!
I have been to Sydney 3 times on bucketlist adventures for the Dixie Chicks, Royal Easter Show and Vivid. We never would have gone to Sydney via road if it weren't for this car, our old car wouldn't have made it and only option would have been to catch the train which is double the time.
This car has brought so many beautiful memories and I look forward to more with Russ thanks to Betty our ix35.
Saturday, March 04 2017
A year ago I was in hospital in Sydney recovering from major surgery, when some 6 weeks later I was being discharged and ready to head home. It was a 8 hour trip home and my shoes went missing, so I only had my black slippers and I had hoped we weren't stopping anywhere.
Turns out we stopped at not one but two RSL clubs for lunch, the first was full so we drove until we got to Karuah RSL club... so it was embarrassing! My uncle that day drove 16 hours to come and get me and bring me home, what a legend!
As I was preparing to be discharged I got the phone call to say that my little nephew had been born. His poor mum had such a long labour with him and I was relieved when the news came that both mum and bub were safe and healthy. I arranged to stop in on the way home to see my nephew and meet him for the very first time.
I was the first of his many aunts and uncles to meet him and I got a cuddle with him. He was absolutley precious. I felt a special bond with him that day that I could have sworn he smiled at me.
Over the course of the past year, I got to have many more cuddles with him. Each time he smiled at me and each time my heart felt like it was breaking, as I just didn't know how many more hugs I would get or if I would get to see any of his milestones. I cherished every minute I did have with him.
So when his first birthday was approaching, I was nagging his parents back in December with "have you thought of a theme yet", I was met with "His birthday is still 3 months away yet, we have plenty of time".
But I didn't know if I did.
I worried about missing his birthday or if I suddenly got too ill and was unable to make the day or if I would even be alive for his birthday... it is all very unsure at times.
When you are living with terminal illness, everyday you do wake up is a surprise, so I have been so determined to make sure I am prepared and not leaving anything unfinished.... so for me I needed to feel safe in that the invites were designed and printed and that I had contributed to the day.
So January came around and I was asked to design the invitations and that it was a construction theme. Well, boy did I have fun! I wanted it to be fun yet sophisticated but not too cheesy. I wanted to add a photo of him smiling, his smile and laugh is infectious and it just makes you feel so happy.
I also designed some other wares for the party (various signs and what not).
Being involved in the planning of the birthday and contributing meant a huge deal to me. It is my fear that I will die and be forgotten or that Leo would grow up and not remember me. I cry tears of despair and frustration often, about the fact that I would miss so much of seeing him grow up. It's not just him but also my siblings that I am upset about missing out on things, it is missing out on everything and missing major milestones like weddings, graduations or first child....
So I had hoped that looking back on the day Leo could be told "Your Aunt Talya designed your invitations" and that he would remember from photos that I was a part of that day.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not setting out to make his first birthday all about me, but just sharing how I feel facing terminal illness and participating in milestones knowing the ones I will miss. Maybe documenting how I feel might help someone else who is facing a similar situation to know they aren't alone in their feelings.
On the day:
We arrived around 10am, I was a little late as my stoma that day decided it was going to misbehave and leak.
I was really impressed with how authentic the setting out of the birthday looked - true to a construction themed birthday.
There were construction signs and barriers, there was a wheelbarrow for the gifts with a sign I made that said "dump your gifts here", there was a table with a sign alerting people to a hard hat for people to sign as a keepsake momento of his first birthday, there was a lovingly made (bu his mum) construction cake which he devoured and loved, and he was even wearing a kids sized fluro work shirt too!
One of my memories of the day was when Leo stood and danced and I saw for the first time him taking steps. I won't forget how much fun he had with the cake, he even was lucky enough to have 2 cakes (one was a cake smash, a family tradition) and there was cake everywhere.
I struggled for months thinking of a gift for his first birthday, knowing full well that he would get a lot of toys, I felt it needed to be something that was unique and precious.
I decided on getting him a star, it is in his constellation (Pices) and it is meant to be able to be seen from his house. I named the star "Sempiterno Leo" which translates to "Leo Everlasting" in Latin. I wanted his gift to be something he could always feel a connection with me when he saw the star, especially as I love star gazing and astronomy.
Besides, how many 1 year olds can say they have their own star!
I am trying my best this year to really live and make the most out of each day I am given as I just don't know if it'll be my last.
Leo, thank you for the wonderful year of smiles and memories. I am so proud to be your Aunt and I know that you have a whole tribe of people here to support you and protect you through life. No matter what throughout your life always know how much you are loved, how important you are to so many people and that you are never alone. Know I love you a lot and will always be looking out for you.
To his parents Max and Tahli, Thank you for really letting me be involved in his life and for helping with his birthday. It truly meant so much to me and helped with the guilt I was feeling for missing out on future milestones in his life. You have raised an incredibly bubbly and gorgeous son and I am proud of how great of parents you are to him. He is the most happiest baby I have ever seen and I am so happy he came into our lives. Never doubt yourselves, you are doing great.