Raising little Westies, and life as parent of a special needs son

Tag Archives: health

Getting sick. It’s never “a good thing”

I’ve read today a story in mainstream news that has given me the horrors.

Given the weather and fires we are facing in Australia, and the fact that there is world class tennis happening in Sydney, there should be no shortage of topics to make me horrified. However, the issue at hand is “kids health.”

I’m specifically going to stay well away from naming the author, publisher, book title, or even the newspaper which has written the article about the book I disagree with. However I will talk about the premise that the newspaper article quotes from the book: “for most children it is a good thing to get measles.”

If enough children get measles for it to be a good thing for most of them… then far more of those children will suffer tragic complications, compared to if that same number of children were vaccinated against measles.

The worst possible complication for either the disease, or the vaccination, is one of two outcomes: death, or a debilitating disability that lasts the rest of the childs life. If 100,000 children have measles, then one of them will be expected – in first world countries – to suffer subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. Which is fatal. The parents of most children, though, won’t have to worry about that – because it’s only about 375 times more likely to happen to them than winning Lotto Strike (a state-run lottery in New South Wales where I am from). Given how many people are happy to buy a “lotto ticket” I’m surprised that many would be willing to gamble on something that is 375 times more likely to kill their child.

This compares to the MMR vaccination. The best source of data – which yes I am a strong fan of – for post vaccination health is from Finland, due to the structure of their health system and records. The UK NHS report that studies of post vaccination outcomes from patients vaccinated between 1982 and 1993 – with a sample size of 1.5 million vaccinated – showed zero long-term negative outcomes (“sequelae“) as a result of the vaccination.

I don’t doubt that there are people who are predispososed to have negative responses to all types of medications.

But all of us are predisposed to having negative responses to virii such as Mumps, Measles and Rubella.

On that basis my own opinion is – unless you can show that your child is more likely to have an advers response from the vaccine than the disease the vaccine is intended to protect your child from. You should carefully consider any decision to not vaccinate.

Vaccination programs prevent more lifetime disabilities and death, than vaccination avoidance campaigns. Regardless of which option you are chosing for your own child – base it on real information.



Lizzie… on one of her cleaner moments!

Today was a bit of a big one at Westie Central. For the first day since I came home from working in Canberra, Bec had to work, leaving me with all three kids all at once. Which of course is a Big Deal for a dad, even though I’m one of the first to say if they are my kids it’s parenting not babysitting.

There has been far too much electronic time happening in our place since Christmas (or even since Magpie’s birthday). Yesterday I thought that Bec’s return to work was a perfect opportunity to do something about that. So the kids were put on notice that once I returned from my own run, they would be coming with me for a run. So I ran my lap of the suburb, did a few chores and we hit the pavement.

There is a very convenient landmark which is almost exactly 1km from our front gate, which is right on the path of a running track. So all of us headed for that landmark (it’s a bridge), me leading he way with BTB Fan and the dogs. Given the dogs had already finished about 8km, Howie was still eager to go while Lizzie was a bit over it. Yet in only a small fraction longer a time than my standard time, there I was at that bridge with BTB Fan and two dogs.

About a minute later up came Princess P.

Several minutes later again… Magpie finally staggered up. Grumbling about not being at home.
My understanding is the run home was quicker by all parties – except me, who at this point was pushing 10km for the day, and had mown the lawn as well…

Hitting the pool

Later we headed off to the pool. Both Magpie and Princess P had been told point blank that they would be requried to swim a lap of the full size outdoor pool, because with all the pool time they have had they have spent none of it improving their swimming. I take responsibility for that, but I will reqiure them to put some effort into improving the situation in my own way, if they don’t fix it themselves.

This was accomodated quite readily by Princess P. But somewhere it seems the message had not filtered all the way into Magpie’s head.

As a result… he was less prepared than I had thought he was.

So I had my first in-pool meltdown. In front of some of his school friends, as well as a lifeguard…. Which ended with him swimming his first ever lap of the Olympic pool, back-stroke. Well done mate! At which point I told him that he needed to do it “freestyle” (meaing “front crawl“), and we had another meltdown. In the pool. But again, I perservered, and he swum the lap in the stroke I expected him to use, albeit freaking out and grabbing the lane rope every three to ten strokes.

At the end of it all, he was glad he’d done it, though.

Later, I went through much the same with my littlest Westie, “swimming” (with me supporting his hips) two lengths of the outdoor childrens pool.

Not the best trip to the pool for us. We had been going so well before Christmas, too, but with our routine broken… it was as good an opportunity to establish the routine I need these kids to follow, if they want me to take them to the pool every day while it’s hot and I’m not working.

Stretching our boundaries will bring some growth. One way or another.

Launching Westie Fitness

Westiefit BlogAfter some mild experimenting with apps, I worked out that my own fitness is important enough that I should microblog, photograph, and full on blog about it.

Yesterdays post really belongs in the final category. I would really like to rabbit on about fitness enough that doing that here would probably be distracting or annoying. So… I’ve launched my fitness blog at Westie Fitness. So far it’s off the ground with an About page, and not much else.

So I hope I haven’t caused too much rucus with my app experimentation. From time to time there may be an announcement about the other page… but it will be low key!

The Cause

I don’t know if it’s just me. But it seems that since The Presidential Debate, with President Obama mentioning some unknown to me “Autistic Kid”, I have been hearing again a lot about the underlying cause behind an Autism Epidemic.


A lot of things have changed in human health since 1940. But the biggest changes have been in infant mortality, the human diet, and human activity levels. All of which makes a comparison in the rate of any particular part of the human condition between people of any given age now, compared to people of that same age more than even ten years ago, pretty darned hard. As such, I state my position on The Cause of Autism as “pragmatic”… The Cause will help reduce incidence in the Future. This will help other people’s children to not develop Autism, or Autism Like Behaviours*, or Autism Like Symptoms*, or Autism Like Signs*. I don’t however see how they will help me, nor my child who right now has Autism, and who my wife, son, daughter, and I, are all trying to help to be the best person he can be.

There are elements of his Autism that make him fantastic. There are elements of his Autism that make him a Very Difficult Person to be around. There are elements of his Autism that must make his own life seem very difficult. It is the third set of elements of his Autism that bother me the most, that I will help him struggle, deal with, confront and overcome. From there I hope he will deal with the other challenges that life confronts him with, in his own way, which may include seeking help from me.

No matter the situation your child is in, I am sure you will do the best you can to help them be all they can. If you can find it in you to help others do the same, that’s fantastic.


* Terms invented by me just now that I’m not going to define.

Ten Day Challenge Day Four

Onto the fourth day of the Ten Day Challenge thanks to Tezza at MyTeeFine.

Seven Fears / Phobias

Again this is possibly a subject that is a bit of a challenge for a guy to face up to, because if we’re scared of something the last thing we’re supposed to do is talk about it. On top of which, I’m not scared as such of a lot of things which a lot of people would say they are scared of: snakes, spiders, bugs, dogs, birds, germs – they all need to be managed, not feared. Forgetting about what I’m not scared of – here is my list…

    1. Admitting fear
      If I admit I’m scared of a situation, that erodes my authority as a person to turn to should that situation arise.
    2. Being away when I’m needed.
      Especially given my current work situation – commuting to Canberra every Monday morning, and not returning till dinner time Friday – I’m realistically scared that some event will arise while I’m too far away to actually be able to help, or take charge. Because yeah, that’s what I do.
    3. Becoming seperated.
      With a non verbal son, my biggest fear regarding our children is the potential that he will wander off and he won’t be able to express to whoever is unlucky enough to find him won’t understand what in the world is going on. We have experienced this once, at ANZ Stadium (as it was at the time) in Sydney Olympic Park.
      We do what we can. But strangely enough, both my wife and I are human, as are our children, and we just can’t phyiscally be with our son 100% of the time. Even if we are, he’s quick.

      ANZ Stadium

      Image by Vijay Chennupati at

    4. Aging, disgracefully.
      I’m happy enough to get older, and more mature. What I am a bit scared of, is something unplanned – say a car accident – interfering with my own plans to stay fit, healthy and active, well into my sixties and seventies.
    5. What I don’t control.
      This probably belongs at the top of my list.
      As a driver, as a cyclist, every day I do things that kill more people than anything else: I go onto the road with other people. The scariest thing isn’t something I will do, it’s that I will be the victim of someone else doing something stupid.
    6. What will happen when my son is older.
      All parents worry about that, parents of special needs children are actively scared. I KNOW that some of what he does is unacceptable and could result in him being “managed” if he was in care – even in foster care.
      That this could be 10, 20, or 50 years of his life, is actually scary.
      Sure, I hope that he’ll grow and develop and be able to live independently. Or if not quite independently, he will get along well enough with his siblings that he will be looked after enough.
    7. Change.
      Face it, change and the unknown are what we are all really scared of. Change is the underlying issue behind all six of those things that I just mentioned. Change I can’t predict.

Thanks to Tezza for prompting me to confront my fear.

Yes, I’m fearful of these things, but I’m also brave enough to march forward and meet these fears. They won’t stop me from living life. I will drive, every day, and ride a bicycle when I care to. I will own my phyiscal wellbeing, at every stage of my life, and do what I can to make sure that in ten years, I will be as fit as anyone can expect. I have some great role models in my family, but also some real warning signs, that if I take my health for granted it won’t be there when I come to rely on it.

Wheely Wednesday

Another week, another Wednesday, another effort at cycling to work.

The good news being, my time is moving in the right direction, even though my motivation was somewhat lagging.

I rode my way along Molongolo river, before heading back to the Cotter Road and onto Adelaide Drive. For the first time, I was able to ride around State Circle and move onto Brisbane Drive without getting in anybodys way. I was most impressed with my ability to negotiate some intersections which have been causing me grief up till now.

My ride times over the last few weeks are certainly moving in the right direction:

25 July 2012 1 hr 12 minutes 43 seconds

1 August 2012 1 hr 4 minutes 30 seconds

8 August 2012 1 hr 3 minutes 54 seconds

These times are rather unscientific, based on me being in the house when I start the timer on my phone, and about at the front door to the office when I stop it. So chances are there is no real difference in the last week. However, I will take what improvement I can get.

For those of us who are training.

Image thanks to via their facebook page

What you already own, you can add to that list.
I own my bike, any day I ride it, at the very worst – I become unfit more slowly than if I stay off the bike.

Lurgey season

When you think you’ve passed through the worst of something, is often when it jumps up and bites you on the arse.

So it has turned out with the dreaded Lurgey Season in Westie Central. Bec lead the charge, coming down crook, before handballing to Princess P, who missed her football last weekend. And this week, I returned home to find Bob the Builder Fan is very unwell.

So bad that this morning, no only was he not jumping all around the place, but when I asked him to turn down the volume on his headphones… he burst into tears. Which prompted me to take him back to bed, which he was quite happy to settle into for at least another hour.

All these sick people – my wife and my kids – leave me feeling very guilty about the time I’m spending away from home. It’s a sacrifice I’m having to make right now. And I’m looking through these events to find the motivation to stick to what I’m doing, and aim for a family relocation to Canberra for the start of 2014. It’s somewhat driven by events like this, as much as it is by the normal family events that I’m missing out on:
Suspected robber hurt in police chase crash. This follows on from the recent event where the Police t-boned a car through a fence across the road from my house.

Canberra, boring? Bring it on. I’m done with excitement.

Defining Success

I’m a fan of spelling out exactly what success means to you. If you don’t spell it out before you set out to get there, you won’t know when you’ve reached it. It will slip by, unnoticed, while more than likely, you are concentrating on those things you are still striving to achieve.

And some of those things will – eventually – find a way to grind you down.

So with that I’m really happy to tell everyone about a fantastic blog I’ve just started to follow closely, 100 Days 100 Ways. In her first blog for August, Kim sets out – clearly and in specific detail – her goals for the month:

1. weigh-in at 70kg

2. learn 50 new words of Japanese vocabulary
3. learn to read another 100 Japanese Kanji characters

4. photograph and process images twice a week
5. update all three blogs twice a week four times a week
7.climb a new mountain in Japan once a week
8.45 push-ups
9.5-minute plank

10.Skype the family daily whilst I’m overseas

Compared to my current goals, that list looks truly amazing – the type of challenge I would have set myself back while I as thinking about setting myself challenges rather than “surviving”.

So with this inspiration, and her advice ringing soundly – “Do not overcommit by having too many goals” – my goals for August:

  1. Cycle from Weston Creek to Fyshwick, and back, at least six times.
  2. Commence doing both pushups and situps on a daily basis, Tuesday to Friday, as of 7th August.
  3. Continue to contribute to the #photoaday challenge for August on Instagram.

I think that will do it, for August. I turn 40 in September… so if I can be fitter before then, that will be great!

All good, until…

Today, things fell into place a bit.

My wife is still unwell, and she had weight watchers this morning (I hear the result was a good one). To make the weekend a bit different, our kids football game has been scheduled for Sunday instead of Saturday, so I had been wondering what would be happening this weekend. But then my parents – who live several hundred kilometers away – told me the other night that they would be in Sydney this weekend.

No matter what I did though, they wouldn’t give me enough detail to actually make any plans.

Winnebago Ceduna – image care of

Then last night while I was driving home my mum rang me and asked what we could all do if they were in Sydney today.

They are driving a brand new Winnebago, which they picked up two weeks ago in Melbourne. So arranging a place to meet them isn’t as straightforward as it could be. Especially given their fantastic knowledge of Sydney and Sydney roads.

Well, after having driven past it too many times, I’d been thinking about dropping into the Western Sydney Parklands – specifically, the Plough and Harrows section (given that the parklands go from Liverpool to Castle Hill).

Turns out, it was a great idea.

Old Man Westie shows Magpie how to burn pig flesh

The parkland, features some fantastic free electric barbeques, well defined roads which are accessible but not too close to the barbeque and eating areas, great cycleways and walking tracks. These tracks seem to have quite a few drinking fountains, which include bubblers at the top, taps a bit lower, and all the runnoff ends up flowing through a dog water trough at the bottom – which is on a hinge, so if you have your dog with you, you can easily tip out the water that might not be fresh, and replace it.

After meeting my parents there, we had a barbeque , and later my kids had a play while I chatted a bit more with my parents. My kids had an absolute ball on the flying fox, while the boys and I also made good use of some of those bike tracks. Eventually, we headed home. We’re currently planning for my parents to catch my eldest two kids playing Australian Rules football for the St Clair Crows tomorrow, at the home ground in St Clair.

Westies rollin’ through the parkland

The afternoon was a not-quite-flurry of activity, with my current travelling to work in Canberra there is not a lot of down time in Westy Central.

Then dinner, with my wife “throwing together” a lazy three seperate meals in one night – which around here is “almost normal”, one weightwatchers friendly meal, three mainstream meals, and one spectrummy friendly meal most easily described as “colourless food in isolated piles” such as boiled rice, grilled chicken, and plain pasta seperately on a plate.

A pretty big day, all told, really.

Especially it turns out, for an eight-year-old boy, who happens to have Autism.

One little part of the day that is supposed to just work like clockwork is bedtime.

No matter what happens in the day, you can rely on what happens at night.

Bathtime, dinner time, “yoghurt time?”, brush your teeth, go to bed. Repeat this more frequently the more tired and frustrated you feel, it will do wonders for the emotions of anyone around you (or not).

Somewhere between “brush your teeth” and “go to bed”, there is supposed to be a “horsey ride“.

Except tonight, the shitstorm got real, and I outright ordered all three children to bed. They were ready, they were just all orbitting some other planet.

So today, instead of having a wonderful end to the day with Magpie reading to his brother Bob the Builder Fan, we finished with a meltdown by the youngest Westie, alone in his bed, cying about the horsey ride he never got to give his brother.

We now have this under control, and he seems to be settled in to go peacefully to sleep. We are blessed there, really.

Wheely Wednesday

It’s a fact of life, that the better a habit is for you, the easier it is to break and the harder it is to form.

One week ago, marked my transition from One Day to Day One with regards to cycling to work in Canberra. This put me back onto the path to the great habit I formed in 2011, which saw me sell a car I hadn’t driven in six weeks due to riding a bicycle to get from home to a railway station so I could catch the train to work.

Today’s time

The habit of hopping into a warm cosy car is very easy to slip into given both geography and climatic conditions of Canberra. Lately we’ve been having sub-zero temperatures (metric sub-zero) temperatures, and the hills around here… whoever named Mount Druitt was telling lies, but Mount Stromlo seems aptly named.

So when someone can actually make that leap from doing something once, to doing something again, it is an equally important step in developing a habit. Our lives are shaped far more strongly by our habits rather than what we do once – unless of course our habit is to flit from one once-in-a-lifetime experience to the next.

I’m hoping to track my ride times, and see an improvement that is based not on external factors such as equipment, but on myself only.

Last year, a ride of about 5 km took me about 25 minutes – 5 minutes per km, or 12 km per hour.

This year, a ride of about 12 km is taking me about 1 hour 15 minutes. If I can get back to my fitness level from last year that will come down by more than 10 minutes – giving me an extra 20 minutes a day (I have to come home in the afternoon, too!).

Time I can spend doing something I enjoy – including maybe, “riding further“?


PS. A special shoutout to Westybec. Sucks to hear that while I’m away in Canberra she’s really crook at home with three kids. Hope to hear you’re on the mend soon, dear.

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