Category Archives: Family

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A week is a long time….

Category : Family , General Farm

They say that a week is a long time in politics.  Well, a week is a long time on our farm as well.

The kids started back at after school activities last week and with a number of changes to the schedule, it really put the pressure on me to be super organised.  It is going to be a very busy year.  Miss Bella has decided that she is going to do tap dancing this year (could she pick a more noisier activity?), so in order to that, she had to drop tennis.  She seems to think that this is a pretty good trade off.  Biddy is continuing on with acrobatics and Tom is still plugging away at the guitar.  Henry has been given a term off swimming lessons, but is allowed to have a play around in the water while the others swim.  With him starting kinder this year, it is hoped that a combination of increased age and the introduction of new rules (about how to behave) will help settle him in order to get back into swim lessons next term.  Little turd.

We have been busy on the farm as well.  Our position that we advertised for a milker has been answered and a new staff member starts tomorrow for induction.  I will do a post about the new person in the coming weeks.  Mark was busy at the Sungold Field days in Warrnambool last week, answering questions and fielding grievances that really head office staff should have been facing (don’t get me started), and tomorrow we are hosting a field day for a new feed out wagon.

One of our staff members, Sophie, is starting her traineeship next week.  We are very excited for her and she is looking forward to gaining more skills to use around the farm.  Next week also, we have a film crew here doing something about something that has nothing to do with us, but they need cows in the background.

Fonterra announced a step up last week, but at $5.20/kgMS no-one is really celebrating.  Generating a lot of trust and increasing good will certainly needs to be the focus for Fonterra over the coming 12 months…..companies such as Midfield milk’s UDC are on the horizon and loyalty being what it is….well, I think they will have no trouble attracting suppliers.

Our work with Thomas Carr College is getting to ramp up again for 2017.  We have decided to change the presentation (largely because I was sick to death of it!!), so a bit of work needs to be put into developing a new presentation in time for the kick off in mid March.

Earlier in the year, Mark and his dad took part in an advertising campaign for 90 years of Western Star Butter.  The ads have started hitting main stream media as well as social media, banners and posters.  For all the time it took to shoot the darn thing, their spot in the ad is tiny!  I think the cows get a bigger bit.  And they were an afterthought!! Hahahaha

90 Years of Western Star

Click HERE to see the advert.

And that sort of quickly wraps up what we have been up to lately!

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Making the punishment fit

Category : Family

Four kids in a house designed really for two, means that we are often in each others way and space.  There simply is not not enough room for all of us especially when we are all confined to the house for extended periods.  I mean, everyone sitting around watching a movie is fine, but when everyone wants to do different activities, well, that’s when the wheels sort of come off things.

Today was a good example.  We were sort of forced inside because of the heat and the flies (flies will be the subject of another post later on…they are unbelievable), and after a morning spent at the movies, the itchiness to do something was just proving too strong.  Especially for a certain 4yo.

Tom had found some amusement in some nano blocks he had purchased with a Christmas voucher, the girls were content with trying out Biddy’s new water speakers (they spurt water up and down with lights in time to music).  The problem was, they needed my computer to hook up to power.  So we all sat around on the living room floor listening and watching the water speakers (which really are pretty cool).

Henry, on the other hand, was not so content.  He was hell bent on cracking open a packet of “Bunch of Balloons” that the kids had been given for Xmas and getting out in the heat and flies to throw some around.  I told him that he could, but just needed to wait until the searingness of the heat had gone out of the day.  Every minute, he came and asked me about doing it, and every time my answer was the same;  “Yes, but not right now.  It is too hot outside”

Clearly, this wasn’t good enough for him and while my back was turned to help one of the girls do yet another craft project that they pulled out, he helped himself to my computer.

Now this is a known NO NO.  Our computers – mine, Mark’s and the farm one – are out of bounds for the kids unless we are directly sitting next to them watching.  Even at 4yo, H knows that from previous experience and punishment, that he is not allowed to play around with my computer.  So when the music suddenly stopped, I knew he was doing something he shouldn’t be.  And as such, he got a smack on the bum.

Now before I get any bleeding hearts or visits from the authorities about child abuse, let me say, it was not hard and did not even leave a mark.  It was his pride that was affected more than anything, but a stern and solid reminder that he must not touch the computer.  EVER.

Less than 15 minutes later, I go into the lounge to pack up all the stuff (because let’s face it, that’s what mums are for right?) and flick open my computer only to discover that there is a dirty big crack running from top left to bottom right of screen.  Right away I knew who had done this, but I gave them all the benefit of the doubt and screamed at all of them accordingly.  At this point, they were all guilty until proven innocent.  It really came down to between Bella (aka clumsyclots) and Henry (aka the devil).  Both were adamant and full of tears and wringing of hands that they were not to blame and it was not either of them.

I knew it really had to be H, so like the great mother I am, I played them off against one another.  I told Bella that there would be no water balloons until the person that did the breakage came forward.  All would suffer for the actions of one.  It wasn’t very long until H came out and owned up.  He had stood on the computer.  Although it is unclear if it was from spite at being punished, or just a thing that kids do when they are walking around and fail to notice things under their feet.

Now, my inner turmoil begins.  H is 4yo.  He knows basic right from wrong.  He knows that it is bad to lie.  He knows about the computer ban.  He knows that actions have some consequences.  But at the end of the day he is 4yo.  And this time, he owned up to the crime (alright….after some prodding by the others…..but he owned up).  So given that he has no money of his own, has no capacity of working it off, will have forgotten about this whole episode most likely before the day has ended, what is the most appropriate punishment?

A quick call to the computer shop eased my heart (and bank balance) somewhat as there is a single crack not a smash, and this is covered potentially under warranty.  Otherwise, it was a $1000 repair.

So returning to the punishment…..what should I do?  Well, I can tell you, that after 11+ years of being a mum, one thing I have learnt is that whenever something like this occurs, it is always a smart move to either remove them from your line of sight, or you from theirs.  Give yourself a minute to regroup and truly assess how bad it all is.

When I was a younger mum, Tom bore the brunt of my very explosive anger.  Now, really only Mark cops it.  But he’s big and ugly enough to take it on the chin.  I have learnt since that my kids don’t respond to that kind of anger.  In fact, the opposite is probably more effective.  We are a loud family.  We yell, shout, make lots of noise.  I’m grateful that we don’t live in the suburbs.  So when I go quiet….really quiet, that’s when the kids freak out.  So that is what I did.  I just told H to get away from me, that I was angry that he broke something of mine that I was sad and that it was going to cost a lot of money to fix.  And he also got another smack.

But the biggest punishment of all……..I let the other 3 kids go outside and play with those bloody water balloons, and yell and scream and laugh and run about in their togs.  And I made H sit inside and watch.  And it KILLED HIM.  The screen can be replaced with little effort.  But H learnt a valuable lesson today, and inside I knew that I wouldn’t have to deal with this particular issue ever again, all because of missing out on playing with some latex and water.

Because after all, what more does a 4yo want to do on a hot day?


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2016 can piss right off!

Category : Family

Well, it’s been a while since I was on here.  The last time I updated, I was still in the hospital following surgery, and here it is, 2nd January 2017.  The time between these two posts has gone fast…and slow.  Crazy really.

I had these grand plans of what I was going to do with the enforced 12 weeks recovery that was being imposed upon me (FYI, I was a good girl and did follow recovery instructions).  Maybe I followed them a bit too well, because I pretty much did squat.  Nothing.  Nada. Hardly lifted a finger.  Well, for the first 4 weeks anyway.

We were very lucky in having my mum drop her entire life and come and live with us for about 4 and a half weeks.  I think on reflection however, mum has a new found respect for what I deal with on a daily basis.  Over the years, my mum has often come to our house (she’s here a number of days most weeks) with these grand plans of what needs to be done, what rooms needs to be cleared out, what should be planted and how something or other is going to be redeveloped.  But after spending those 4 and a half weeks of just keeping all the shit together here and keeping the place sort of functioning, I am confident that I won’t hear of any grand plans for a while.  I mean, for me, if everyone has clean undies on, is fed and I haven’t killed anyone, I’m having a good day.  If there is something else that gets added into that mix, well that’s just a bonus.  And I deserve a bloody medal!

So as I said, I had all these grand plans about what I was going to do with my limited physical capacity over the 12 weeks.  I was going to sort out the hell hole of a mess on my computer.  I was going to back up and sort out the half a million photos that we have on various computers, solid state drives, flash discs and dropbox.  I was going to finally get around to putting all the kids professional photographs into the various albums (one for each kid, one for the family and a school one), I was going to be super organised and get out Christmas cards to all and sundry in an end of year last gasp of card making.  And I was going to read through about 3 years worth of New Scientist magazines that have been piling up and causing me much angst because they are wrapped in biodegradable plastic (which turns out REALLY is a thing and REALLY does disintegrate all over the place).

But I did nothing of it.  And here I am, 12 weeks down the track and I have nothing to really show for my recovery time.  Except for the fact, that I am recovered.  I do have some residual pain in my neck – which is a bit frustrating because I never had ANY pain prior to surgery on a constant basis!! Ironic hey? – but I am whole, healed and not about to die anytime soon.

In the time of my recovery, Mark’s back became a lot worse than it has been in years (he’s had it operated on before for a bulged disc and had a microdiscectomy, by the same surgeon I had, back in 2009).  Mark came with me to my post op review and after determining that I was fully functional, and the surgery was a success, Greg lost interest in me and turned his attention to Mark.  We left that office with me off pain meds, and Mark on them and an MRI slip in his fist.

In the weeks since that meeting, Mark’s back has really deteriorated, however finding the time to get the MRI and knowing it will mean surgery with a 12 week recovery period is not something that Mark wants to face right now.  On top of that, the damn staph infection that he developed months back reappeared and needed to be retreated.  In the end, he felt so crap that he relented and went see the local doctor about general poor health.  A full blood work up has shown that he is sick, but we won’t really know too much until mid week when specific tests come back.  And there is still the back issue, just waiting there and reminding him everyday that it is not going anywhere and in fact, is getting worse.

About 3 weeks ago, Biddy had to have a colonoscopy and gastroscopy for ongoing and acute abdomen pains (happening since she was 3yo).  She was 9 on Christmas Day, so 6 years is long enough to dilly dally around the edges and do bloods and stool samples.  The surgery was at Cabrini Hospital in Melbourne, so due to the nature of the preparation, we had to go down the night before.  I will just say right here that I am NEVER TAKING BIDDY TO SURGERY AGAIN.  Ever. Ever. Both times she has gone into theatre, it has been a traumatic, upsetting, emotionally charged event.  And  that is just for me and the theatre staff!  On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is completely chilled out, relaxed and calm and 10 being over the top nervous, anxious and upset, Biddy ranks a 20.  I’m not kidding.  We had 2 goes at getting her into surgery and then because she was sedated to get into theatre, she didn’t remember going in and screamed the place down about not being done and that she had to go back.  Recovery was an absolute nightmare!!!!  The theatre nursing staff were so pleased to see us head back up to the children ward!!  Initial results are showing that she is likely to be developing Coeliacs but this is not the reason for the pains in the first place.  Oh joy!  Another kid with allergies! We await more results in the New Year.

New Year’s Eve saw me back in the doctor’s office with tonsillitis and on penicillin.  Honestly!  Can one year get any worse?  From a business, health and financial perspective?

I can honestly say, I have never looked forward to the end of a year before.  We have had some crappy things happen (Henry’s anaphalatic episode, his increasing allergies to various things, Tom’s migraines, my surgery, Biddy’s surgery, Mark’s back, Mark’s staph infection, my aunty dying unexpectedly, the damn dairy crisis, the death of a few family pets etc..) but I have to admit that we did have some good things happen too (trip to Carins and Port Douglas, one cousin having a new baby and another 2 announcing that they are expecting in 2017, the girls doing ballet and acro and participating in the end of year concert, Bella finishing her first year of primary school etc..).

Honestly though, I don’t believe that the good has outweighed the bad this year.  If I were an accountant and I ran a “T table”, we are in deficit.  Whilst I know that 2017 is still going to provide us with health and business challenges, I hope that we move forward into it, with more positives than negatives.  I look forward to getting back into the pool with “my kids”, I look forward to planning the development of our new property at Gellibrand, I look froward to spending time away with us just as an immediate family and – after my sort of close to death experience – I am looking forward to doing the things that I want to do and not worry so much about what I think others want me to do.

On behalf of Mark and the kids, I wish all our readers a very happy New Year & 2017 and hope that you make of your’s what you want.

Mark, Sam, Tom, Biddy, Bella and Henry Billing on Christmas Day 2016

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Surgery, death and post op recovery

Category : Family , Stress

Ok, a number of people are waiting on an update from me regarding surgery……here it is.

Suffice to say that I made it through ok, even though I did experience a looming sensation that I would die in surgery.  I know that sounds melodramatic, but for the first time in a long time, I really did think that luck and good management were not with me.  Maybe it’s because I recently lost an aunt who was admitted to hospital and she never came out.  And she looked fine in the photo I saw of her the day before she passed away.  It took me a long time to come to terms with it and I would suggest that given my mental state in the lead up to my own surgery, I can see that I have not dealt with it well at all.

I even broached the subject with Mark as to which kids would get what special and significant pieces of jewellery.  This conversation did not go well.  Mark refuse to listen.  I also told him that under no circumstances whatever, he was to sell all my card making and scrapbooking supplies for what I told him I purchased them for!  Bernie Butler, this is probably a job for you and mum to do if the time ever comes.

But all this got me thinking.  Since having kids, Mark and I have not finalised our wills.  Sure we have the main stuff covered, like the farm, the assets and the land.  But we don’t have the most important things covered.  Our kids.  This is a hard one.  But after having the shit frightened out of me in regards to this whole episode (not just the surgery but the whole thing), it has me thinking that we better get this stitched up.

But it is not as easy at it seems.  When you have a gaggle of kids, it is difficult ask people to take on that amount of responsibility.  Either the people you trust live too far away for the kids to keep their normal lives, or they have moved into a different phase of their own family existence, or age might be a factor with them.

I know that solicitors and legal professionals tell you to “just make the decision, put it in a drawer and move on”.  Really the chances that both Mark and I will die prior to at least Tom reaching age of consent is pretty low.  But it could happen.  And this surgery and my unfounded fear has bought it all rushing back at me.  So this is back in the table as far as a discussion.  And quite possibly, the older kids might be able to have some input into it all as well.   However, seeing as the 6 of us cannot agree on what take-away to have at dinner, the chances are we are going to be pulling names out of a hat for guardianship!  So get ready……it’ll be like winning the lotto!

But back to the surgery.  Well, Monday morning loomed fast….very fast considering I didn’t sleep very well overnight.  But as I was first off the rank, my wait time was about 3 minutes to get into pre-op and then about 30 minutes to get into anaesthetic.    Mark and I had to part ways at this point and I was getting more and more worked up.  Greg Malham, my surgeon, came in to see me and after I told him not to stuff it up he reassured me that he does these all the time and everything would be fine.  He said it would be much like me not letting any of my swimming kids drown when I worked…..he would not let me become a quadriplegic.

The anaesthetist, Arthur Penberthy, was a champ.  Quiet, funny and once I started crying because I was as nervous as shit, he knocked me out!  LOL.

The surgery took around 2hrs and I woke up in pain, feeling like I had been hit be a tractor and disorientated.  I know people were talking to me, but I dunno what they were saying.  I had a drain tube in my neck to relieve bruising and soreness, and a catheter because I can’t pee on heavy narcs.  Over the next few hours, the pain from my neck was really only localised inside my throat where they pull all your innards around and out of the way, but the pain in my back was something else.  I couldn’t lift my arm very well and I had weakness down the left side of my body.  I was drugged up enough so that this did make not a scrap of difference to me (except the pain), but Greg and the team were not happy and quickly shot me down for another MRI to make sure that everything was still where it should have been after surgery.


Greg came and spoke to me yesterday about the extent of the injury.  It turns out it was bad.  Quite bad.  Worse than he saw on the MRI.  I was one good knock away from being a quadraplegic.  And because of where the spinal cord injury was, I would have also been on a respirator for the rest of my life as well.   Of course, I was upset because I wasn’t being flippant with my health for all this time.  I simply have not been in any pain and had no idea had bad it actually was.  But everything is stable now; the new cage is in place, the screw are holding and as an added benefit, the scar I will end up with will be minor because of the way they stitch everything back up.  I will be fine.  And so long as I am a good girl and allow myself to heal properly, I will have no trouble resuming my normal lifestyle in the future with no risk to any part of my spine.

The weakness has also improved everyday.  When the drainage tube came out of my neck yesterday, the pain in my back disappeared.  So it must have been referred pain.  I am in pain of course still from surgery, but we are getting on top of it  They have these pain management teams that come around every day to see you.  They have change my meds around quite a bit and I think we have got it right with a new regime for me to go home with.

So with the catheter out, the drainage tube out, the IV out and the oxygen off, I think I am good to go home and face the mob…ahem, I mean the kids.  And sort out once and for all who will be the guardians of my galaxy if I wind up in a life threatening situation again.

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I am the Master

Category : Family

Have you ever done anything for your kids and they immediately think that you are the absolute BOMB at it?  No really, do they think that in their eyes, you are just fantastic at doing that particular thing?  Do they have that inbuilt knowledge that you have been practicing that particular task for years, perfecting it, just so you could trot it out to them?

Well, my 11yo son thinks all this and more of me when it comes to making……..wait for it………..PROFITEROLES!

Jesus Christ.

I am SO NOT THE BOMB in making these.  Have you ever tried making these bloody things?  They would have to be the most time consuming, fiddly, multiple stepped item of food that I have made.  Whoever came up with the concept of these bloody things can go stuff themselves full of the custard that fills them.  I detest you.

But because I don’t want to tarnish the iconic status that I have now achieved in my pre teen son’s eyes, I have to continue the sham that I actually like making them.  And what makes this even more laughable, is that I have made them – before yesterday – exactly once.  That’s right.  ONCE.  And I made something like 8.  Which were all gobbled up and barely touched the sides, so God know’s how any of them could say how they bloody tasted.

But Tom comes home a couple of weeks ago and tells me that for this year’s Mission Day (this year raising money for poor communities in Cambodia), that he and his mates are going to run a Baker Cat Stall (for the purposes of this story, Baker Cat is nothing).  It is essentially a bake stall.  And he has reliably told his friends that he – not me – will provide profiteroles.  Until of course he came home and told me that he needed 40 something profiteroles.  FORTY!!!!!  Oh FFS.

So here I am last night, whipping up the spongey outside casings and preparing the custard to go inside.  I ended up with 41 which I was mighty happy with until I discovered that I had undercooked half of them by 10 minutes so had to whack them back in the oven and pray that they did their magic and puffed up.  They mostly did.

But it didn’t stop there.  We were also to make Anzac bikkies, muffins and homemade lemonade [I should pop in a disclaimer here and say that I do have a thermomix, so making all this is not all that hard….except the bloody profiteroles that require multiple steps].  So this morning dawns with a perfect weather day and I have the Anzac bikkies, the muffins and the profiterole casing and custard all ready.  All I needed to do was fill the bloody casings smear them with chocolate and make the lemonade.  I would drop everything off at school at 11.30 ready for the 12pm Mission Day stalls.  It would be a breeze.

Except it wasn’t.

Dropping Henry at daycare this morning, I discovered I left his Epipens at home and had to drive all the way back to get them so I could deposit him out of my way.  The custard was so cold out of the fridge that it didn’t want to pipe into the casings.  I dropped some on the ground, which on it’s own was ok, but there was water on ground and they got wet.  Soggy profiteroles are no-one’s friend and certainly would not live up to the Michelin Star standard my son believes them to be.  So six bit the dust and the pigs will enjoy those.  Then I nearly ran out of chocolate.

An research interview which was to run 45mins from 10.30am, ran until 11.50am leaving me with 10 minutes to make the lemonade (which included getting the lemons off the tree….why do they never come off when you need them to?), shove everything into the car and zoom to the school.

Needless to say, the kitchen was a shambles of chocolate, globs of custard, spilt lemonade due to syphoning it into bottles, stickiness everywhere and lemon pulp over the bench.  And I looked like shit.  The upside was, the place smelled wonderfully of citrus!

But I rocked up to that stall with those 35 profiteroles, the Anzac bikkies, the muffins and the homemade lemonade and Tom thought I was the Master.  He proudly announced to his cohort that the profiteroles had arrived and now they could really raise some money.  And together with the popcorn machine (one we also supplied!), the chocolate fountain, the mint slices, the truffle balls, the honey joys and the slushy machine, those boys did raise money.  $35+ in fact.  Which is not too bad an effort considering they were selling things for 10 and 20 cents each!

Yes, I am a Master. And I hope to pass on the knowledge of multitasking to my young grasshopper.  But for now, I am thankful that he was thankful.  And that was enough for me today.

(oh and Baker Cat……check it out on YouTube where you get the music)bakercat