So where to begin? Continuum was fabulous. Really, really enjoyable. The trip to and from was variable because the kids weren't well, and the stay was also affected by their health, but over all things were good.

This is the thing about cons with big name guests VS cons with great guests - not to say Catherynne Valente and Dave Freer are unknowns, but they aren't names that Joe Public would recognise from off the telly - it's very rare you see the big name guests outside of their scheduled panels. I didn't get to lots of Continuum 7, but I saw both of the guests in the audience of many of the panels I attended or was on. I'd rather a guest who actively wants to be there than one who just does it for the money/a free trip.

Lex has inherited Sharon and my stubbornness. We sort of knew this, but we're regularly seeing how solidly ingrained it is. The other night he'd avoided eating his vegies, but asked for more rice, which he loves, and Shaz told him that if he ate a couple of vegies, he could have more rice. He argued the point and then basically decided he'd rather go without the rice if it meant he had to eat vegetables.

He's giving us all sorts of issues with regards to his toilet training. Basically, depending on his mood, he'd rather go in his strides than interrupt whatever he's doing at the time. We'll get there, but it often seems to be two steps forward, one step back, one step forward, three steps back, four steps forward, two steps back.

Interestingly, he's shown a fairly good grasp of self-control in different ways. He gets a star on a chart when tells us he's pooed, or gets a couple of stars when he actually poos in the loo. If he gets enough stars, he gets a small present. Occasionally the present will be a Mr. Man book, or a little toy, or an Easter egg. If he gets enough stars for a prezzie at night after we've brushed his teeth, and it's an egg, he's perfectly happy to wait until after breakfast the next morning for it. One Sat morning he decided he wouldn't eat it until he was actually out doing the shopping, and stuck to it.

My stubbornness certainly helped me avoid many of the pitfalls of peer pressure, let's hope it does as well for him.

MaybeZoe took her first step the other day! Much earlier than Lex. She seems to picking up a few things faster than Lex, but then girls tend to learn quicker than boys. MZ has also started signing for when she wants food, which makes life a lot easier. The hand gesture for food is her putting her spread-wide hand up to her open mouth a few times. She's also done the same sign to her ear once or twice, but didn't seem to like it when I put the food there.

MZ's loving books, which is great, though she does still try to eat them sometimes which is less great. She's way more relaxed than Lex was. Interestingly she heals more slowly. Lex would get a bruise or a scratch and it'd be gone in a few days at most. MaybeZoe's marks can last weeks. Which is unfortunate as she seems to have inherited her mother's coordination, or lack thereof.

Since I'm talking about kids, may as well continue with some of Lex's recent adventures. Took him to the Cascades recently, which as the name suggests is a series of waterfalls. I had visited this previously with [livejournal.com profile] celuran at around the same time of year. He asked a lot of questions and was fascinated by the frozen puddles of water near the falls.

I took him to the lookout near Cooma, and we did a little walking through some of the bush there. He did a good job of watching where he was walking, and going slowly. I'd drummed snake safety into him a while back, and told him that as we were in the bush there might be snakes. He doesn't quite understand death, but knows a snakebite might mean he'd never see mum, dad, MZ or nana again, so if he sees a snake he should leave it alone and go tell an adult.

Today we climbed up into the roof. I showed him how and where to walk, and made sure he didn't touch or go anywhere that I didn't go first. Have to say, he's very good at obeying instructions when he and I are doing things like that. I think it helps that he's given a fair amount of freedom to be allowed to hurt himself. We'll give him a warning if we see a potential problem, and if the consequences won't be fatal or overly damaging, we'll let him hurt himself if he chooses not to listen. As time has passed, he's started taking our occasional warnings much more seriously. If we're out and I say stop, he stops dead.

One of the first things I saw in the roof was a redback, so I pointed it out to him and let him have a good look at it, then explained that it could be deadly if he touched it. "Like snake," was his reply. I asked him what he should do if he saw a spider with a stripe like that and he said "not touch, tell dad." Whether he'll actually do that, you can't be sure, but it's a good starting point. We left the spider alone, of course. There's no point killing something that isn't any sort of immediate danger to us, and I'd rather teach him respect than fear.

Though I think I would like to teach him to fear our computers. Oh our poor PCs, how they suffer at the hands of our clever boy. I spent a chunk of the other day changing the login screens so he can't turn the computers off using the mouse. He likes to restart Sharon's computer and then proudly proclaim, "I fixed mum's 'puter!"

He fixed mine the other day. I have a small fence up to stop him but while I was out he switched it on and off over and over again using the power switch at the back. Took me an hour to get it running again.

Oh, and Lex is going through a stage of not liking... well, everything. Including things he obviously loves. It's getting old, real fast. Last night he didn't like broccoli, even though I reminded him that he used to love to snack on cold, cooked broccoli straight from the fridge. I asked if he'd have a bite if I did. So I had a bite, he had a bite, said it was good, and ate most of it. *sigh* Though it's still not as wearing as me not being allowed to have a trip to the toilet without him following, commenting, and asking a lot of questions.

MaybeZoe loves her big brother, and he dotes on her. He plays a little too roughly with her sometimes, and she pulls his hair, but mostly they get on rather well. Lex has taken to occasionally feeding MZ her breakfast, which is fun for both of them, a bit messy, but at least means one can eat one's breakfast without disruption.

Anyway, that enough kid stuff. Other news.

I've joined the anti-depressant club. I've had issues with depression for as long as I can remember, and generally managed it by keeping busy and physically active. Occasionally I've had periods where that failed, but mostly I got through it. But the last few years it's been growing harder and harder.

I think the stroke is the starting point of when I found it a bit harder to cope, just because I found (and still find) it difficult to concentrate on things for very long. Then we lost Tracy, and then I had a couple of children who keep me fairly busy and so mean my internal resources are often stretched pretty thin.

Because my normal everyday mood tends to hover around most folks very happy level, and because when I'm around other people I tend to 'switch on,' my depressive episodes aren't terribly obvious. I tend to be functional in a basic sense only because I have my children relying on me for food, changes, and warmth. If I didn't have the kids, the recent bouts would have meant that I'd have just stayed in bed all day every day, loathing myself more and more.

Medication is something that I'd long thought about, but dismissed. The tipping point for me was a long conversation with a friend at Swancon who is someone I very much admire. We found that we had a lot of interestingly quirky and unusual mindsets in common, and during our chat they mentioned that they had recently gone on anti-depressants. For me it was a case that, if this person who I never saw as anything less than strong and brilliant was able to say "I needed some extra help," then I should be able to consider the options I'd never been willing to consider before.

You know who you are, so thanks for the leg up.

One of the reasons I had never considered such options before is that for a good chunk of the time I absolutely love life. I'm fascinated by and enjoy just about everything. Meds tend to level out one's moods so you don't get the terrible lows, but you don't get the dizzying highs either. And dammit, I like my dizzying highs!

I've actually been put on the lowest dosage there is, and it seems to be working quite well for me. I can still feel the depression lurking away below the surface, but it's at a level now where I can usually deal with it okay with my reduced mental resources. I'm depressed at the moment, and it should be crushing the life out of me, but instead I'm getting a few things done, including this post. I've only had one really bad day since the medication took effect, and it was notable because it should have been at least a week's worth, rather than one very bad day.

My general good mood and demeanour has been affected so minorly that I can't see a difference. In fact what I am seeing is me being a lot more like my normal ridiculously happy self. The fact that I've had not only the urge, but the internal push to take Lex off adventuring is notable when compared to much of this year where stuff like that just didn't happen. I'd think of things we should do, but the next step never eventuated. Now I'm a lot closer to the dad I should be than I have been recently.

So over all I'm happy with the result. The doctor thinks that a few months on the drugs should hopefully stabilise things and then I'll be able to go off them, but we'll wait and see.

Sharon's doing okay with work. She's actually car pooling for most of the week which is saving us a fair amount of cash, which we can then put into other house-related things. She only gets to see the kids for an hour or two most weekdays, which is a bit of a shame. Though she did see MaybeZoe's first step. She misses a lot of those firsts, so that was a nice one for her.

We haven't been getting to do much together. Though most weeks we're managing to sit and eat ice cream while watching an episode of Babylon 5 or The West Wing. A really good week is when we manage a night where we see an episode of each. But those are rare. We started at the start of the year and we're only up to the fourteenth episodes of each show.

Today is our thirteenth wedding anniversary, which is kind of awesome. We don't really have any plans, and because of the recent financial woes have yet to buy presents, but none of that really matters. We're loving each other as much as ever, if not moreso because now we have a common pair of time-eating enemies :P

We've both struggled with life these last few years. Losing Tracy left us gutted, and that seems to have had a knock-on effect that still lingers, but we've always been there for one another.

Sharon really is made of awesome. Not only can she pump out a pair of kids while barely cracking a sweat, she puts up with all my... idiosyncrasies, and has never complained about my limitations post-stroke.

Mind you, I continue to improve. I take my walking stick with me to conventions, because I find those particularly tiring, but I don't use it the rest of the time. My concentration is improving in fits and starts, with the occasional backwards step, and hell, I chop wood several days a week, and love it!

Our finances have mostly recovered from our surprise $3K bill, mainly because Shaz's dad did the sneaky slip-some-money-into-the-hand-just-as-you-say-goodbye thing while we were in Melbourne, meaning we caught up a month or so more sooner than we would have. He was smart enough to know we wouldn't accept it unless he did the sneaky. We know he can afford it so we've accepted it gracefully, and while we would have gotten by without, it's nice to have things back under control that much sooner.

We're managing to pay off extra on our home loan, while still living a reasonable life. We're coming up on the first year of our mortgage and we'll have paid a little over $4.5K extra on the principal loan. Given we've had about $8.5K in nasty extra expenses earlier this year that wiped out every cent of back-up and emergency money we had, we're quite pleased with that. Hopefully if we have no nasty surprises next year we'll do better and I can put some money into my house at South Oakleigh.

Especially good is that we got to go to Continuum, and I got to go to Swancon. It means my budget is working well enough that we can still do some of the stuff we really enjoy, and pay off extra on the house.

A big part of that is having bought in Cooma. The same house and land in Canberra would have cost us at least double what we paid. We would have preferred to stay in Canberra so Sharon could be close to work and we could be close to our friends, but prices made Cooma our best option. Fortunately it's not a poor second choice - Cooma is a really great town. The people are nice, and the facilities are terrific. The only downside is Shaz being stuck with the hour drive, but we figure that's about average for Melbourne, and now that she's car pooling it's less of an issue.

My car is now legal in NSW. Have a normal license plate, as paying an extra $500 a year to have my old one is a bit much. We really need a standardised vehicle registration set-up between the different states. Have now lived in Victoria, Canberra, and NSW, and the system is markedly different in each. Victoria's system is definitely the least amount of stuffing about, NSW is the most awkward.

Mum's doing well. Having her here is painful at times - her version of washing dishes means we end up rewashing many of them, which is actually more annoying than if she didn't wash them at all. Then there's the way she randomly puts things on various shelves, treats every small wrinkle in things as an Earth-shattering disaster, and considers almost every interesting experience that can be had as something frightening.

However, she's my mum and I love her, and having her here does mean that if I need to go down the street to pick up something, I don't have to spend an hour getting the kids and everything else ready and into the car. I can just hop in the car, be there and back in fifteen minutes, and come home to discover that Lex has climbed over the gate and switched my PC on and off 47 times.

Also, she's now going to spend an hour or four once a week at the pensioners 'home away from home' group around the corner. They literally share part of our back fence, and for $2 an hour mum gets to hang with people her own age, play cards, watch movies, and have a nice cooked lunch. It's a fabulous place. I've been trying to get mum doing stuff like this for over a decade, offering to drive her place, stay, and drive her home. She's never been interested, but this time I think she is. It'll be really good for her to get out and actually make some friends, rather than being housebound by her own inertia. As Sharon commented, now the only grown-up in the house without regular outside adult contact is me.

That'll leave it as just me and the kids for a day a week. I tend to find that exhausting, mainly because I usually achieve a lot more when there are no adults in the house. No, I don't get why either. But last time I did all my normal child-care stuff, plus a bunch of other chores, and Lex and I made pancakes for dinner! So it seems to work for me.

Okay, that's it. My time still tends to be spread thin, so this post has actually taken me three days to write, which explains why I'm not posting very often.
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