Dance for Finlay

hepatoblastoma #justkeepdancing #friendsoffinlay

In February 2015, my dear blogging friend Katey had the life changing news that her beautiful 18 month old boy Finlay had stage 4 hepatoblastoma. Finlay has been courageously fighting this terrible cancer ever since with his amazing family always by his side. He is expected to have surgery today, having flown across the country from his home in Perth to Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney.

hepatoblastoma #justkeepdancing #friendsoffinlay (Find out more about the Kids Cancer Project)

In keeping with Ellen Degeneres’ #justkeepdancing project, we’re asking you to please send your most positive love, prayers and well wishes for dear Finlay. You can do this by sharing a video of yourself, your kids, your cats or your dogs, whoever! As long as there’s dancing involved. Don’t forget to add the hashtags #justkeepdancing #friendsoffinlay to share the love. Katey and Finlay will get so much love from seeing your dancing videos.

I’m sharing this video of Rocky, who’s about the same age as Finlay, dancing his little butt off at his Nana and Grandad’s house recently. Looking at his rosy cheeks and chubby little belly I feel so blessed to have a child in good health.

You can follow Finlay’s journey on the Facebook page. Please also consider joining us in donating to Finlay’s family and further cancer research.

Thank you for your support.

How to prepare for your child’s hydrogen breath test

How to prepare for your child's hydrogen breath test

Ok, so I realise that preparing for your child’s hydrogen breath test (HBT) is a REALLY specific topic. BUT. Rocky had this test the other day and I was chatting with the other parents at the hospital.  We agreed that we’d have loved a little more information to help us know what to expect. So!, Let me serve the people! First, some background on Rocky’s lactose free life.

We have been treating Rocky as lactose intolerant for about a year now. His terrible sleeping habits combined with lots of mucus and snoring led us to believe that he might have some kind of dairy intolerance. I sought advice from my child and youth heath nurse and she said to try skipping lactose before eliminating dairy altogether – thank goodness for that! It’s quite easy to avoid lactose these days, there are lots of products on the market that are lactose free and Rocky still gets to enjoy milk, yoghurt and cheese.

The lactose free diet has appeared to have helped Rocky sleep better. He went from waking eight to twelve times a night (yes, really!) to only waking two to three times a night. His mucus and snoring also reduced and we were all a lot happier.

While it’s not too difficult to get lactose free food, it can be tricky when eating out at other people’s houses or at cafes. So, after a year on this modified diet, we thought it was about time that we got this lactose intolerance thing confirmed one way or the other. We got a referral from our GP and booked in for the next available appointment, a couple of months away.

Here’s the tricky part. The lactose breath test requires children aged 6 months and over to fast for 10 hours before starting the test (infants fast for 6 hours). Yikes! We also had to avoid yoghurt, bananas and apples the day before his test, among other foods (but these are his favourites). Rocky coped surprisingly well with the fasting, I was amazed! I expected huge tantrums, but they didn’t come until much later…

When we arrived for the test Rocky had to drink about 100 – 150 mls of a sugar drink. Which he really did NOT want to drink. We were offered a cup, a cup and straw, a bottle, a sippy cup, a syringe, orange flavouring … none of it worked. Rocky refused to drink. It took two other adults help and me wrapping him in a towel to keep his arms down to get any in him at all. And even then Rocky spat most of it right back out. His hair, face, neck, t-shirt and jacket were drenched in this sticky stuff. But we did our best!

Once he had the sugar drink Rocky had a breath sample taken every half hour for two and a half hours. He was still not allowed to eat anything. He was such a trooper! The Women’s and Children’s Hospital, where we had the test, were well prepared to distract kids. They had lots of toys to play with and kids shows on TV. They also have an awesome playground that wasn’t too far from our waiting rooms. I also took some of his favourite toys and books along for distraction.

At the 2 1/2 hour mark Rocky got a little bit Hulk on me and started to throw toys and push over furniture. Thankfully we were only a few minutes away from a banana and a bowl of hot chips! The final sample was taken and we were out of there. Here are my tips for preparing for a hyrodgen breath test.

* If you suspect that your child may an intolerance please seek professional medical advice. I am not a medical professional and share these tips from my own experience only.

How to prepare for your child’s hydrogen breath test

Arranging the test

  • arrange your test by getting a referral from your GP and finding out where you can have your test. We had to go into the city for our test but you may find that you can go local.
  • submit your referral to the test provider – ask about a cancellation list as the waiting time can be quite long. We were lucky and got called to come in a couple of weeks earlier than expected.

The week before the test

  • if your child is old enough start preparing them for the test by practicing blowing – blowing out candles, blowing bubbles, blowing on flags or pinwheels. During the test they will be asked to blow through a straw, which can be tricky, especially when they haven’t done it before. Younger children will have their breath samples taken by a syringe like object (sorry, I don’t know the medical name!). The nurse places a small tube next to the infants nose and suctions breath from the nostril. It is not invasive or painful at all.
  • find out about the test venue and whether there is some open play space or a playground that you can visit in the half hour gaps between breath samples. Play is fab distraction for kids!

The day before the test

  • double check the list of restricted and banned foods for the day so that you increase your chances of a successful test.

On the day of the test

  • pack a secret stash of snacks and hide them somewhere that your child won’t look for them. This will help you be prepared for the moment when they’re finally allowed to eat again without having to find a cafeteria and make them wait even longer.
  • pack extra spare clothes. All the toddlers I saw ended up having the sugar drink spilled on them. I only packed one jacket for Rocky as I wasn’t expecting him to get so drenched!
  • pack a small towel and a face washer – this will help protect your child’s clothes from getting drenched and help you to clean them up afterwards.
  • take along some favourite toys and books to help distract your child.
  • take two drink bottles. We used one for Rocky’s water, and the other for the sugar drink. We thought that a familiar drink bottle might help him drink it. It didn’t! But it might work for you.
  • make friends with the other families in the waiting room, they are your allies!

Has your child ever had a hydrogen breath test? 

Relaxation for Children

Relaxation for Children

Pebble’s child care centre recently started doing regular ‘relaxation’ sessions, and her carers commented on how much Pebble seemed to be engaging with these sessions, really listening to the words, changing her breathing and relaxing her body. I have always included relaxation as a part of my teaching week with junior primary children, and was grateful for the reminder to try it at home.

Relaxation does not need to be complicated or to go for a long time. It can be just a couple of minutes out of your day. You might be surprised at how it changes your child’s behaviour!

Relaxation Ideas for Children

Cloud Watching

Choose a day when the sky is filled with white fluffy clouds and lay on the ground in a comfortable place where you can clearly see the sky. Show children how to take slow breathes, in and out, and let your mind and body relax as you both allow the clouds to pass over your gaze


Use classical music or instrumental music as a background for a few moments of breathing deeply and relaxing the muscles and mind.


Visit a national park or public garden, somewhere that you can escape the noise and bustle of every day life. Sit quietly together on a bench, or lay on a picnic rug, listening to the sounds of nature.

Guided Meditation

I found these simple guided meditations for children on YouTube. Try turning off the lights and lowering the blinds then get comfy as you play the videos and listen to the words together. I recommend turning off the screen, but you may find the images relaxing. Once again, focus on slowing your breathing. I hope you enjoy this Relaxation for Children playlist – just watch out for noisy advertisements before some of the clips, they are not very relaxing!

Yoga for Children

Finally, yoga is another wonderful way to relax the mind and body, and can be especially helpful for children who find it very difficult keeping still. Cosmic Kids Yoga has some fun videos for free online that kids will enjoy.

Remember, relaxation is important for mums and dads too :) You can try this free printable mini meditation by my gorgeous friend Mel.

Thank you to the wonderful carers at Pebble’s child care centre for inspiring this post.

Kylie @ Octavia and Vicky

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Let’s Dance! Keeping fit with kids

Let's Dance - Keeping Fit with Kids

I’ve been looking for more ways to move my body – for fitness and kick mama blues to the curb….. and to fit into my pre-preggo pants (let’s be honest). Finding ways to move when you’ve got a couple of kids can be tricky. I like to use the treadmill, but it’s very hard to find time to get on to it and stay on it. I’ve had moments where I’m on for five minutes, off to help Pebble do a wee, on for four minutes, off to resettle Rocky who has woken up… on for six minutes and….. oh, bugger it, this is all too hard!

Pebble loves to move. She doesn’t stop moving. So I tried to think of ways to move with her. And that, my friends, is how we ended up having an 80s dance party in our lounge room! You could pop on a favourite CD but we found YouTube so much fun – dancing to music and pictures, the lights down low, the blinds drawn (we were dancing in our undies, of course).

I’ve made my ultimate 80s playlist on YouTube for my dancing pleasure, and yours. Just click on this link to start dancing or watch the player below. There are thirty tracks from the 80s that are some of my personal favourites. I like to use the shuffle button to keep things interesting – a different order of songs every time we dance.

What’s your favourite 80s song? How do you like to keep fit?

Kylie @ Octavia and Vicky

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Mini Meditation for Mothers {free printable}

Mini Meditation for Mothers {free printable}  |  Octavia and Vicky

In case you missed it (!!) Paul and I are counting down the weeks until our second child will be born. We feel a lot more prepared this time around. We already have all the baby furniture and bits and pieces – that’s a no brainer. This time we also have a little bit of experience! We have been there and done that. Of course, each baby is very different, so who knows what this little one will bring? Not to mention that we have a toddler to fit into the picture this time too. However, we are comforted by the lessons learned the first time around.

Before baby arrives, however, must come the birth. Last time I thought I was prepared. I had read many books, blogs and articles and thought I knew what I would need to have a calm, focussed labour, and then a swift recovery. Without realising it, I had some fairly high expectations. I took it for granted that my waters would break, I’d have some contractions and then I’d push the baby out. Sure, it might be long, it might be painful, but I’d get there in the end.

The reality for me was quite different. You can read Pebble’s full birth story here – but the long and short of it is I ended up needing a caesarean and we were blessed with a robust and healthy baby. We were delighted, if a little shocked by it all!

This time around I have no expectations for the birth at all. None. I’m leaving them at the door, along with any hope of a good nights sleep for the next six to twelve months…. perhaps longer! One thing that I learned from my first birth was that the birth itself is not the most important part about becoming a mother. Not at all! It was the furthest thing from my mind once I was holding our baby.

Paul and I quickly became all consumed by loving and caring for this tiny human. How to feed her, how to wrap her, how to change her, how to bath her. How to love her. How to be our best selves for her. We thought we were prepared, but it was a steep learning curve for two *cough* fairly highly strung new parents.

On returning home I had another reality check. I had more high expectations about how life at home with a baby would be. I was lucky enough to enjoy a year of maternity leave and had planned to be a super mum – of course I had! Our house would sparkle like never before, our linens would be fluffed and folded, our dinners would be nutritious and delicious, and our baby would be the happiest and most educated and cared for child that ever was. This wasn’t a conscious expectation, it’s just how I thought it would be – it was only when reality took hold that I realised how I had set myself up to fail.

Instead we struggled with a baby who wouldn’t sleep for more than twenty minutes at a time and who wasn’t getting enough milk from me (yet another high expectation – that I would breastfeed easily!). It took us three months and lots of help to get our daughter (and ourselves!) settled. We found our family rhythm, and Paul and I began to enjoy being parents. I began to spend a lot more time playing with Pebble, visiting family and friends and delighting in the daily discoveries of life with a baby. I let the dust gather and the washing pile up occasionally, and sometimes we had toasted sandwiches for dinner. I found what was important for us, and that was enjoying being a family, learning to be a mum, and giving myself a break. Pebble will not remember whether the floor was swept but she will always feel loved.

I know that sometimes I will forget this lesson. Sometimes I will feel overwhelmed by the need to cook and clean and organise. Or the need to be the ‘perfect’ parent. Sometimes mother guilt will overcome me and I will want to run, or scream or cry. Sometimes I will run and scream and cry. This time around I have experience, lowered expectations. I also have the warm words from a friend to help focus my mind – a meditation for when it all becomes too much. I’m not usually one for meditating. I’m too busy rushing about doing sixteen things at once, and I used to think that I somehow needed to learn to do it “properly” or had to set aside lots of time for it. Now I know differently and I feel very strongly that I need to stop and focus with this birth and second child. I need to put the brakes on those negative thoughts before they take hold. This mini meditation is written by a friend, Mel Dunn. Actually, she’s my step-cousin :) My family is wonderfully complicated and I’m very lucky to have my life collide with so many awesome people. Mel is a mother, a teacher, and a woman who has one of the biggest hearts that I can think of. Mel has shared this meditation with me and other mothers to give guidance as they navigate the highs and lows of motherhood, and she has given me permission to share it with you all too.

 Mini Meditation for Mother’s {free printable}Mini Meditation for Mothers {free printable}  |  Octavia and Vicky

I hope this meditation helps you as much as it has already helped me.

What helps you to feel calm during the storm? Linking up with Real Life Wednesdays over at Picklebums.

Kylie @ Octavia and Vicky

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