Thursday, November 2, 2017

It's An Emergency! An Unexpected Stay In Toowoomba

Did your Mum ever tell you to always wear clean underwear 'just in case'? I used to ask 'just in case of what'? And she'd say things like well if a bus or a car hit you, at least you'll be wearing nice underwear.
Whatever, I'd like to add always wash your hair when you feel the need.
Stay with me readers, because it's a long story.
One cold evening a few months ago, I really felt the need to wash my hair. Except it was chilly, my hair was long at the time, and if I go to sleep with it damp at any length, I wake up with 'boofy hair'. (That's the technical term I believe.)
So I didn't.
Instead, I set my alarm so I'd have time to do it in the morning.
Except there was no need for an alarm. And no time to wash my hair.
At midnight, Mr 16 woke me saying he had really bad stomach pain. Being a sensible young man, he'd already taken painkiller, but it hadn't touched the sides, and it was getting worse.
Now for Chase to wake me, it means he's feeling pretty awful. He's thoughtful like that. He also has a pretty high tolerance to pain, so my Mumma Intuition was on high alert. My thoughts immediately flicked to appendicitis - I'd had mine out when I was 9 and it came on suddenly too -  but I didn't want to assume the worst.
We were going to wait it out, but when he found it impossible to get comfortable in bed or sitting up, we quickly dressed and I took him to our local ER.
We live in the country so there was no doctor on duty at that time of the morning, but the triage nurse gave Chase priority and gave him a bed right away. He was given some anti-nausea medication and powerful painkiller while someone phoned the on-call doctor.
That's where the fun started.
"Mum, why are you wearing a Bill Nye necklace?" Chase said, staring intently at the 'Chase' and 'Harmonie' pendant I always wear around my neck. And then he held his hands up and said:"Woah, look at my fingers!"
It reminded me of one of those viral videos of people who have taken medication, but I was too worried to take one of my child while he was 'high.'
We laughed about it later, but all too soon the medication wore off. To their credit, the staff kept the drugs up, but they wouldn't give him anything to eat in case he might need a procedure later, which was an immediate red-flag to this worried mother.
The on-call doctor came in shortly afterwards and said appendicitis was a possibility as was mesenteric adenitis or a bug, but we'd know more later. However, I felt in my gut (pun not intended) that this was something more serious. He wanted to keep him in for longer, so he could run tests.
I asked if it was okay to organise Harmonie some breakfast and take her to school, and the staff said it was fine. On my return, Chase had been sent for an ultrasound, and I was told he needed to be admitted. Once I had signed the forms of course.

This was the view from his bed. No photo of Chase because #teenager. His pain was getting worse and he was Hangry too. His hunger almost put the doctor, a different one now, off. Chase could count down to the minute to the time when he'd last had something to eat (around 11 pm the night before, when he'd made himself a late-night snack. In spite of the pain.).
He didn't have a fever either, although apparently that's not unusual in appendix cases. Plus, during the scan they couldn't even see his appendix! However, all the lymph nodes on that side of his body were inflamed. The doctor wanted us to go to Toowoomba - where the nearest big hospitals are - for a second opinion. Immediately.
Normally, Chase would have been transferred by ambulance, but the doctor thought he'd be more comfortable if I took him by car. And, he said, he'd give him 'enough drugs to knock an elephant on its arse', so Chase should sleep most of the trip.
Helpful tip: If this ever happens to you, do not take the advice. Chase, it turned out, was seriously ill. I was not equipped to treat him on the way, and probably shouldn't have been driving whilst worrying about him and trying to keep him comfortable. Not to mention driving at speed on unfamiliar roads, having to stop suddenly and often and hitting peak hour traffic in the city. I'm still really upset that we were given this advice.
I had also been told there were no beds in the nearest pubic hospital and that we had to go private. I was told we wouldn't be sent any bills, but we were. But at that time, getting my son well was my first concern, so I did what the doctor told me to do.
I had no time to organise anywhere for Harmonie to stay, so I rushed home to throw together some clothes, organise the pets, fuel up the car (another delay), grab the kids, and we were off - on possibly The Worst Drive Of Our Lives.
Chase did not go to sleep on the journey and his pain was getting worse. We had to stop a few times because he kept feeling sick. He felt every bump in the road - and the road from our home town of Kingaroy to Toowoomba is very rough!
Poor Harmonie hadn't even had lunch and was starving but there was no time to stop, especially as someone from the Toowoomba hospital phoned to see where we were because we were taking longer than expected. I was dying to go to the loo, but again, there was no time, except for when Chase needed to try to throw up. I guess the anti-nausea drugs stopped that, but he kept dry-reaching. Or maybe it was because there was nothing in his tummy, as he kept reminding us! And as his pain increased, he started moaning.
I was worried sick and trying to focus on the traffic and finding where we had to go. I realised Chase was obviously much sicker than the doctor in Kingaroy had thought.
By the time we got to the hospital in Toowoomba, Chase couldn't walk. The hospital was being expanded so there was no drop off zone, and no one available to bring him in. I parked as close as possible, and bless her, Harmonie organised a wheelchair for Chase, and somehow got him into it and pushed him in, while I did the paperwork. And this was a private hospital!

We ended up here. The childrens' ward, much to Chase's disgust. The specialist came in, took one look at Chase, touched his tummy, and said it wasn't worth wasting time doing any further tests. His diagnosis was acute appendicitis, and it needed to come out ASAP. The surgeon went away to prepare, while a nurse and I helped Chase get ready.

Chase finally drifted off for about 10 minutes waiting for surgery. He looked so angelic, almost like he was praying.

We hadn't even been in his room for 30 minutes when Chase was whisked away. Outside theatre, a load of forms were thrust under my nose, and an anaesthetist put a cannular into him. I got to kiss him goodbye and he was gone. I didn't even have time to cry! 
The surgeon, who was obviously used to dealing with rural patients, poked his head out to tell us to go and grab something to eat; that he'd phone if Chase came out before we were back. So thoughtful. I hadn't eaten since I don't know when and the water bottle I had taken into Kingaroy Hospital in the wee hours hadn't been refilled for ages. Poor Harmonie was starving, and I hadn't even had time to explain everything to her, given I'd phoned school on the way from Kingaroy Hospital to say I'd need to pick her up to take her to Toowoomba, and could she be waiting with her bag, pretty please? 

We felt guilty, but there was nothing we could do, and we needed to eat and drink.
The only good place we knew of to eat at was a favourite Japanese-Korean restaurant we always go to at Toowoomba. We knew the service was quick there too. The food was delicious, but not surprisingly, neither of us could eat much after all! I think we were thirsty more than anything and just needed to stop and breathe for a few minutes.
We rushed back to  hospital, where Chase had just gone into recovery. The surgeon confirmed his diagnosis and explained that in fact, the pesky organ was rupturing at the point of surgery. No wonder he was so sick! The surgeon said Chase would be in recovery for a while, given his condition, and wouldn't be up to seeing us again that night. He suggested we go to our accommodation, get some sleep, and check in with him in the morning.
I resisted the urge to laugh hysterically, because that's when it hit me. I hadn't even had time to find somewhere to stay!
All day, everything had been a rush as decisions were made, and I tried to keep Chase's Dad and other family informed. I'd barely had time to think, let alone organise accommodation. By now it was late, and I knew most motel/hotel front desks would be closed. What to do?
Trying not to show Harmonie how worried I was - and this is a real issue for people who live in rural areas and have to travel to cities for medical appointments, God forbid emergencies - I quickly looked at one of those accommodation booking sites and was overwhelmed. I had no idea where any of the places were. And I needed the motel to be comfortable, safe and quiet with it being just the two of us. And affordable. I live on a tight budget and accommodation, petrol and meals hadn't been on the agenda that week.
And then I remembered. The day had been such a blur, but somehow, when I'd been sitting beside Chase's bed waiting for the Kingaroy doctor to make a decision that morning, I'd thought to message my very dear friend Karen McKinley, media and communications director of The Punch Group.
It had become clear we may be going to Toowoomba by then, and I knew Karen often stayed in the city on business. I'd quickly sent off an SOS asking if she knew of a good place to stay near the hospitals (I hadn't been sure which one we would be going to at that stage), that wouldn't cost the earth.
Now, I finally checked my messages - I'd been conserving my battery and saving it to keep the kids' Dad updated - there was a reply from Karen to say she'd made a provisional booking for us at Potter's Hotel Toowoomba, at a very reasonable rate. I checked the website and saw the front desk had indeed closed. I panicked about the time, but when I rang the number, a friendly voice said yes, they were expecting us; it was okay that we were late; told me how to collect my key; and to drive safely, there was no hurry. So nice. And when I looked at the map on my phone, the hotel was just a right turn, and then a left from where I was parked. I could have wept. I silently thanked God and the Universe for great friends. It looked perfect!

We found the hotel easily, but of course I had trouble working out how to get the key. One of the lovely managers came out to help me. Who should follow her out but Karen! As it happened, she'd had to go to Toowoomba for work, and was staying overnight herself! Which was lovely, but I hadn't seen her in years, and I was still in whatever I'd thrown on that morning, with unwashed hair, no make-up, and having been up since midnight, I was exhausted. I felt very daggy next to my glamorous friend, in her gorgeous outfit. Harmonie felt equally embarrassed, still wearing her school uniform.
However, Karen, the managers, and their guests insisted we join them at the very lovely on-site restaurant where they were finishing dinner. They even offered to re-open the kitchen for us, gave us a drink, and tried really hard to encourage Harmonie to order a dessert as a treat, but she declined.
We had a chat and a debrief , and honestly, although I felt frumpy, everyone made us feel at home. Even Harmonie felt welcome, and she can be shy, so that's a compliment to everyone.
I would have loved to have stayed up and chatted with Karen and her friends, but Harmonie and I were spent.
We loved our room, where the king-sized bed with loads of blissfully soft pillows and cushions was literally, a sight for sore eyes. (And I must say it was probably one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in). I can also say the hotel gives some luxury hotels in major cities and on the beaches a run for their money!

The room was well set-up with a table and chairs, a balcony, writing paper, kettle, sink and fridge.

There was an awesome selection of tea, including herbal. Just right for bedtime!

Which one to choose? I just wish I'd had time to stop and get us some chocolate. I think we both could have used it. Luckily, Harmonie had some dinner leftovers to snack on.

Fantastic, because I'd forgotten ours! And they smelled delicious too.

I couldn't wait to get into the shower! And wash my hair. Bliss!

Potter's Hotel has a lovely old-world feel about it, with lots of homely touches.

A home away from home...

I slept fitfully because of the events of the day, and I guess I was over-tired and worried. But I felt safe in the room and grateful we had somewhere warm and comforting to stay.
There were so many cushions and pillows that Harmonie and I didn't even feel like we were sharing a bed. I surrounded myself with pillows and every time I woke up, the softness of the bed enveloped me.
Even though Potter's Hotel is on a main road, the room was quiet. That was one of my concerns when it came to finding a place to stay because I know from experience that many hotel/motels in Toowoomba are on busy roads and can be noisy.
As a bonus, parking was included (right outside) as was wifi, and Netflix. All easy to operate.
I received a text sometime after midnight from Chase to say he was awake - and hungry! We exchanged a few texts and he reassured me he was okay. I felt better after that. What did we do before mobile phones?
Because Karen was staying too, she offered to keep an eye on Harmonie if I wanted to let her sleep in while I went to the hospital to catch the surgeon while he did his rounds in the morning. She told me to give Harmonie her number in case she needed anything.
Again, I thanked God for wonderful friends - and coincidences. Harmonie was still worn out and really happy to sleep-in.
I let the lovely ladies at reception know also, and they very kindly offered to delay cleaning our room  so Harmonie wasn't disturbed. They also reassured me that she would be fine and they would be around if she needed anything at all. They were also understanding about the fact that we didn't know exactly how long we were staying.

I got to the hospital early to find Chase sleeping. He'd obviously eaten some breakfast as there were remnants on his tray, but it was 'boring food' like cereal and cold toast, which he doesn't eat. He'd ticked bacon and eggs the night before, so I knew he wouldn't have been happy. (This became a common theme during his stay. He was not delivered the meals he had ordered, and the surgeon specifically said he did not have to be on a diet. All that he was told that they had 'run out' of the meals he'd ordered, like pizza and burgers, so they kept serving hims unappetising ones. This meant I had to keep bringing food up. Seriously he got chicken nuggets one night. He never even liked nuggets as a child!) 
I had to laugh when I saw his bag and clothes on the floor, even though I'd put them in the cupboard the evening before. It seems even in hospital teenagers will be teenagers!  

I took a selfie while I was waiting, because I didn't have the heart to wake Chase. If I look wrecked it's because I was! And I'd forgotten what Toowoomba water does to my hair (it makes it 'boofy'). I lived in Toowoomba for three years while I was studying for my Bachelor of Arts degree, and I always had big hair. Plus I'd gone to sleep while it was still damp, so double the boof!
After a while, the surgeon arrived. Although the operation had gone well, because Chase's appendix had been rupturing, he wanted him to stay another night so he could have a longer period on  intravenous antibiotics to ward off infection. Apparently these days, most appendectomy patients go home the first day!
Chase was pretty sore, especially with the 'wing tip' pain people often get after a laparoscopy. I've experienced that so I sympathised. When he got tired I went back to the hotel to pick up his sister, who was still fast asleep. I also said goodbye to Karen, who had to head back to Brisbane. Unfortunately, we only had time for a quick catch up, but it was better than nothing. 

Finally feeling relieved now my son was on the mend, I had a chance to appreciate Toowoomba's charms. It's such a beautiful city with old buildings, tree-lined streets, great street art, and loads of good cafes and restaurants.
When Harmonie and I went to visit Chase, he hadn't even remembered that that doctor and I had visited him that morning. Poor thing had either been still drugged up or worn out himself.
We spent some time hanging out with Chase and making sure he had enough fluids, food and painkiller, because he hadn't felt confident to ask for himself. 

We'd both missed breakfast, so we left at lunchtime. Toowoomba is one of the few places which still has a Sizzler. It was once one of the kids' favourite restaurants, so we went there for old times' sake. The famous toast was as we remembered. Delicious, but we didn't want to eat much of it, because I prefer A Big Salad (shades of Seinfeld) and Harmonie loves the savoury meals, the fruit and the dessert bar.

We taunted Chase by texting him a photo of the chocolate mousse ...

And the dessert bar!

He made us feel guilty by sending us a photo of his lunch. He doesn't eat roast meat or mashed vegetables! He had ordered a pizza that day.

So we stopped off at a Japanese takeaway and got him a bowl of his favourite chicken Katsu and a bottle of Ramune. 

While we were there, Chase was given a ball apparatus to help with his breathing, which in turn would help with his wing tip pain. We took great delight in telling him to remember to blow his balls! (Okay, that was just me. Mother Of The Year.)
We spent some more time watching TV with him, but when it reached after school time he started snapchatting and texting his friends so we figured we may as well head back to the hotel for some rest. The nurse who was on duty suggested he should get some too!

A message from the nurses...

Toowoomba isn't known as The Garden City for nothing. Even the hospital gardens were lovely.

Back at Potter's I decided to explore ...

Oh, time for a TV and tea break ...

Wherever I lay my hat ...

Loved the newspapers ...

The reception area ..

Guard dogs

Not so tired and stressed once I knew Chase was going to be okay ...

Just outside the restaurant at Potter's. I was really keen to eat in, because the restaurant is supposed to be fab and the menu had me salivating. However, Harmonie was either being very sensible and price conscious, or just felt like good Japanese/Korean food again, which we don't get where we live. This time we opted for a different takeaway, after a quick check on Chase. We certainly got a lot of exercise, parking the car, walking to his room, and walking back to the car!

A cute drink for Harmonie while we waited.

Ramen and udon to share, which was really delicious. And extremely cheap! We took it back to our room to enjoy it in comfort. We had some herbal tea in bed and I watched a movie on Netflix while Harmonie enjoyed some anime on her iPad, thanks to the free wifi.
If we'd had time and energy, Potter's Hotel is just a few steps away from Grand Central Shopping Centre, the major shopping area in Toowoomba. It was a Thursday night, and I could have done with a visit to K-Mart and some other retail therapy! But we were both too exhausted. Mentally and physically.
That night we slept really well, and I woke to another text from Chase. He was hungry again, and the doctor would be coming soon. I would have stopped to grab him breakfast, but I felt sure he couldn't be unlucky again, and I didn't want to miss the doctor. This time, there was better news -  Chase could go home.

So Harmonie and I quickly packed up while Chase was topped up with painkiller and anti-nausea meds, and prepared for discharge.
We bid the lovely staff at Potter's farewell - they felt like old friends by then!
Then we took one last visit to this place (above). We had walked up and down these stairs so many times the past few days (but we took the lift down with the patient!)
Chase was Hangry again - breakfast hadn't been good it seemed. (No matter that Harmonie and I had missed ours again in the rush!)
All he wanted was Hungry Jacks - another food we don't get at Kingaroy. I figured it would be medicinal, so I quickly googled the nearest one and made a detour. At least it hit the spot!
The trip home was almost as bad as the way there - almost. But this time, Chase wasn't in quite as much pain, he had a full tummy, we didn't have to rush, and I knew where I was going. He still felt nauseous and felt every bump though!
Unfortunately Chase ended up in hospital again with an internal infection a week or so later, so he probably came home a bit too early. But he's fine again now. Though still hungry!
I'd love to go back to Toowoomba again, AND stay at Potter's Hotel. But this time I'd actually take time to enjoy it, have a proper reunion with Karen, shop, see the sights, taste some delicious food with both my children, and stay as far away from a hospital as possible.
Oh - and I'd wash my hair first!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Run Away For a Wine - And Drop In For Some Yoga!

Who doesn't love to relax with yoga?

Have you ever thought of trying a little wine with that Salute To The Sun? 

Well now you can. (Okay, well maybe AFTER the yoga!) 

Most of us have probably seen the Yoga for Wine Lovers cartoon on YouTube. If you haven't, you can check it out here:

Cute right?

And while I'm not really suggesting anyone strike a pose while balancing a bottle - or a tipple of any kind - organisers of this weekend's Runaway Barossa Marathon have found a healthy way to mix the relaxation benefits of yoga with a drop of the good stuff.

They have joined forces with Barossa Yogini, Natalia Bondarenko (above and below) who is inviting all athletes, supporters, friends, family and visitors to join her at the Finish Line Festival at Peter Lehmann Winery in Tanunda for a yoga class with a difference: Wine Yoga.

“Wine Yoga is something that we have pretty much invented for Runaway Barossa Marathon. It’s a little bit of fun and a nice way to help you appreciate your wine a little more, with a couple of stretchy poses and a little bit of partner yoga as well,” Natalia says.

“There are a couple of Tai Chi movements that I do at the moment where you have to imagine that you are holding something precious on the palm of your hand and I think we might try and translate that to reality and see how we go. It is a bit of fun and not to be taken it too seriously. Everyone is welcome to join in.”

If you'd prefer to skip the wine, Natalia is also conducting more traditional yoga classes at Runaway Barossa Marathon to assist athletes with their post race recovery and to help anyone who needs to reduce stress.

“We will be holding four sessions from 10am and going through to 4pm. They will be spaced out during the day, so hopefully people can catch one of the classes or even a bit of a class is they want to wander in. You can come and have your fix and then head off and do something else if you need to.”

“Two sessions are stretch classes. Having been a runner in the past I know that the hip flexors and the shoulders get really tight so we will probably be concentrating on those areas. Then there are the two unwind classes for more relaxing and some guided visualization so that they can relax after the event.

“The wine is just going to be a little bit of added fun and a reward. If you have run anywhere from 10-42km I think you deserve a glass of wine at the end of the event. After you have properly hydrated of course.

The Barossa Yogini has been living in the region for seven years and in that time she has fallen in love with the area.

“I probably haven’t been here long enough to be a real local but I absolutely love it. Every time I drive to work and home I go: ‘Wow, I can’t believe I live here’."

While Natalia didn’t have time to get her running up to scratch to compete in this year’s Runaway Barossa, she is penciling in 2018.

“We are all mentally busy but these days our bodies aren’t doing anything, we need more moving and less thinking. I have just started back to running and I must say I do find a good run is like a good meditation. You can have a million things solved at the end of it. Even an ordinary run is so much better than not moving at all,” she advised.

But the Runaway Barossa Marathon isn't just about yoga. It's the launch of Australia's newest weekend escape, which combine holidays where you don't just chase your dreams - you run them down.

There a new marathon and half marathon courses, as well as 10 km and kids' runs - with the scenic Barossa Valley being the launch pad for the first of the series to be held around Australia.

Ironman Oceania managing director Dave Beeche says that following on from the success of the Queenstown and Hawkes Bay Marathons in New Zealand, he is excited to launch the Runaway Marathon series in Australia.

“Australia is a natural location for the Runaway Marathon Series as it brings together our love of the outdoors, our passion for being active, our enormous wealth of delicious foods and produce, and combines them with some of the most stunning locations on earth.

“The first event is Runaway Barossa Marathon which is a new look at the traditional Barossa weekend experience, that not only immerses you in the unique wine and food experience the region is famous for, but also allows you to indulge in your passion for running on innovative and creative courses while being consumed by the Barossa’s beautiful countryside and patchwork quilt of paddocks and vines.

“Runaway Barossa Marathon will be a race experience that’s all about sharing life’s simple pleasures with family and friends. It is all about ‘drinking in’ the experience of running happy and free, the pleasure of leaving the everyday behind, and the opportunity of being immersed in the natural beauty and warm hospitality of one of Australia’s oldest wine regions,” he says.

South Australian Minister for Tourism Leon Bignell says Runaway Barossa Marathon participants will travel through the heart of one of Australia's most scenic regions, experiencing stunning vistas and famous vineyards.”

“When the running is done, they will have the chance to indulge in the Barossa’s world-class food and wine, found everywhere from family-run bakeries to international wineries and the finest dining rooms."

I don't know about you, but that sounds like a weekend worth running away for! 

Runaway Barossa is on October 21. 2017. For more information visit or visit the Runaway Series site at

(Photos courtesy of Natalia Bondarenko and Runaway Barossa Marathon).

Sunday, September 3, 2017

It's the most Oz Comic-Con Time of the Year! (Giveaway)

It's that time of the year again.

No not spring. (Although it's true that spring has sprung. I even had to stop and drive around a pair of pigeons making out on the middle of the road on the way home from the school run the other morning. #countrylife)

Not flu season. Though my kids have been struck down by #teenflu and Mum's nursing home was in lockdown for ages because of influenza and gastro, which has been raging through our region and most of Australia by all reports.

And not ALMOST school holidays. Though the countdown has begun. And assessments involving severed heads, and anatomically-correct-as-possible hearts are taking up as much of the kitchen table as possible. (Don't ask. Although I am seriously proud of the project in progress.) Even Miss 14 dragged herself from her sickbed to attend school so she could dissect a toad recently. She was not impressed, however, when another high school stole OUR school's order for lungs and hearts out from under them. She had been looking forward to blowing up the lungs (via a tube) as I had done when I was a teen. (I turned veggie after that. Well for as long as you can in the country.) "We were only left with bladders to cut up and they smelled like wee," Miss 14 complained. Who knew there was a black market in animal organs to dissect for school science projects?

Anyway, I digress. It's the time of year, that we start to think about nothing else but 'unleashing our inner geek' * and getting ready to immerse ourselves in all the anime, cosplay, sci-fi, and cartoon fun in the world.

And before you think that Oz Comic-Con is only for people who are into these things, it's actually not. I've lost count of the number of parents, partners and friends, who have been dragged along by their kids (or indeed, vice versa), only to fall in love with the whole concept and not want to leave. (And yes, it is for those who love everything Comic-Con. I'm just always amazed that someone like me could become so addicted that I'm even considering cosplaying this year. In the past, the closest I came was wearing my tee-turtle T-Shirt!)

Here, you can meet your favourite performers from TV and movies from days gone by from those which are in vogue now - to even those which are crowd-funding and in production, so you can get in on games and collectables from the very beginning. Plus, there are art, clothes, jewellery, forums, shows - the lot.

 Even Mums get to fangirl ..

Oooh, you can even buy the necklace!

One must keep up one's sugar intake ...

So tempted. I always wanted a unicorn ...

These shoes!

There are loads of cool competitions. Forget the glamour, vaseline-lens shoots of the past. This is the type of photo shoot I would love to take part in!

One of our favourite spots is Anime Station. It's great to sit and lounge in - and a good place to meet up. But they also play anime classics throughout the event. Of course, my kids have seen them all, but it doesn't mean they don't mind watching special versions with friends while they cool their heels - and minds. 

 And just outside there is a library of books to flick through while you are chilling or waiting for friends.

Says it all

Another place to sit down for a while and add your own masterpiece to a canvas ...

Unlike many big events, there's a really great vibe. You don't get a hard sell to spend money, most participants are polite and patient, and there are a lot of free activities once you get inside the event. Though feel free to spend up extra for those up close and personal meet and greets with your favourite actors, writers and cartoonists. Even more importantly, exhibitors, artists, and cosplayers are usually more than happy to chat and pose for photos.

Here (above) the kids line up to have illustrations signed by one of their favourite artists and illustrators, Austin Mengler. The Perth-based concept artist was so generous with his time, answering ALL the questions about how he got started, what inspired him, did his work give him nightmares,  and more. Because we're budget challenged and we could only afford one piece of art each, Austin even helped the kids pick the illustration which would suit them best. And most of the exhibitors are the same. There was another guy who made really cool jewellery and watches out of recycled materials, which I couldn't afford that weekend. But he talked to Harmonie and I about it for ages, and directed me to his website so I could buy later if I wanted to. Then there were the people selling the clothes, the shoes, the toys, the T-shirts ... I could go on. 

All the Better to Eat You With (Austin Mengler)

Chase came home with this one (above), which takes pride of place on his wall. And the memory of such a talented artist taking time to chat - whether or not we bought some of his art or not, and even though we ended up buying just one - is an example of the spirit of Oz Comic-Con. Austin Mengler didn't have to do that, but he did.

Cosplayers, posing for photos. There is etiquette involved, where you should ask before you take a photo. But we've never been refused. A few of the shops have the same rule, but I've found if I ask first and explain why I'm taking the photo, it's all good. 

The rules are laid out clearly at all the entrances and throughout the event. Harmonie and I always joke that 'no annoying loud things' means that her brother must not be allowed! 

And as I said most cosplayers are usually really happy to oblige and pose for photos...

Even when touching up their make-up in the rest-rooms!

I wanted to get a photo taken with this guy, but no teenager would be my photographer. Apparently that would be 'too embarrassing!'

So I got my own back by photographing Harmonie buying a 'healthy snack' ...

And Chase, who met up with some Brisbane mates!

There are always loads of giveaways. From drink and snack samples, to stickers, newspapers, posters and (this is the best) badges of anime, games, and manga. This one was with uber, but we never got a chance to use it. Sob. One teen said it was 'too embarrassing' to collect the free badges of a game in production, but I notice he quickly grabbed mine as soon as we got home!  

More free entertainment. A chance to watch artists at work!

A close-up of their talent ...I don't know about the kids, but I could have watched for ages.

Throughout the day there are free shows on, throughout the event  It's important to plan ahead so you get to fit in as much as possible.

You can just be wandering around, and come across something awesome like this: A Cosplay dance-off! 

In case the video doesn't work (we know what the internet can be like in some places - cough!) here is an example of what it looked like! 

Now, with all the excitement, the exhibits, shows, artists, and STUFF to buy (and I haven't even touched on the artists, actors, and writers who are appearing this year ... details to follow), Oz Comic-Con can get overwhelming. Last year, there was a Reach Out Room, where people could go to chill out on bean bags, read, mess about on provided iPads, talk to trained counsellors or do whatever. This year, I'm told in Brisbane and Sydney there's a Family Room, which will do much the same. But Anime Station, as I mentioned, has always been great for us. There are Bean Bags/slouch bags there, books, colouring, and movies. There are also places throughout Oz Comic-Con for younger and older kids (and adults) to chill, colour, play the latest games, or just take a break. In Brisbane, the only Oz Comic-Con I've been to, people regularly pop in and out, head to South Bank Parklands, which is basically where the convention is held, hang out on the stairs or in the foyer, or come and go.  

Even the parking station is an adventure at Oz Comic-Con ...

So cool!

I've been a convert of Oz Comic-Con since day one. It's an event which I can attend with my kids - and their friends (and parents) - and we always ALL find so much to love we don't want to leave.

The best thing is that Oz Comic-Con has given me a family pass for four people (two adults, two kids) to attend one of their events at Brisbane or Sydney.

The tickets are valid for the entire weekend. For dates and programs, and details of special guests, go to the official website

To enter, just leave a comment here, saying why you'd like to experience Oz Comic-Con and who you would take along. Don't forget to mention if it's Sydney or Brisbane you're entering for. Brisbane's event runs on September 23-24, while Sydney's is from September 30-October 1.

The giveaway ends at 1 pm AEST on September 15, 2017. NOTE: Because Maid In Australia was down (the blog not myself) for a few periods during the competition, we have extended the competition deadline to give people more time to enter.

And also? This just in. I quote:

'MARVEL is bringing its hottest new experiences to Oz Comic-Con Brisbane (23-24th Sept) and Sydney (30th Sept-1st Oct), and you can be one of the first to see them!  There will even be a number of interactive experiences showcasing the latest MARVEL film on the show floor.

To celebrate the release of the upcoming MARVEL Studios film Thor Ragnarok, MARVEL is giving you the chance to find out. Stop by the MARVEL stand in Brisbane and Sydney and put yourself in the ring as you face off with Thor and The Hulk… and get the photo to prove it.

Thor Ragnarok releases in cinemas October 26th 2017

And here's one for the Star Wars fans:

Fly an X-Wing
To celebrate the upcoming release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi,  for the first time ever in Australia, challenge your inner Poe Dameron and take to the cockpit of a Resistance X-Wing Fighter with your trusty pal BB-8. Stop by the Star Wars stand to save the galaxy, only at Oz Comic-Con Brisbane and Sydney.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrives in cinemas December 14th 2017.

So enter now. And good luck!

* I actually don't think the people who attend Oz Comic-Con are geeks. Most of them are pretty cool, really arty and very talented. 

DISCLOSURE: MIA will receive a pass to attend Oz Comic-Con with her family in return for running this giveaway. No payment will be received and all opinions are honest and my own.

The competition has closed and the winner is Anna Gilmore! Congratulations Anna. Please contact me to arrange entry to Oz Comic-Con in Brisbane this weekend!