Friday, October 21, 2016

Considering Choices (to veg or not to veg)

So I don't know if it's because with the baby due the thought of any wee creature in pain has me tearing up, or if it's because with my gestational diabetes diet I'm being forced to consider (very carefully) every mouthful I take... but...

Beloved and I were watching netflix recently, on one of those rare occasions when the kids were all asleep and we were both still awake, and we ended up watching one of the many food shows they have.

And this one was about the perils of eating too many animal products on our health.

Now, I've long been sold on how inhumane our treatment of the animals we eat is, but since I started having dreams about steak when seven months pregnant with my firstborn  and gave up twelve years of vegetarianism (with the odd stint of veganism thrown in) I've been a ravaging omnivore.

 I've put vegetarianism in the too-hard basket and told myself I'm eating meat and drinking milk - 'for the children.'

And it's true - four kids in eight years, and extended breastfeeding and I'm feeling somewhat... depleted. But... the show reminded me that actually, a balanced vegan diet can be healthier and less depleting than a meat and dairy rich one.

In a moment of weary weakness, my Beloved, succumbing to the shows comprehensive studies and case studies showing the benefits on heart disease, cholesterol and diabetes, said he'd try a plant based diet with me. Win. ((Beloved's addit: The ecological studies showed association and not causation, thus should be interpreted with caution.  I mean really -- if you did a double-blinded randomised controlled trial I'd be more convinced.... but.... meat... is.... good))

Now, I'm not saying this is going to be a super healthy food choice - my previous vegan attempts taught me a lot of the not so super-healthy options (fried bread with baked beans anyone? walnut and cinnamon scrolls, deep fried vegetarian spring rolls, honeyed macadamias, pineapple fritters...) but I do think it will be a lot healthier. (To be honest, healthier than Beloved's present diet of crisps, instant coffee and energy drinks wouldn't be precisely hard - physician heal thyself...twelve hour shifts without a meal break mean bad choices when work finishes...)

But my diet pre-meat was a lot healthier, with a much bigger veggie and pulse intake. Lentil soups were a staple and dhal, felafel and hommus were all regulars. Did I mention I weighed 20 kilos less back then? (Although that could just be the four kids - as the change was simultaneous it's probably fair to take some from column a. and some from column b. for causes.)

I'm still going to call myself a vegetarian, not a vegan because I'm not going to go ultra strict - the occasional free range egg? Not a problem. Honey? in moderation, and a lot of it if I get a cold. If I'm sharing a veggie pizza I'm not going to worry about a bit of cheese and if there's a particularly nice cheese (or chocolate) on offer I'll probably try a bit. If Beloved catches a fish, you bet I'm going to eat it. It's even possible Christmas and Easter will see me with a bit of lamb or (free range) roast.

But... I am going to try for a mostly plant based diet. This is particularly hard because I am the Dairy Queen. I've never met a meal I didn't think improved by a dash of cream or sour cream and custard is one of my big loves. (After the kids of course, but possibly not by as much as it should be.) And don't get me started on cheeses. Haloumi, goats cheese, brie... Sigh.

However. With my odds of long term diabetes markedly increased, wanting to set a healthier model for the kids (whose diet is frankly appalling) looking back to how much healthier I was pre-meat (and ignoring the fact I used to walk 5k a day then as opposed to just toddler wrangling) I think I'm ready to make the change.

At least, the dissonance of being totally appalled and heartbroken by how we treat our animals and the cost to the planet and not doing anything about it, is getting too much.

Here's looking forward to lots of bowls of crisp, refreshing salad, bursting with colour, avocado and salad sandwiches on fresh-from-the-oven-bread, and really savouring the delight of a fragrant mango fresh from the tree.

Any tips from those who've managed vegan long term? 

Monday, October 17, 2016


There was a storm today, little one. Just briefly - a hard flurry of rain, a cast of light, strong wind, just on dusk. For a moment there though it was cool enough to wear slippers and a robe, so it was very exciting.

In a few hours you'll be thirty-nine weeks and very ready to come out. All day I have been rearranging, cleaning, nesting, preparing. Of course, what I do in one room is promptly balanced by what your sister does in another room. While I enjoyed stacking your little onesies in the drawers beside my bed, storing blankets in a nearby chest, preparing the room for your Nana and Grandpa, your sister found a roll of toilet paper under the bathroom sink and trailed it all through the house. And I don't want to get started on what she did with the dog shampoo...

Anticipation is strong. Soon little one, soon you will be here. Soon we will meet you.

Your eldest sister was telling your younger sister about how once you come she will lose all the attention. This weighs heavily on your oldest sister. It is not so long ago that she was my whole world while her big brother was at school. It is clear she remembers it vividly - the golden age. You, my darling, must be ready to share. As a fourth child, I am afraid you may need to grab all the attention you can get with both hands - your sisters definitely both enjoy the limelight and are good at acquiring it. However, I can promise you that after initial hiccups they will love you, and you will be a team - my bold and creative pirate-princess-super-spies.

As your sisters had their bath tonight I sat beside them with my swollen feet in the hot lavender-tea-tree infused water and read them Billy and Belle and Touched by the Moon. Billy and Belle is about a family who have a new baby and I love how real and down to earth it is - that the little toddler has to go to school with her big brother when her mum heads into hospital, walked to and from by the neighbour, and in the eyes of the kids the bring-your-pet-day is almost as big a deal as the new sibling.

I think pre-labor has arrived - strong, vice-like Braxton-Hicks are gripping me every 10-15 minutes, bringing stabbing pains, and in between you're punching away with your own stabbing pains.

I don't know if things will continue like this for hours, days or even weeks, or die down entirely, but it does seem like soon, soon you will say your welcome to the world, and I won't feel you rolling around within, your little kicks and head-butts. I won't be able to watch my tummy form odd mountains, first on one side and then undulating to the other. Instead I'll get to cradle you in my arms and look upon your face, but this time, this magic time will be over for ever. You really, truly will be our last little one.

In the dark room, listening to your daddy snoring, your sister sleeping beside me, your brother (who snuck in after lights out) beside her, the fan whirring on my other side, my mind whirrs on all the things yet to do, all the things to remember.

Your daddy is sick with man-flu, and accidentally stayed up most of last night (I found him in his study at 4am practicing one handed knots for surgery and reminded him of your imminent arrival and that staying up all night playing computer games, writing assignments or practicing for surgery is Not On until you're safely on the outside. He needs to be ready and fresh as nobody knows what birth will bring or how long it will go for. He stayed up all night playing WOW the night before your brother was born and then it was nearly forty hours until he could sleep. I could do without a repeat - the terror when he was kicked out of the hospital and had to drive after nearly sixty hours without sleep...

When he woke up this morning with the man-flu I gave him the death stare and reminded him he is Not Allowed To Be Sick. For one, he doesn't have any sick leave left, for another, he needs to be alert for your journey into the world. No excuses.

So he's coughed and wheezed and gone to bed early and hopefully he will wake up refreshed tomorrow. Maybe. Even his eyes are swollen.

We sat together chopping herbs and spices for our manflu-is-not-allowed soup - lemongrass, basil, ginger, garlic, kaffir lime, mostly fresh picked from our garden, with the door open to let the rain-laden air rush inside, and I tried not to pay attention to the increasingly common Braxton-Hicks.

We are sort of, almost, ready for you. But there are still so many things undone, and really, if you could wait for Saturday when your Nana and Grandpa arrive it would be much, much handier...

Sweetheart, you've suddenly decided it's time to tango, an elbow to the left, a sudden bulging (maybe your back?) to the right. Something else down below. I wish I could work out which part of you is which, but the truth is I'm totally clueless. Head? Feet? Back? Knee? A couple of jabs here, a pulsing there. Something is moving out this way.

I rub gently where I can feel you close to the surface, wondering how you interpret it. Wondering if you have any conception of what the circular touch is. I know you like music - you'll start moving to certain songs - but beyond that? It's so hard to tell how you see the world - the shades of half-light, the pulsings of blood, the heart-beat, swishings of stomach, your world entire. Our squabbles and laughter must come to you as distant echoes. It will be such a shock for you when you come out and suddenly noise and light are so immediate and intense.

As the rain descended, the light went and my Braxton's continued, I grabbed the camera and ordered Beloved to grab some photos as this could be one of the last chances before you're on the outside to capture what you look like on the inside.

Too wet to go outside, even on the verandah the rain bounced up - and we checked the photos to discover that I had my robe on inside out anyway. Oops. Second try was our bedroom, and the last light slanting through the window over the bassinet you'll sleep in for your first few months.

Within the week you'll be here, little one. Our last, our third girl, our marine adventurous one. Soon. Very soon.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


So we're halfway through October, which means we're halfway to November which means a.
in two weeks (Inter)National Novel Writing Month (NANoWriMo) begins, and b. sometime within the next fourteen days our baby arrives.

No matter how I look at it, these two facts conflict.

All year I've looked at NaNoWriMo posts and felt a little stab of envy? covetousness? greed? I love the rush and challenge of NaNo. It's the closest I get, or want to get, to a team sport. Gazillions of writers from all around the world supporting each other to get 50,000 words down in a month. Mmm.

The thought of all those stories being created is incredibly amazing, and I love being part of it. Guys (or girls, I'm not sexist) mucking around with balls when they're not even exercising a dog?Incomprehensible. A world wide outpouring of creativity and novels? So inspiring.

But newborn.

My previous three babies have been great sleepers and great little milk guzzlers. But that still means they woke every two hours for feeds, burps and nappy changes for the first eight weeks. This left me somewhat sleep deprived. And while it's easy to read while nursing, it's not so easy to type.

And it was fine with the firstborn, as I did just sleep when he slept, or read or lounged. But became increasingly less fine with each additional kid when this was not an option. I have also noticed that with each child I get less help. Which makes sense. I know the ropes. It's just that each child does actually increase the work load. With baby no. 1. Beloved would bring me food to deal with the Great Hunger every morning and a cup of coffee, would bath and do nappy changes. And then the house help would arrive to make everything sparkled while I popped baby in a carrier and wandered down to the beach or the market. Baby Three? The coffee would still be left, but there was no time for nappy changes or anything else baby related with a long commute and longer, stressful hours.

Baby four? Beloved's recently decided after ten years of making me coffee in the morning it's his turn for morning coffees- and will be for the next ten years. To be fair. (I am blaming the nurses at his hospital. Some of whom seem stuck in the 1940s and he recounts gleefully comments such as 'if your wife loved you she would iron your clothes'*, 'your wife should spend every hour you're at work cleaning the house.' We hates them.) Mornings do not begin with coffee brought to the bed, but instead with 'where are my keys?' 'I can't find my cards', 'have you seen my boxers?'  So yes.  Workload doubles with each child. Help decreases. Good thing they're cute.

But... NaNo. Story. Writing. World Wide Buzz. Cafe meet ups for intensive writing...

Beloved is firmly of the opinion I should do it. Sleep Deprived, Milk-Fuzzed or not. I am a nicer person (although the house is a lot messier) when I am immersed in story.

So... I'm considering. Possibly not the whole 50,000 words. (1666 words a day) but maybe 25,000 words in the month? That's only 800 odd words a day. That seems do-able.

Sooo... the main decision seems to be... which novel.

Having decided to go with crazy, (always go with crazy) I've now got to narrow the direction of crazy.

There are three possibilities - a retelling of the frog prince set in Scotland in 1801-4 with a half Indian heiress. I've already written 50,000 words in a previous NaNo so 25,000 would nearly finish her. The second book in my Mithiana series - Overly Caffeinated Were-Wolves. Again, the bulk of the story was done in a previous NaNo so 25,000 words would get her fairly complete... or Fosterling. A cross-worlds retelling of the Irish myth of the god Lugh. I've written about 100,000 words in Fosterling, so 25,000 would go over-words. But I'm missing a lot of key parts, and other bits could do with curtailing and... and... well Fosterling has ended up a very birth and baby focused book. (Beginning as it does with the birth of triplets and ending with the birth of twins... (The story of Lugh's son Cuchulainn is, after all, the one in which Macha curses the men of Ulster to suffer the 'pangs' of birth when they're about to attack. Death and birth are very much centre stage.)

So... 25,000 words, with a newborn, who happens to be a fourth child. Piece of cake. (And cup - or dozen or three - of coffee.) Why simplify when you can intensify?

Wish me luck. (And coffee. Lots of coffee.)

*my retort being if you're not old enough to dress yourself you're not old enough to get married. I have four, soon to be five other people to dress. An extra one is not on the agenda. (Except, of course, it is. Sigh.) 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My Sunshine


I'm savouring these last days together while it's just the two of us, before the (gorgeous) craziness of life with a newborn and (gulp) three other kids hits.

You are, as you have been since you were born, my delight and my joy.

You make me laugh and smile a dozen times a day - more- and it is impossible to resist giving you big hugs and a plentitude of kisses.

You are also incredibly cheeky, and stubborn, and you have very clear ideas about just about everything. Shoes should be on. As should hats. Doors should be shut. Playgrounds are the best thing ever and should never be passed without stopping. Baths are infinitely superior to showers. But a shower beats no water at all.

You still spend a lot of your day in water - you start the day with a shower with your daddy (after we go through the shower vs bath conversation) then a shower with me (again, after the shower vs bath convo) sometime during the day you generally cover yourself in something so you have a bath, and then you have a bath in the evening with your big sister. Despite all this, you are generally covered in pen as you have an uncanny knack for finding them and covering yourself in 'art.' Since you started dragging chairs around nothing is safe.

You still aren't talking a lot - your sentences tend to lack the joining words. "No, Mama! Stay! Bath. Swim. Shoo!" Is you telling me you don't want to get out of the bath, you want to stay in the bath and swim. Begone, evil removalist from glorious water.

You loll and float and giggle in the bath with delight and no trace of fear. You also love making big splashes by standing up and then throwing yourself down again. You would stay in the bath most of the day if I let you.

Your sister taught you your first 'proper sentence' this week. "I did it."

And it's true, if we're talking about smearing the window with sunscreen, covering the wall/ones person with nutella, tipping shampoo over your sister's bed, you did do it. However, I suspect your sister of nefarious designs to get you to admit to wrongdoings that are not your own... Much as you adore your big sister now, I have worries about your future relationship...

And it is a delight to see how much you love your big sister and how much she loves you. Your face lights up with sheer joy when I tell you that it's time to go get May-May - which is your name for her - and you run to the front door. You greet each other with a big hug and throughout the day you swap hugs and kisses. You look mournfully out the window, calling for her plaintively, when she leaves to play with the other kids in the street.

Your joy, in general is enchanting. You are enthusiastic about so much. Yesterday I gave you some celery and the way you said "Oh! Wow!" as if it were a magic wand made me smile so much.
Seriously, celery? I like it, but I've never thought of it as 'o, wow!' material.

But you show the same delight about putting on your shoes, or a hat, or finding a leaf or a rock or the perfect stick.

You aren't clingy with your daddy or I, but if you see that we're going out you always come over with your arms outstretched demanding a hug, and then you wave and say 'bye', and go back to what you were doing. When you see us again you always come running, yelling 'mummy, mummy' or 'daddy, daddy' with extravagant joy, again with outstretched arms, knowing you'll be swept up for another big hug.

You and our dog spend a large part of the day together, and he is incredibly patient. You fall off the couch on to him and he looks vaguely puzzled. You curl up together. You run around the garden together. I entice you home to see 'Woo-Woo' and you worry about him if we're away from home too long. If we're in the supermarket you remind me to get 'Woo-woo' his food. You're not so happy when he runs off with all your teddies and dolls and takes them to his domain in the back garden, but you've learnt to cleverly entice him out and then slide the back door shut if you want to play with your toys in the living room without him pilfering them.

You love the idea of 'helping' and I can't try to sweep without you firmly taking the broom from me saying  'Help'. Nor can I cook, without you dragging a chair over to 'help.' It takes four times as long, but... it's still nice to have you close.

You're still nursing (and not at all keen on the idea of sharing the milk with your soon-to-be-born-sister) but you keep forgetting how sharp your teeth are and I keep ending up with teeth marks. I am hoping your little sister will feed less painfully. You are not quite as bad about trying to turn summersaults while feeding as your brother and sister were...

You adore the weed veggie patch and could sit in it for hours, transferring dirt from one container to the other. You also like to sneak containers of dirt into the house - because dirt, what could be more fun?

You seem to have been designed in every way to be adorable. (Possibly to distract from your inventive destructiveness...) From the enthusiasm in your voice, the intonation as you say 'O yeah',  to the way you put your arms around our neck, press your cheek to ours, want to swap kiss after kiss.

I might be a little distracted in the coming weeks, but you will always be my joy and my delight. May you always be so joyful, so enthusiastic, so loving, so bold and brave and determined. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Your due date is getting closer and closer, little one, and as of today you're officially ready to welcome the world. (Although we could do with another few weeks to prepare and you would be better off laying down a bit more fat.)

Thirty-Seven weeks. I remember way back when you were only twelve weeks grown and this seemed like a forever away. And now it's arrived and you're finally nearly here.

We had your 36 week scan last week and you shocked us all by being a small baby! You're only in the 42nd percentile, and even given an error margin of 20% you're still hardly past the 60th percentile. As your brother and sister were four kilo whoppers (9.3 pounds the three of them) this was unexpected to say the least, particularly with my gestational diabetes. I've gathered up all the 0000 clothes and have some hopes that this time I'll have a baby who stays in them for more than two minutes!

Having a small baby was never in my calculations - I assumed you'd be big and I'd consider having you induced to ensure you weren't massive and dislocate your shoulder on the way out. But a small baby? I have no idea about when you'll chose to come or what your birth will be like. I'd previously thought a water-birth impossible... but now I've got hankerings...

Your sisters and brother are getting increasingly excited about your arrival (or about the toys we've promised you'll bring with you...) Giggle-Bear pats my tummy and says 'baby' and sometimes your name. Or sometimes she'll pat her tummy and say 'baby.' She's still not very keen on the idea of sharing the milk but she's coming around to it.

We had a beautiful stormy grey day yesterday - I took Wolfie for a walk just as night fell and the rain pattered down and the wind moved all the trees - a spindly eucalypt creaked over just feet from us and I actually felt slightly chilled - it was wonderful! Of course, I was just wearing a summer dress, which quickly became sodden, so it wasn't really all that cold - but it was so lovely to feel the wind and rain and the slight bite, and all the scents of the mock orange and wet grass intensifying as I waddled along. Your daddy assures me this Summer will be one of rain and toads, snakes and lizards, so I am hoping for many storms. Tropical storms almost, almost make up for the seven months of swelter that follow your birth.

We are almost, nearly ready for you. Your bassinet is up and made, the hospital bags are pretty much packed, your grandparents have booked their tickets up from the south. Of course your daddy still hasn't applied for paternity leave, and he's discovered he's got two major assignments due around when you're born, but that's par for the course.

You are kicking and punching, head-butting and rolling like crazy. While I'm not so fond of the five minutes it takes me to lever out of bed (and that's after we swapped our futon for a proper bed) I do love feeling the sweeps your tiny hands made and the kickings of your feet. It seems so strange that you're a full grown baby in there, with your own little fingernails and tiny toes. You're hearing, tasting, seeing shifts of light and dark, taking in the world as you swim gently in your little fluid-globe.

Tonight we have prenatal yoga. I love the time just to be aware of your movements, to consider your being - and to talk with other mums who creak and waddle and impatiently wait!

Soon, bebe, soon. We're so overjoyed that soon you'll be with us in the world and soon we'll get to meet you.