Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Two by Sea

There's something about the sea that makes you feel more alive, more yourself. Friends have commented that they always feel beautiful in the ocean, and I think it's true - people do seem more beautiful in or near the ocean - or maybe it's just more of their essential self shines through.
By sea we feel exhilarated, exultant and twice as alive. 
I've always been fascinated by the sea - and how it seems to bring the mystical, the mythical, the 'other' so much closer. By the sea I can believe in so many things. At university one of the subjects I studied was 'Underworld and Afterlife in Mythology' (yes, I loved my undergrad!) and my favourite essay to research was about the sea as symbol of the underworld/afterlife, looking at stories such as the Odyssey, the Illiad, and Irish wonder voyages such as Brans. 
Nearly all of the novels I've written (almost all) contain a cross-world theme - wherein people from this world enter a new fantastical world - a la C.S Lewis's Narnia series - many using the sea or shore as portal. The only non-fantasy book I've ever written was a coming-of-age book about a teenager who took a gap year in a shack by the sea. (Talk about wishful thinking!) The sea more than adequately took the place of the other-world fantastical.  
Missing the sea now, I've been going through photos again of our last trip down at Easter - smiling as I see my own little one's joy in the water. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014


- Anzac day biscuits.
- the weather finally seems like autumn and I am greeting each autumn tree with delight. A lot of the deciduous trees are still green - but it's so lovely to see the ones that have already decked themselves out in reds and golds!
- 'the bump' - three days until Littlest is due and, as you can see, she's not so little!
- a camellia in the garden. I got sand in the lens of our camera at the beach and it stopped focusing, so I've borrowed my mum's camera - which has a macro lens, all the better for taking photos of mosquitos for her Phd - and I've been experimenting with what I can and cannot do.
- more macro experimentation. A dandelion. I've always loved dandelions and I'm enjoying seeing what the different lens can capture!
- Poppet, playing with stones.
- Grasses by the side of a lake.

Joining with the lovely Em of The Beetle Shack for moments from our week. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014


- Poppet and Sprocket at a skate ramp, climbing the walls (literally).
- Sprocket, running to gain build up to climb the walls.
- Poppet, climbing the walls.

Joining with Jodi of Practising Simplicity for a portrait of my little ones once a week, every week, in 2014.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Littlest (week 39)

Sweetheart, it's getting so close to your arrival!
One way or another it's fairly certain you'll be out in the world in the next two weeks. This is a concept I should be au fait with, but I still find myself blinking in wonder.
You're nearly here, Littlest!
I'd like to say that as a result of my excited anticipation I've been a beam of sunshine and joy, but I'm afraid that instead I've waddled around oof-ing, issuing ultimatums, desperately tidying, crying my way through books and movies and generally being hormonal.
A couple of nights ago I was so hopeful that you were on the way - the braxton hicks were reasonably strong and coming at a regular ten minutes apart - but I fell asleep and when I woke up they'd evaporated… And it was such a lovely cool, rainy night, perfect for your arrival! The first truly autumnal night of the year.
I am so glad that autumn has finally arrived, just in time for you. Today was one of those perfect blue-sky autumn days, with the world misted over in the morning, then magically clearing into crisp and bright, all blue skies and lovely autumn-leaf hues.
The nights and mornings are finally chilly and we're all wearing socks and ugg boots and rugging up. Very soon we'll have to get the chimney sweep out and start having big fires again.
I can't help but be a little wistful that if you hadn't turned from breech you would have arrived by now… they most likely would have whisked you out today and you'd be here. I know it's much better you come in your own time and all… but the waiting is very hard!
I am savouring these last days of feeling you move inside me. It is very hard to think that I won't feel the little kick below my ribs again, that I won't be able to cup the little backside and feel the strange wriggles and rolls. Very soon you won't be apart of me - and while I am so so looking forward to seeing you - I am going to miss having you so close. I watch my tummy suddenly stick out in odd bumps, roll and jump and quiver and can't help smiling.
That's you in there, doing your gymnastics!
I am now incredibly slow and large and cumbersome. Rising from bed or a chair is a long business involving many groans and walking is awkward and ache-y. As you are taking up all the space where my lungs should be I become breathless climbing a few stairs and, as you are where my tummy should be, I am wary of all food in case of heartburn.
While I know I should be sleeping and storing energy, I need to stay up far later than I'd choose to avoid heartburn. Too sleepy to be productive, too afraid of heartburn to lie down - I'm reading a lot and watching One Born Every Minute and have just started watching Call the Midwife. I am considering knitting, except my previous attempts have not ended well.
Soon, little one, soon you will be out in the world, and we are so looking forward to meeting you!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Baby Brain & Nursing Clothes

I am blaming baby-brain that it only recently occurred to me that soon I’ll need to return to nursing clothes.
As it’s only a year since I was wearing them, it’s odd that I forgot. All those dresses I’ve unearthed to cover the bump? They just won’t work for feeding. In fact, it’ll be so long since I’ll be wearing them again, and I have so little idea of where we’ll be, that I'd better just give them away now.
What I need are skirts, trousers and tops with easy access to the milk. As my weight will also be rapidly changing, elasticised waists will remain the name of the game. I’m still wearing nursing bras from my first two babies so I don’t need to worry too much about more – although the hooks have bent and they’re not exactly the same colour they were.
But nursing clothes. Hm. This will be the first time I have a small baby, constantly needing feeding, in winter. My Poppet was a winter baby – but a Queensland winter baby, so an entirely different kettle of fish. We were in the Victorian winter for her second year – but I have no recollection of what I wore to feed her. My Sprocket was a tropical baby – and to be honest I was so caught up in baby that thoughts of discretion didn’t enter my mind. Baby wants milk? Baby gets milk.
Cafés, restaurants, small planes, big planes, London or Torres Islands I’ve fed in them all. It never occurred to me that the sight of a nursing babe could upset anyone – any more than the sight of a bottle could. I grew up used to the sight of mothers nursing, and in the Pacific, where we were living, it was just normal.
The Internet has taught me that some people are deeply uncomfortable with breastfeeding, and while this strikes me as odd, it’s not too hard to keep relatively covered up – although this becomes harder with a toddler who wants to do summersaults and stops and starts to look around. I’m not covering my little one up under nursing shawls or removing myself from a room and the idea of feeding in a toilet, which I’ve heard some people do? Um, no.
However, it looks like a complete re-haul is in order. Can this be yanked down? Can this be yanked up? If this layer goes up and that layer goes down, how discreet can I be in this? I don’t want to make other people uncomfortable, but nor am I going to hide away.
Cheap chain stores have cheap and handy nursing singlets… but they’re so cheap that you know they’ve been made in sweatshop conditions. Which isn’t the welcome to the world I want for my small one.
Vanity means that while I don’t mind my breasts a little exposed while feeding I truly don’t want my stomach on display.
Those first months after the baby comes out when there’s a pouch of wobbly, stretch-marked, skin? Nobody needs to see that. I suspect as this is my third, there’ll be even more flab than before. The drum-tight roundness of now, which I am happily taking compliments for (it is lovely how many women tell me how beautiful my bump is, delighting in the coming of new life) will soon be a flaccid, miscoloured sack. I’m okay with that – I just don’t want anyone else to see it.
Then again, as my main outings are playgroup, family and friends, I’m not really putting that much thought into discretion. As we begin to start the mornings wreathed in fog and we can see our own breath in the house, I suspect keeping warm will be more of a priority.

Layers it is. Long sleeved tops and woollens are quickly being gathered up, Littlest and I are looking forward to a cosy autumn and winter. 

*And can you believe I'd completely forgotten that all my night-wear needs to be capable of containing breast-pads, if I don't want to wake up in pools of milk? True. Hmm. 
Let me try to think this through. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

The world contracted

I've always been fascinated by birth and birthing. 
Now of course, with my third - and most likely final - birth rapidly approaching, it's never far from my thoughts.
My Poppet asked me recently about fairies, about magic. And I told her, sadly, that fairies are just pretend they live in story-world, not our world, but I'm making a baby in my tummy, and that's like magic.
When I was her age I remember trying to hatch an egg by wrapping it in a little doll blanket and trying to keep it warm, later I'd watch, awed and entranced as our chicks pecked their way out of their eggs. Even as a teen I was fascinated - one of the books I wrote then - later published by a small press, has a three page birth scene in it, wherein my eleven year old heroine delivers her friends twins – one of which is a footling breech, in the middle of a hurricane. I re-read it recently and couldn’t help laughing ruefully about how blasé my character was about it all – I get more stressed trying to merge in heavy (okay, any) traffic!
It was the first of many birth scenes I've written or intend writing, relying heavily on the account my mama wrote of my own birth. Since then I've written several more - including one with triplets in myth-time Ireland, based on the birth of the Irish sun god, Lugh. And there are several more again in my 'to-write' list of novels.
One of my characters - an ex-were-wolf queen is going to have twins in a remote myth-world castle, surrounded by wolf-people. Another is going to have one birth in our world - and her next (twins again, seems to be a theme) shortly after being kidnapped into myth-time Ireland.
When my grandfather had a series of strokes and came to live with us while he recovered, he returned, again and again to the 'big events'. As a minister, the 'big events' for him were christenings and weddings, Christmas and Easter. He would often stop the family and say it was crucial for the service to be held immediately. Luckily, he wasn't so interested in conducting funerals.
For me, birth is the 'big event' and, even when not expecting any day, I remain fascinated.
I've always loved listening to people’s birth stories. I've read of people who hate being told 'horror' stories while they awaited the birth of their first born, and I've never understood it. I've always been honoured that people will share such an intimate and precious, life-changing time in their lives.
And right after a birth? I think many people do want and need to talk about it. It is massive. It can be very traumatic. It can totally change the way you see yourself and the world.
It's such a liminal, transformative, terrifying, exciting, joyous time.
Pregnant with the Sprocket, I'd ask if people were happy to share their stories, and they'd remember so clearly and seemed so happy to talk about their experiences, caught up in it again. And the stories were all so very different, as different and personal as the women themselves. I love reading about births, (although I'm still a little peeved that of all the birth stories I've read one of the easiest, pain-free sounding births was that of a young mum in the middle of nowhere in the desert, in a hippy camp, high on marijuana. It just didn't seem fair,) and watching birth stories on television.
Of course, before Sprocket, I assumed that other women's births had no relation to my own future births - which would be a series of 'rushes' in which I would breath my baby out to meditations of whales and dolphins easing through ocean and harp music playing. A-ha.*
And for some women, that's how it is - and that's wonderful. (Although Odent I think has a lot to answer for - just because he witnessed one woman give birth without pain because she 'wasn't afraid' does not mean that all women can, or will, do that, fear or no fear. We are actually individuals, and so are our babies. Our births are unique combinations of how our bodies and our babies bodies work. For some of us that involves a lot of pain or surgery, for some it doesn't.)
Now, not quite as sanguine, I'm yet excited, honoured. It does seem like magic, that soon another little one with all the potential, with all the promise and wonder, will come into the world. That this little one who has wriggled and kicked within me, whose brain has developed connections, whose tiny fingernails have grown, who has started to consider the noises, the changing light beyond her cocoon, will come out to meet us, to change the world for us.
Nine moons beneath my heart, my little one is preparing to make the hardest, most challenging and, in many ways, most dangerous journey of her life.
It is probably not surprising that my thoughts revolve so much around her and her coming, that I am so easily distracted and find it so difficult to concentrate on other things.
While I would like to say that I am keeping up to date with world events and am abreast with current happenings, that when I’m up half the night with heartburn and aching hips I’m busily tapping out my next novel, the truth is, my world has contracted to my little ones forth coming arrival. While I’d trying to think of other things to write about, and will try to stretch myself a little more, let me admit now that the next few weeks on my blog are likely to be heavily birth and baby focused. (Um, yes, probably even more so than now!)

*Well, he was yanked out to Enya, as the obstetrician remarked on pityingly.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Stone, wood & sea

We've returned from the sea now - regretfully, mournfully. Happy to be home, but grieving the ocean.
I miss the immediacy of the natural world. I miss how tactile life by ocean is - the cold brine lapping around my knees, emersion in fluid, held between sea and sky, swimming through a green underwater world, the feel of sand and stone beneath my feet.
I miss watching the fall of a wave and the way the light is constantly changing, the tide is constantly shifting.
I miss the sea. Now, I look over photos of a world contracted to sand and wood and sea and promise myself we'll be back soon.


- poppet, returning from the shore in evening light. 
- poppet walking on the shore.
- poppet in my jumper. two nights before the sprocket got soaked on our evening walk and came home in my jumper - that night it was poppet's turn to get soaked and come home in my jumper. a great length for covering baby bumps and enveloping wet children! 
- little toes at breakfast. I suspect that soon it will be cold enough that uggh boots and socks at breakfast are the norm so I'm appreciating little toes !
- a seagull admiring us at the playground. obviously it had no fear of me, as it stood a foot away and stared! It's been lovely seeing the familiar birds again at the beach - the fairy wrens and wattle birds in the garden, the hooded plovers on the shore - and of course the ubiquitous seagull! 
-sandy toes on the beach
- the fall of a wave
- banksia
- scraping the barrel of clothes in the last week/s of pregnancy - what can I still get to fit? - resulted in doc martens and velvet on the beach. I can now say how many days rather than weeks until our baby is due! While I was hoping our little one would come while we were at the beach - not even a swim in the not-so-warm-sea would induce her to come a little early and be a beach-baby, so I've resigned myself that she'll probably be a week late like the other ones… so still a little bit to go! 

Joining with the lovely Em of The Beetle Shack for moments from our week. We've been loving being down by the sea this last week, but are now home. However… I got sand in the camera lens so next weeks photos are going to be taken with my mum's macro lens while ours is (hopefully) repaired. Should be interesting. I'm hoping I can work out how to use it before our little one arrives! 

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Poppet - making her way carefully across a rock-pool.
Sprocket - after leaping through the shallows in the late afternoon, as evening fell he got chilly, so I took my jumper off for him. It reaches to his feet and I think it suits him!
Please note the two missing front teeth (on the bottom). My baby-boy is growing up! In fact he's so grown up he's already talking about his two 'girlfriends' and has decided to marry one when he grows up. Not to be outdone, Poppet is going to marry a little girl called Rosie.

Joining with Jodi of Practicing Simplicity for a portrait of my children once a week, every week in 2014. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Coming Home

The car winds around the hill, and there, in a gap in the trees, is the sea.
We’re home. Coming up the orange clay drive the wooden shack, settled gently into surrounding scrub, welcomes us.
Opening the car door the sound of the sea wraps around us. The scent of coast flowers and brine. Finding the key, we run through the house, the kids re-exploring just like I did at their age, noting all the changes since the last time we were down, rearranging the house. “Everything’s changed,” my Poppet laments forlornly – a few shifts, and it’s all back to what it should be.
Opening windows, pulling back curtains, we pause to unpack the car and scull down a cup of tea, then hurry outside, cross the clay road, and then down the winding path through the tea-tree grove – to the curve of sand and the sea.
We’re home, we’re home.
I don’t think I realised just how stressed, how tense I still am from the fires and the weeks of acrid smoke that kept us housebound or away, the worry that my little one was the wrong way up and I’d have to deal with a long recovery we have no time for, until it all slides from me. 
I can almost feel it easing from my shoulders.
I walk straighter, breath deeper.
Gulping down the sea air, watching our little ones play in the shallows, the gentle light and wide sky, the ever-changing sea. The sand under foot, the shock of the cold water.
Wet, sandy and exultant, although still tired from a day of travel, we return to the house.
Little one, you can be born here. Little one, this is a good place.
This is a place full of memory, of family, of belonging. Of beauty and happiness.
This is the place my heart calls home.
Although I’ve been away for years at a time, this is the place I’m always dreaming of, the place I always return to.
There have been a couple of other places around the world that I’ve stepped onto and thought ‘yes, this is… familiar’, this satisfies something inside me.
A headland on an island off the coast of Scotland, above a small, restored black house village, leaping from rock to rock, the low-lying vegetation, the silvered sea wild around.
A small, deeply green, island in the Marovo lagoon, in the Solomon Islands that had such a strong sense of ‘other’. Of magic. We trekked through the tangled green interior, sometimes ankle deep in water in search of the illusive crocodiles that lived there. Calf deep in sea, we fed the nurse sharks that swam around our feet amongst the mangroves.
I don’t believe in re-incarnation, so there’s no sense that I’d been in either place before – but these places satisfied something inside me and filled me with exultation.
I wake in the night to the sound of the surf on the shore, the curtains wafting in the breeze coming through the open window.
All is as it should be.
A place of weddings and christenings, of long midnight conversations around the open fire, midnight swims and steaming baths full of sand. A place to return to when work overseas has torn ideas of self and world apart. My mum went into labour with my brother here, after a body-surf on a hot January day. My bathers are packed. As are my hospital bags.
(Little one, feel free to come any time.)
I don’t ever want to leave.

Is there a place (or places?) your heart calls home?