Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Cake for Littlest

It was Littlest's Christening last weekend, so as well as travelling to the shore on the far side of the state, I dug into the depths of my email and found the recipe of the cake we've used for all the kids' Christening - one a friend gave me that her grandmother used. We vary it a little, as my father-in-law is coeliac so I make it with gluten free flower, and this time I put in glace cherries instead of currents.

As this is the third Christening, my Beloved and I have the routine down. I make the cake the day before - delighting in the smell of hot spice and dried fruit, cooking sugar and butter all bubbling in the saucepan, calling the kids over to see the fizz as the bi-carb hits. Pottering around, enjoying the view of the sea through the kitchen window and everyone talking around me.

My Beloved rolls out the icing the morning of the Christening - usually with an empty wine bottle from the night before - we tend to take advantage of the open fire to enjoy some red wine with the gathered family. Once the icing is rolled out and I've soothed my Beloveds rumblings about imperfections in it, I decorate it.

The Christening cake, all ready to decorate.

Beginning the decorating process. We had the nest on our wedding cake and have used it with every Christening cake - with added birds. We're up to five little birds on the cake now. Luckily I found a hoard of fifteen little birds at an op-shop near mum and dad's recently and pounced on them. The kids chose which birds they wanted to represent them - well, apart from Littlest!

Poppet, all bedhead in the early morning, heading into the garden to help me find flowers for the cake.

Rosemary was the first selection, followed by lavender, and then Australian natives.

The final cake, ready to take to the church for morning tea.

Do you have favourite recipes you always use for special occasions? A family wedding or Christening cake or Christmas pudding? 

Monday, July 21, 2014

not so crafty - but look at the cute toes

In my head I am amazingly crafty. I whip up a little jumper or a gorgeous hat at the drop of a stitch. In reality my one attempt at crochet is a half-finished granny square and I can knit, but can't turn corners, so am limited to blankets and scarves. 

I love all sorts of handmade goodies - crocheted cardies, knitted beanies, embroidered pillows, and my beloved will attest to the fact the house is full of soft and subtly coloured wool and scraps of fabric to be made into something 'someday.' In reality I live the craft life vicariously, the doing through the blogs of others and the frequenting of church sales and op-shops to acquire all my woollen goodies. 

So picture me smug - I actually made something this week. I crafted - moi! - the girl who knitted her work to her school skirt in textiles. 

It took me about two days five minutes and thirty seconds to make a pair of soft as soft cashmere and lambswool leggings for my Littlest. 

Two days to discover where I'd stashed the cashmere sweater I'd shrunk in the wash. Five minutes to work out where I'd put the scissors and thirty seconds to cut the sleeves off -voila - cute baby leggings!  

Littlest discovered her toes (she doesn't get a lot of toe time in winter - socks, tights and footed onesies are her lot) and found them amazingly entertaining. 

I got the idea from this lovely book by Pia Jane BijkerkLittle Treasures Made by Hand, although Pia actually sews - splitting one arm of a discarded jumper to make two leggings. I recycled a beloved (shrunken) jumper and made each arm a leg, although they don't fit quite so well. Every time I look at the leggings I remember ducking into the recycled fashion shop on the way to the British Museum in London, back when Sprocket had just learnt to walk, and Poppet was still inside me, and falling in love with the softness. 

And - I admit it - it's an excuse for more photos of teeny tiny gorgeous toes. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

mid-winter moments

- dukes up. Littlest at nearly three months. It's cold here and we're bundling her up. At night her little hands get so cold unless we have them well covered.
-big grin (How about some milk, see, I'm so cute. About that milk?)
-tiny toes.
- my granny. my little ones' great granny.
-jonquils, nearly blooming. we've past winters midway point. spring is on the way.
-calla lilies. furled and nearly furling, in my grandmother's garden.

Joining with The Beetle Shack for moments from our week.

The last weeks have been hectic, with school holidays and this and that. I have my camera back from the camera peoples though. (My mum, who had it fixed for us, was given a long talk about not getting sand in it and what was that on the lens? sunscreen? I will try hard to be more careful. I am re-remembering how to use it…) Oddly, it is harder to find time for photos with three rather than two, particularly in school holidays!  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Birth Post (be warned of TMI)


I think this is it Little one. I really think you could be beginning your journey into the world. It’s 4.03 am and contractions have been coming steadyish and strongish for awhile. I'm debating waking your Daddy and letting your Nan and Granpa know they need to be on the first train of the morning. I’ll wait another half hour and maybe try to sleep and then see. I’ve had a lot of false alarms over the past few nights – but these tightenings really are quite uncomfy, although the gap did increase when I got up to the loo and demolish a bowl of apple crumble. I'm wondering whether I should go through the bags one last time and work out clothes for the kids in case they need to come into the hospital with us.

I suppose there’s still time for that.

At least, I hope there is, it’s still another four hours before the earliest mum and dad could be here.
Of course, it might all just go. I’m breathing through the Braxtons (Contractions?) now. Wiggling around, rocking back and forth. Inhale one two three four, exhale one two three four.

Hmmm... unless another one comes soon …ah…There it is, the tightening around the abdomen.
But it doesn't last too long. In fact, under 30 seconds. I better try getting some sleep…I went to bed at 10.30pm and the tightenings started at 2.30am. If this is it, I'm not going into it with a lot of sleep under my belt. 

Do come soon, Love. Today would be a good day…


The birth music is playing, the candles are lit. Our littlest one is coming.
The contractions are strong enough that I lean into the door frame, one hand on either side, legs bent, to breath through them.
“When is Littlest coming?” my Sprocket asks, bleary eyed, pyjama clad, as he has every day for the last few months. I’m bearing down on the doorway, breathing deeply. (Inhale, one, two three, four) “Today,” I gasp. “Littlest is coming today. And Nana and Grandpa are on the train right now.”
“That means treats!” Sprocket says. (Exhale, one, two three, four)
Sprocket runs through to his bedroom. “Wake up, wake up, Poppet! I have something to tell you! Littlest’s coming today and guess what! Her will bring us a big bag of lollies and our toys!”
My Poppet pads through, all warm and shampoo smelling. “I want to snuggle in your bed.”
“I need to get the house all ready because Nana and Grandpa and Littlest are coming today, you can snuggle in my bed though.”

Breathing through the contractions, my birth bags in the car, we drop the kids at school and creche, debating going straight into the hospital or back home for a cup of tea. If she were our first we'd definitely go home - but as my third we worry she might come quickly. The intern my Beloved is shadowing recently delivered a baby in the hospital hallway, and I don't want a similar delivery. We decide on a cup of tea, but to keep an eye on the contractions. 

As the contractions increase and become closer together I start doing all the little things I’ve put off.
“I’ve heard of nesting, but I didn’t think it was done with real sticks and leaves," My Beloved comments as I persuade him to cut to size the branch I’ve decided on to hang Littlest's prettiest clothes. I've been searching for ‘the perfect stick’ for the past month, to finally find it in a park two minutes from our house last night. The interim stick I have been using was too small. I’m finishing sticking autumn leaves on the wall, as I’ve decided that as Littlest is an autumn baby the beautiful shades are too lovely to resist.

I re-light the candles, turn on the music, start mopping the floor, but my tea is still unfinished when I see the first of my show. I'm not expecting my waters to break anytime soon, as with the past two they had to break the membranes, and I phone the hospital to tell them we're on the way. 

"This is it, Love, our baby's coming today. Littlest will be here today. Hopefully," I say. Let's not have any 36 hour marathons like I had with our Sprocket. Our Poppet was a nice four hours. My hope is that Littlest will halve that. 

It is strange waddling through the labyrinthian corridors of the hospital, so familiar to my Beloved and so unfamiliar to me. We reach the maternity ward and are led to a room. I ask about the bath, which I'd been told was free in my earlier phone call, but since then it's been snitched. This will be my first birth I don't spend most of in the bath. I bite my lip. The shower isn't the same - especially as I tend to get dizzy standing. (Bleah to low blood pressure.)

The midwife puts the monitor around my tummy. She is steady, capable, comforting. The numbers that tell of my Little ones heart rate don't mean anything to me. But they do to my Beloved. The contractions instantly become further apart. But they're strong and lasting a minute now. I stand up for each one, hanging around my Beloved's neck, going into a half squat. Taking strength from the solid warmth and support.

"Is she alright?" I ask as the green numbers on the machine constantly change.
"She's perfect," the midwives reassure me. 

We open the laptop, I listen to my favourite music, the same songs I listened to when my Sprocket and Poppet were born. I spray my hot face with rose water, towel my neck with face washers, sip iced water between contraction. 

The contractions are too far apart and I suggest going home until they come closer together. The midwives say they'll just check how dilated I am.  When they tell me I'm only three to four centimetres I'm depressed. I figure the four is an exaggeration to make me feel better. My Beloved reminds me that Littlest could still still come quickly, you know, as a third. 

My Beloved - the med-student - knows most of the people in the room - the guy putting in the cannula, the chief midwife - and there is light talk until the next contraction. My Beloved shows me that the strength of my contractions goes off the chart. I'm glad it's not just me being wussy. They feel strong. I'm still standing up with every one, to hang around his neck, my face pressed against his chest as I breath through the pain (Inhale, one two three four, exhale, one two three four) concentrating on keeping my breathing steady, smoothing out the ragged gasps. 

I'm resting and then standing for each contraction. Breathing. Stamping. Holding to my Beloved. He drops a kiss on my hair at the end of each one, and even in my somewhat introverted state, it is immeasurably comforting. 

And then back to resting.  I'm lying on my side. I meant to be more active between contractions, but I'm tired. Lack of sleep is catching up to me. "I'm too old for this. I should have gone to the gym more," I lament. The midwife reassures me.

The midwife is keen on me using the shower. I'm not sure of the standing and would so love to sink into a bath… but… 

I lumber into the bathroom, leaning into the wash basin, stamping out the pain. Littlest is coming. Littlest is coming today.  The blood starts dripping in greater quantities. 

I go into the shower. It's in a corner and there's a rail along the wall, a plastic seat. I hold to the rail and squat into the contractions, putting all my weight into bearing down on the rail. I concentrate on the heat of the water. I don't know how much time passes. (Littlest is coming.) 

I ask the midwife about breaking my waters, but she says normally they prefer to let them break naturally. Maybe so. But my waters (going on a grand total of two cases) don't seem to break naturally as quickly as I'd like. 

Hot, dizzy. I get out of the shower, wrap in one of the big white towels. I want cold water, a cool face washer, but there's a big flurry of people. They seem to think Littlest is coming right now. I'm perplexed. I thought I was just hot. The room seems busy, crowded, too bright after the dimmer bathroom.

Awkwardly I hoist myself onto the bed again, kneel on it holding to the bed railing at the front. I don't feel like Littlest is very close. Hot. Dizzy.  The excess of people reminds me of Sprocket's birth. This is not a good thing. I was in a similar position, with a similar amount of people, for the last hours before the end. 

My Beloved fetches me a wet face washer, my rose spray, iced water. The cool wet cloth on my neck makes me feel better. The room full of people still bothers me. Push? But I really don't think she's close. 
I try to push, beginning to bellow. A petite, dark-haired midwife with an irish accent suggests I save my energy or it might take longer. It takes a few catches of breath to get back to breathing, but I'm not going to risk making it take longer till I meet Littlest. I pull my breathing back on track.

The people go. I still think I've got awhile. I don't know why they pushed the emergency button and why all the people were suddenly there. It is too reminiscent of Sprocket's birth. It's only a few hours since I came to the hospital. I eye the clock. When o when will she come? 

There is a crossover of midwives. I miss the first one but I don't want to make the second feel bad. She is young and very reserved looking, she sits back on an armchair in the corner, patiently letting my Beloved and I get on with it. 

I lie on my side, holding tight to my Beloved's hands during contraction. He sits on a stool beside me. I'm afraid of breaking a bone, but not enough to stop. 

Getting up I go back to the shower. Suddenly, there's a lot of blood, all brilliant and messy and full of promise on the floor. It's beginning to feel a lot closer.  Littlest is so very nearly here. Just have to get through this. So very very close. O my Little one, hurry.

I return, slow, lumbering, and kneel against the side of the bed, leaning over it. My midwife brings a mat for me to kneel on.  A tall and slender registrar appears. She says maybe in half an hour, if things are not progressing, she'd like to break my waters. I ask if she can break them now. Both my previous babies needed the waters broken. I'm almost fully dilated except for a lip. 

She agrees. I feel the movement within as she does something with a hook and then a sudden gush and mess. I feel the warm sliding. Now, finally, I feel like little one will be here soon. There is a change in intensity. A feeling of closeness. O my Little one, soon, soon we will meet you.
Lumbering into the bathroom, I drip everywhere. I lean into the basin counter for the contraction, bearing down. I assume they make these benches strong. Noting my worn reflection I tell it that Littlest will be here soon. Soon I will have three children in the world. 

Back to kneeling by the bed. I can feel Littlest's head coming, the shape of it, descending. 

It is too much. 
I hold to my Beloved's hands across the bed. He's kneeling on the far side. 
"I can't do this. She's too big. She won't fit out."
"I'm betting she will, sweetheart. I'll put money on it."
"No, no. She's too big." I'm desperate.
"She will."
There is burning agony as her head comes through. O God, she's here, she's really here. My Little one. There is wild excitement amongst the pain. 
Push. Push. Too much pain, Can't. But it's Littlest, so nearly here.  One two three one two three. I have to steady my breathing. Work hard at it. It is so jagged.  I bear down on my Beloved's hands. I know he wants to see her come into the world. To catch her. I want that too. But I can't let go.

"Breathe," my Beloved tells me. Words flash through my head about what he can do with the breathing, But I steady my breath, and breathe. 

Pushing. Her head is in the world. 

Littlest is coming. Littlest is coming. My Littlest is nearly here. I don't know if I say it aloud or in my head. I think I chant it aloud. It is unbelievable and wonderful and impossible and the world is full of pain and she is nearly here. 

I don't think I can take more pain. Littlest is coming. I know I need to push and I don't think I can. I blow through my lips, like a horse, as I've heard this softens things, makes things easier. 

"Stop pushing, just breathe, don't push," the midwife and registrar tell me. Relieved, I stop pushing. But I so want to meet her, hold her. 

"She's got a bruiser's shoulders." My midwife takes over from the registrar. There is movement amongst the pain. They're telling me stuff, doing stuff, I don't know what. (Rotating her into the world). My Little One.

I feel Littlest emerging, slipping out. The wondrous bulk of her. So so close to here.
I hold tight to my Beloved's hands. Littlest is nearly here, she's nearly here with us.  

With gentle pushes I feel the rest of her sliding out. She is here. *

They bring her through my legs and into my arms, warm and slippery, still attached to me, impossibly soft against my chest. And after all this time I am holding her.

My Little one. My Lily. My Love. My Littlest. My last.

There are no words. My Beloved comes around to cut her cord. Awed, I hold her to me, murmuring love.

She looks so familiar. All little legs and arms and indignation. It is such a shock to be in the world. 
There is the clamping, blood  A warm towel descends on top of us as I hold her, enclosing us in a little world.

I am helped onto the bed. Finally I can hold her, kiss and smell her. She is so familiar and known and impossibly precious. There is still sharp pain but she's here, with us. She is everything I had dreamed and a hundred times more.

They talk to me about the third stage. Stuff. I don't take it in to remember. All that placenta stuff. There is a discussion about stitches. The registrar and midwife agree it needs doing. I'm wary. I have two lots of injections to numb the area. I don't want another case like Sprocket's where the injection didn't have time to work before they stitched. Most. Painful. Moments. Of. My. Life.

My Beloved goes over to watch. He didn't get to see stitching up when he was doing his paeds rotation.  The registrar talks him through it while I welcome our Little one to the world, "O Littlest, we're so happy to meet you. We love you so. We've been waiting for you."

My Beloved is very impressed with the stitching. It seems it is a very 'elegant' job. I pause from drinking in my Little one to giggle at his choice of words, but I am grateful. It seems my torn nether-region went from being mangled to recognisable. He thinks I am very lucky. The midwife concurs. The registrar is known for her brilliant work. I am grateful for everything.

My midwife and registrar leave us to savour our new and perfect one. My midwife will return in an hour for all the measuring and weighing and things. The day has gone from mid-morning to gently dim evening.

My little one we are so overjoyed to meet you. Welcome to the world. We've been waiting for you.

*She is born to Eddie Reader's rendition of Robert Burn's song - You're Welcome Willie Stewart (There's ne'er a flower that bloom in May that's half as welcome as thou art.) My Sprocket's middle names are William Stewart, William for my dad and my Beloved's middle name, and Stewart for a dearly loved and lost friend. It seems very fitting. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

tangled up in green - in the garden

We spent a few nights at my parents this week - the rain kept us mainly inside - I haven't liked to take Littlest outside too much, even bundled up, when she has been so very sick recently, although I will soon take the (very layered) leap.

My parents' garden is very large, long and narrow and very green. Seeing the kids playing in it I remember when my family first arrived from the inner-suburbs and it was a long strip of waist high, sun-browned grass and blackberries, with one sprawling fig-tree, one giant pine tree and a scattering of cherry plum trees.

The grass has been replaced by a mass of tangled, verdant plants. The pine tree is gone, but the fig tree remains, massive and sprawling, and the place of many pirate battles (its branches bounced in a very satisfactory way when we jumped on them) is still there. I suspect its two resident bats - Chaos and Darkness, still live close by.

Every year my dad has given my mum fruit trees for birthdays and Christmas, and it is impossible to wander down without grazing - at the moment lemons and mandarines, but there are apple trees, olive trees, blueberries, grape vines, peaches and strawberries as well as the cherry-plums.

As a kid I spent hours reading and writing up in the cherry-plum trees, where mum had put pallets as tree houses and hammered up ladders.

There was a rope hanging from one of the pine trees branches and we used to gather up the rope, climb on top of the rackety tin chicken-coop and jump off, swinging hysterical with laughter while our dog (a crotchety border collie) snapped at our heels, trying to round us up.

There's a tunnel going up the side of the slope of the gully, and as kids we were just able to wiggle through it - it was only a few feet long, but it twisted up through the clay slope and every time we went through it we'd be afraid we'd never be able to get out. Looking at it now - both ends grown over, and remembering back to moments stuck in clay, convinced I couldn't inch my way any further, or retreat back the way I'd come, completely enclosed, I think we were crazy to even attempt it. And yet we did, again and again.

When we first arrived in the house we didn't even know the gully existed - it was so full of blackberries. It took us five years to get rid of all the berries - first slashing and then digging up the roots.  I was exceptionally dedicated to this, attacking the thorns that towered over us with vigour as I was promised ducklings as soon as the blackberries were cleared. I encouraged, bossed and bribed my younger brothers as we cut and slashed the blackberries away, bitter at their violent ways, always trying to twine around us, and coming back just when we thought we had them all.

Being back in the garden, watching my own kids play in it, brings nostalgia creeping. I wonder how they'll remember the gardens of their childhood. They're approaching the age my brothers and I were when we first moved in, and the thought both perplexes and pleases me.

Which gardens will be the one that will shape their ideas of 'outside', of play, of green and living things?

Monday, July 7, 2014

into the forest (and the trickery of birds)

Sprocket - his teddies in his backpack, carrying the picnic bag on his head, testing the sharpness of some grass.

We packed a picnic and the favoured teddies, pulled on gumboots and headed off for a teddy bears picnic in the woods.

Although it was mid-morning by the time we reached the forest - in the holidays our going-out-preperations are leisurely - there was still a slight haze in the air.

The air was thick and rich, moist and fragrant of growing stuffs. The sound of the stream followed by our side as we walked along to the perfect picnic table for our teddies and us. Littlest was held on my chest in her sling, her warmth and gentle breathing reassuring, her sleeping face perfect, her skin pearly.

Her first trip to the forest, she slept all through it, lulled by the motion as I walked.

The stream that ran beside us made its watery rushing noise and all was still and peaceful but for the whining of the kids. "This is boring. I'm hungry. Are we there yet? I'm so tired… yadda yadda repeat. And then repeat again. On some days they love the walk, studying the stream for wildlife, jumping in puddles, playing with sticks, jumping from behind trees to scare us.

It wasn't one of those days.

We walked until we reach the picnic table, looking out for bunyips, pointing out brilliantly green mosses, animal trails and scats, falls of light on furling ferns, discussing the possibilities of platypuses and echidnas.

At the picnic table, eating our sandwiches, showing the gaudy toy pony the sights, the light fell gently and the noise of the water was a constant as the stream flowed steadily beside us and the children, eating, were at peace.

On the way back, the children ran on ahead of my sister-in-law and I, their tiredness gone with the promise of a playground they love with an extra-special slide at the nearby town. There had not been enough mud to tempt them into play…

And then there was the noise of fierce dogs  barking, of children crying. We broke into a trot, calling for the children, going as fast as we could with Littlest in a sling.

When we reached the children they were laughing. I asked them about the dogs, the crying, and they said what dogs? what crying? We didn't see anything.

And it occurred to me we have been tricked by a lyrebird - those perfect mimics. It amused me that I was taken in by a bird. I imagined it hiding in the undergrowth, working out what would most worry us, cause the biggest reaction. I imagined it laughing at us (silently) from its secret place.

Even though we didn't see it, and there's possibly another explanation for the noise, the path is called 'Lyrebird Walk' and it adds to the magic that it's possible we heard one, were thoroughly tricked by one.

Outside, in the green, there is always the possibility of magic - an echidna, a rainbow, a teasing bird...

Going down memory lane, this is the same walk - two years ago (and what happened to Poppet's curls!). Sometimes you really do just need the green.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Littlest (week eight)


It is so hard to believe that this time last week you were in hospital, connected to tubes, unmoving but for your little heaving chest.

The smiles now race across your face,your arms and legs are in constant (slightly jerky) dance. You have discovered your fists and suck upon them furiously, or bring them up to sit together beneath your chin.

Your little toe-curlings are the sweetest. While I feed you I hold one little foot, and you press against my hand, curling your toes up on my palm. Sometimes, if you feel the milk is not behaving as it aught, you rapidly punch one little arm, as if it were a milk-pump. It always makes me giggle.

You have been checked this week both by the child nurse and the paediatrician - the paediatrician - who happened to be the Chief Medical Officer of the hospital, won my heart by saying you were so fetching you should be on the front cover of a baby magazine. I am just trying to work out which one I think it should be. (Yes, I know he probably says that to all the babies, but I don't care.)

You have not left the house for most of the week, recovering inside, in the warmth, secreted away from Other Peoples Germs - and also keeping you away from other babies you might infect. The virus that gave you the bronchiolitis is so common that eighty percent of children get it before the reach two - but still.

Your Nana and Grandpa caught the train up from Melbourne - tag-teaming so they could make their appointments and work in the city - when one was getting on the train, the other was getting off, walking down from the station to arrive in a flurry of rain.

It has been strange doing the school run without you - but I have been very glad you have been home, warm and dry and held by someone who loves you, for the week has been wet and very misty. Often we have driven along with the glass all silvered with water, run over with reflections, the mist so thick we have been unable to see around. A fox ran across the road one morning, just in front of us, and  black calves have been along the roadside.

Your Daddy worries I will turn you into 'the sickly' child. The one who is ill as a child and forever after is cosseted and kept indoors. I think he gets it from the fantasy books he reads - and they get it from history - the sickly young princes. However, they come from a time without brilliant hospitals. And as soon as you're a little bigger, and the winter is over, I'll stop cosseting as much. I know that you are a little warrior, I saw how bravely you fought when each breath was a struggle.

The school holidays start this week - my littlest one. There will be less time for me to spend admiring you as your brother and sister command the house. You will get lots of in house entertainment and clumsy, well meant kisses.

Two months, Little one. You've been with us in the world two wonderful months, and we're so glad that you're healthy again. That you're ours, that you're you.