Friday, December 25, 2015

Tropical Christmas (with Kitten)

The heat and too many late nights (damn, Father Christmas has late hours) has sapped my words, but here are some photos from Christmas. The kids spent most of the time in the paddling pool, or playing with super-soakers. (Otherwise known as ' water guns' but I'm trying to remove the word before school starts back, Adventure Boy being somewhat obsessed with guns, battles, battlefields and war in general at present. I have found his teachers less that impressed with his intricate drawings of well armed battleships.) 

Adventure Boy received a kitten from Father Christmas, (lessons in gentleness and responsibility) and the little mite has been cuddled and held and carried about ever since. We have hopes that Wolfie and Tiger-kit will form a truce. Soon. Wolfie is willing but Tiger-kit on seeing the great, white looming monster, curiously sniffing, immediately hisses and spits, and Wolfie does not think this is appropriate behaviour, from one who is, until proven otherwise, a guest. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Different Language (written last week, sans internet)

My phone is out of credit and charge, and the sound of the sea is loud in my ears, a gentle lulling on the shore. This week we have spent down by the shore, and I’ve been thinking of what a different language it is.

Tidal, rock pool, fish, wave, low-tide, blue ringed  octopus, crab, snake, light-star, maelaluka, sandcastle, welcome swallow, gull, coastal, south-westerly, mist, horizon, wave crest. toadie, sunrise, ripples, flotsam, tern, white faced heron, hooded plover, cuttlefish, mermaid’s necklace, stingray, barnacle, periwinkle.

We swam today, and I strode out with my babe on my hip and my boy lunging in front, and as the waves broke around my waist, there was a whole set of waves before me, caught as green glass in the light of the sun, full of dozens of grey fish the length of my forearm. And the next set, and the set after that, were all full of the same grey fish. There was a shoal of hundreds of fish just before us, cresting in on the waves, then turning back, for they never came nearer to us.

The currents of the water changed from warm to cool and back again, and the colours changed too, greens and blues, deeps and pales, jades, emeralds, sapphire and turquoise and in moments of still the water was so clear we could see the play of light on the sand around our feet.

My babe gave her wicked-witch cackle, the one signalling world-domination is on the agenda, as I lowered us into the water and we eased over the unbroken waves, my boy looked in delight at the many fish caught in the sun’s light, the water’s hold.

This week charged, internet, email, data, netflix, spotify, facebook, have all been put on hold. My internet connection has been patchy, the kids have had to ask their grandparents for the odd sighting of Emma, from the Wiggles, the babe’s first TV craze.

We’ve walked into the nearest town – my dad saw a snake. I have spent hours, and hours, stalking small fish in rock pools with Adventure Boy, finally capturing one luckless toadie, Adventure boy lifting him from the net to carefully study him, only to release him, to tell me how the toadie is ‘best friends’ with Crabby, Adventure Boy’s dear, scuttling, marine friend from Gippsland days.

I’ve had ample time to study the stars of light on the sandy pool floors, the currents, the fluid movement of the fragments of seaweed, the various strategies of the tiny inhabitants – the crabs hiding under rock shelves, the small sand coloured fish dependent on camouflage, the shoals of tiny silver fish staying determinedly away from rocks where predators lurk.  

I remember times I spoke this language so much better. Times when I spent months on end down here, without phone, TV, internet. Just me, the sea, and the payphone down the end of the street. I look back on that girl with nostalgia.

I think I’d like to learn that language again.

There is so much that I’ve forgotten, so much that I’d like to teach the kids.

I suppose this week is a start.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

the view from the top

"Let's do it!" My Extravaganza yelled, and began running with her crazily lopsided gait towards the start of the steeply inclining emergency access road up Wild Horse Mountain. She'd already had a fair walk through a rainforest with her kindy, but she wasn't about to let a little thing like a badly fractured leg stop her.
This week has been hectic and stressful, with four doctor visits and much juggling and worrying. After school, and after Beloved finished his shift, he gathered us all into the car and stole us away, heading up the highway into the distance.
The sun slanted gold light across us, and to one side we had the beautiful silhouettes of the Glasshouse Mountains and to the other we snatched small glimpses of the beginning of the Sunshine Coast.
Reaching the top, there was a small gazebo, and the children climbed the silvered wood stairs eagerly to take possession of the kingdom, small royalty who did their wild dance of ownership on top of a table with a map of the area.
They were stained and rumpled and mismatched, but their joy was infectious. We surveyed distant dormant volcanoes and slivers of ocean, miles of forest and plantation, and it felt like we were on top of the world.
It's always so much better.

Monday, November 23, 2015

water fight!

The weather is stinking hot at the moment.The kind of weather when your bra catches enough sweat to swim in and sleeping with more than a sheet is impossible. The kind of weather when your legs stick together and movement is slow and resentful. The kind of weather when you wander through the house searching for a draft of wind that just isn't happening and you get drinks out of the fridge just to hold them at the back of your neck.
Yeah, I'm not a hot weather kind of girl.
I don't count the weather 'good' unless it's cool enough that you might conceivably wear a pair of socks. This kind of weather, the kind I don't even want to put on undies in, because they'll just add more heat - is not my cup of (iced) tea.
I go on Facebook and look at all the bleeping lucky people with snow and gulp back tears.
And yes, this would be coming up to my sixth year in the tropics and sub tropics. Go figure.
We can't go to the beach after school as easily at the moment (well, we can, but it's problematic because of the sand-in-cast-issue) and the swimming pool is out as a family event because of the same reason - the Extravaganza's broken leg, so today we did the next best thing.
We wrapped the Extravaganza's leg up in plastic bags and got a 200 pack of water balloons.
They are my new best friend.
No house should be without them.
They deserve medals.
Cool and fun and running in the sun (getting the Extravaganza her bone-healing vitamin d when it's so unpleasant out is not fun.)

Water fight, I love you.

(Although taking photos of a water-fight is a tad dangerous for ones camera. I waited till the heat of the battle was over, but there were still some close calls...!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

on writing & nano

(A thistle in my garden - a great hulking thing, taller than the kids, and completely out of place amidst the coffee plants, hibiscus and bougainvillea. I've let it grow... because. It's going to seed now, so I'll cut it down soon, but I am half tempted to vase it up...) 

I'm drawing breath now, a break from getting the words down. Coming up for air in this place, this time, rather than story-time, myth-time. Shaking my thoughts free of character and plot for a short time before I dive in again.

Yep. It's (Inter)National Writing a Novel Month, that time when all around the world thousands of us are trying to write fifty thousand words in a month.  If we're a bit not-quite there, a bit off-in-story-land, looking vaguely into the distance, that's the reason.

I'm hearing voices in my head, a couple of voices in particular - one being a very arrogant Irish godling with a strong Glaswegian accent. He's just about to fight in the Second Battle of Moytura.

This is my first NaNo since I had the three kids rather than two, and yes, there have been days not a lot of floor has been visible at our place. (Beloved's been working a rather brutal series of nights.)

There have been days that a lot of coffee has been a necessity because I've been up most of the night before catching up, or tracking down an elusive snippet of story or information I want to use or looking for images of a particular waterfall.

I'm on track for today - I've caught up at 30,000 words and a bit so far this month. I find if I miss a day of writing, I quickly fall behind - if I manage each day's official 1666 words it's so much easier to stay on target.

This month I'm finishing an Old Nano project - Fosterling - the first fifty thousand words were written in a previous NaNoWriMo, I tinkered and added an extra 10,000 words in the interim - and voila my book is now up around the 90,000 word mark. I enjoy it's solid bulk, although I know I'm going to decimate it.

The earlier words are also a distraction though - for every word count I first have to word check, then subtract the pre-NaNo words (maths, moi? bleah!) and only then can I enter it into the NaNo page for the cute little graph to tell me how I'm going, how many words I need to write to complete the day, how far behind I am or how far ahead I am and how many words altogether my region has written - we're getting close to a million.

This is a team activity I can totally get behind. I admit, there aren't that many team activities I like, but this is one.

I find I stop every three or four hundred words to update my word count. Procrastination is a wonderful thing, even on something I love doing.

More usefully, I stop every so often to watch documentaries about the Bronze and Iron Age (If such a thing is possible I might have overdosed on Neil Oliver. Hmm. Nah, not possible), to check distances and work out locations or quickly read through pertinent blog posts.

How long would it take for a heavily pregnant woman to walk between Tara and the Hill of Uisneach? How many counties would she walk through? (There was an ancient road between the two? Brilliant.) How long would it take on horseback? Should Lugh kill Balor with a spear or a slingshot - both are correct...

Half my book is set in Bronze/Iron/Myth age Ireland, while the other half is set in present day Scotland and Australia. I still haven't quite got my head around the complicated, interwoven, never-quite-agreeing genealogies of the Fir Bolg, the Fomorians and the Tuatha De Danaan, but I'm getting more of an idea of how I want to batter the old stories into a shape that works for me.

I'm cherry picking myths from here and there and everywhere, working out which versions work best for my story and quietly kicking closely related ones under the table. (The one about the guy who was force fed a vast amount, does a massive poo and then has sex with a woman I think might be some kind of land/fertility goddess. Um. Yeah, leaving that one out. The one about the poet, Cairbre, cursing the high king, Bres, for meanness? that one works well.)

I cannot say how much I love being able to escape to a cool green world when all is heat and mugginess here - interspersed with spectacular storms. I love piecing together and discovering, trying to fit the ever-changing archaeological evidence - very roughly - with the myths.

The more I read, the more I tend to think the Invasion Myths are based on some kind of truth and that I'd love to read more, study deeper. I've loved cramming in so much knowledge. I've missed it. I still haven't unearthed my old university readings book (Pagans, Christians Kings & Goddesses in Early Ireland) but I intend to do it soon. I'm just a tad worried as to how much has changed since then, how much of what I studied has become outdated as new discoveries have been made and new interpretations gained favour.

I wasn't sure I could do it. I wasn't sure it was possible to write a lot, consistently, with the three little ones underfoot and so much going on. I haven't written solidly since before the baby (now the toddler) was born, and it feels good. I'm still a little cautious as to the quality - does baby-brain still have me in it's grip? Am I just producing milk turned into words?

The book begins with the birth of triplets, and ends with the birth of twins, although there is an equal amount of death. I figure I can always do something with words that are written, it is impossible to do anything with words that are not written.

I'm on the homeward stretch - passed the mid-way mark, wish me luck for the next eleven days!

Saturday, November 7, 2015


Giggle Bear thought the wind before the storm the most wonderful thing. She is getting lots of new words at the moment and it's such a lovely thing to watch.

Adventure Boy - It's been a tough year for my boy. We just learnt his ears are full of wax and one of his grommets is blocked so his hearing has been down for the last little while. A speech pathology has also told us he very likely has a language disorder (probably related to the hearing loss.) He's been getting in a lot of trouble at school but when I suggested it could be frustration over not being able to hear or understand the teacher said no, that's not the issue -it's his behaviour. Looking for a new school. We've been so miserable with this one, but just stuck it out hoping it will get better. This week a teacher scrunched up work he'd done and threw it in the bin, so we're over waiting.

The Extravaganza - she's not letting her cast stop her at all. Now she can walk without crutches she hurries about with her strange gait at full pelt.

Joining with Jodi for a portrait of my kids most weeks in 2015.

before the storm

The day began hot and humid, and steadily became more hot and more humid. The sky became greyer and lower. We got into the car and headed for the beach, for the cool breeze from the sea.

And from the beach, as the kids ran and explored, we watched the storm roll over. Felt the first heavy drops of rain, watched the sea become pitted as rain began to torrent down, made the mad run for the car, delighting in the rain, worried for the Extravaganza's cast, inexpertly wrapped in a plastic bag. By the time we reached the car we were all drenched through, the camera and the cast - both in plastic bags, the only dry parts of us. The water gushing along the road, swirling around our ankles as we reached the car, was warm from stored heat.

As we pulled away I watched the rain pelt down into the atmospheric, still brown water of the mangroves alongside the road.

Lightning flooded the sky, thunder rumbled mightily. On the way home hail started pelting the car, bouncing along the side of the road, and for the rest of the afternoon, sitting in a blessedly rain cooled house, lightning continued to illuminate the sky, thunder continued to peal. Rain continued to fall.

I am so deeply grateful for the cool relief, the drama and delight of the tropical storm. The muggy build up sucks. But the storm, o the storm!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

by the shore (in the past)

My middle brother and I - on our favourite beach, a long, long time ago.

In a box of old photos, my mama came across this one, of my middle brother and I. It's so strange looking at a photo of us roughly the ages our kids are now. My brother looks so much like his little girl. I look so much like my son.

The photo has been scanned, sent, downloaded, reformatted, uploaded. All things that were unknowns then.

The world has changed so much, and we have changed so much, but we still love that stretch of shore. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015


- My Extravaganza broke her leg this week. She is enjoying lots of movies and being carried everywhere. She was almost too brave.

- Giggle-Bear.  Little toes while she sleeps. They always make my heart melt. And I love the way she stretches and flexes them when she wakes.

Joining with Jodi for a portrait of my little ones (and sometimes my big one) once a week, most weeks in 2015.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The first break... (My Extravaganza has broken her leg.)

I always assumed that Adventure Boy would be the first to break a bone.

I also always assumed it was just a matter of time before it happened. The way he climbs it seems almost a given that somehow, sometime, something (and not just property) is going to break.

So it's a massive shock that it's my little Extravaganza who is the first of my tribe to break a bone.
I've never broken a bone and it's breaking my heart that my little brave one has gone ahead of me into an unknown of pain and danger.

Two nights ago, after school, the kids asked if they could have a picnic at the nearby playground with their friends from down the street. The playground is only about ten houses away, but it's out of sight, and near a main road so Beloved and I said no. 'Cos we're cruel like that. There was pleading, and we compromised that we'd all go, including the overgrown-newly-castrated pup.

Turning off the oven, grabbing a beaker of coffee we'd just made, we set off, Beloved carrying Giggle-Bear and me being pulled along by the Wolf-en-pup. The kids from down the road had a backpack of carrots and mandarines, a water bottle and cups and we set up at the playground. Giggle-Bear ran around giggling, the kids made themselves soar into the sky on the swing, and then moved onto the flying fox.

It wasn't a particularly high flying fox. In the last month we've been on a heap of much bigger and more impressive ones and Beloved and I were sitting on the bench cooing at Giggle-Bear playing with the water fountain and then climbing into the kangaroo-rocker and not paying so much attention to the bigger kids, except to occasionally step in to help negotiations over turns.

And then I heard The Pain Cry. You know the one. The one that says this really, really hurts.  
And I looked over to see the Extravaganza lying under the flying fox with her legs curled around, and howling. So I ran over, checked for any obvious injuries, then carried her over to the bench for Beloved, the med intern, to check her out.

As she continued the in-serious-pain crying, I asked if we should take her to emergency and Beloved gave me the look reserved for over-anxious mamas.

"She's really sore, hon. Normally she just picks herself up and gets on with things," I pointed out.

She's one of the bravest children. She's quite likely to tantrum over a perceived injustice, but I have to be careful when she gets new shoes as she'll walk with bloody blisters without a comment. This time they could probably hear her at the hospital.

We asked what happened and it turned out that when Adventure Boy had launched off on the flying fox, the Extravaganza had grabbed onto him, whereupon he'd let go because she was too heavy and they'd both toppled to the ground, with her underneath.

So Beloved checked her toe movement and got her to press against his hand and she could do everything, but she was still in pain so Beloved put her on his back, I grabbed the Wolf-en-pup's lead and Giggle Bear's hand, and to the accompaniment of high pitched wails, we headed home.

The howls did not stop. Or decrease. At home Beloved checked her foot again. "So her ankle seems alright," he commented.
"Yes, love. But what about this big bump on her leg?" I asked.
"Ah. Yes. That. Let's take her to ED."
There was much howling for Mummy and tight clutching and, despite this meaning Giggle-Bear would be left with Beloved - and also howling for Mummy, I was elected to take her in.

By the time we reached the hospital, the Extravaganza's tears had eased off, and she was able to get her legs in under the pram arms. We were seen straight away by a kindly nurse, and taken into a cubicle where the nurse took a history, checked her air saturation and weighed her.

Very soon after arrival, we were seen by a very young doctor, who took the history again, listening as I explained she still couldn't bear any weight, and how she fell. The extravaganza by now was calm, her eyes still bright from crying, but otherwise composed. The doctor decided that at her age an extra dose of radiation would be bad, and that she didn't need an Xray. Another young doctor came through to confer, maybe from Canada, maybe from South Africa. I wasn't sure. Anyway, he agreed that she didn't need an x-ray and she'd heal by herself, and happy that my little one didn't have anything seriously wrong with her, I put her back in the pusher and we hurried outside to phone to be picked up.

Beloved was heartbroken - while he'd been dropping us off the Wolf-en-pup had eaten the lasagne we'd cooked for dinner. It had been going to be his first meal of the day, work just being too busy to eat.

The following day, the Extravaganza still wasn't bearing weight on her sore leg and it had swollen up, although she was pretty happy, and her usual talkative, cheerful self.

In a very stressed phone call from a hellish day at the hospital, Beloved insisted I take her to the GP for an X-ray referral. Obediently, and a bit tired of carrying the Extravaganza to the toilet, to wash her hands, from couch to bed from bed to couch, dropping her off at her Grandpa's while I dropped Adventure Boy off so she didn't have to walk, I made the appointment, squeezing it in before school pick up.

This doctor also told me that it was probably a haematoma - a bruise, and I stressed she hadn't put any weight on her foot since the night before, and the doctor gave me the referral. The thought of braving an X-ray clinic with all three kids, two of whom would need to be carried, was too much. I decided to wait until Beloved finished work, and let him take her in. He was three hours late finishing, but came out, put the Extravaganza in the pusher, grabbed the coffee I'd got for him and the smarties for bribes, and went in again. And very soon I got the text.

Bone snapped in half. Heading back to ER. Don't wait. 

The Extravaganza'd been laughing, giggling. There'd been little sign of bruising, although I'd thought her leg had felt warm, and it was definitely swollen.

On their return, many hours later, the Extravaganza in plaster up past her knee, Beloved showed me the x-ray. It was blatantly clear even to a layperson like myself. As well as a break diagonally across the middle, there was a long hairline fracture going up.

My stoic girl had been just too stoic. She had been so uncomplaining about all their prodding, just nodding 'Yes, that hurts. And that hurts. And that hurts. Yes, that hurts,' that they hadn't realised how bad it was.

Yes, the Extravaganza is a girly girl. She loves pink and her dolls, fairies and makeup. But that doesn't mean she's not adventurous, that she's not brave. Beloved said person after person did a double take from her smiling face to the x-ray.

My brave and darling Extravaganza. She's finding the itching of the cast hard to take, and still hasn't gotten the hang of her crutches.

But I'm so proud of her.

And feeling trepidatious.

I do believe we've entered the Years of Broken Bones.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


- Giggle-Bear.  She's so desperate to be one of the big kids. She's followed them down the drive and onto the street - luckily a quiet cul-de-sac. She runs in front of me, wickedly giggling and looking over her shoulder.

- Adventure Boy.  Part of the pack. The kids are always out on the street with their friends. A new boy has just moved in and a lot of re-negotiation is going on. They are discussing the finer points of Minecraft, having spent most of the afternoon 'mining' in the front garden.

- The Extravaganza. Out to rule the world. In the soft evening light, the scent of cut grass strong in the air and weather still balmy from a hot day, the kids have their own kingdom, their own rules and their own swift-changing friendship groups.

Joining with Jodi for a portrait of my kids once a week, nearly every week, in 2015.