Monday, November 13, 2017

Walk with me (through the wetlands)

7.30 am. Saturday morning. "Bye, love." 
"Bye, love, try not to kill anyone." 

Beloved departs for work. It's just me and the wild ones for the rest of the day and I am very outnumbered. Quickly, with sketchy preparations, I haul the three girls into the car, turn on the air con and return for the boy. He's still sleeping, so I pick him up and carry him out to the car. Food and his choice of music and he's almost human. 

And we're driving up the coast and the sky is blue and the music (too) loud and everyone is almost civil. 

I've been meaning to try Maroochydore Wetlands walk for awhile and it appears today is the day. Boardwalks (Yay - stroller! Also, nowhere for the kids to run off and get lost.) Mangrove swamp. (Yay wetland beasties. Also, mud.) We pull into a deserted car park and the older kids run off and disappear into the swamp. 

Following at a more sedate pace with the stroller and camera, I delight in the juxtaposition of perfect ease of movement along the well made board-walk and the wild tangle around us. It's a type of landscape I haven't encountered before with an undergrowth of unknown stuff - casuarina? and then the paperbarks stretching out of sight

The kids race, squabble, climb trees and swing on branches, balance on the edge of the board walk, in the still cool day. 

My three year old has hopes of mermaids in the river. We haven't gone more than a few paces before I realise that there are no mermaids but scores of demonic blood suckers. The mosquitos are fierce. Actually. Scrub that. FIERCE. I kill four on one arm, three on the other, and I'm back to swatting at the first arm. I'd meant to stop in at a petrol station to grab some repellent but didn't pass any. 

Spot the Mosssie on my Adventure Boy's shoulder. There were hundreds

Apart from the mossies we have the pathways to ourselves. There's no one else around and birds trill above the rattle of the stroller. The river sparkling morning-new ahead of us we take a detour along a loop that follows a tributary stream. The banks are full of Fiddler crabs, the males each with one massive orange claw. 

Mud, obviously, presents the opportunity to throw people and (other people's) possessions within. The kids are soon covered in the gunk. My Extravaganza's new light-up shoes are soon encased and their precarious position and entrenched-ness means I have no option but to take off my own shoes to retrieve them. The kids are no longer the only ones ankle deep in tenacious, oozy, pungent, river mud. 

I would like to say Giggle-Bear is holding a rare orange-red Beatle or berry, but Giggle-Bear is, in strict fact, holding her her sticky, twice-sucked lolly. She offered it to me to hold for her and I gave her the option of me eating it or her continuing to hold it. She continued holding it. 

And we reach the river! It is always nice to have a destination. The water is brackish - we saw a toad fish swimming in the tributary - and brown, but very inviting in the sun. A canoeist passes. A family in a boat. They wave and we wave back. 

Washing away some of the mud while sitting on the pontoon. 

 Wonder-Girl was completely desperate to be released from her pusher and let into the river. There was much arching and throwing herself around. When I thought her a safe distance from the water the kids insisted on releasing her so they could play with her.  They demand group photos and I blink and oblige. Mud. Tick. Mossie Bites. Tick. Mis-matched clothes. Tick. Yep, this would be the time they all want photos together.

 The morning progresses to a boil, the metal boardwalk is hot underfoot, we scoot from shade to shade, still swiping the mossies. But this is momentous. Wonder-Girl is now one of the tribe. In her eyes and theirs. They are a team.

This is why we enter the jungle...

Friday, October 6, 2017

kittens - our newest family members

As a child, every so often, to great excitement, cats and kittens turned up, in various bedraggled states, at our back door, and my family took them in. While they received such names as Ella-Lucy-Tiger-Flower, they tended to answer to Pussy. As a child, my Beloved had a much loved ginger tom he trained to bite, and who took to his lessons very well.

So when our kids started campaigning for kittens, we were inclined to say yes. Particularly in light of the face we live next to an easement and vermin are a problem.

Our son received a lizard for his seventh birthday - our eldest daughter demanded a pet for her seventh birthday. I initially considered Guinea Pigs, however, my Beloved considered them snake-bait.

So after a mouse sighting, I began perusing the cat adoption web sites.

I was looking for descriptors like 'bold' 'assertive' 'kid-friendly' 'dog friendly' 'fearless', 'brilliant mouser.' Most descriptions instead read 'will warm to you after a few days', 'best in a kid-free home', 'gentle nature'.

Finally, I found the description I was looking for. Mischief. Likes to wake his foster mum biting toes at Bold. Eureka. I'd found our new family member.

But then. Our irresistible ball of grey fluff had a brother. Equally mischievous. And Adventure Boy began begging for 'the naughty one'. And I began considering that a partner in crime to help our new one cope with the overwhelm that is our family would probably be a good idea.

So I got in touch and the lady organising the adoption was delighted to place the two brothers together and said we could get them right away.

Sooo... we began the long trek to Toowoomba and back - a five hour round trip. But the kids agreed that the kittens were completely worth it. They were little balls of beautiful fluff.
And they were indeed bold. And brave. And had a purr you can hear two rooms away.

It took me six weeks to work out that they're bold and brave because they're a wee tad dim.
However, they are also affectionate, playful, bold and brave, so intelligent as well was probably a bit of an ask.

The children adore them.

The dog is entranced. He wants to keep them captive and clean them and clean them and clean them. They are becoming quite blasé about him.

Also about the Monster-Baby who loves how they squeak when she squeezes them. By use of judicious scratches they are teaching her Gentle-Hands. They love to sit on me and purr and purr, while the baby loves to lie by me and feed and feed so they clash more that might be expected. The kittens deem it essential to be close to the Food-Giver, even at the price of an over-hands-y eleven months old.

And she truly adores them. Her face lights in overwhelming glee. And I separate them dozens of times in a day as she hugs them and they meow plaintively.

I try to explain to them that they are mini-lions and much faster and more agile than my little tottery one but they haven't caught on yet.

As I write Smudge has come to join me, lying on the bed as close to me as he can get, and Wolfie has come to join him, so Smudge sits between Wolfie's massive paws while Smudge is resigned to being licked and nosed and licked. He is a very well-groomed (if dog-smelling) gentleman.

And I am remembering the things I find trying about cats - the cleaning up of  'accidents' in the very hardest to reach of spots. The way they always want to walk across the computer keyboard. The way they try to steal my porridge...

And I am remembering all the things I love about cats - their dainty paws, the tickle of their whiskers, their purrs of content, their snuggliness, the light and grace with which they leap and play.

Monday, October 2, 2017

eleven months

Wonder-Girl is now eleven months old - and it is completely impossible to imagine a world without her. She is now revealed - at least partly - as the person she is and will be.

She is happy and big-belly-laughing, affectionate and determined, cheeky and curious. She adores her older siblings, the dog, the kittens (too much) and water bodies of all kinds.

She has the most determined crawl-stalk I've ever seen and is responsible for the only time I've heard a four year old wail "The baby's chasing me!" while she's crawled him down.

She has mastered climbing onto our bed, chairs and couches. At her Nana's she scrambles up onto the couch, then march-crawls across the coffee table to the armchair, then sits back and surveys her domain before crawling back across the coffee table.

She adores the sea - the pool, (wave pool or normal) baths and showers. As soon as she hears water running she's there, demanding to get in. "Eh! eh! Anna!"

Already she has a very clear idea about her rights - whatever the big kids have and then some.

She sees our dog as an accomplish/climbing frame/pillow and luckily he accepts his role, although he looks somewhat pained when she explores his teeth and ears.

She thinks the kittens are particularly wonderful teddy that squeak if she holds them tightly enough. They are quickly teaching her that they are not.

There is nothing she likes better than to play with her brother and sisters - she greets them with massive giggles and hugs and great big belly laughs if they actually play with her.

Her sense of humour is somewhat warped although she is slowly coming around to the idea that biting is not the most hilarious thing in the world and - furthermore - is not allowed. She went through a stage of constantly biting while she was nursing but after a month of being put on the floor every time she finally got the idea that - although clearly the funniest thing ever and guaranteed a response - it wasn't worth it.

She still thinks pulling hair is pretty cool. We're working on it.

If music she likes comes on she dances - which involves throwing her arms around and giggling. A lot.

As a concept she doesn't appear to think much of walking. Why walk when there are people to carry you? She stands, squats, stands, squats, picks something up, stands, squats, and crawls off. But walking? Hmm. Not something that seems to appeal.

While four is definitely a handful - it's entertaining when I only have the two babies and people at the supermarket remark 'you've got your hands full' and I smile and think - these are the easy ones. These two are just fun. My theory is kids get harder and take more work the older they get. Babies are wonders of simplicity and cuddles and then every year brings more worries and frets and run-arounds. At eleven months Wonder-Girl is a delight of giggles and hugs and smiles like the sunrise.

She is entertaining even when she's giving me a big hug and open-mouthed kiss and I know she's considering biting, thinking, thinking... big cheeky grin. The times that I'm too tired to distract the three year old and they both nurse at once they hold hands and smile at each other. Other times Wonder-Girl nurses she plays with her toes - flex, point, curl. Flex, point curl, stretch one leg out and hold the toes. Let go, flex, circle. Toes are amazing. She studies them the whole time. Other times she explores my teeth and nose. Her toe studies are much preferable.

At night, she sleeps in my curve, in the morning, she wakes with a grin. If I wake and move in the night - even if for the minute to go to the loo, she wakes and wails. I admire her survival skills - perfectly primed to ensure adults are around to protect her from hyenas are lions. Perfectly formed with battalions of cuteness to ensure willing, doting protectors and nurturers for her twenty-five formative years.

She is, quite simply, irresistible. There's not a waking hour that passes that she's not kissed and hugged, raspberries blown on her tummy or her neck smooched. On the other hand she gets a lot of benign neglect while I try (and spectacularly fail) to clean the house, or wash dishes and clothes, feed animals and change cat litter. Each time our attention is not 100% she wails with abject betrayal. Luckily, older siblings can be called in.

She plays now in the cot with her three year old sister - laughing and waving her arms in paroxysm of joy - because - Amazing Person is Playing with her! They have a Peter Rabbit - in-the-box and are alternatively playing with it and wrestling - either way she thinks it's the funniest. thing. ever.

She wears a yellow dress and she is our sunshine, our rainbow, our Wonder-Girl.

Monday, September 18, 2017

wild things...

Sometimes, time by sea is just a necessity. After winter months of long shifts, flus and coughs that just linger and linger and go away only to return with a vengeance, getting away - if just for an hour or so is needed. I need space and the sand beneath my feet. The kids just need to be outside.

My in-laws took our Diva on a shopping mission and we took advantage of all fitting in one car to hoist the faithful (oversized) hound into the car - and escape to the shore.

It's our closest beach, and one of my favourites, familiarity has increased affection as we discover hidden treasures.

Our gentle wolf is ecstatic to run with other dogs and the kids run off exploring - finding hermit crabs and superior sticks.

We meander until we find the stick house and enjoy the gift of some dedicated unknowns labour. When we first started coming it was a simple construction - now it has a entrance way and a proper room. A house? A love-shack? A prison?
My Adventure Boy is presently obsessed with sticks and building stick houses (often when he should be in class) so I lured him to the beach with the promise of architectural splendour, and luckily, he's not disappointed.

 Our Wonder Girl is dedicated to trying all the different types of sand. Is it all crunchy? And if she perseveres will she find some with flavour?

Our Cheeky Monkey is resigned. The Stick House is a prison and she is obviously the prisoner.

This walk always sets me imagining - the expanse of mudflats, the mangrove swamp behind, the river-mouth close by, all seem to invite a story.
Apocalyptic? A place to survive when all else fails?
Or turn to the past Historical? What would it have been like to be an early settler, in those stiff, corseted clothes and long skirts, in this landscape? It's pleasant now, and close to the sea with the breeze bearable most of the year, but a little inland and in the long summer, the sweltering heat and mosquitos are oppressive. In an atmospheric kind of way - the summer storms glorious when they come bringing short relief.
Of course, twists would be needed... To bring in the fantastical, the romantic - to use the land but not the true story that was hard, brutal and uncompromisingly tragic.

Still twisting all the aspects in my mind, I turn back to my little wild ones. I should probably save the Cheeky Monkey from her prison sometime soon.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Divas and Dentists

So this is a thing.
My Extravaganza has a smile from here to Texas. She is bossy, she is out there, she loves her clothes, her makeup, her tween shows and her drama. I often call her my Diva.
Take a good look at the photo above. The big smile, the faux fur, the makeup (subtle darling, subtle! is a constant refrain. My diva has no time for subtle) and the sequins. Don't forget the sequins.
She also has a very sweet tooth. And has already had quite a bit of dental work.
So when I saw a black line at the back of the bottom of her brand new front teeth, I panicked. Brush more! Brush harder! You are never so much as looking at sugar ever again.
I had visions of my Extravaganza toothless in those cruel teen years. Of us selling our organs to pay for new teeth.
After a couple of days of  her brushing her teeth and swishing and me brushing her teeth and her brushing and me brushing and more swishing and getting my mum to check and Beloved to check and the black line not budging I made an appointment with the dentist and sent my Extravaganza in with Beloved.
And I paced (or would have if I didn't have to feed the baby) and fretted and stressed and facebooked until I heard the car pull up and then I ran to the front door - baby still attached.
And my Extravaganza skipped in smiling and Beloved followed and silently handed me a little bag. A clear plastic bag.
And I took it and blinked at it.
It held two small flat metallic disks. With holes in the centre.
"So? So? What's wrong? Is she okay?"
"She's okay."
"So? What happened? Do we need to book the kiddy dentist surgeon?"
"She's fine. It was those."
He looked at the bag I was holding. I looked at the bag I was holding. Although I forgot the word for them for a good half hour because - getting old - I now remember those things are called sequins.
"Those?" I said.
"They were stuck between her teeth and her gum. She must have been chewing on her clothes. They'd slipped right down."
Now she hadn't said anything because - you know - brave. But it must have hurt quite a bit having them there.
"But how?"
"She said she'd been chewing on her top."

So. Do not chew on your clothes.
And only my diva could have to go to the dentist because of sequins.

Also, if you return your eyes to the photo above, I believe that top might be the guilty suspect and ex-owner of said sequins.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Golden-Girl in Fleeting Fields of Gold

In late afternoon light we pass an empty lot of uncut grass on the way home from the beach. A mistake to be fixed, the light turns the grass into a wonderland of gold. Ever one to grab a photo opportunity I ignore Beloved's mutterings about snakes - It's winter, hon, it'll be fine - and we run through the field.

The next day we pass again and the field of gold is nothing but drab grey stubble. The mowers came by in the early morning and decimated it.

Seize the moment! 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

time-deprived & daylight

In my more optimistic moments I signed up for an online photography course - to use up all my oodles of free time. It wasn't such a crazy move because I did manage an amazing anthropology course that I'm still mulling over.

But the photography course? Good and all. But not brilliant enough to take time from sleep. Possibly if Beloved hadn't got sick for three weeks, while on night shifts for two of them, and the kids didn't also take it in turns to get sick I might have managed module two, and possibly three and four, but hey, c'est la vie. Two more nights of night shift and Beloved hasn't thrown up in a few days. (Yep. night shift while vomiting - only so many sick-days in a year and lots of mouths to feed. Do you not feel safe in your hospital knowing that doctors will turn up unless they physically cannot move and share all their lovely germs with you. Twice Beloved went in to work to be sent home.)

As part of the photography course (okay, I'll admit, the first module) we were advised to take photos in the heart of the day and in the dawn and dusk to study the difference.

The weather in Queensland is currently amazing. I mean truly. I'm not being sarky. It's gorgeous. I haven't had a sweat rivulet in weeks. Sweat moustache - yes. Rivulet - no. We wear robes in the morning. And slippers. I give thanks just about every minute of every day. But to get back on track, all this means it's possible to go out in the middle of the day without girding for battle and preparing to meet your end with heat stroke and all.

So we did. En famille. Go out in the middle in the day. Which is something I don't really recommend in Queensland for most of the year unless you're beside a large body of water, which, unfortunately isn't really practical what with school and work generally not being beside large bodies of water bearing cool breezes.

And photos were taken.

Behold the tribe in the (mostly) harsh light of day.

 Mucking around with shadows - as you do in the heat of the day - he's holding a stick in his mouth but likes to think he looks like he has an arrow through the head.

 Isnt' my girl gorge? I cannot believe how she's grown and how old she is and how old she thinks she is... Sometimes I get glimpses of the woman she's going to be and it amazes me.
 They Cheeky-Monkey. Armed. She is strong and she is dangerous. Do not be fooled. She is a super-villain in the making.