30 January 2006

celebration

A birthday celebration yesterday for Son #2.

birthday lanterns

Most of his (old) class came.
In the Steiner/Waldorf system, children stay with the same class, with the same teacher, for all of their primary school years. As you can imagine, they become a very tightknit bunch.
As do their parents.

So it was a birthday party, but also a kind of farewell.
A good time was had by all.

cake kiss

He's reached the age when, although he tolerates it, it embarrasses him when I kiss him in front of all his friends.
(See the clenched fists?)



Tomorrow a new school year starts.
New school, new classes, new beginnings.

27 January 2006

wet

rain

Blessed relief.

Hopefully this downpour will help get the fires under control.
The CFA say it’s a double-edged sword however, as rain can hamper fire fighting efforts on the ground, interfere with backburning strategies, and lightning strikes from the storms can ignite fresh fires.

But the feeling of cool air and all that moisture was heavenly.
We ran outside, faces skyward, mouths open.
Just laughing and laughing.

Thankyou to everyone who sent well wishes, prayers and blessings. We are not in direct danger here it seems, unless the Kinglake fires escalate wildly over the next few days, which now appears unlikely. But it’s still scary for city slickers like us, new to the bush.

rain lanterns



PS. My show and tell is on flickr this week.

25 January 2006

Vital Statistics

• 6 days left of the summer holidays
• 1 kangaroo spotted while hanging out the washing
• 40 degrees forecast again for tomorrow
• 7 children romping around the garden
• 3 cups of tea (each) consumed by the two supervising adults
• 4 large trees to be removed next week at great expense
• 3 pairs of new school shoes to be purchased by next Tuesday
• 22 rows of Anjuli Jacket completed, in delicious 8 ply plummy purple
• 2 fruitless hours spent on the internet trying to find the perfect sock pattern and yarn for a novice sock-knitter
• 1 Meyer lemon, planted in huge terracotta pot by front door
• 8 new seedlings, died in the extreme heat of last weekend
• 3 batches of muffins, burnt, before finally mastering the temperamental oven here
• 4 hours spent in the river on the second hottest January day ever recorded
• 3 people dead in the weekend bushfires
• 15 million Australians in mourning


river H1

river & ducks & P2

22 January 2006

Show and Tell: a good hat

hat

Only two days late with my show and tell.

My favourite hat.

It is sweltering hot hat weather here right now.
40 odd degrees here today, also yesterday, and Friday was similar.
It is a day of Total Fire Ban, the radio has stopped normal broadcasting to bring non-stop bushfire information, and we are all a little nervous.

So. Hats on whenever we go outside, even if it’s only for two minutes to hang washing out.

This was purchased two years and two months ago, at the market in the main street of Queenscliff, while the Queenscliff Music Festival was taking place. I feel a bit like a raspberry when I wear it, but I love it.

I wore it yesterday morning when I went to the market at the crack of dawn, before the real heat kicked in.

The Cool Change is due at around seven o’clock tonight. Can’t wait.


Lots of people asked questions about my last post.
Answers are in yesterday's comments section.

21 January 2006

knitting, chocolate-box sunsets, wildlife ... it's all right here folks

First up, the mystery knitting.

mystery knitting

I remember now that I stopped knitting it ages before we moved house, and began another project which I now cannot find. So, back to this one, but as mentioned a couple of days ago, I have no clear memory of what it was destined to be. Another pair of these I suspect, but cannot be sure.

Sigh.
One day all the boxes will be unpacked and some semblance of order will be reinstated.
I hope.

Last night, after a searing day, we watched the play of light over the hills.

This ...

dusk1

... turned to this ...

sunset1

... which turned to this.

sunset3

We oohed and aahed appropriately.

But wait, go back a minute.
What was that in the sky?
A portent?*

portent

Are we to be overrun by a plague of woolly mammoths?
No.

Frogs!

Mr Soup and I were retiring to bed when we discovered this little fellow sitting on the laundry floor. We scooped him up for closer investigation and photographic duties, and identified him as (we think) a Striped Marsh Frog.

frog1

He was incredibly tiny and very cool and pleasing to hold, as well as delightfully unfussed by our presence. He stayed with us for a few minutes and then took a flying leap out into the darkness. Hopefully not straight into the waiting beak of a barn owl.

frog3

After we popped him down, and went round to lock the front door, marvelling at our very own meet-the-wildlife experience, lo, there was another wee frog perched on the edge of a shallow bowl filled with river stones and water. (The perfect frog resting spot, one presumes).

By this stage, Son #1 had become aware something was going on and he sleepily joined us. The look on his face as the frog sat on his outstretched arm, its tiny throat vibrating madly, was priceless.

frog2



* Have I been reading too many books on classical mythology perhaps? (I finished The King Must Die by Mary Renault and while deep in the throes of the Theseus myth, thought I'd try Ariadne by June Rachuy Brindel).

20 January 2006

How he celebrated turning ten

bikeP4

By doing this.

All afternoon.

Makes my heart go all gooey and fudgy.

19 January 2006

a birth story – for Son #2

Ten years ago today.

It was hot, and Son #1 (who had not yet turned two) and I were heading out the door on a new adventure.

Since moving to our inner city home a few months earlier (yes, the same home we left two weeks ago, after ten happy years there), I had been searching for suitable childcare one day a week for little #1. I was by then working casually, from home, for a small feminist literary magazine, and needed a few hours a week to work without simultaneously dealing with the demands of a toddler. I also figured one day a week of quality time with the new baby who was due in 3 or 4 weeks wouldn’t go astray either.

Finally, the phone call had come. A place had come up at our local childcare centre and we were invited to visit for a series of orientation ‘settling in’ sessions, with me gradually and surreptitiously withdrawing my presence. Perfect I thought. A couple of weeks of gentle sessions and then the baby would arrive, and #1 wouldn’t associate being packed off to childcare with the arrival of his sibling.

Ha.

So.
Friday, 19th January.
We decided to walk to the childcare centre. Why, I have no idea. Thirty-something weeks pregnant, 32 degree heat. Crazy. I pushed the pram to the centre, we introduced ourselves to the staff and spent an awkward hour in #1’s new room, with me trying to gently prise him off my enlarged lap and steer him towards new discoveries and experiences. He wasn’t having a bar of it.

The hour up, we said goodbye and left the room, I loaded the child into the pram and headed for the front door. As I pushed the door, I felt a gentle ‘pop’. I froze, realising with horror what was happening. Luckily the loo was about 7 steps from the door. I made it somehow, cleaned up, and naively thought that that relatively small amount was it. (I had no experience of the full joys of amniotic fluids, as they had not broken with Son #1).
That was manageable! I thought. Why do people make such a fuss for heaven’s sake?

I emerged from the loo to find #1 had been rescued by his new carers who’d guessed what was happening. They rallied round, popped me, the child and the pram in one of their cars and drove us home, me protesting all the while that I was fine and could walk home thank you very much for your kind offer and all that. They regaled me with horror stories of births in public toilets/gutters/street corners, as people like to do when you’re at the business end of a pregnancy, and politely shoved me into the car, and out again at our destination.

I fell into the house and promptly thanked the Almighty that they hadn’t listened to my protestations, as my waters broke properly then. All over my clothes. All over the floor. As happens, when one’s waters break.

(I calculated that had I walked, I would have been in front of the greengrocers right about then. And the sight of all those watermelons may just have been a trifle alarming.)

Luckily my brother was staying with us at the time, so he gave the bemused toddler some lunch and put him down for a nap, while I ... relaxed/practised breathing/communed with the unborn child/packed my bag? No. I headed for the computer to finish the Autumn edition of the magazine so it could be collected by the editor the next day. I also phoned Mr Soup, telling him what was happening but not to hurry home as we knew from previous experience that we still had about ... ooh ... eleven hours to go.

During the last couple of pages I realised I was panting and typing in rhythm.
Another phone call to Mr Soup.
This one with a little more urgency.

Mr Soup arrived home and we bundled a hastily packed bag into the car, kissed my brother and Son #1 goodbye, and set off. The ride to the birth centre was soooo uncomfortable and all I could think was Gee, I’m not handling this very well. I’m much older and more tired than last time, that must be why. Gawd, and I still have hours to go.

By the time we arrived and attempted paperwork at the reception, I could barely speak coherently. Our midwife arrived and I was interested in a dazed sort of way to note that she was quite pregnant herself, with her third child as she later told us. She was also a student midwife, and so a senior midwife sat at the other end of the room for the entire labour, supervising and blatantly disbelieving everything I said. Cos clearly, she was the expert on my body, not me.

But then ... The Belt.

Since our first experience at the birth centre two years earlier, a new rule had been implemented whereby labouring women had to have foetal monitoring on arrival, for 20 minutes. Now, the only way I can labour effectively is kneeling or on all fours, and the only way a foetal monitoring belt can be fitted and, um, monitored, is with the woman on her back. Problem.

(Side note: how on earth did women labour on their backs under the patriarchy for so many decades? It is so unnatural and against all one’s instincts).

The midwife strapped the belt on and I suffered it like a Good Patient for five minutes, then asked politely that it be removed. The midwife foofed around for a bit and didn’t quite respond, so a minute or so later I asked again. She deferred to the senior midwife who said a flat out No. Another two minutes later I announced I had to go to the toilet so the belt would have to come off. The senior midwife offered me a bedpan. I refused, saying I would walk to the toilet, and use the toilet thank you very much for your kind offer and all that. She tried to fob me off again, so I just started to unbuckle the belt myself. The wonderful student midwife turned her back on her colleague and helped me, and I staggered to the loo.

Of course once I was upright it was all systems go and my contractions changed instantly in pace and rhythm. I remember thinking, Wow I’m kind of pushing! Already! We’ve only just arrived! Now only 40 minutes of pushing to go! Stop thinking in exclamation marks!

Our student midwife helped me back to the room, stopping every three paces for a contraction. I had a contraction at the doorway to our room, at which point the student midwife announced to her superior that I was pushing. (I vaguely remember noting with satisfaction that the senior midwife looked contrite as she realised that I had actually been in full-on labour while she had been fobbing me off with rules, regulations and implements of torture.)

In the two seconds before the next contraction hit, I almost made it to the bed. The mat on the floor at the foot of the bed had to do. And with the next contraction, after a mere 5 hours of labour and two minutes of pushing, our beautiful little golden boy arrived gently and with minimal fuss into the arms of our midwife.

(It was, unlike Sons #1 and 3’s births, a beautiful, calm birth, as 'easy' as childbirth can be said to be. Well, post Belt Episode, that is. Our pregnant midwife said to me much later, as she finished up the paperwork and massaged my feet, that that was exactly the kind of labour and birth she hoped to have herself in a few short weeks.)

She passed our brand new Son #2 to me so I could sit back and see and hold him. My first instinct was to rip my top off so I could cradle him skin to skin (another new experience as sadly Son #1’s cord had been cut and he was rushed off to have his airways suctioned, returning to me later wrapped in a blanket).

My first words, not very romantically, were Where are my glasses?

Pause, while the glasses were located somewhere on the bed.

My next words were spoken with a profound sense of wonder and almost in unison with Mr Soup’s.
Gosh, he’s sooo beautiful!

Because he was.

And oh my, he still is.

Happy 10th birthday, special boy.



Postscript: The editor’s column in the Autumn edition of AWBR of that year featured a special welcome to Son #2.

18 January 2006

Domestic goddess stuff

Did I mention we have half an acre of feral blackberries?
It’s a veritable blackberry feast around here.

Blackberries with cream
Blackberries with ice cream
Blackberry crumble (dessert last night and the night before)

... and today...

Blackberry Jam.

Make a small batch first, to see how it goes.

Get your children to pick 500g of blackberries,

jam making berries


Watch that hand. It steals.

jam making hand


See?

jam making steal


Mash em up in a bit pot. Enlist the help of a small child to do this part as it’s tedious.

jam making mash


Stir them for five minutes. Make the small child do this bit too.

jam making stir

Add 400g sugar and stir until dissolved.

Boil rapidly for five or ten minutes until setting point is reached.
Pour into hot sterilised jars and seal when cold.

jam finished

Take all the credit, ignoring small child’s protests.

(This amount only made two jars’ worth. Next time I’ll get the children to pick two kilos of berries. Heaven knows, we have plenty to spare.)



Tomorrow, for something completely different, there will be a birth story on this blog. Stay tuned. Or not. Whatever.

17 January 2006

just breathe ...

gumtree2

Lying on my back, gazing up at the sky.
Trying to breathe, and just be.

Like dogs and children.

pyjamas & bikes

Oblivious to the chest-tightening stress of discoveries such as:
• termites;
• multiple trees which, barely clinging to the edge of the cliff, threaten to fall on the house and so must be dealt with;
• settlement on the city house being delayed by two weeks due to financial crap that I can’t even think about without hyperventilating;
• other boring but necessary and costly adventures including the removal of an old rusted out water tank, site levelling and the construction of a shed and fenced area to contain the dog when school and work resumes.

I guess I’ll be living with the temperamental oven, ancient dishwasher and bright blue bathroom laminex a while longer.

In the meantime, we are discovering the joys of semi-rural living.
Septic tanks, solar hot water, blackberry crumble, dust, sunsets, sunrises, and the exhilaration of looking out of the windows and being able to see for miles rather than a couple of metres.


To answer a couple of peoples’ questions, a) we bought this house two years ago and have had tenants in it as we weren’t able to leave the city house at the time, b) we have always wanted to live here, it’s been our dream, c) we are about 45 minutes from the old house and the city centre, and d) yes the children have to change schools.




Now for your enjoyment, here are some blurry pictures of the echidna, courtesy Son #1 who nabbed the camera. I should have nabbed it back. My hand is a trifle steadier, as I don’t shriek Oh my god it’s sniffing my foot! while pressing the shutter button.

blurry echidna sniff

echidna eats shoots &leaves

echidna sleep now

12 January 2006

Lately there has been ...

• more unpacking;
• reading Mary Renault’s The King Must Die and loving it;
• ten minutes up-close-and-personal time spent with the echidna, who sniffed Son #1’s shoe curiously, trundled about deliciously unfazed by the squeals of delight above him/her/it, then tired of us, dug a hole in the ground right in front of us, and disappeared head first into it, but did I manage to get a decent shot in those ten minutes? Of course not;
• rain, rain, and more forecast to come. The dry ground is lapping it up greedily, and the rhododendrons (why oh why did they plant rhododendrons here for heaven’s sake?) are unfurling and lifting their leaves skyward;
• I found and unpacked the box containing my wool and needles. It also contained some mystery knitting. 30 rows of moss stitch, on about 60 stitches, oat coloured wool, on wooden needles. I have no idea what I was knitting before moving house so rudely interrupted me. Perhaps I should post a picture of this unfinished object and I’ll take suggestions from the audience? Kind of like those interactive films where the audience choose the ending.
• blackberries. They are a noxious weed here, albeit a yummy one. We are indulging before we attack them with big sticks and a hefty dose of Round-Up;
• many Crimson Rosellas, Swift Parrots (which are endangered) and cockatoos visiting. The antics of the cockies are hilarious but we don't want to encourage them lest they eat our house (yes, really, sulphur-crested cockatoos will eat your windowsills and doors if they feel like it. The parrots are welcome to visit, however);
• the film Chocolat on DVD … one of my favourites. I was wondering why the character Caroline seemed so familiar, and then it clicked. The girl from the Matrix films. In rather a different outfit;
• gradually getting the house straight(er);
• now onto the garden. I have grand plans for indigenous grasses, miscanthus, grevilleas, a dash of grey Plectranthus argentatus, an echium or two and some fruit trees;
• little gifts arriving from friends ... a punnet of tomato seedlings to plant, a jar of homemade apricot jam;
• walks with the dog at dusk, taking in the pobblebonk of frogs and the swoosh of evening birds swooping overhead;
• I also found the box containing my quilt fabrics. Maybe this will be the year I actually make the quilt?
• maybe this will be the year I make resolutions?
• 2006 resolutions: make a quilt, go to bed earlier, practise patience more frequently and hopefully more successfully, spend more time on productive pursuits such as quilting/knitting/sewing/writing, take better photographs, complete mystery knitting project with the help of my infinitely-more-clever-than-me internet friends.

11 January 2006

Corners of my House

Amanda’s recent post "Corners of My Home" really spoke to me somehow, perhaps because this house is still so new to us and I am still learning the secrets of its corners.

I thought I would share one of my favourite nooks of this house.

corner - hooks&bottle

This house is mudbrick, a medium beloved of alternative house-builders and hippies everywhere. The people we bought the house from built it twenty years ago and because they were building it for themselves, they incorporated all sorts of little touches. Quirky little touches such as dried flowers, a pretty tile, a not so pretty tile, some coat hooks, and a wine bottle, all embedded into the mud.

(Yes, a wine bottle. Embedded into the mud, by the front door. It functions as some kind of weird light source in the afternoon sunlight.)

PS. Most of the corners in this house have cobwebs. With brick floors, mudbrick walls and exposed beams, this place is a dust and cobweb nightmare.

9 January 2006

a new soundtrack

The soundtrack to my daily life has changed from the raucous squawking of lorikeets and the traffic noise of the city, to the tink of the ubiquitous bellbirds.

They begin at daybreak, and ting, ting, tink ...
ALL. DAY. LONG.

Yesterday, a kookaburra managed to get a look in for a few minutes before the bellbirds got started.

And last night ... when all was dark and we took our cups of tea out into the night to marvel once more before bed at this new chapter in our lives, we saw a barn owl perched on the kookaburra’s favourite branch.

(We have also spotted the resident echidna.
I didn’t have time to run for the camera, but we’re told he makes regular appearances, snuffling and rooting around in the bushes, so fingers crossed for the future.)

6 January 2006

Epiphany, and a little Show and Tell

advent epiphany

The Advent Fairy remembered the three wise men in the nick of time last night.
Thank goodness she did, for Son #3 made a beeline for the advent table this morning to check out the kings’ arrival.

***********************************

In other news, I finally found and unpacked the box containing my smalls, and in it was an assortment of hats, gloves and scarves, including this ...

scarf mainscarf close

... which will do nicely for Show and Tell something crafty.

I felted this scarf for myself last winter.
It was my first attempt at felting, and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the process was. Not to mention how satisfyingly quick.

The scarf is beautifully soft and oh so deliciously warm.

scarf modelled

Son #3 took his modelling assignment very seriously.


(Happy Twelfth Day of Christmas to all)

5 January 2006

... because this is just around the corner

I was feeling overwhelmed by unpacked boxes, dirt, a wild and weed-infested garden, an oven that doesn’t appear to work, financial stuff that must be dealt with before the city house is settled ... and a husband who is so tired and stressed that he has backed his car into first a tree and then a pole in the space of one week, and has had to return to work far too soon.

So I took the children and dog for a walk by the river this afternoon, to reconnect with why it is that we have turned our lives upside down and moved here.

river5

river3

It worked.

I came home rejuvenated and invigorated.

And unpacked two more boxes.

4 January 2006

two adults, three children, a geriatric cat and a huge dog, in a new location

Gosh we have a lot of stuff.

Actually, I know that we have a lot less stuff than many people, but when you have to pack it all into boxes, haul it across the city on a 39 degree day (that's Celsius, people), and then unpack it all (well, some of it) the next day, which happens to be a 43 degree day, it feels like a LOT of stuff.

The newspaper gleefully informed us that 43 celsius is about 108 gasundheit, for those folks who still work in old money.

Suffice to say, I am exhausted.



Things I love ...

the pantry!
the views from every window
the whole environment/surroundings of our new suburb
the welcoming party of neighbours who turned up last night to introduce themselves and welcome us
the rustic nature of the house (this one may wear off I suspect)
the views
the views.


Things I'm not so thrilled about ...

the bathroom (blue laminex counter, 'gold' taps, faux heritage tiles)
the kitchen (apart from the pantry, see above)
the creepy crawlies
the realisation that we really are in a bushfire-risk zone
the cobwebs.



Thank you all for your comments and good luck wishes.
I will get around to checking your blogs and replying shortly.
But first, I have to find the box containing my underwear.




Kind of sad that I listed the pantry before the views ...