Tuesday, June 28, 2011

happy fricken tuesday

To any and all of you who had day that was a little on the other side of crazy. To those of you who woke up to bony six-year-old knees digging into your legs, and whispered sweet nothings of runny poos in the night. To you who fed a baby at two hourly intervals. For the whole day. To you who encouraged a toddler who, in deciding to toilet train himself, has developed the delightful habit of removing pants and nappy upon waking from a nap and using the cot as a toilet. To you who boiled the kettle seven times only to drink three sips of cold coffee. To you who had to choose between washing your hair and shaving your legs in the shower this morning, because heaven knows, there isn't time for both.
The house is now quiet, there might be time to squeeze in a cuppa and five minutes of feet-up-on-the-lounge. Well done for getting through the day. It all begins again in a few hours!

in stitches part one

After a long hiatus my sewing machine has made a glorious, if rickety, comeback into my life. The poor old girl needs a service (nudge nudge, wink wink). I inherited her when a lovely friend of my hubby's family passed away. Mary was a gorgeous pommie English teacher who reminded me of Jane Austen novels and proper manners. I didn't know her awfully well, but she was always up for a cuppa and intelligent conversation. How nice it is to meet those sort of people and have them touch my life with their kindness and spirit. So my machine has been busily sewing up little blocks of patchwork for babies quilts, hemming school pants, and most recently, making something for my boys. Miracle of miracles, I actually delivered on one of the many times I said "Wow, this is cool, I should make one for you guys." This particular time, I was stalking checking out The Beetle Shack. I was struck by the gorgeousness of the Rainy Day Room she made for her kids, and I instantly realised I would not be a good enough mum until I ripped off her idea made one for my blessed children.

So without further ado, I present our table cubby, made from lengths of fabric found in an op shop, and some seriously dodgy sewing techniques. The boys played in it for about 2 minutes. Awesome.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

on perseverance

Breastfeeding. Natural, beautiful and instinctual right? Maybe. I guess it looks that way at a glance, contented baby snuggled into mumma, mumma smiling serenely at her adorable little one. When I reflect on my breastfeeding journeys, this is the image that pops into my mind. Sometimes.

Also popping into my mind are my first little man, super skinny from being underfed. Just persevere, I remember being told, after finally getting the courage to call for help. When my beautiful mum came and rescued me and my boy I surrendered, knowing that he was hungry and needed a bottle. But the bitter taste I got from watching his dad give him that first bottle still hangs around, and I feel sick looking at those skinny photos. And now he is a strapping six-year-old, skinny like I was, and strong and healthy.

Then the next little man. My exercise in perseverance. If perseverance is what it takes, then persevere I shall! Cracked nipples in hospital? Persevere, the night nurse will just milk you at 2am while you try to make chit-chat. Contract swine flu? Persevere, just wear a mask, constantly sterilise your hands, don't touch the baby other than feeding and don't take any medication as it may go through the milk. Beloved grandmother passing away? Persevere, hospital hallways, although bright, cold and uncomfortable, are a fine place to feed an infant. Develop kidney stones? Persevere, you'll just need to pump-and-dump the first feed after you wake up from surgery, the anaesthetic might get through to the baby. And so I learned to persevere, and the little guy and I got to ten months, supported with a couple of courses of drugs to build milk supply. Apparently supply is hindered in times of illness and stress, who knew?

And now the baby girl. I have a different kind of attitude now. I know that my milk supply is not as generous as I would like it to be. I have a determination to feed my baby, because I love it. I love the connectedness and the satisfaction at the end of a feed. I love that enough to persevere through the afternoon witching hour, when the milk isn't the greatest and I'm well and truly exhausted. I love it enough to look after myself, and acknowledge that I can't do this part of mothering unless I am well fed and well rested. So far we have been going well. I have sought lots of information, and do my best to keep my diet plentiful...I found a balance of biscuits and instant coffee just wasn't doing it for me! I have stocked up on Sustagen Hospital formula, to boost protein, have got some Blessed Thistle and Fennegreek supplements, and will go in search of some Goats Rue this week. I am feeding on demand, and trying to rest as much as possible in between...which turns out to be ten minutes on a Thursday when the big boy is at school, the little man is at kindy and I sit down and watch half a Grey's Anatomy rerun. And I find myself turning to the strategies I learned in my Prenatal Yoga classes. Turns out, in a two-hour labour I didn't get to utilise the full gamut, so I get to put some into practice with feeding. I am breathing in, I am breathing out. I can feed my baby, I am feeding my baby. I have determination, information and I will persevere.

5 things they don't tell you about breastfeeding:
1. It hurts. It hurts your nipples before the milk comes in. The baby is hungry and that mouth is bloody powerful. After the milk comes in, the let-down reflex hurts. And the after-pains in your womb, they hurt too. Blocked milk ducts hurt, chafed, grazed or cracked nipples hurt.
2. Nothing in your wardrobe 'works' for breastfeeding. Not only does nothing fit properly after nine months of growing a baby, now you have to find items which provide easy, and modest, bosomy access. Good luck with that one.
3. Expressing milk so that you can go out or return to work is a tricky business. Thank goodness for the new law requiring employers to provide a space for feeding/ expressing. I have red-faced memories of expressing in a library store-room and being sprung by a male colleague looking for equal-arm balances. And literally crying over spilled milk, when I knocked over a precious 30mls.
4. The is no suitable conversation to have with a nurse who has milked you at 2am when you run into her a few weeks later taking the kids to swimming lessons. Best to just avoid eye contact and move on really.
5. Breastfeeding is not linear. Four-hourly feeding is a load of crap. Babies are like us. You know, human. I myself wake up starving and want a great, satisfying breakfast. In the afternoon I like to snack, every hour or so. Funny that my babies are much the same. Give up notions of 'stretching them out' or getting the baby 'into a routine'. Because even once you start to see some semblance of a routine and feel like you might have this thing under control, it all changes again with a growth spurt, or illness, or teething, or something.
6. When you reach the end of your journey, no matter how long or short you feel it was, or how successful or unsuccessful you felt you were, you will feel sad knowing you are going to miss it. And you should give yourself a hug and congratulate yourself, for doing what it takes for your baby. Whether that's breastfeeding for two years, or feeding from a bottle from day one, or some combination of those. I firmly believe, and understand from my very different journeys, that every mumma does the very best she can for her babies.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

weekly gratitude

Four photos reflecting my gratitude for the week.

I am grateful to live in a community where this happens.

I am grateful that the tooth came out and I don't have to listen to the creepy sound of it wriggling anymore.

I am grateful that I know my way around a sewing machine.

I am grateful for the gazes that are only for me.

Life really is sweet and sour. This was a nice opportunity, at the end of a week where I felt I was going under, to see how good I really do have it! Here's to a sweet weekend to all.


Friday, June 24, 2011

row, row, row your boat

Last night I dreamed I was in a boat on a lake. In a thunderstorm. The motor on the boat had died, so I was rowing. And the boat was sinking. All the while I was chatting to a relative (whom I haven't seen in ages) about how wonderful our life is. With a cheesy frozen smile on my face.
Hmm...I think a soul-cleansing walk on the beach might be in order today!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

on the school run

We have the best chats driving to school. Something about me not being able to be distracted I guess.

This morning, the big boy said What's after primary school mum? Like year 7?
and I said High school.
and he said And after high school?

and I said There's university, or tafe, or you can go to work. You can choose what you want to do then.
then he said I want to be a dentist. And a spaceman. I can't decide which one.

three streets later he said I know. I'll be a space dentist. Is that a thing?

It is now, my boy.

The small boy is off to the dentist tomorrow after he chipped his front teeth last week. So sad to see something you spent all that time making get broken. The new, jaggy smile is starting to look normal now, it does kind of suit his personality. We have called him Mr Bump since before he started moving!

Somewhat prophetic birthday cakes, circa 2010. This year I made them a dragon cake, slightly concerned about what the year ahead will bring.

Monday, June 20, 2011

handmade giving

When I began writing here, I was very inspired by reading (among other things) this post from Joshua Becker over at becoming minimalist. Just after the craziness of Christmas time, when my whole family seemed focused on buying, the idea of giving meaningful gifts really hit a nerve for me. That Christmas, we had both families come to our place for a meal- although we are the furthest away. That was the ultimate gift for me, having family that would travel to spend a meal together. That's really truly what I wanted from Santa.

We have had lots of babies born the last month or so, starting with our little girl. We have received many, many generous gifts. Many of them pink versions of perfectly good things we already had. With this in mind, I decided I would give something handmade to the next two baby girls (first Baby BFF, my bestie's little girl, and now Baby Girl Cousin, my sister's first bubba). So out came my old friend the sewing machine, and I began a quilt. It should be said that I am not a quilter, so please don't judge me too harshly. I followed this pattern from Made by Rae. I managed to do some beautiful hand-quilting before realising you are meant to quilt after sandwiching all the layers together (kind of obvious really, blaming breastfeeding brain on that one). But I really like the way it came together, it looks kind of naive and homely, and I hope this BFF bubba will spend many an hour wriggling and rolling on this quilt. Now to start the next one for the Baby Girl Cousin!

Now to try to apply this idea a little more broadly. The Big Boy has been invited to a slew of birthday parties in his first six months at school, and with that comes the anxiety over a gift. How much should I spend? What does this child like? What do his/her parents consider an appropriate toy? I am wondering if I am brave enough to give a handmade gift to a school friend. I thought this was such a thoughtful gift for a little kid. Love to hear any ideas for home-made gifts for children.


Friday, June 17, 2011

from the archives

As I strive to live with fewer possessions and minimise buying more stuff, I found I had a possession conundrum when I looked at my external hard-drive to find it empty. All my photos. My most absolutely prized possessions. And no backup. So began a fun game of turning the computer on and off, changing and jiggling cords, and slowly, some photos and then folders began to emerge.

I was so glad to find this one:

taken of my beautiful grandparents about six or seven years ago. I find myself making instant coffee now like she used to, stirring the coffee in the cold milk like mad in an attempt to make froth. I think it tastes better this way.

Today I am inspired by this post over at The Beetle Shack- I'm so enjoying perusing this blog. Actually just perusing sounds so enjoyable, doesn't it? Hope you have some fun perusing today!

Monday, June 13, 2011

conversations at five

My big boy is about to turn six, and we have these conversations. He is a thinker, a worrier like me.
He goes
Mummy, will you be died when I'm a grown up?
and a big chunk breaks off my heart, knowing that he worries about this, just as I did as a child. And I go
Well, I hope not my love. I want to see how you grow up into a man. Maybe if you have babies one day.
And he goes
I don't want you to die.

And I'm glad. And sad too.

Then he goes

I can't wait until tomorrow when I'm six. I can't wait to check under my pillow.
And I think about this all day, wondering why he thinks we will put birthday presents under his pillow. Then I remember all the times he has asked me when his tooth will fall out...
And I went

After you're six, mate.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

fresh and new

The irony of a blog dedicated to living minimally with only two posts is almost too delicious to spoil, but I have news.

I have become a mama for the third (and last) time. We have a beautiful little girl to add to our brood, and I could not be more joyful. And exhausted. She and I had the most beautiful birth, but when I tell the story, it sounds too chatty to my ears. Here are the words I wrote in the middle of the quiet night, hours after she was born:

Thick from turbulent waves, the salty air washes over me.

It is readiness.

Where have you been? I've been waiting for you.

The little bird's tail flits a greeting. Soon, it tells me.

I sing to the rolling mound in the shower, close to my heart never to part

Then it begins.

An urge to gather my boys in my arms and be home.

A promise of popcorn I forget to keep.

The small boy crying as we leave.

We comment on the cold clarity of this night, just like his night.

Arriving at the hospital, a warm, safe beacon in a sea of ever tumbling waves.

In the bathroom, I regard the beautiful round woman in the mirror.

Last time, she whispers to me.

We smile at one another.

Strong hands and voice are reassuring as I dive through wave after wave.

I sing the song of the bee and feel a deep joy knowing that I am doing this.

Water showers my back.

The buzzing is deeper now. Longer. Guttural.

A lull in the waves.

I know.


Stepping out of the water, I recognise the doorway as our place.

Falling to my knees

In prayer, and hope, and love.

A push, then I am holding


Flailing arms and legs, fingers stretched out wide.

So tiny.

Left to discover a girl, it takes me slow moments to move the cord that binds us.

So beautiful.

So tiny.

We laugh and cry and carefully run fingers over soft skin.

She settles at my breast and our breath slows, together again.

But now apart.

After, I shower gratitude on my body.

Beautiful, bountiful.

And now complete.

My goodness, so much gratitude I can't even say. Shortly after the last post in February, I began attending a Prenatal Yoga class, and it made me realise that not only have I been cluttering my space with unnecessary stuff, I have been cluttering my mind and spirit with unnecessary energy. I am so grateful for the way my teacher guided me to bring my focus to my body and baby. Such an enjoyable pregnancy, I didn't want to let go of it. But eventually, I heard the words Inhale- let, exhale- go, and knew that I could. Thank you Jodi. We had the serendipity to have a most beautiful midwife assist the birth. She encouraged me to be where I felt most comfortable, and supported me in a warm way. When I was pushing, it felt like this midwife became my mother, sister and friend, just by resting her hand on my back. Afterwards she told us stories of assisting mothers in Papua New Guinea deliver their babies in fields. Thank you. My darling, who has never wavered throughout any of our babies births, or any other time for that matter. Thank you.


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