Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014: A Bit Different

I LOVE my little boy getting to play
in the dirt!
I wasn't sure we would be celebrating Thanksgiving this year, my most favorite of holidays, because one of three situations was going to be true: A) I would be so hugely pregnant I would look and feel like I'd swallowed a planet, thus lacking energy to cook a massive meal. B) I would be in labour, since my due date was the 28th, and Thanksgiving was the 27th. C) I would be remarkably busy and tired with a newborn, thus lacking time and energy to cook a massive meal.

We didn't plan on not having any of these things happen, and our little boy dying a month before he was due to come instead, giving us the crappy consolation prize of more time and energy than we'd banked on. But we still weren't sure what to do about Thanksgiving, other than pumpkin pie because that is just an any-time-of-the-year food for us, though especially for Thanksgiving times.

As it turns out, our friends up the mountain were planning on cooking us a Thanksgiving dinner for the last few months since I'd talked with my friend and told her how much I love the holiday, but that we most likely wouldn't be doing the food part this year.

After Bennet died, our friends still wanted to make us dinner, and either drop it off at our house so we could have a little holiday alone, or, if we wanted to, still do it with them. This was all a complete surprise to me, and I cried. A lot. To know that someone cared that much who didn't share my little American traditions, who has 10 children of her own to care for, wanted to do this big thing for me and my family. I was more touched than I can say.

So my husband and I decided to have it with them. Because, while both of us love Thanksgiving food, the absolute best part of it for me has been being with family; that close, slow, crazy, cosy, warm feeling you get from sharing an epic meal together. And they may not be family by blood, but we are in "the family of God", and their actions toward us have shown a care that family and good good friends show.

So in spite of all my grief, I let go of my favorite holiday a little this year, and shared it.

And it was fun. And crazy. And homey. And really wonderful.

And it was hard. Because a little person who should have been with us wasn't. And as much fun as I had eating and talking and laughing, there were still moments of hurt. And I still had to fight off small bouts of anxiety and nervousness that are, quite honestly, new to me.

In the rather brief planning of this Thanksgiving, my friend asked me if there were any special Thanksgiving traditions we did. I have none. Other than my random list of things I am Thankful for (that I may have forgotten to do last year...) I really have none. So she asked her children to think of something they would like to do. They chose: come up with a rhyme or riddle and say it in front of everyone. Being Australian, and mostly under the age of 10, most weren't complicated or had anything to do with Thanksgiving, but ALL were fun. I really did love it! (Though I didn't participate. I'm rubbish at coming up with rhymes and riddles. I am not Bilbo Baggins.)

Now, as far as the food portion of Thanksgiving went, it was pretty fantastic as well. And I think we may have gone a bit overboard, but hey, leftovers are great. There was the turkey, the stuffing/dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls and bread, and, what I am most proud of this year, an entirely made-from-scratch green bean casserole. Because I can not find those crunchy onions that you put on top, but finally figured out, DUH, you can MAKE them because all they are are fried onions. And I made the cream of mushroom soup too. IT WAS GREAT. Nothing was mushy and gross by the end of it.

And of course, 4 pumpkin pies and LOTS of fresh whipped cream. And, for the first time doing Thanksgiving in Australia, I didn't have time to take pictures of all the food because, like Thanksgivings back home, there was plenty of noise, chatter, and wonderful distractions. I really did love it all.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

An Unexpected Goodbye

Today Phillip and I buried our second born, a son, Bennet.

He was born on October 21, stillborn. 4lbs 7ozs. With beautiful dark hair.

I haven't even reached my due date yet, November 28th.

I was only 33 weeks and a few days when he stopped moving normally and we went into the hospital one night, thinking, hoping, it was nothing.

But for reasons yet and maybe always unknown, our baby boy had had a massive brain hemorrhage, multiple and continuing we would find out later after being flown to Hobart for the emergency c-section that never happened because there was nothing that could be done for our little boy. Our Bennet.

Something about an ongoing development that caused it, something not seen on the 20 week scan. Something we could do nothing about. Something that would have taken his life sooner rather than later regardless of what we or the doctors did.

And I am completely and utterly heartbroken. And numb. And want to and need to write more, but I can't. Not just yet. Because I still can hardly say and believe the words "I have lost a son". Because my womb, my arms, are so very empty, and a grave that is so so tiny is full.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Platypus Encounter

After three years of living in Tasmania, I have had the opportunity of seeing most major wildlife (as in, what most people would think about when they think about Australia). I've even had the opportunity to pat some of them, thanks to Wings Wildlife Park.

But for three years, the closest I have ever come to seeing a platypus was some ripples in a pond.

A few weeks ago (over a month at this point, I started writing this a while ago), that changed.

We had quite a bit of torrential rain and flooding a few weeks back, and just after it, we were driving to Devonport for...  I don't remember what. But because of downed power lines and flooded bits of road, we had to take a road we wouldn't normally take. As we were driving along, Phillip SOMEHOW spotted a platypus swimming in the gutter on the side of the road. He backed up (this was a fairly deserted country road) and pulled over so I could get out of the car and waddle over to it (I am somewhat largely pregnant at the moment). Sadly the only camera I had on me was on my phone, but thankfully the platypus wasn't very fearful of me and rather slow, and only had the bit of water in the ditch to swim away in, so I got a few OK shots in.

I don't know WHY, but they are SO CUTE!
Phillip, somewhat jokingly, asked me why I didn't pick it up. My response was that I didn't want to die.

You see, male platypuses have little spurs on their back feet that are capable of moving on their own, much like how you wiggle your toes. And they produce a rather painful venom that they can inject you with using these spurs. Its powerful enough to kill small mammals, and while there are no reported human deaths, I'd rather not chance it. Especially after the story Phillip found about one man who had been stung by a platypus. On Wikipedia. (Which you can read here!) Pain. Excruciating pain is what seems to mildly describe a platypus sting.

Still, day made! Week, even! Australian mammals are pretty exciting to begin with, but there is just something extra special about the platypus.

As a side note, when Simon woke up from his nap in the car, I showed him the photos and told him "Platypus!", to which he responded, "Plap!" all of once, and never again. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Special Saturday

Last weekend was the first Saturday we had without any obligations whatsoever in... neither Phillip nor I can remember when the last Saturday was. Several months at least. But Friday night, both of us say down, tired, cranky, realizing we hadn't had time as a family, just the three of us, in ages. Doing something fun, getting out of the house. Spending time TOGETHER.

And we were suffering for it. Simon was cranky, tired of being in the house, and missing spending time with his daddy, I was cranky, overworked, overwhelmed, and suffering from some major cabin fever, and Philip was overworked, listless, tired, and somewhat aloof because of it.

So we erased from our minds all the many many chores that needed doing, all the little extra cleaning and organizing projects that have piled up due to outside-the-house obligations and general taking care of a toddler business, made an agreement to ignore all texts and invites, and make plans for the day for just the three of us.

It was wonderful.

We did our normal special Saturday morning breakfast, which is really just something different from what we usually would eat throughout the week, and took it fairly easy and relaxed for the morning. It was, amazingly enough, a warmish and sunny day for winter, so we packed a simple lunch of peanut butter sandwiches and fruit, and left for Turner's beach for the afternoon.

Thankfully, the tide was out so there was a massive stretch of well-packed, not too wet sand for Simon to run around on like a crazy person. He loved it. He loved it even more when strangers walked by with their dogs, and he noticed that their were sea gulls. And that there were rocks he could throw. And that the world was so BIG. We didn't do much more than walk up and down the beach talking and watching Simon take everything in and enjoy himself, which was enjoyment enough for Phillip and me.

Chill dude wearing his Aunt Jojo's old sunglasses

Our one decent family photo in AGES

The fall looks worse than it was.
(Which is why I crack up every time I look at it)
He got right back up smiling and running around.
Look Mommy! I found a rock!

Found out he could throw rocks over things.

He read the whole way home.
This is his standard car activity.
On the drive home, after two hours of playing and eating, Philip and I talked about how... FUN the afternoon had been. How nice it was too just be our family, to relax together, and how important we both feel it is that we continue to do things like this together. Simon has such a natural love of the outdoors, and we want so much to encourage that. We want our children to have fun memories (or at least feelings of) little family outings. Nothing big, nothing expensive, just... us.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Bit Lacking

It's not that I don't have words. I have plenty of words. Its not that I don't have time either, honestly, because I can make time. I just don't have the energy to write much of anything lately.

I don't even remember how far behind I am in my emailing.

We're expecting baby number two. Sometime November-December. I know I know, I'm VERY late announcing it here. But first of all, I like to do the 'wait 3 months before you tell' thing, and secondly, the first 4 months of this pregnancy were rough. Not as rough as some people have it, most definitely, but still, rough. I'm still having trouble reminding myself to eat (anything but cookies and ice-cream... Which we don't have around the house anyway. Oh, and potato chips).

So between the morning sickness that never ended, pregnancy induced exhaustion, regular looking after a toddler exhaustion, and taking care of basic household needs like laundry and food, I'm physically spent by the time I wake up in the morning.

And my homesickness increases exponentially when I'm pregnant apparently, and Simon has decided to act like a little minion from hell half the day the last few weeks, so add to that emotionally spent.

So by the end of the day (or during nap time, if that even happened) all I want to do is sit and veg. No writing, no emailing, no painting or knitting. Just veg. Or Pinterest. Which is kind of the same thing.

So forgive me, if you still read this. I have words, I have LOTS of words.

Just not the energy.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

First Birthday's and Dragons

Wow, I now have ONE-year-old.


Time went by pretty fast (though, at the time, seemed to draaaaag). I can honestly say that, now, I really truly enjoy being a mother. I have next to no idea what I'm doing, if any idea at all, really, but I really enjoy it now at LEAST 99.9% of the time (I'd still really enjoy sleeping in too). The first 5 months or so, I couldn't say that. It was hard, learning that taking care of this thankless, selfish, crying little adorable person was my job now. That what I WANTED to do (and sometimes needed to do) didn't matter so much as making sure this little persons needs were met, that he was loved and well cared for first before myself or housework got taken care of. Learning that I was a VERY selfish person who wanted what I wanted was hard, giving that up is harder (and a daily if not hourly task). Now though? I really do enjoy it. Simon is one fun kid. And there is no way to explain how much I absolutely love and adore him. How much I have from the very beginning, even with all the frustrations and learnings.

Seriously, though. This kid is hilarious. I love him. And Phillip and I wanted to throw him a super cool party for his first birthday. Problem is, we know all of like, four people that aren't family )ok, it's slightly more than that, but you get the picture). And neither of us are big PARTY people, nor have we been feeling extremely well lately (Phillip with a cold, me with other things), and also, Simon is only one. I mean, it's a big deal, but really? Not huge one. But still, I love a good birthday party, I love kid birthday parties, and Pintrest makes it WAAAAY to easy to find far too many fun ideas to do for kid birthday parties.

THIS is what you could buy. They've come
out with nicer ones with the second movie coming out soon, though.
So we decided on a "How To Train Your Dragon" theme, because we both love the movie, and Simon is too young to choose what he wants. Also, we wanted to get him a Toothless plush toy for Christmas, but couldn't find nice ones online (they were fairly hideous), and I happened to find a super cute and easy tutorial on how to make your own that actually looked like the movie character, instead of something that wanted to eat your soul. And I really wanted to make it. So really, we selfishly chose a theme WE wanted, but were pretty sure Simon would look back at photos and think "my parents weren't so bad, this is kinda neat".

THIS is the home-made Toothless.
So much cuter. And the tutorial was fairly easy to follow too! 
Toothless took a few nights of sewing, once Simon was in bed, and I ended up using a small K-Mart fleece blanket for the material, because after checking fabric and craft stores for WEEKS, we couldn't find black fleece anywhere that would suite for this project. If was either ridiculously cheap, and would pill and come apart after one good play, or overly fuzzy (and remarkably expensive). I ended up using super cheap K-Mart pillows for stuffing, too (K-Mart is the Australian Walmart equivalent, only with worse quality in a lot of things). Fabric and craft stores around here are just way overpriced and under stocked. I miss Hobby Lobby. The ONLY part I had trouble understanding in the Toothless  tutorial was sewing the tail fin. I left a whole side open because I didn't look at the diagram properly, and realized you only sew the TIP of it into the tail, not the side. Made for a more impressively long dragon once it was done, and it only took me five minutes to cut out and sew a new fin (seam ripping black stitches on black fleece was more work than I wanted to do, and I had enough scraps to do another fin easy).

Pintrest led to more ideas on food, which I narrowed down to a dragon cake and some Viking ship sandwiches. Partly because I love to play with cake decorating (though it was much harder with my lack of proper materials here) and it was an excuse to do Big Sandwich, which had the added benefit of... sort of... including my family in things, since it's something my Aunt/Uncle/cousins made a lot when I would go over. It was at least a reminder that we're thinking of them, and that they're still a part of our lives, even if they couldn't be here for the event <tear>. Then I made some paper mache "dragon eggs" as favours. They had little candy bars inside, and were made mostly to entertain the kids we invited. Unfortunately, the cold/flu that has been making its rounds amongst.. everyone... made it so that the only kids that came were Phillip's two younger cousins. Actually, the only people that could make it to the party were Phillip's family.

Despite the lack of children, it was a really good time. And everything turned out really well. And tasty. And Simon seemed to have a really good time. Though, honestly, he has a good time anywhere unless he is sick, hungry, or tired. Sadly, Simon and I came down with the nasty cold Phillip had, for a while, the day after the party, and are still working on recovering.
Night Fury cake and Viking ship sandwiches.
Family brought mostly deserts to share, so we were
a bit hyped up on sugar afterwards. 

Simon ate the dragon's head with much gusto.

Getting his very own dragon!
I think I love the fact that it's as big as him more than he does.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Stylish Little Bum

We do cloth diapers here in our household.

Sorry, cloth NAPPIES.

I try to be, what Phillip and I call, bilingual, speaking Australian and American, because sometimes people have no clue what I'm talking about, or it just takes too long to catch on to what words or phrases mean. Anyway...

We do cloth diapers.

I LOVE them. I mean love love love them. They are brilliant. And beautiful. And fantastic. I can't rave enough about them.

Mommy is more excited about the arrival
of a new stash of diapers than Simon
Most people assume, when you say you cloth diaper, that you do it for the environment (also that you want to use those old towel-diaper-nappies that are really just that: a small towel you fold and pin onto baby's bottom). Psh. I do it because it saves money. Most of our research showed that, for one baby, for one year, it costs between $500-800 to use disposables. One year, excluding wipes. We bought modern cloth diapers that will last us at least until Little Wubba is 3 for that much (baring replacing elastic, which is easy enough to do). So we're saving approximately that much until he's three, which means we can put it towards all the food he now eats and uses to fill those pretty diapers. Even with washing the diapers every two days, the price is still lower overall than buying disposables.

I mean, you can get decent ones even cheaper than that, but we learned from experience that it's worth it to splurge a bit and get really nice ones. Our first batch was dirt cheap, and some started leaking through the PUL (waterproof fabric) after 4 months.

Which meant I got to order new ones! We ended up splurging on the Cadillac of modern cloth diapers, some bumGenius's. And some Lotus Bumz and Sweat Peas we got on sale through various websites.

So, I love these cloth diapers. Why? They save money, but mostly because they are ab-so-LUTELY adorable. Even the plain colored ones are super cute. They're so cute and sturdy that, this summer, he's just been scooting around in his diaper, while still looking like I took the time to dress him. (Insta-outfit!) And, since we got ones that snap, they don't come off NEARLY as easy as disposable diapers do. He can pick at those snaps out of curiosity all he wants, they will not come undone unless I want them to.
The kid? Cute. The diaper? Matches the cuteness.

Speaking of the snaps, poop. My mommy friends (and parents) have experienced what we like to call "poop-splosions". It's when a baby poops and it somehow avoids the diaper. And goes EVERYWHERE ELSE. Up the back, down the legs, around their arms, EVERYWHERE. Modern cloth diapers? Nope. Has not happened. The only time I (and my other cloth-diapering mommy friend) have had that happen was we used disposables. On the plane trip. In his bassinet. GROSS. Cloth leaks, true, when it's full. So yeah, poo leaks. A LEAK. Tiny little bits of leaks very occasionally. But those snaps are like little padlocks for the poo, and keep it completely in the diaper (unless the diaper was already very full of wee when poop happens).

Also, we have to take our own trash to the dump. So the less stuff we throw in the trash, the fewer trips Phillip has to make with a car loaded with smelly trash to the dump.

The bad with cloth?

This is not bad. This is adorable.
This is a minky diaper we got as a gift. It is adorable and fantastic.
And also has different absorbing inserts for boys and girls!
They're sometimes more likely to leak if you don't get to them in time, or if you've been washing them poorly. You get a disposable diaper and, to quote my friend, you can put a water balloon in those things and they will soak it all up. Cloth needs to be changed more often. And nighttime? You need either a special night diaper, more liners to stuff in them for more absorbency, or other things that can help that cost money.

Also, you have to clean them. It's gross. Especially once they start solids. Poop, even baby poop, is still poop. You get used to it, but it's still poop. You can't just chuck that stuff in the washing machine. I just try to remind myself it could be worse, and it's still saving money. And the adorableness and reusableness of the diapers makes it worth it.

But it's still yucky.

Cloth swim diapers? Also adorable.
The thing I did end up switching to mostly because I noticed a difference in Simon's skin was disposable to reusable wipes. Only, our reusable wipes are just cheap baby wash cloths and not the kind you can buy for a lot of money. I figured we were washing diapers already anyway, why not wipes? I tried it (mixed up my own wipe solution of baby bath wash, sweet almond or olive oil, lavender and tea tree oil, and some chamomile tea in water) and really did notice a difference in Simon's "nappy area" not looking as irritated as when we use disposable wipes.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Things missed

One of the more common things people would say to me during my trip went something along the lines of  "I bet you'll miss X, Y, and Z when you go back." Only one person said something that I thought was really intelligent and,  well, encouraging. I was asked what I was looking forward to getting back to.
So rather than list all the many many things I miss about what is still home in my mind, I thought I'd give a few of the things that, while I was away, I actually started to miss about life in Australia, what I've been happy to be back to for the past month.

Running my own home. Not that I didn't love having my mom and dad kind of... take care... of me and my family for our visit, there's just something that doesn't feel right as a woman when you aren't running your own home after a while. Breaks are nice, being taken care of is wonderful, but I really truly do love maintaining and caring for my home and family myself.

Fresh food. Ok, I LOVED not having to cook a meal for a month (though I did make rolls and cinnamon rolls and pie at different times during my visit), and my mom and aunt are wonderful cooks, (big sandwich anyone?) but there's something about fresh, local produce that really does taste... better. That, and coming into summer meant plenty more fresh fruit and veggies. Especially cherries! Oh how I looooove Tasmanian cherries!

Gardening. Not that I've been able to get to as much as I'd like, what with Simon being a baby who needs, you know, lots of care, and sensitive baby skin (the sun is intense), and there being a lot of things that are just too gross/harmful in our back yard for a bay to crawl on, but I have high hopes for our summer garden this year (again), and I'm happy to be able to do whatever work I can in it. I love being able to work and grow our own food. And the peas and beets we've gotten from it so far have been delicious.

A routine. Poor Simon (and Phillip and me) didn't sleep well at ALL during our trip. Massive time change, going back and forth between various houses and visits, staying up late. Nothing was ever really the same for long for the poor kid, and his sleep schedule reflected it. Getting back into a routine has meant that he, at most, wakes up twice during the night now, and is just the happiest baby during the day. Even with cutting four teeth at once! Routine and happy baby has also meant I've been able to get back into two things I love.

Painting and working out. I'm excited to jump back into my painting project(s). Not getting along as fast as I'd like, but delving into my paints again has been nice. Along with getting back into some sort of work-out routine. I wanted to start feeling overall healthy again, which was hard to do even before going on a month-long vacation. Getting back into yoga and some other cardio-type things has been wonderful. My body feels so much less achy, and I have so much more energy. And I just feel happier.

Are there other things and people I'm happy to be back to? Of course! But my "thankful" list can't go on forever publicly. They'll just be for me to mull over and feel all warm and fuzzy about. Doesn't mean I don't still experience crushing homesickness, I do. There are still moments when I will sit and cry over how much I miss my family and friends. But I've learned I can't dwell on what hurts, what is painful. Acknowledge it, yes, accept it, of course. But I realize, too, that there is just so very much to be thankful for, here, as well.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Big Flight

The flight from Tasmania to Chicago is something between 20 and 23 hours, depending on wind speed and all that. The long flight ranges from 13.5 to 16 hours. Add layovers in and you have upwards of 30 hours of travel time.

It's awful when you have to do it on your own, as an adult. Imagine taking a baby on it.

Honestly, on your own, after the first 5 hours or so on the long flight, your body just gives in to the discomfort, relaxes a bit, and it's not so bad until you get to the last 4 hours, when you want to climb out of your skin. You chill out, watch movies, read, maybe even manage some sleep. There is no relaxing and tuning out to a movie when you have a baby with you. Thankfully the plane had a bassinet we could use that pulled out of the wall, so Simon was able to lay down to sleep a little, and we could get a bit of a break from holding him. Still, the trip was hard. And that's a bit of an understatement.

It was made somewhat nicer by Simon being remarkably well behaved and very interested in all the new people. And being complimented by fellow passengers on how cute and well behaved Simon was. Compliments on your child help make lots of situations better.

I've been asked if, after all that, the flight, the sleepless nights because of lack of routine for Simon
, the tired aching body from carrying a child all the time, the drop dead fatigue, would I recommend traveling with a baby, or would I do it again. My answer?


It was worth every bit of discomfort and pain to see my family and friends again. And I would do it again in a heartbeat.