Smoke Break

I couldn't quite capture it, but if you look closely, the girl on the back of the bike is holding a cigarette firmly between her fingers. We were riding in a cab parallel to this pair, and at stop lights, she would take a puff or two. Argentines loooove their cigarettes and I guess they take them everywhere. Also notice how close the driver is to -- or rather, how he is touching -- the bus in front of him. Perfect example of Argentine driving.

Sunday Evening

The weather was so warm yesterday. We opened our bedroom door and enjoyed the evening.

Ellie enjoyed the patio. I'm glad "curiosity" didn't get the best of her and she didn't fall five stories to her death.

The moon had come up.

It's about time to plant some flowers!

And these boys were enjoying a large bottle of wine in the "park" below (can't see the bottle here, it's on the ground between them). The couple was strolling. I was feeling creepy for taking their pictures.
I'm glad we enjoyed it while we could. The weather turned rainy and cool today. It's springtime, I guess!

I Luve My Mmm

Ducky has been very interested lately in 'playing school'. This was a favourite game with all four youngest girls, but lately the three youngest have lost interest. It may have something to do with the fact that Ducky is always the teacher, of course. Ducky has adapted her teaching style and now gives lessons to her toys.

I just had to photograph one of her recent 'lessons'. Look closely... first they had an art lesson on how to draw a butterfly, which turned into a maths lesson as Ducky instructed her toys how to draw a line of symmetry through the butterfly. (Obviously the horizontal line is there to demonstrate the wrong way to to it.)

The globe indicates that geography was also covered before they moved on to some spelling games. "Hangman" is one of Ducky's favourites. The word was "bike" and it looks like the teacher won! (perhaps they spell it differently in dolly language?)My favourite part of the day's classes was sentence construction. What a great subject for an English lesson. "I luve my mmm."
(I love my mum.)

Boca


I went to my first Argentine futbol game. It was Boca Juniors at home, but -- dare I say? -- I haven't decided if I'm a Boca or a River fan (extreme rivals here in Buenos Aires)! Shhhhh! Either you're a fan of one OR the other. And after seven months (!) it's high time I decide for myself which side I'm on.

This is where we bought tickets from a scalper.


Once inside, we were really feeling the spirit. The crowd was loud, there was a fan band somewhere in the stands, and the music and chanting did not stop the ENTIRE game!







It was beautiful and sunny, so Neil took his shirt off, which I think is totally hott, but perhaps even the less-than-high-class (public urination EVERYWHERE) fans around us thought it was exceptionally white trash. No matter.



My neighbor to the right was enjoying rolling his own little something-something ...



... and then, I kid you not, I looked at the jumbotron and saw what time it was ... (16:20, hint, they use military time here).

Side note, it was 20 Celsius, which is 68 Fahrenheit. Pretty nice weather.

My doobie-rolling neighbor was redeemingly sporting the hat I featured at the top of this post. It was a Nike/Boca Juniors hat, and I guess the Boca fan slogan is "Cada dia te quiero mas." It translates to "Every day I love you more," which, apart from declaring Boca fans' loyalty, just sounds so cute.

Unfortunately, Boca tied 2-2. Or perhaps fortunately, as no fights were spawned as a result.

Although, interestingly, you have to wait until the visiting fans have ENTIRELY cleared out of their designated, separate section before you can leave, which took about half an hour. They don't want to risk mixing the fans and the chance of any fights erupting.

All in all, a lovely day to be outside. And we didn't even get mugged, robbed or raped on our way out of La Boca, a notoriously SKETCHy neighborhood.

The base of the neck

Willow has a really long neck. You'd think, given that nice, long neck, that giving through the whole length of it would be rather easy. It's only those short-necked horses that lock up, right? Ha! Willow just loves to give only at the poll and hold the rest of her neck flat and straight. Or, at least, she used to love to do that. Trainer Leslie has been giving me many training tips on getting Willow to let go at the base of her neck, creating that lovely arch we all seek. As you might imagine, a horse that holds its neck flat and straight by default will travel on its forehand. It needs to give at the base of the neck and lift through the wither to allow the weight to shift back.

In the last month Willow has really changed through the neck. I don't have that flat, locked feeling through the reins anymore. It's a much more rubberbandy feeling now. We did have two weeks where Willow thought she'd try one more time to intimidate me out of this whole giving-through-the-neck thing. She started threatening to rear, and then a few days later threw in some actual rearing. Bad mare! I found that when I felt her gather her rear legs forward underneath herself, if I pitched myself forward and took one rein far down and sideways, pushing with the leg on the same side, I could get her to spin out of it before she went up. "Curses! Foiled again!" Willow thought.

When stuff like that happens, it's so helpful to have a trainer to be eyes on the ground and tell you if your horse can't do what you're asking or is just being a royal beeyotch. With Willow, it was the latter, says Leslie. And here it is two weeks later, things are going great, and no more rearing.

The canter is feeling so great right now. I even got a tossed off "Looks really good!" from the head trainer the other night, and she's not one to pipe up with praise, like, ever. Willow's off my hand, taking the half halts, and starting to develop that lofty feeling in front. Walk-canter-walk is coming right along, as area shoulder-in and travers in canter.

The Ovation wide-calf boots arrived, and fit OK except for being a little gappy at the top. Good enough. I'm still grumpy about having to wear a wide-calf anything.

SkullHead NippleHoodie

We see this graffiti mural on Godoy Cruz every time we drive back from lunch at California Buritto Company.


For a long time we've been talking about taking this picture. The other day the opportunity, in the form of a long line of cars behind a red light, presented itself. I hopped out, and Sandra snapped this shot. Hehe.

Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun

Time’s a-wastin’.

Tomorrow is Charlotte’s 8th birthday extravaganza. She has planned an enormous Build-a-Bear party for basically everyone she knows, except the neighbour girl who recently (oh, who am I kidding, ‘continuously’) bossed her around.

And that’s what is known as ‘comeuppance'. NO CAKE FOR YOU, HA.

At this very moment, party being tomorrow, I should be cleaning something, or baking something. Instead, I’m posting about a couple of books I keep meaning to talk about: “Socks from the Toe Up” and “Mother Daughter Knits”.

ToeUp

“Socks” is the baby of Wendy Johnson, who writes Wendy Knits. This book has got some cool stuff, plus lots of tips for basic toe-up sock construction. The patterns are nice. (Weirdly, though, many of them don’t continue all the way around the back of the leg – the patterning is just on the front.) My favourite so far are the Labyrinth socks (Ravelry link) but I haven’t cast them on yet…just need the perfect yarn.

This is a great book if you’re a sock knitter in general, and especially if you usually knit them top-down and are wondering about a switch. Wendy has included instructions for a good heel-flap imitation, too, so you won’t be limited to short-row heels.

Socks from the Toe Up gets:

3/3

Mother-DaughterK

Mother-Daughter Knits” is from Sally Melville and her daughter Caddy Melville-Ledbetter. Sally is apparently a friend of my mother-in-law, and I think I might try to wangle some kind of introduction – based on this book, I would LOVE her. (And her daughter, too.)

There is a lot of good stuff in this book. I’m impressed with the sections on fitting body shapes – they’ve gone to a lot of trouble to explain the theory and application of knit design, including changing parts of the pattern to suit your figure, and what to wear WITH your chosen sweater shape. I like that – so often, as they say in the book, a nice piece is ruined by an off bit of styling.

I love the Camelot Coat, designed by Sally. I also like Caddy’s Minidress, although that is not my usual style (cap sleeves, argh!) – but the back is marvellous.

I see a lot of pattern books and mostly they are the same old, same old, but this one really appeals. There is more good information than I expected, the sizing range is generous, and the designs are pretty. Check out “Mother-Daughter Knits” if you get a chance.

Mother-Daughter Knits gets:

3/3

-----------------------------------------------

And now I really must go plan the cake. Charlotte wants layers of both vanilla AND chocolate, plus real buttercream. I believe this to be in honour of the “Buttercream Cub” from Build-a-Bear.

Which, by the way: cute, but what a racket they’re pulling. They are masters of the up-sell – and now they’ve got my daughters trying to pull out their own teeth in order to get money to spend at the Build-a-Bear Workshop.

Literally, they are trying to pull out their own teeth. Emily actually succeeded in getting one out, last night, but she’s in the lucky position of having at least three teeth that are currently in varying degrees of looseness, and are therefore potentially extractable for the Cause. Charlotte doesn’t have any loose teeth at the moment, but the way she’s pushing them around, she soon will.

Off to whip some butter. The cake has to be especially soft and creamy, so my children will be able to eat it with their bare gums.

Random

Whilst driving home one afternoon, Dragon and Possum were discussing the very childish behaviour of a certain man we had the misfortune to encounter one day late last year. Their discussion started spiraling down into derision and disrespect, so I felt the need to defend adulthood.

"You know, that man could have just been having a bad day," I told them, and then gave a few brief scenarios of what may have occurred in the hours leading up to our run-in with him. "So you see, you shouldn't judge people when you really don't know anything about them," I concluded.

Then I added, "He may be a very nice man."

To which Possum replied, "But some people are just mean like that all the time."

And then Dragon chimed in with, "Yeah, and some things are just plain evil ....... like calculators."

On losing a dog

Wil Wheaton's dog died yesterday. He wrote very eloquently about it on his blog today. Of course, now I'm in tears again over Marko. Losing a dog is so hard.

http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/wwdnbackup/2009/08/i-cant-think-of-a-title-so-ill-just-say-thank-you.html

You'd Think Some Grown-Ups Live Here


Thank you, Ali!!!! We LOVE what you did to the place! You are truly your mother's daughter.

-- M and N

Out of Control

So I got tired of shaving my legs; I'm a busy woman, OK? And it's winter. And strangely enough, Neil just thinks it's funny. Well, we recently had a beautiful sunny day, and I went to sit on the balcony. I pulled up my pant legs and saw that my leg hair had come to this. Not only has it grown to its maximum length, but it's patchy. I know, I know, it's pretty gross as is. But don't you think it would be better if it was at least thick and even, not scraggly?

Grey Hairs

On my previous post, where I regaled you all with an account of our week with the flu, Lauren commented that we might have had swine flu. I'm glad she mentioned that, because it reminded me of something quite strange which happened. (Strange to me, anyway.)

On the Thursday of my 'Slow Week' I took Dragon to see our local GP because his fever stayed at or over 40C for hours, even after he took paracetamol AND ibuprofen. I rang the receptionist and told her both Dragon and I had flu symptoms, and she said come straight down. I thought this was a bit strange because it's been all over the news that if you have flu symptoms you should avoid doctor's waiting rooms as that is the one place you can be almost sure to encounter pregnant women and/or elderly people, and these are two of the 'high risk' groups.

When we arrived I once again told the nurse that we both had flu symptoms, and she just said "Okay I'll let the doctor know you are here. Take a seat." We had been seated for about 2 minutes when in through the door staggered an old man clinging to a walker. He looked very frail, and he sat down two seats away from Dragon. Then the door opened again and in came a very pregnant woman who was pushing a pram with a toddler and holding another small child by the hand. They all sat down beside me. (Young children are also said to be in a high risk group for Swine Flu.)

I sat there willing myself not to cough, and tried hard not to breathe in any direction but straight ahead.

HB had cautioned Dragon that the doctor would very likely want to test him for swine flu. He himself had been tested for flu twice over previous years, and he told Dragon it was a rather unpleasant experience, but thankfully over and done with quite quickly. Dragon was a bit worried about having this flu test, which apparently involves something being placed up your nose and down to the top of your throat. When the doctor called us in he tensed visibly, and when the doctor asked him to open his mouth he almost refused until he realised she just wanted to look down his throat.

Surprisingly, the doctor did not even mention Swine Flu and even though she confirmed that Dragon did indeed have the flu she did not ask to test him.

I thought it was strange that, with all the Swine Flu hysteria in the media, we were not asked to sit in a separate waiting room or wear a mask?

I was also surprised when the paramedics didn't don masks while attending Dragon, especially after we informed them he had been diagnosed as having the flu by the GP only hours earlier. HB said they didn't put a mask on him when he was in the Emergency Department either.

Same thing happened at the hospital two days later when I took Possum to the Emergency Department. I filled out the necessary forms, told the receptionists she and I both had the flu, and we were directed to sit in the main waiting room. There were people there coughing and sneezing and not wearing masks. As we were leaving I noticed a small sign (about A4 size) taped to the wall asking people to (1) inform reception if they had a cough or any flu symptoms and (2) wear a mask. (BTW you would not have seen this sign when entering as it was placed beside the door, meaning you'd only see it when leaving.)

We informed reception but were not asked to wear a mask. Yet at the military base HB tells me that if someone goes to see the doctor with flu symptoms they are asked to wear a mask, clean their hands with sanitizer gel, and made to wait in a separate room from other patients.

So I am wondering if the media hype surrounding Swine Flu is simply that - media hype? Or it is really a pandemic which requires health professionals to be conscientious about preventing it's spread?

So what does that have to do with grey hairs? Nothing, actually. I was getting to that bit ...

Last weekend I took the children for a stroll around the lake and we also played at the park for a while. Possum was standing beside me when she suddenly exclaimed "There's a white hair!"

"Where?" I asked, looking around the park, expecting to see the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.

"On your head." She replied.

"Oh no there's not." I refused to believe it.

"Oh yes there is." She insisted.

"Well, pull it out!!!!" I panicked.

"No, I am not going to pull your hair out." Possum protested.

"Yes you are," I told her, "And it is NOT my hair. That's why you have to get it off me."

She agreed to put the offending hair inbetween my fingers so I could pull it out myself.

Which I did.

And it was.

Grey - or rather a very pretty silvery-white.

I was about to discard this horrifying little piece of aging but Possum saved it, saying "I can't let you throw away your very first grey hair."

"I told you, it's NOT mine. I am only 21 and 21 year olds do not get grey hair."

"Oh mum" she said in a patronizing tone of voice, shaking her head. (I don't know why she won't believe I am only 21. All her little sisters believe me.) Then she said, "Um... mum? There's another one."

So I made her put that one between my fingers and yanked it out too. Then I made her search for any more but there weren't any. (She saved the second one too.)

I told her those grey hairs did not belong to me, they belonged to her and Dragon. One grew when Dragon fainted in the shower, and the other grew when she had her 'panic attack'.

And then I told her not to tell her dad she'd found any grey hairs on my head.

Shhhh! Don't you tell him either!!!

A Slow Week

Remember the person who sneezed on me at The Engineering Games? (My previous post.) The one I hoped didn't have the flu?

Well, they did. I started getting sick the next day (the day HB went to Hobart!) and just kept getting worse. By Wednesday Possum and Dragon were too sick to go to school too.

On Monday night and Tuesday I coughed so much and so violently that I couldn't keep any food or water down. Tuesday, after eating a minimal amount of dinner, I started coughing and had to run for the bathroom. After emptying the contents of my stomach I turned around to see 4 pairs of eyes watching me curiously. And then they ran back out to the kitchen to tell Dragon and Possum all about how Mummy had brought up her dinner .....

I tried lots of natural cough remedies but none worked very well. A teaspoon of honey helped me sleep for a little while. I read that dark chocolate was a natural cough suppressant, so I bought "Green & Blacks Organic Dark 85% Cocoa - our most intense & dark chocolate made with fine Trinitario beans 100g."

I ate one piece. If you never realised before that chocolate actually originally comes from a plant then you haven't tasted this chocolate. It had definite vegetable origins. And it was very rich. One piece was too much, and it didn't stop the coughing.

Then I read some more on the internet about how much dark chocolate helps suppress a cough and the answer was To obtain an effective dose you need to eat 50 – 100g of dark chocolate. ...!!! I'm telling you, if you ate 50g of this chocolate all in one sitting you probably wouldn't survive. It's the kind of chocolate you shave thinly and sprinkle on your ice cream - not the sort you sit and munch while watching TV.

Thursday evening Dragon didn't want any dinner. He just wanted to have a shower and go back to bed. We heard the shower running, then a strange noise like something sliding heavily across the wall. I went to the bathroom and found Dragon laying on the floor crying.

He had fainted in the shower and hurt his neck as he fell. The pain did not ease, so HB (who was home by this time) decided to take him to the Emergency Department. When Dragon tried to stand up he cried out in pain and could barely support his weight. Fearing a dreadful injury to his neck we decided to play it safe and call an ambulance.

While waiting for the ambulance to arrive Dragon, who was shivering uncontrollably, laid back down on the sofa while his concerned sisters brought out all their blankets and soft toys to comfort him. (You can't see many of the toys - they are on the far side of Dragon, covered by blankets!)You can imagine the excited buzz in our house as the little girls watched for the ambulance, and then watched the paramedics at work when they arrived. (I had to put a barrier across the rumpus room door so they could look but not get in the way!)

And yet as excited as they had been, when the paramedics brought the stretcher into the house and carefully strapped Dragon on it the girls all started crying and wailing. This only increased in intensity as Dragon was wheeled out the front door and into the ambulance! HB was going to hospital with Dragon, so it took all my energy, patience and ingenuity to calm them down enough for bedtime!

Thankfully, x-rays revealed that there was no damage to Dragon's spine but the doctor said he would have to be careful not to aggravate the soft tissue injury.

On Friday I allowed all the children to stay home from school, even those who weren't sick (which was really only Mousie by that stage). Mousie and Teddy whiled away the time building a tall tower.
Poor Possum was still no better on Saturday. Her fever had been so high for so long that her face resembled a baked tomato. She was having difficulty taking a breath, even after inhaling steam, and was so weak and unwell that she just broke down in tears. This is very unlike Possum - she hardly ever cries, even when she hurts herself.

So I took her off to the Emergency Department, worried she may have a chest infection. The waiting room was chock full of people. Luckily the triage nurse called us in straight away and took all Possum's vital signs. Nurse said there was nothing wrong with her lungs or breath capacity and suggested that Possum had had a panic attack, which was why she couldn't breathe very well. I was satisfied that she was breathing much more easily by that point, so we just went home rather than wait for hours to see a doctor.

Everyone is pretty much recovered from the flu now, but it has been a very slow and exhausting week.

Lastly, a photo of my Four Dancing Princesses.

Whirlwind

It's busy. This is how I have felt lately:

Of twitter, arthritis, and wide calves

The last of my resistance was recently worn away, and I now tweet. The final crack in my armor was finding out that Nathan Fillion tweets. How am I supposed to resist that? And once I had my account set up, it was just so freakin' easy to type 140 characters. And to link it up with my blog. Sigh. I never thought I would tweet.

Sam the German shorthair has arthritis in his gimpy shoulder. I was actually pretty happy to hear that. I was envisioning horrible things like torn ligaments, cartilage chips in the joint, and bone cancer. Arthritis we can deal with. He had a shot of Adequan at the vet, is on a course of anti-inflammatories, and I'm going to start him up on a glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate/MSM supplement ASAP. He's already at least 50% improved. But man, was he stoned when I brought him home from the vet. They sedated him for his x-ray. Around mid-evening I carried him out to the yard and set him down. He stood, eyes closed, gently swaying from side to side. I left him for ten minutes to see if he might snap out of it a bit, but when I returned he was still swaying. I picked him up and plopped him back on the couch.

My current pair of schooling boots is falling apart, so I ordered some Ovation boots with zippers because they were on sale at Dover. Now, I was once a slim-calf-sized person, but I accept the fact that I am no longer that person. That person was ten pounds ago. I am firmly in the regular-calf camp these days. So that's what I ordered. And guess what? The regular calves were too narrow. Ack! I don't think I qualify as wide-calved. Seriously. I'm offended. But the price was too good, so I sent back the regulars and requested the wides, which have not yet arrived. If they turn out to be too wide, I am going to be really grumpy. I can't be dinkin' around getting replacement boots. My current boots have cracked wide open where the stirrup hits the outside of my foot, so I have steel pressing against my foot during every ride, producing a giant, permanent bruise. I'm suffering, here.

Last night Willow felt so good through the neck -- loose and adjustable. I could see her crest clearly flip when I changed directions. She's also much less locked on the left rein than she used to be.

Engineering Games 2009

On Friday evening, 7th August, Dragon, Possum and I went to The Engineering Games held at Questacon (The National Science and Technology Centre). Last year, Dragon and friend won 2nd place for the strongest straw tower. (See here.) Dragon's friend kept that old straw tower for 12 months, and they attempted to recreate and perfect it this year. Here's Dragon + two friends with the Straw Tower they constructed.Unfortunately they did not win any prizes, although their tower did hold a full kilo more than it did last year, so they did improve their design.

It was a bit sad to see that one parent had actually built the winning entries (they admitted it openly) which meant that one particular little girl went home with a swag of prizes, but she was very possibly none the wiser as to how she would go about building a strong straw tower or construct a hovercraft or enlightened timer (two of the other events she won.)

Our school did win some prizes, and I think that by completing their entries at school with no input from parents, and very little guidance from teachers, they have all gained some interesting and useful knowledge about the world of engineering. They also have learned how to work together in small groups, listen to each other, critically analyze other ideas, and use the best ideas to make their project.

Anyway, while we were all sitting in the theatre waiting for the prizes to be announced, someone behind us sneezed .... and I saw water droplets whiz past my face, and felt them hit the back of my head. I thought "I hope that person doesn't have the flu."

They did ..........

Willow update

Willow and I have been having a blast for the past couple of weeks. She's mostly off my hand, and Leslie's got us schooling most of second level. In Thursday's lesson, we started on walk-canter, and Willow surprised us both by nailing it, both directions, every time. I thought that lifting her big self into canter from walk would be a bugaboo for her. Shows what I know. Ten-meter canter circles are feeling really good now, too. All this work should really help strengthen her hind end. Leslie wants to see her stepping well under behind to free up her shoulders.

I bought myself a pair of Rein Bow rein aids and have been using them every other ride. They're loops that clip to the reins and allow you to effortlessly maintain your rein length. I find that they really help when introducing a shorter rein length. Willow realizes very quickly that yanking the reins through my fingers is a no-go, and she stops trying. I love not having to constantly check my rein length. They are, of course, not legal in dressage competition. If you have a horse that's part freight train, like Willow, they're worth a try.

I also switched Willow's bit to a Sprenger WH Ultra loose ring snaffle. It has a little loose roller in the middle link for her to play with, and she seems to like it.

Sam the German shorthair is lame in his front left shoulder. He can bear weight on the leg, but he's obviously very sore. I'm taking him in to the vet tomorrow. Think happy, non-surgical thoughts for us.

Kitcat's Infant Drawings

When we were visiting Nano and Grandpap, Kitcat decided to do some drawing with her new notepad and pen. (Note: drawing with a pen is very exciting to a 3 year old who usually never allowed to touch one.) So one evening while I was having a cup of tea with my parents, Kitcat drew some pictures of what she thought certain family members would have looked like as a baby.

The first one she brought out to us was this one - "Mousie as a baby."Apart from the fact that it looks like Humpty Dumpty was Mousie's biological mother, I thought it was a pretty good drawing. Baby Mousie's fingers are too large in proportion to the size of her arms, but when the arms are sticking out of the side of the head I imagine it doesn't matter much anyway.

The praise of her mother and grandparents encouraged Kitcat to draw some more, so a little while later she brought out this picture of "Teddy as a newborn baby."I'm impressed. This one does actually seem to have a head and a body, although the head looks more canine than human.

Even though there was more amusement than praise at her second drawing, Kitcat went on to produce this picture of "Dragon as a baby."Interesting. Kitcat must imagine that Dragon had a lot of hair when he was born. He did, actually, but certainly not that much!

After finding that everyone thought her "Baby Dragon" drawing was so funny, Kitcat went away to create one more masterpiece. "Miow-Miow as a baby."I think it does look rather like Miow-Miow, although I am not exactly sure what a Blankie would look like as a baby! And I never knew Miow-Miow had a twin either!

Drawings completed 21July09.

No Foolin’.

Hey, lady:

You are wandering around the grocery store with one ear glued to a cell phone, your iPod in your other hand, diamonds dripping off you, shooting verbal abuse at your two children between the inane, slanderous conversation you are having with your phone, and loading your cart with chips, diet mixers, Red Bull and Lean Cuisine.

I followed you around the aisles for forty minutes, getting my own jobs done, and I think I have your measure.

I do not believe you are a yogini studying balance and centredness, no matter how many lululemon logos you are sporting – I counted four. Five if I include the bag. You can wrap yoga wear around your soft, dimpled, privileged arse every day of your clueless life, if you like. When I look at you, I see Kmart clearance.

Peace out.

Shannon

Dragon's Birth Story

{As with Possum's Birth Story, I did write down Dragon's in the weeks following his birth but the computer disk on which I was storing my documents won't open and can't be fixed.

Since I've re-done Possum's I thought I should record the other birth stories as well. This is mainly for my own record, but if you feel like a good long read then feel free to continue.....}

I fell pregnant with Dragon just before Possum's first birthday. I was so exhausted during the first trimester - something I had not experienced with my first pregnancy. I used to finish work, pick up Possum from the babysitter, take her home for dinner and bath and nearly fall asleep sitting beside the bathtub! I also experienced 'morning sickness' for the first time with this pregnancy. With Possum I think I felt a bit queasy once or twice during dinner preparation, but with Dragon I actually noticed my tastes changing. Things I would normally love, like a cup or tea or a piece of garlic bread, just tasted so wrong and made me feel sick. This lasted for the first 4 months.

Early in the third trimester I started to get an awful ache in my hips. Walking hurt, sitting down hurt, even laying in bed hurt. I complained to my doctor and he said it was a good thing because my body was producing lots of the hormone relaxin which helps to prepare the pelvic area for the birth. (With my next 4 pregnancies this condition was diagnosed as Unstable Pelvis or SPD - symphysis pubis dysfunction.) However, as the weeks passed I was more and more uncomfortable. During the last weeks of the pregnancy I used to experience a horrible, sharp shooting pain down one or both legs. My doctor suggested it was sciatica, cause by the baby's head compressing the sciatic nerve. It progressively became worse, along with the pelvic pain, to the point where every moment was painful and I couldn't sleep.

Another reason I couldn't sleep was because EVERY TIME I lay down little Dragon would get the hiccups. Hiccups are unpleasant enough when I have them myself, but when the baby incubating inside my body gets hiccups I found it insanely annoying, especially when it kept me awake!

At my 38 week checkup on 18th March my doctor actually noticed that I looked extremely tired and unwell. He said that since I was already 4cm dilated, and also because I was measuring large for my dates (which he thought may have meant I was actually full term, or perhaps just that I was having a huge baby!) he would induce me in 2 days.

I went home and prayed I would go into labour naturally, but instead HB and I drove to the hospital early on the morning of Thursday 20th March 1997 so I could be induced. All the doctor did to induce the labour was break the amniotic sac. When he ruptured the sac my poor little baby jerked so hard the whole bed wobbled! The midwife told me to go for a walk and come back in a half hour. HB and I walked down the stairs and through the garden next to the car park and I had my first contraction. By the time we'd done a few laps around the garden I was contracting regularly and felt I needed to go back to the ward.

The midwife was surprised to see me back so soon. I imagine she thought I was a huge wimp who couldn't stand a few little contractions - I know she already thought less of me because the doctor was inducing labour in order to ease my discomfort (and his delivery schedule too, no doubt!) As with Possum, my doctor did not think I would be having my baby before dinner time, but less than 3 hours after he'd started his morning appointments he would find he was wrong again!

The midwife didn't believe my labour was progressing so quickly either. HB and I were still in the ward. After the pain became too much to handle with breathing exercises, walking and pelvic rocking the midwife suggested I sit over a chair in the shower. I did this while HB hosed my back with detachable showerhead on FULL and HOT. After what seemed like only minutes (but which HB insists was over an hour) I couldn't stand the pain any longer and we called the midwife in again.

I told her, through tears, that I needed some pain relief. She sort of rolled her eyes and sighed, and then said "Well, why don't we see how far along you are - I'll do an internal exam."

With great difficulty I climbed onto the bed. The midwife examined me, excused herself for a minute, then came back and said, "Well well, you really are doing great. This baby will be born very soon. I've called the doctor, and we need to get you to the delivery room right now."

It took a quite a lot longer than 'right now' to get to the delivery room. I was offered a wheelchair but I couldn't sit down. We slowly made our way down the corridor to the lifts, with me stopping to contract every minute or so. I remember the pain being so bad I couldn't move, except for my toes curling up! I begged the midwife to knock me out but she laughed and said "Oh you don't need anything - you're doing so well. I haven't even heard you swearing yet."

After that contraction was over I felt like asking her how many swear words it would take to get some pain relief, but before I could catch my breath another contraction was taking it away again.

Finally we made it to the delivery room. The midwife hooked up the Entonox (nitrous oxide/oxygen) gas for me. I grabbed the mask from her and started inhaling like my life depended on it (which it felt like it did at that time!) Midwife made some comment like "Hey, leave some for the next patient" but I wasn't letting go of that mask.

Doctor arrived minutes later and examined me. He said he was going to name my baby "Flash Gordon" because he was in such a hurry to get out. Then he murmured something to the midwife and she tried to take the gas mask away from me. I clung to it like a life preserver, but she wrestled it out of my grasp. "Give that back" I wailed. Then I was distracted by the urge to push.

Inbetween pushes I looked the doctor straight in the eye and said "Don't you dare cut me this time." (I had too many painful memories of the episiotomy I had to have when Possum was born.) He told me he wouldn't need too, and a minute later Dragon was born.

"It's a boy!!!", HB whooped joyfully. Doctor had a look and confirmed that it was indeed a boy, then added "And he's a bruiser!"

Born 20th March 1997 at 12.22pm
Weight 3.995kg (8lb 13oz) ~~ length 56cm (22in)~~Head circumference 37cm (14.6in)Baby Dragon, 1 day old.

When they put him in my arms I discovered a big scratch on the top of his head, must have been from the needle when the doctor broke the amniotic sac. No wonder he jumped so hard - must have hurt! He had started crying as soon as he was born, but when I held him he stopped and started nuzzling around for a drink. (Nothing's changed - he still looks at me and immediately thinks of food.)

Around that time the midwife offered HB a go at the Entanox gas (apparently they let the husbands have some to see what it's like) and after inhaling once HB nearly fell over. When he recovered from his gas experience he kissed me and whispered in my ear "I am so proud of you, you did it all without any drugs. A natural birth!"

I hadn't set out to go 'all natural', and the fact that I was induced disqualifies me from saying it was a natural birth - depending who you talk to, of course. I remember my sister-in-law proudly saying that she'd had her baby completely naturally and I wondered at that time (it was 18 months before I had my first baby) why anyone would boast about deliberately putting themselves through all that pain and agony on purpose. My aim with labour was just to get through it any way I could.

However, I guess that when compared to Possum's traumatic birth it was much better to have a natural labour and delivery. Even so, with my subsequent pregnancies, I never ruled out asking for an epidural or other pain relieving drugs. I was just lucky or unlucky - whichever way you like to look at it - that my labours progressed so quickly that by the time I felt I needed the pain relief it was always too late.

Late in the afternoon that he was born Dragon had his first visitors. My parents came with little Possum. She had been so excited about meeting "her" new baby and getting to hold him. Apparently my mum had been telling her all day that she could hold "her" baby but she had to sit on the chair (so she wouldn't think "her" baby was just another toy dolly that she could drag around with it's head under her arm.) Well, when Possum walked in the door of my hospital room I was all prepared to gather her up in my arms and hug her, but she marched very seriously straight over to the armchair, sat down and said "Hold! My baby!" When her little brother was gently placed in her arms her expression lit up and a sweet softness stole over her face as she gazed at him.

Then she poked him right in the eye.Toddler Possum meets Baby Dragon - 20th March 1997

Winter Delivery


Translation: "McDelivery: So the cold doesn't leave you without McDonald's."

I'm really surprised they don't have this in the U.S. Maybe in New York?

Potager

I had a bad day today. But I am making a pot of soup for supper: turkey vegetable noodle, a consolation. Biscuits will happen later, and these two things together are almost certainly going to make the world right again.

I would like to have had some homemade bread with it, but maybe that will be for tomorrow. There’ll be leftover soup, of course, and it’s nice to know lunch is taken care of. I do have to remember to bash up the dough tonight, though.

I was poking through my spice cupboard looking for little glass jars of dried whatnot for the soup, when I realised that back in May, I invested in some 2” pots of various things…
Herbs2009

what need have I of dried herbs in July? Forethought provides.

SoupHerbs
Lovage, winter savoury, English thyme, rosemary, purple sage.

Thanks Mum for planting the bush beans.

SoupHerbs2

___________________________________

I keep forgetting to tell you about an absolutely charming series I discovered: they are by Shire Books. Wonderfully no-nonsense books of information about quite specific subjects, they are replete with history and facts, and amazingly concise. I have “Baking and Bakeries”and “Spinning and Spinning Wheels”, but I long to get “The Woollen Industry”, “Flax and Linen”, “Markets and Marketplaces of Britain”, “Evacuees of the Second World War”……oh, just all of them. I’m trying to scheme how I could get the government to pay for them, seeing as they would be for school.

Leadbetter Spinning and Spinning Wheels, by Eliza Leadbetter: from why wool must be spun, to how to work a spindle, to how to comb flax, to what a niddy-noddy is for.

Muller
Baking and Bakeries, by H G Muller: from Pompeii to Pillsbury, a fascinating look at the staff of life. This book is so cool – did you know that, in the 1830s, the main cause of lead poisoning was bread baked in an oven fired with old door and window frames painted with white lead paint? Or that the bread of the early 19th century might contain large amounts of plaster of Paris, white clay, alum, copper sulphate and bone dust?

Anyway, if you get a chance to take a look at this line, do pick it up. I think they’ve just released “Beach Huts and Bathing Machines” and “The Slave Trade”.

Finding out is so fun.

p.s.

Just went to Anthropologie.com (always a mistake -- covet, covet!) and saw this freakish photo on their home page (which is much bigger on their site, for some reason it is not full size here):

Is it just me, or are their heads like fun-house images? Her face is SOOO small, and then they had to go and put her beside a guy with a big face to begin with, and then a mane that doubles the appearance of the size of his head.

Tasty

OK, so I started the last post meaning to list things I miss about the U.S.

There are probably lots, but here are some for now, mostly food:

  • Crab cakes (the Washington Post just HAD to do a mouthwatering review of D.C. Metro area crab cake restaurants)
  • Kickin' Crab and Sweet Corn Chowder -- you can get it at the soup and salad bar at Harris Teeter, Giant, Safeway, etc. grocery stores. SO yummy.
  • Chipotle
  • MILKSHAKES -- I never really had them that often, but they DO NOT have them here, so of course now I really want one!
  • good Thai food
  • Popeye's chicken tenders with honey mustard dipping sauce, biscuits and dirty rice
  • a good chef salad
  • that's all I can think of for now
As much as I love the restaurant scene here, sometimes a girl just wants a Pillsbury Orange Roll -- there's another tasty I miss!

I'm pretty much only missing perishable and restaurant items; everything else we can either get at the Commissary or order online. Let me tell you, an APO (or in our case, DPO) is a beautiful thing. Shipping costs to a Miami ZIP code and then on a plane direct to the Embassy at no additional cost!

As far as non-food things I miss, I miss driving out to my parents' house and seeing Arlington and the cities beyond melt away to suburbia and then to fields and the way Loudoun "used to look." Then climbing the mountain in my little car, cresting it, seeing the valley below me and the next right onto the winding, hilly mountain road to their house in the woods.

And I miss NORMAL pedicures!!!!!

Five Percent

I am laying in bed, thinking about some of the things that I DO miss about the States.

Don't get me wrong, I am not homesick or anything, but I have been thinking more about some of the things that I like and miss.

One, I have not driven a car since January 29!!!

I miss the independence having a car gives you; although I do like going out to the corner and hopping into a cab and being dropped off right in front of wherever I want to go.

I don't like stinky cabs or talkative drivers when I want to stare out the window.

By the way, I met a racist cab driver the other day. I'd heard Argentines can be very racist, but I had not encountered that.

To make a long Spanish conversation short, the cab driver basically started out by saying he doesn't like Barack Obama. I was like "really, why? You're like, the first person I've met who doesn't like him" because most cab drivers are like "Oh, the U.S.?! I LOVE Obama!"

So anyway, this cab driver is like, "No, I don't like Barack Obama."

"But why?"

"Well, because I'm racist."

Um, OK. We're at a stop light now, and he turns around and looks my face up and down, and says "You're medio" which I took in this case to mean in-between or not totally black, or whatever, which is true.

I don't really care what he is or isn't, and we still have about 10 min. of cab ride left and I'm not feeling at all threatened by this guy, he seemed likeable enough, albeit sadly misled, so I was like,

"Oh, really? How did you learn to be racist? Were your parents racist?"

"Oh no, no, I didn't learn it, no."

"Well then why are you racist?"

"Well, I'm not 100% racist. I'm like 5% racist. How do you say 5% in English?"

"Five-per-cent."

"Per-cent?"

"Yes, percent. Well, if you're only five percent racist, you're like everyone else -- everyone has their prejudices" (this was the only word I could think of in Spanish, because it sounds like the English word, but it pretty much is what I was trying to say, "prejudices").

And it's true. Whether we like it or not, we all have 5% biases against people or characteristics that irk us. We just try to overcome them, and not declare their existence to strangers in cabs bearing those characteristics.

That was the gist of the conversation, whatever, it was funny to me.

Ducky's First Grade Ballet Exam

These videos are from Ducky's First Grade Ballet Exam rehearsal on 18th July '09. This was the only time the parents were allowed to watch. Ducky is the one with long sleeves. (For some reason the music/sound is slightly behind the action in these videos.)

There were many, many more exercises the girls have to do for the exam but I've only included the more interesting ones in this montage. (In the last 4 scenes they are wearing their "character" shoes and skirts.) I was amazed at the sheer bulk of content in this exam. It's a lot for a 7 year old to remember. The ballet teacher said they were all doing really well during their school holiday rehearsals, and for the last couple weeks they have actually had some lessons with a soloist from from The Australian Ballet.

For the last month I have been on tenterhooks. Every time I heard a cry, thump or scream I would worry that Ducky had sprained her ankle or broken her arm and all her hard work (and all my driving/hair styling/wardrobe keeping skills) would be in vain. Thankfully she survived the last weeks without any injury.

And today was the day Ducky did her First Grade Ballet Exam. She was so nervous last night she would hardly keep herself still, even to eat dinner. She kept jumping up and practising some steps, asking "Mum, is this right?" (As if I would know!)

When it was bedtime she showed some more signs of anxiety by confessing that at ballet class that afternoon she had stepped out at the wrong time and now she was terrified she would make the same mistake during the exam. I comforted and encouraged her as best I could, and then she asked me to pray with her. So I prayed and then she said she felt much better.

This morning she was excited and nervous all at the same time. I had to take her to the ballet studio at 9am and come back 2 hours later. Before I left Ducky asked me to pray for her again, and once again she seemed to feel better afterward.

When I went back to collect my little ballerina she was absolutely beaming. Apparently the exam had gone very well and the Royal Academy of Dance examiner had told her she'd danced beautifully. Unfortunately they don't receive their results for about 2 months as all the paperwork has to be sent back to London and the certificates/reports issued from there.

These are the only photos I was able to take - after the exam was finished. Ducky posed in front of the mirror so we could get the pretty decoration on her bun in the photo too.Well I am relieved that it is all over ..... until this time next year I suppose.

Gaucho Pants


These are real deal gauchos in their gaucho pants. Pretty sweet.

This was at an agricultural show at the expo center beside the Embassy. We got in free with our badges, and we went over there a couple times to get lunch; yummy chorizo sandwiches and hamburgers. Sorry, cows.

They were all beautiful animals and the gauchos were all so cute and sweet. It was crazy to see tons of people who came in from the country who seriously, seriously dress like this. I mean people in the crowd and stuff with little ascots/scarves and caps like this, tweed jackets and sweater vests and leather boots. Totally European feel.