Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Across the road

There is a beautiful old fig tree in the paddock across the road. Beneath its gnarled limbs, which stretch down to the ground, there is a sun dappled cavern where the children clamber and climb and swing on the old tyre that still dangles there.  The boys are all terrified of the (very friendly) horses who call the paddock home, so they will only venture across with me by their side. But once they are inside the tree they feel safe.

Another week of rain and howling winds has left us all with a good dose of cabin fever. So once the sun came out after school yesterday I told the boys to dress up warm and we pushed our way through the windswept grass to the best 'playground' we could possibly ask for. The horses galloped up to meet us, sending the boys screaming back under cover, but Thea was nonplussed as they nuzzled her feet and pushed their hairy noses in her face. They have been curious about this baby girl since she was floating inside me. I think she just might grow up a friend to the gentle beasts.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Five months

Still wearing layers of wool, and squeezing into her handknitted dress, which surely will not fit for much longer. So close to sitting now, she reclines on the old sofa bed while I sort through the next lot of hand-me-downs in readiness for our island holiday. Piles of filmy cotton shirts and dresses and frilly bloomers, all in size 0. She has had her first taste of food - a lick of cucumber; a suck on on an apple core. Wearing holes in any piece of fabric she can cram in her mouth, teeth can't be far away. Now the challenge is stopping her littlest brother from sticking random bits of biscuit and cake in her mouth.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Hearts and hands

"You must have your hands full," seems the standard salutation for any mother with two, three, four (or more) little ones in tow. I hear it half a dozen times each day, and have done for years. But it is funny how your perspective shifts with each child. Life is full, as, indeed, are my hands. And at times our house is positively buzzing with the slightly manic energy of so many children shut up within four walls after another rainy day. The boys are bickering, the whining never seems to stop, and I find myself wandering out to the shed (baby on hip) to grab a moment of silence and breathe deeply before they all run outside and find me again. But take away one child for a day and the energy somehow shifts. Three children suddenly seems easy.

It has been just me and the little ones at home for the weekend while Grant and Lewis dashed up to the city to catch their team playing in the preliminary final. The sun came out and we spilled out of the house onto the verandah. There was ice cream in the park and pancakes for dinner. The boys looked at picture books in the top bunk while I put the baby to bed, returning to find them top-and-tailed and snoring softly. I lay on the couch, reveling in the quiet, the absence of football on the screen, before crawling into bed with my little girl. It has felt like a holiday.

One more week of school remains before we embrace a whole fortnight of days just like these. All together this time, roaming barefoot and pedaling our bikes over the sandy limestone island of holiday magic that is Rottnest. Making memories just like those remembered from my own childhood, and my mother's before me. Generations of women with their hands full - and their hearts too.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Sweet little dresses

Of all the many reasons I was so grateful to have a daughter, one of the possibly more frivolous was the fun of dressing my little girl. Florals! Dresses! Together even! Although she did wear predominantly baby blue hand-me-downs from her brothers for her first weeks - before the deluge of tiny pink garments started to flood into our house. And as for the things I could now make - well, my crafting potential suddenly went into overdrive.

I think Thea was less than a week old before I had cast on her first (knitted) dress. After knitting that same pattern time after time, but always stopping at the bottom of the vest, those last few flared inches felt thrilling. But now we are heading into spring it seemed time to drag out the sewing machine and start working my way through the patterns I had eyed longingly, back when I was a mother of boys only.

I had nurtured an image of myself as a mother from the time I was a teenager, and in that picture there was always a little girl running around in hand sewn dresses. Given that I did not even start to learn to sew until after my third son was born, I did start to doubt myself. I came close to cutting up the length of Liberty floral leftover from my own childhood and turning it into a maternity smock when I was six months pregnant with Thea, so sure were we that we would have another boy. But I stopped myself in time. That fabric is still waiting for something special. Thea's first birthday maybe? I clearly needed some practice at this dress making caper first.

And so it was that one rainy night last week I found myself cutting and pinning together pieces of fabric gleaned from old sheets and an op-shopped nightie to make these sweet little dresses. So much more fun, somehow, than pants, with the added bonus that they will fit for much longer too. These are for a 12-month old but my girl is so long already that she can wear them now, at barely five-months, layered over tights and a bodysuit while we wait for winter to finish for good. And they should still fit her, as a tunic top, when she is two. Which makes me inordinately happy.

She may not be running yet, but she is wearing a hand sewn dress. And now her brothers want one too.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Out the door

The calendar flipped over to September and just like that winter was gone. The sunshine called us all outside, doors and windows open wide to the warmth. We have turned off the heater and are sunning ourselves on the verandah once more, the horses in the paddock across the road keeping us company. The sun is back where it was the week after Thea was born - I tracked its progress across the winter skies and back above the treeline with her ever-present clothesline of nappies. We are barefoot and short-sleeved and celebrated the change in season (and Fathers' Day) with our first fire outside since autumn. The boys climbed the fig tree to check on the fruit and transformed the wood heap into a fort - complete with lilies. We cooked sausages and damper in the coals then toasted marshmallows as the stars came out.