Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 in short

What a year! It began with the drama of shipping my sister off to the Netherlands to spend a year with her boyfriend. The next month saw us spend some of the Chinese New Year in Malaysia and Thailand.

Soon after we returned B broke her foot chasing Kita on the stairs. The next month B discovered that she was pregnant, the event that defined the year. Suddenly, visits to doctors and hospitals became a regular occurance and B gradually became less and less tiny.

As a consequence of the pregnancy we had to cancel our Europe holiday in September, but we still managed to fit in another visit to Japan.

In the third trimester B developed cholestasis, which made the last few months of pregnancy quite stressful. But the birth itself proved to be surprisingly "easy". In November we welcomed our son Alex into the world.

On the last day of 2008 we, B, Alex, Kita and myself, went for a walk along Botany Bay as a family, listening to the sounds of the waves and watching the aircraft fly out across the Bay.

What will 2009 bring? More sleepless nights undoubtedly, but hopefully plenty of joy with our amazing child. And a flight on one of those aircraft we saw today would be nice too...

All the best for 2009!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Peace and quiet

Today felt strange. The streets of Sydney were quiet. Almost everybody who was travelling seemed to be either leaving the city or going to the shopping malls for the post-Christmas sales. We too were looking to buy. Worried by the rapid depreciation of our car and greatly restricted in space by the paraphernalia of raising a child we were in the hunt for good deals on a Mazda 6.

We drove first to North Parramatta, spent a long time negotiating, fed Alex in their rec room, but couldn't close the deal. So we drove south, intending to return to the Sutherland dealer who had sold us our current car, a Mazda 3.

On the way down King George's Road we stopped at Beverly Hills for lunch. Most of the cafes and restaurants were closed for the Christmas/New Year break, leaving the shopping strip dead but for the noise of main road traffic. We found a sleepy Thai restaurant with a dingy interior, ceiling fans turning languidly in the humid summer heat. Two Thai women manned the counter and the stoves. It felt like we were back in Thailand, B was even wearing a shirt purchased there. The food was good too.

As we drove along during the day I would stare up into the silver-grey sky and watch the silhouetted great jets fly northwards from the airport. From the inside of the car they floated silently, purposefully through the air. In this dreamy, quiet, hot atmosphere, the Qantas 747's called to me, "fly away, seek adventure", but spending our savings on a car means there will be no European vacation this year, or for a while. I console myself that our holiday dreams are not dead, just limited, but of that I can say no more.

The day ended with the breaking of the storm. But by then we had already signed our contract. Not quite what we were looking for, but it is enough that we have not exceeded our budget.

We arrived home into thunder, lightning and driving rain with an exhausted, crying child with equally tired parents. But it was a quiet day.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Baby's first Christmas

Baby's First Christmas is a Big Deal judging from the number of ornaments, clothes and toys for sale that include that label. Of course, the little ones have no clue what the fuss is all about. They just wake you up early because it's feed time, not I-can't-wait-to-unwrap-my-presents time.

It doesn't matter because Alex's parents had a fun time. We invited B's mother and friend over for a lunch of roast chicken and pudding, followed by a viewing of the Mamma Mia DVD that I gave B for Christmas.

I hope everyone else's Christmases were as relaxed and pleasant as our own.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A cup of tea

I've never been much of a tea drinker. I didn't drink it at all until our third trip to Japan, in 2006. We were wandering around Okayama's beautiful Koraku-en gardens, beneath falling cherry blossoms, when we came to a stall selling green tea from the small rows of tea plants within the garden's bounds. Purchasing a cup of matcha, the whisked powdered green tea and a small plate of "sweets" we sat outside the stall and rested our legs.

Later on in that trip, in Kanazawa, we had stopped by the Nomura Samurai house, with it's gorgeous garden and carp streams squeezed into a tiny area. Upstairs, in a room overlooking the garden matcha was served for a small fee. We rested on the straw tatami mat floor in front of a heater warming our cold hand and sipped the bitter green tea. The flavour itself was not of great importance to me. It was the sense of calm, of weary feet rested, of warmth both inner and outer.

Since then I have learned to enjoy a cup of green tea when offered during trips to Japan. Nibbling on Botchan Dango sweets with a cup of tea after a soak in Matsuyama's Dogo bathhouse and sitting on the tatami flooring in a teahouse in Takamatsu's Ritsurin-en gardens , listening and feeling the warm breeze flowing through the open shoji screens while sipping tea were two of the highlights of our last trip.

I recently purchased a Japanese teapot and cups, porcelain with an iron clay exterior decorated with cherry blossoms, from a Japan City shop. For weeks now I have hoped to snatch some time away from Alex, work and sleep to brew the fine green tea leaves we brought back from Kyoto. Finally this evening I found that time.

I have never brewed tea before, only used teabags, and that was for the benefit of others. I followed the instructions, poured the tea into the cherry blossom teacup and sat down at the table with a rice and red bean sweet bought from a Japanese store in the city. As I sipped the gentle, sweet, pale green liquid I watched the rain falling across the grey and gold evening sky and the white cloud fish swimming between the lucky bamboo in the globe on the table. And I felt relaxed, in another place where babies only smile, emails are calligraphy on scrolls and deadlines are when the water has boiled.

A holiday in a teacup.

Accidently there

With the Christmas season comes car accidents. Today we were at Kitchener's Parade in Bankstown for the 6 week post-birth check up with the ob when I noticed a number of tow trucks arriving at the end of the cul-de-sac. Turns out that a Volvo, driven by a 60 year old, had somehow landed atop a couple of other cars.

Two weeks ago on a Saturday night we were driving back from Illawong when we saw another car accident scene across from Menai High School. A convertible had flipped into bushland, killing a passenger. Fortunately there were already plenty of others attending the accident because we had a starving, screaming baby in the back.

It was a few hours later when the Careflight helicopter landed noisily to airlift out the driver.

Drive safely everyone!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A nuclear birth for the Moon

There's an interesting article in August's Cosmos magazine proposing that Earth's moon was formed not by a collision between Earth and another large body, but by a runaway nuclear reaction in the D"-layer around the Earth's core.

The suggestion is that radioactive uranium and thorium sunk down early in the Earth's history to in the D"-layer, were concentrated there and formed a natural nuclear reactor. This reactor, with nothing to moderate it (like the boron rods used in man made reactors) or to cool the resultant heat (water is generally used in reactors) raised the surrounding temperatures by up to 8000 degrees, forming a giant hot bubble that ruptured the Earth's surface flinging material into orbit.

A portion of the orbiting material would then have gravitationally aggregated into today's Moon. The researchers believe that their hypothesis explains some of the anomalies with the mineral and isotopic composition of the Moon better than the existing collision theory. It's pretty hot stuff!

P.S. I just realised that I am still talking about births and babies - just on a planetary scale!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New tricks

Alex has learned a new trick and I don't like it.

He has learned to shoot his poop out at us while on the change table. It was bad enough that he would practice a career as a water feature, but this latest development has made changing him a dangerous occupation.

Yesterday I was pooed on, peed on and vomited on by our son in a matter of minutes. This morning we were wiping poo off B, off the furniture and the carpet.

At least he gives you the cutest looks as soon as you remove his dirty clothes. And we aren't alone with this problem.

Yesterday wasn't all about the bad stuff, however. We took a drive down through the bushland and temperate rainforest of the Royal National Park to Otford. Soon after you emerge from the park there are magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean on your left and a corner store called Otford Pastries on your right.

Along with some hot meals, devonshire teas and really good milkshakes, the store specialises in apple pies. The pastry of the apple and black cherry pie slice we ate for dessert there was the best I've ever had, full of cinnamon flavour. Unfortunately, the pie we brought back for dinner with the in-laws wasn't of the same standard, but I'd still return for more.

There is also a resident blue-tongued lizard inside the shop, the couple that run the place feeding it scraps of fruit. It's a nice little spot for bite after a drive through the National Park or along the spectacular coastal route between Sydney and Wollongong.

Friday, December 12, 2008


I would love to write about something other than raising a baby - I have several items floating around my head - but the fact is that a newborn consumes every spare moment of your life.

Since last Saturday, evenings have proved to be a real struggle. Not unusually for a baby, evenings have been Alex's unsettled time. He refuses to go to sleep after his evening feed until (hopefully) his late night feed. That means that we can't rest from the time I get home from vwork until maybe 11pm.

On the upside he is often alert and can give you the most wonderful smiles when you play with him. However, too much play just exacerbates the wakefulness problem. My problem is that I end up absolutely exhausted myself, my whole body ready to collapse in a heap. Oh well, I still have some tricks to try.

Even after he is settled we still have to get up for his later feeds. The late-night television viewing continues. This week I discovered that while channels 7 and 10 both show the Home Shopping program at the same time, the remaining commercial station, channel 9 has Danoz-Direct which advertises the same products anyway. Collusion!

We have been mainly watching pre-recorded television anyway to get around the mundane nature of late night TV. The hilarious zombies of Shaun of the Dead. Kita ignored the melodrama of Rex in Rome until he heard the squeak of a dog toy. I prefer the Austrian version.

Yesterday we all attended Possum Cottage, where the nurses help you with feeding and settling problems for a day. They seemed pleased with us, but it was so nice to leave a sleeping Alex in their care for an hour while we had lunch in a cafe.

Possum Cottage is located at Sutherland Hospital. Their recent redevelopment has included some gorgeous courtyards, each different. My favourite was a bamboo forest with a pond of clear water bumbling over a mat of bamboo leaves, toy pandas positioned as if climbing the thick bamboo stems.

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