be happy



By which I mean, both, I haven't been here for over three years for which I do beg your pardon, and also, pardon me, what on this unprecedented new version of Earth does "EOOI" mean?

Allow me to explain only one of those things, starting... now.

Forget the hiatus; we're talking FOMO

We've heard of FOMO, surely? If you haven't, the irony of my implying that you've been missing out on it is, well... *chef's kiss*.

FOMO — the Fear Of Missing Out — is a familiar concept. A familiar place. As an enneagram 4, there's a kind of delicious melancholy inherent in the sense of otherness that comes with "missing out", you know?

FOMO is a focus on lack.

But if God is my Shepherd, and I shall not want/lack, then what place does FOMO have?

Two steps taken concurrently

I came across the concept of JOMO — the Joy Of Missing Out — long ago. I didn't really like it. Fine for other people, maybe. But for me? No thanks. I'd like to not miss out, not just miss out and be fine with it. Weirdos.

An Insta post with the following quote did a lot to shift my thinking:

because wherever I am
and whatever I'm doing
is where it's at."

I mean, yep. Perfect! Right?

At the same time, I was starting a new year and looking for a new - or renewed, at least - sense of focus and direction. It was late December, then early January, and I was finding it uncharacteristically hard to pick a theme or a key scripture or any goals at all for the coming year.

That coming year was 2020.
So... yeah.

The one thing I did come to was a single word:


Equanimity: calmness and composure in difficult times.
Equanimity: an even-minded state or tendency.
Equanimity: calm within the storm.

Nice, right?

I came to it as a suggested focus word for the year for type 4s. And hey, the shoe fat. Fitted. Foot. As an effusive 4 who takes every experience in deep, the idea of equanimity - outwardly and inwardly - sounded like a well-placed challenge, and I was up for it. I talked myself into some "healthy type 1" themes to feed into that aim for equanimmity - namely: Action, Structure, Commitment, and Resolve. I had a whole diagram to support my workings out. I was good to go.

And then, 2020 happened. The meandering journey to find focus and goals suddenly made sense. What goals could I possibly have set in January 2020 that would have still held any sense or relevance even three months later?! Certainly not Action, Structure, Commitment, or Resolve!

But 2020, as it turned out, was its own (unforeseen, unexpectedly effective) voyage towards equanimity. Lockdowns and online school and international madmen and mandatory face masks and border closures and zoom meetings and doomscrolling and three visits to a testing centre and everything being constantly cancelled and continual global tragedy, as it turns out, is a very effective petri dish for inner change.

Is there anyone it didn't change?

Hence the phrase, and its highly pronounceable acronym, that came to me today.

Forget FOMO and JOMO - 2021 is all about EOOI

It's a catchy little acronym, I know. It stands for

the Equanimity Of Opting In.


2020 slowed us down. The continual rushing, the glorification of busy, the culture of lifelong hustle - all that I was opposed to, but part of. It was the bathwater that 2020 threw out, along with the baby that was our illusion of control.

When I talk about "Opting In", I'm not talking about opting back into all of that. Ick.

This is what I'm talking about:

This morning I put my head-coldy six-year-old into the bath. He played for ages, content to lie back and listen to the water around his ears, chase the dried jasmine petals that came in the bath salts, and munch a damp muesli bar, at his leisure. Eventually he called me to say he was done. We took care of the washing part of the bath, then he pulled the plug.

I stood there, towel in hand, while he watched the water corkscrew loose petals down the drain.

I heard myself hurrying him up.

I was waiting. (I had nothing urgent to be doing.)
He'd get cold. (It's a thirty degree summer's day.)
He'd said he was finished. (But then something fun had started happening.)

The truth?
I was being impatient. Because I was bored. Because I was choosing to opt out, and it wasn't fun.

So I opted in.

We laughed at the petals spinning down the drain.
We gasped over the ones that got caught at the plughole, as if one of us wasn't fully aware that they were caught on the corpse of a daddy long legs I'd been hoping my little arachnophobe wouldn't notice had been trapped under the plug the whole time.
He did a slippy-feet dance, and even though it meant he stopped halfway through turning around to be wrapped in his towel, it was a really cool dance.

And it was really quite okay.

This was equanimity.

Waiting five extra minutes on a lazy Friday for a child's joyful bath to end isn't exactly the dictionary definition of "difficult times". But it served its purpose, which was to whisper (scream-whisper) into my ear, "Notice this. This matters."

The sentiment behind the "No FOMO" quote is right. Not because I'm so awesome that I turn where I am and what I'm doing into "where it's at" (I GUESS), but because where I am and what I'm doing is already awesome. It's just my job to notice it.

The concept of JOMO suggests that it's better to be not doing that to be doing. I'm wholeheartedly into the notion of finding joy in any situation, even if it's not the situation I was looking for. That's cool. But joy at not doing misses the mark.

So, I present EOOI. It's got the desire for involvement of FOMO, the joy and contentment of JOMO, and the... well, the equanimity of equanimity.

because wherever I am
and whatever I'm doing
there's joy to be found.

Action, Structure, Commitment, Resolve?


The Action is whatever I'm doing. Maybe it's watching my son poke a petal and not notice a spider. Maybe it's being on shift instead of hanging out with friends. Maybe it's eating the last cookie when the kids aren't looking. (After all, it's not always "difficult times".)

The Structure is this: Pause. Opt In. Find Joy. Repeat.

The Commitment is: that I'll use this new model to replace those earlier models, until something better comes along to take its place. That's all.

The Resolve is this: I will. Except for when I forget. But then I'll remember. And except for when I don't want to. But then I'll remember that I do. And so I will.

It's your dear old buddy, Poif Jr.
Opt In.
Find Joy*.

*And don't mention the spider** in the plughole.

**And I do know that a daddy long legs is not technically a spider. Okay? Don't @ me. I have a type 5 husband and two sons in my household. I do be knowing.

be happy

Shhh, Shhh, Shhhhhh, Let's Pretend It Hasn't Been Eighteen Months.

 Eighteen months!

(Okay, kinda blew my own cover there.)

So, what's new? School stuff (back to school tomorrow, grade three, grade one, littlest one in kinder, new teachers, exciting times). Health stuff (Liam's back in the pants he wore ten years ago, and I... just ate nutella mixed with peanut butter because I Wasn't Hungry Enough For Lunch but Wanted A Little Something, but apart from that, fine thanks). I guess I write poetry now... We've been away on a camping trip...

What d'ya wanna know?

I'll just introduce some people.

This weird hooman bean is my wittle baby Elanor (of "It's a girl! It's Elanor!" fame). She's... um... she's eight. And a bit. She's a grade three. She writes poems and stories, and draws pretty good pictures, and makes up songs as long as nobody seems to be listening, and makes Actually Funny jokes, and is getting a class pet, and magically, wonderfully, still somehow thinks I'm funny.

She's actually really good company. We hang out, we chat, we crack each other up. She talks honestly, bravely, with me. She's kind and generous to her brothers*. She's a mad keen gymnast who will somehow be surviving her first two hour training session after her first day back at school tomorrow arvo, and this term she'll be adding weekly recorder lessons to the mix. I'm starting to see glimpses of the wisdom that's growing in her. She's gonna be a cool grownup someday. She's already a pretty cool daughter.

Then there's this guy:

This big boy is Owen (pictured right). He's six. I wrote his seventh birthday on the calendar for later this year, and had to check my working out. But yep, apparently that's how it works. Seven. He's six, going into grade one - no longer the babies of the school. He's a kindhearted boy and a conscientious student and an avid learner. He devours chapter books, builds Lego spaceships, eats sleeps and breathes Minecraft facts, and is Such A Ham.

He gets anxious sometimes. And he struggles with his own high standards. I am so super proud of how well he's learning to handle and work with these things, to let the adrenaline settle, to make things right afterwards. He's learning to think about his own thinking, and he's always willing to learn. His insight and level of understanding blow me away. He's also super crazy funny, and he knows it. It's a joy to see this boy grow up, and watch him mature into the guy he's meant to be. I once prayed for patience, and I'll never regret it - I got this one.

And, adorably:

Theo. This one, my baby, the youngest, their little brother, is three and a half. He starts 3yo kinder next week, and he could not be readier. He recognises the first letters of his name ("Look! Up, and to the side! That's me!"). He can dress himself, put on his shoes, find things, sit quietly. He's independent and confident and resourceful, and so perseverant I once watched him mutter and cry over the turning and putting on of an inside out sock and its corresponding shoe for ten minutes, refusing all help, before finally he stood up and calmly showed me his finished work. No fanfare, just as if it were an expected outcome.

He likes dinosaurs, train sets, Hot Wheels, and books about superheros. He knows what he wants, and he expects to get it. He's sweet and silly and affectionate and generous, and he's still got an earsplitting shriek that tears the liminal veil from time to time. He's super cute, but content and self contained enough to not be a monster. Soon I'll have days of just he and I hanging out again, and it's going to be lovely.

We done pretty good.

Okay, I'll be back. This writing gig is pretty good. Sometimes it just takes a small (eighteen month) hiatus to remember how much you enjoy a thing. Brace yourselves.

* as much as lieth in her, which is, well, a little bit.
be happy

A Love Letter

Love doesn't need to make sense.

I like hot weather. I always believed I needed to live by the beach to feel sane. Ballarat, my love, you're (literally) freezing and the nearest coast is an hour's drive away. You don't have good salt and pepper squid, or a shopping centre with an indoor playspace, or people I'm related to, or anything I grew up with or believed I wanted in a home for myself and my family of littles.

Nonetheless, I love you.

I'm not putting down roots here - but only because I'm not putting down roots anywhere on this earth. There's somewhere else for me. But for now, while the Lord sees fit to bless me with it, Ballarat is my beloved.

Is it the glorious green of a countryside bursting with life in spring? The magnificent autumn display of golden tree-lined leaf-paved streets? The crisp fresh air of a cold, foggy winter's morning?

Sure, I enjoy those things immensely. But I love this town because the Lord put it into my heart to do so. Because this is where He wants me, and his grace gives me everything I need.

There are towns by the beach that have a vibe that's much more Me. There are places closer to family, more convenient, maybe even more beautiful.

But this here is love. It's love, because God turns "despite the cold" into "because the cold is stunningly beautiful". It's love, because God turns "even though it's utterly landlocked" into "because it's completely surrounded by natural beauty".

God takes a nothing much, applies His love, and turns ashes into beauty. He loved me when I was nothing. He loves me still, and I'm still nothing much. His love - beyond and over and through all my flaws - is humbling and fills my heart with joy.

And love.

Cold brings snow, and snow is unspeakably beautiful. Weakness means I need Him, and leaning on God reminds me daily of His grace. Less of what's Me has taught me more of what's Him.

I'll set down roots, one day, when He decides it's time. Until then, His gifts are more than sufficient for me.

It doesn't have to make sense. It's love.
be happy

Theo Doesn't Wanna Do That

Here's a nice photo of my children. Everybody in! Thanks, Owen - nice smile! Good team player there, Ellie! Um... hi Theo.


In seven weeks and one day, Theodore Hurtado will be two years old.


Two: the age of growing independence. Two: the age of blossoming personality. Two: the age of NO.

Ellie was pretty fine as a toddler. Owen forgot to be Terrible until he hit three. Theo... well, Theo's been practicing. And he can stop practicing any time he likes. He's ready.


Oh, he's definitely still our laid-back one. Still content to do his own thing and sort himself out a lot of the time.

But when he's not...
When Theo ain't chillin', ain't nobody chillin', to quote absolutely no pop culture reference at all.

Some of his current themes include:
   "MINE," or the more emphatic "MI-neh."
   "Don' wannoo!"
   "MY turn!"
   "I wan' EAT."
   "Wan' go DIS way."
   "Wan' 'po-LEEN!" (He's a trampoline-at-inconvenient-times addict).
   "Wan' soos on!" (He's an other-shoes-when-he's-already-wearing-shoes-and-has-changed-shoes-fifteen-times-so-far-today-oh-my-goodness-say-shoes-again addict, also).
   And "             ," a high-pitched shriek which cannot be read by human eyes but can DEFINITELY (and regrettably) be heard by human ears. All of the human ears in the land, probably.

Parents of toddlers live in a complex and contradictory world. We're SO PROUD of their new capabilities. But we desperately miss that helpless little bundle that used to stay where we put it and sleep through grocery shopping. We're SO EXCITED about the language explosion they're going through. But if we hear "No! Don' wannoo!" one more time, so help us...

It's all very awesome, watching a little bundle of mystery person turn into someone real and interesting, and I'm so appreciative of the opportunity I've been given to see this whole fascinating process three times over. But like all important things, it's not always easy.

To find the boundaries, these little growing people have to test them. And push them, to see if they stretch. And beat against them, to see if we they break.

They're starting to understand about choices, and about language. This means they're aware of the things they want to do or say but can't. It might be frustrating for us as parents (or innocent bystanders) - but it's even more frustrating for them.

But it's still PLENTY frustrating for us, thanks very much.

Parent-of-Toddler-hood - it's an honour, and a joy... and ever so tiring.


I've talked before about how they're not the only ones learning and growing - about the gifts of patience, and perspective, and knowledge of our own strength, and understanding of our need for the Lord, that this role gives. It's a defining time for all involved parties.

Let's remember that, when the toddler is turning into a chopstick to avoid being inserted into a trolley seat, or trying to run down the up escalator because "NO, I wan' go DIS way," or begging at the pantry door and then pushing away every snack on offer because we don't have the specific exact item they just thought of, or screaming like a banshee at the very IDEA of going to sleep at someone else's house, or in the wrong pyjamas, or at all.

It's worth it. It's Worth It. It'sworthitit'sworthitit'sworthit...

Also, sometimes they come in handy. Like when they're the only other human in the house, and you just realized you're out of toilet paper.


Thanks, Theo.

Oh, and also, he's SO sweet. And brave. And resourceful. And crack-us-up-every-dinnertime funny.

Honestly, my heart has never been so full.

He loves having "cuggles", and trying terrifying stunts, and putting on ridiculous outfits.

He stops to ask "You ah-kay?" when someone's sad, and makes hilarious faces when you least expect it, and bounces back immediately after falling on his head. Which happens a lot (see "terrifying stunts").

BUT he also wants to touch all the things he shouldn't be touching. And he wants the OTHER dwink. Not that one. No, not that one either. Actually no, the first one.

And he wants to go DIS way.

Obviously, God knew exactly what he was doing when he made toddlers cute.
be happy

Going Bigger, Going Smaller

I'm a big-picture girl. I do understand the importance of details - and if I set my mind to it, I can do a half-decent job of dealing with them - but they're not what I'm about. Liam's good at details, so we're a good team. I'm the "What if...?" one; he's the "What about...?" one. Generally.

It's good to have both.

There are occasions where a big picture perspective is awesome. When you're parenting a child and they're being all strong-willed about something and you're trying to stand your ground, it's a huge help to zoom out - to pause, look at the big picture, and remember why you're doing what you're doing.

There are also occasions where a closer look is awesome. When you're in the middle of a busy day and the kids are dawdling and you're trying to get to the next item on your to-do list, it can be so important to zoom in - to pause, see your little ones enjoying themselves in that moment, and remember why you're doing what you're doing.

Zoom out. Zoom in.

We need both.

I'm well aware of the drawbacks to focusing too long on the big picture. It's so easy for the little day-to-day things to slip by unnoticed as we work towards The Greater Good, whatever that may be. Little jobs that need to be done, little troubles that need to be attended to, little victories that need to be celebrated. Little moments that need to be cherished. When the pressure of the big picture gets too much: Zoom in. How's your week looking? Zoom in. What's important today? Zoom in. What's happening, right at this moment? Find a focus that helps lift the weight of the bigger picture.

There are downsides to too much time spent in the minutae, too. We find our direction when we go bigger; focus in close for too long, and we find ourselves wandering aimlessly and wondering why we don't feel like we have a clue what we're doing. When the distractions of the little picture get too confusing: Zoom out. What's important today? Zoom out. How's your week looking? Zoom out. What are you working towards? Find a focus that helps you find your direction through the smaller picture.

Zoom in. Zoom out.

We need both.

Zoom out...

As adults, we need an awareness of the future. Our kids are PEOPLE who are going to be GROWNUPS. What's happening right now is so TEMPORARY.
It's good to spend time in the big picture sometimes. Step back, and feel a sense of What It's All About. It's encouraging. It's inspiring. And it gives us direction.

Zoom in...

Kids live in the moment. Two days away is AGES. What's happening right now is EVERYTHING.
It's good to join them there sometimes. Get closer, and feel connected to their Now. It's refreshing. It's fun. And it gives our direction meaning.

Feeling lost, or stuck, or frustrated, or confused? Go bigger. Go smaller.

Zoom in, zoom out.

What do we need?
That's right*.


**And a new word, because "both" doesn't look like a real word now I've used it so many times. Sorry about that.

be happy

Grace for Big Girls


That's the hot topic in many households this week, I'm sure. Our Ellie starts school next Monday, and is SO VERY EXCITED. Her bag's packed, her uniform's ready, her snacks are even dispensed into ziplock bags in a special "Ellie's School Snacks - Do Not Eat THIS MEANS YOU OWEN" box in the pantry. She's been breaking in her shoes, practicing her writing, and squealing with excitement every time we drive past her school.

She's ready.

Looking at my little big girl, I'm amazed by how far we've come from those early days.

But with this new stage come new issues - one of which has been brought to my attention a couple of times lately, in conversations with other parents of five-year-old girls... and in daily life with one of my own.

It's this:


Good grief.

She certainly still means well, generally. She loves being helpful, loves feeling like she's done a job well, loves hearing she's making good choices. But.

That attitude!

I'm not going to tell you how to fix it - I think the answer to that might be "time", and no one wants to hear that. But I will let you in on three little things that have helped us...

1. Pocket Money.

Eep! Pocket money! As if all this talk of school wasn't enough to make me wonder if I'm old enough to start referring to myself as an "adult" (naaaaaahh), I also have a child who's old enough for POCKET MONEY!!! I understand everyone's different - some kids already have pocket money long before this age, while others still don't feel ready. And that's fine, of course.

We decided being old enough for school was a good indicator of being old enough for some other things. Ellie already has a handful of Ellie-specific chores (emptying the cutlery rack from the dishwasher, wiping down the sink after toothbrushing, setting the table for dinner, bringing her laundry hamper to the laundry on kid-clothes-washing days, etc), which she does pretty reliably and generally takes pride in - besides the occasional bit of interrupted game angst. So, next step: income.

Her first week's pocket money went on a Frozen purse (I matched her $2 for it), to keep future pocket monies. Next was a bell for her bike - we went to the shops, checked out prices, and she spent the next fortnight saving up enough for a $3 bell and $1 change. Such a proud moment. Now, she's saving up for "something good" - she hasn't decided what just yet. We're at $5 tomorrow.

This pocket money lark is all about teaching her responsibility, and that we value her contribution to the family. I'm not giving her money directly for doing a task - I'm not interested in bribing her to get work done - but in recognition of her new level of responsibility.

And it's interesting to see what an impact that awareness of Big Girl Responsibility is having on her Big Girl Attitude.

2. The List.

This one came about one morning when I was putting Theo into his highchair, and asked Ellie to fetch me a bib from his room. She was sitting watching cartoons (which I'd already told her it was time to finish watching); I was wrangling a writhing bag of snakes - I mean, eight-month-old - into a small, contoured seat. I figured she was the better candidate.

Did I get a bib, as requested? Oh, yep. Did I also get a bonus side-order of Big Girl Attitude?


Apparently, I made her miss the end of Peg + Cat. (Actually, SHE made her miss the end of Peg + Cat, by standing in Theo's room shouting about what she was missing instead of GOING BACK AND WATCHING IT. But anyway.) And apparently, it wasn't just any old episode - it was THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ONE. There were tears. Arms were vehemently folded. Feet were stamped.

No way THAT'S okay. Theo had his breakfast, and then Ellie and I had a Talk. We talked about priorities. We talked about the importance of family vs. the importance of things on TV. We sat down in the office with a piece of paper, and brainstormed this list together:

And then we discussed what it meant, using examples:

"If you're playing a game, but I'm trying to explain something to you, which is more important?"

"If you're practicing your writing, but it's time to go to the meeting, what do you do?"

"If you're watching TV, but I need you to fetch something for Theo, WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT?"

She was spot on every time, of course. We also talked about the fact that when you look after the things at the top of the list, they tend to help take care of the things lower on the list. Think about it. It's true.

She LOVES her List. Later, I heard her giving the same examples, pretty much word for word, as she explained it to Liam. And from then on, AND THIS IS THE BIGGIE, if I ask her to do something, or remind her about her attitude... SHE GOES AND CHECKS HER LIST. And she comes back with the right choice, every time. Based on a list of priorities we decided on TOGETHER.

She's such a stickler for rules, her annoyance at having to prioritise something else over what she's doing is far outweighed by her enjoyment of making what she knows is a good choice. And with family in #2, Owen gets victimised WAY less.

Everyone's a winner.

3. That Time I Feared A Pinterest Fail But It Turned Out Awesome.

There are various versions of this lesson floating around Pinterest, where someone hurts someone's feelings, and someone else gets a smooth sheet of paper, crumples it up, then smoothes it out and points out that it's never completely smooth again.

There's some kind of "saying sorry doesn't mean it's okay" lesson there, or something.

So, this morning Ellie did THAT THING again, where she goes against everything I tell her a squillion times a day, and moves Theo without an adult present.

In this case, she stood him at his activity table, and then left him to it.

He's not exactly a pro at standing just yet.

Inevitably, he fell. I was out hanging washing, heard him crying, and came running. Ellie admitted what had happened, sighed, threw a "Sorry, Theo" his way, and wandered off. Again.


I sent her to her room - not for time out, but to wait for me. I told her I'd be there to talk to her when I'd sorted Theo out.

Hugged, comforted, and distracted with a small plastic frog, Theo sat in my lap while I talked to Ellie about why I ask her not to move him on her own, what could happen, what DID happen, etc, etc. Sighs, and the occasional bored "Yes, Mummy," were not quite the response I was looking for.

I sent her for a sheet of paper.

At this point, I should mention, I had NO IDEA what I was going to do. The crumpled-up-paper lesson from Pinterest was in the back of my mind, but in that moment I couldn't even remember clearly what that lesson WAS, let alone figure out how I was going to make it relevant to my five year old.

She returned with the paper, and I held it in front of her and talked about how we ask her not to move Theo without us. I talked about what happened this time, and as I spoke I scrunched the paper up into a tight little screwed-up ball right in front of her.

She couldn't look away.

Then, I talked about how she'd said sorry to Theo. I opened out the paper and laid it on the floor in front of us. She stared at it, and watched me smooth my hands over it as I talked about how saying sorry hadn't changed the fact that he'd been hurt.

Her hand slid out, and gently ran over the creased paper in an attempt to help me smooth it.

I reminded her that this was not the first time something like this had happened. I talked about how she might say sorry at the time, but if she goes away with no intention of changing and does it again later, the paper just remains crumpled.

At this stage, one bit of my Mummy-brain was ringing the "Don't pile on the guilt!!!" alarm. I was still very much winging it. And I was very aware that I did NOT want to be teaching her "If you make a mistake, there's nothing you can do to make it right."

Where was I going with this?

In the next moment, That Thing happened; the Thing that makes me glad I wing things, because it leaves me open to this kind of inspiration. These words were not mine...

"But do you know," I said, "what the Lord does with this piece of paper?"

Ellie shook her head. I picked up the crumpled piece of paper, and threw it over my shoulder. She watched it fall to the floor.

"He throws it away," I said. Ellie looked astonished. "And HE GIVES US A NEW ONE. A nice, fresh, smooth piece of paper, to start again, like it never happened. That's what happens when he forgives us."

Ellie stared.

"So," I said, "we might make mistakes and bad choices sometimes." I picked up the paper and crumpled it again. "And we always say sorry, not because we should, but because we really are sorry and really want the other person to feel better." I opened out the crumpled paper again.

"But the Lord knows when we REALLY MEAN IT. And if we REALLY MEAN IT - that we're sorry, that we want the other person to feel better, that we don't want to do that again..." The paper floated to the carpet of my daughter's bedroom. "He'll always, ALWAYS give us a fresh piece of paper.

"That's what it means to repent, Ellie. And that's how it feels to be forgiven."

She got it.

That piece of scrunched-up paper is stuck up on her wall, right next to her List of Priorities. I walked past her room earlier, and she was standing in there, looking at them and whispering to herself.

Good things, I hope.

There are no easy answers to the Big Girl Attitude thing. But Big Girl Responsibility, Big Girl Priorities, and a regular dose of Big Girl Talks do seem to help. The rest comes down to time, love, and oodles of patience.

I think maybe the Lord feels the same way about us.
be happy

*rubs eyes blearily* Whoa, where was I?

YOU GUYS. How long has it been? I mean, really?
Long? Yeah. Let's go with that.

I make no excuses for this. My simple explanation for my absence: Life.
But I've missed this. I've missed sitting down with a blank screen and a cursor, and just blabbing my words out. This is nice.

So, what've you all been up to? No, really. Let me know.
What's new with us? Let's see...

This week, Elanor had her LAST DAY OF KINDER.

EVER, you guys.


My little Christmas pudding!

Also, she reads. Looks at words, sounds them out under her breath, and comes back to me with what she thinks they say.

"Mummy, does this say 'Milky Way'?"
(Oh, the educational value of chocolate.)

"Mummy, does that sign say 'Stop'?"
"That's right!"
"Um... why aren't you stopping?"
(Relax! It was on a side road and not applicable to me.)

"Mummy, does this say... 'Way...tor'?"
"Close! It says 'Water'."
"Oh! So... what's in it?"


This girl is SO EXCITED about school. Got her uniform, got her school bag, got her book list all ordered. She'd start this week if she could.


No, not this week. This week was the kinder party, and there were pink cupcakes. She'd start next week if she could.
Well, maybe after Christmas. And camp. Next year, then? Righto.


Owen is currently eating yoghurt with gusto. We had an inspection this morning, and I think he's enjoying the luxury of being able to eat in the lounge again.


Oh, and speaking of kinder, guess where Owen will be going on Friday mornings next year? ... K- Oh, I made it too easy, didn't I?


Yes, kinder. My big boy will be going to kinder. I can't wait to see him love it - because he will. He'll build things, and climb things, and maybe even learn to discuss his preferences without shouting til he's red in the face and shaking and calling people such delightful honorifics as 'Rudey Pudey', 'Weirdy Peirdy', and the new favourite, 'Pooky' (with carefully enunciated 'k', because he's been told off multiple times for 'Poopy').


It's an exciting development!


And Theo? Theo is sleeping off a big ol' roll around the lounge and twenty minutes of overtired squawking. The instant he fell asleep, Liam texted me to see if we were free to meet him for a cuppa.




You heard right: that kid's on the move. He's been rolling over for ages, but suddenly it's all come together into a gloriously ungainly-yet-effective means of getting to things. Hip thrust, hip thrust, leg throw... ROLL. Ah, belly. Good. Now... Awkward lean, awkward lean, awkward lean, leg throw... ROLL. Right. Face up again, but closer. Now... And repeat, until access is gained to the desired item (usually an age-inappropriate toy with small chokey parts or trappy-fingers mechanisms, or both) - or, failing that, a piece of furniture blocks the way and Mummy (okay, more often Ellie) comes to the rescue.


It's exciting, especially when you put him down and blink and then CAN'T FIND HIM for a few seconds...


Oh, and we met Santa. By accident. At the library.

Ellie: "Okay... But I'm not going to sit on his lap."
Owen: "Nope."

On a related festive note, tonight's plan is Christmas lights looking. "LOL, JUST KIDDING," said the sky, as it suddenly and without warning threw back its pretty blue curtain and revealed the gloomy grey backdrop we all know is really the default setting around here, and proceeded to POUR OUT UPON US ITS UNWELCOME  SKY-JUICE.

So... Tonight's plan was Christmas lights looking. Tonight's revised plan is an early night for the kids, some catchup time for Zoe and her long-lost friend Couch. And there's some Pringles in the pantry with Liam's name all over them, so everyone's a winner.

Stupid sky-juice.

But anyway, just checking in. Hi, you guys. I'm still here! Intending to get back into this blogging lark now that the newborn baby haze is gradually receding.

Stay tuned!

be happy

Let It Go. (Sorry.)

The sun is SHINING, you guys. And it's WARM. Well, almost.


We're going outside. I know. Daring.


We've got until Sunday to enjoy this nice weather, and then it's back to damp and chilly for a bit. So, until then, I'm going offline.


I'm not sharing this information because y'all are going to be missing me five minutes from now and wondering where I went. I'm not posting this because three days offline is some kind of heroic feat. No big life lessons here.


Just this simple encouragement, a few days out from Spring, for us all to do a bit of spring cleaning in our own day-to-day. I have some awesome, inspiring, supportive, encouraging, hilarious communities of friends on Facebook - distant family, mama friends, brothers and sisters in the Lord - many of whom I only have contact with via Facebook. I also have a tendency to check in on that newsfeed a bit too often.


So, from now until Sunday, for me there'll be no Facebook scrolling, no Instagram sharing, no Pinterest birthday party planning. Just living. In the moment.


It takes longer than three days to break a habit - but it's a good start. I've had numerous conversations with other mamas about sleep training lately, and in teaching a baby to settle it's often the third night that's the breakthrough.


So why not? There's still time to have a breakthrough now, while it's still winter. Yours doesn't have to be social media-related, but I'm sure there's something - habit, fear, lack of motivation - that's dragging you down and holding you back from making your Today completely awesome.


Let's make like the blond chick and Let It Go. Kick that habit. Face that fear. Get up and do what you couldn't be bothered doing. Punch today in the face.


And then give it a big hug, and share an ice cream.


Let's do this. We've all got much to live for.


I'm off to blow bubbles and play trains and draw dinosaurs and frolic in the sunshine with these bonces.

Happy Spring cleaning!

be happy

8 Things I Know

1. Bonces Gotta Bonce.

So, you had a baby recently, eh? Yeah, good for you, Mummy. Whatevs. Now... TO THE PLAYGROUND!!!!!

She likes showing me what she already knows she can do. He likes mastering all there is to be mastered. They both like to swing.

And Theo? He sleeps while they wear themselves out.

(They're not really wearing themselves out. They've still got plenty more in the tank.)

This thing I know: Kids need to play, and run, and shout, and climb, and knock each other over on the swings. No matter how cold, no matter how weary Mama might be, no matter how many other things could be getting done... bonces who get to play are happy bonces. It's worth every frozen minute of playground loitering.

2. She's Growing Up.

Who is this leggy piece of work with the kinder friends and the mad reading skillz? Seriously, when did this happen? Suddenly I have this grown-up, cord-cutting, baby-loving, pregnancy-faking kid around the place...

She's got a whole new level of coping skills, and an eagerness for chores. With two little boys in the house, I'm very much aware of - and thankful for - her willingness to help, her ability to dress and (kind of) groom herself, and her awesome level of communication. She's fun, and interesting, and affectionate, and I LOVE HER.

And so does this guy, who gives her the BIGGEST smiles:

This thing I know: I am SO PROUD of who my girl is growing up to be.

3. Theo Is Cute.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

He's laid-back, and cuddly, and starting to crank out those smiles. He loves to be held, he loves to be with us, and HE KNOWS HIS MAMA. (Who sometimes sneaks away to eat breakfast with two free hands.)

He was born in water, and he doesn't seem to have forgotten.

This thing I know: The hashtag is correct - this kid really is #theodoreable. I'm smitten.

4. He's a Darling.

My Owen is crazy and unpredictable and loves a good "shooter". (Note: ANYTHING can be made into a shooter. Pencil? Obviously. Duplo? Of course. Tissue box? No problem.) He takes things apart and wrestles his sister and crashes toy cars.

He's also so independent he insists on making his own Teddy Bread and choosing his own vitamin from a selection of three, and woe betide anyone who peels his banana for him...

But he's the SWEETEST BOY. Look!

Think he loves his brother? (Hint: he does.)

He can be talking all tough one moment, and the next he sees Theo and his voices switches up three octaves and he goes to mush and it's all, "Hel-lo Feo!" "Hel-lo, lit-tle guuuuuuuuuuuuuuyyy!"

I'm learning to work with his independence instead of trying to control it. I'm learning to appreciate his desire to do everything for himself. I'm learning to embrace his quirks and not get frustrated. I'm learning to let go of Teddy Bread ever looking this good again:

This strong-willed independent streak is fine. Better than fine. Because I know he's setting himself up to be such a confident, capable young man.

(Even if it does mean him taking apart the Lego house I made when I was a kid, in TEN SECONDS FLAT.)

And he's pretty lovely to hang out with.

This thing I know: My little big boy is one awesome dude.

5. We Made a Good Investment.

Baby Owen, who made us tired (and slightly deaf) and took up so very much of our time that poor Little Ellie only got whatever tired scraps were left... we were right about him. He was an AWESOME investment in Ellie's future. Because here they are, not even three years in, and BESTEST buddies.

I love these little packages of nonsense. I love the way they negotiate turn-taking. I love the way they chat when they think I'm not listening. I love the way she calls him "Owie" and watches out for him with her particular combination of care and bossiness. I love the drawn-out way he says her name - "Ahhhl-liee" - and how he loves to surprise her and willingly goes along with all her crazy make-believe games.

I love when they pose together. Because they're just SO CUTE.

I love when they snuggle up together for prayer at bedtime...

(... which was cuter before I turned the light on to take a picture and dazzled the eyeballs out of them both).

They're little mates, and they're there for each other, and I love it.

This thing I know: They are of so much value in each other's lives, those difficult early months were worth every moment.

6. We're Making Another Investment Right Now.

And knowing this, it's so much easier to say, "Sorry, Owen, I can't pick you up right now - I'm holding Theo," or "Sorry, Ellie, I'll do crafting with you later - I have to feed Theo." Because today, Theo is using up most of my time. But then we'll blink, and look again, and he'll be running around with them, playing "Queens and Baddies" and exponentially multiplying their fun.

They're already practicing.

And meanwhile, I'm pretty sure no grudges are being held.

This thing I know: Theo is slotting right into this family like the missing piece we never knew we were missing. We love him.

7. I Would Get Nothing Done Without The Hugabub.


I've never cuddled such a cuddly baby as our Theo. Tired, grouchy, overwhelmed? I pop him in the Hugabub, and within a MINUTE most times he's asleep. Or at least awake but quiet and content. It's lovely. The easiest and most practical bonding time ever. And it means my hands are free to cook dinner, play with the kids, write a blog post... and of course, HAVE ADVENTURES.

(Which have included Rebel Owen deciding, halfway home from the park, that he wasn't done. And MARCHING BACK THERE ALL BY HIMSELF.)

(Important note: It's pretty much impossible to actually give chase in this thing; the best you can hope for is a kind of long-distance follow.)

Looking back on our early weeks with Owen, I wish we'd had this thing back then. I wonder how much it would have eased that transition from one to two. It's lovely for Theo to be held close and feel calm and settled, even while his boncey big brother and sister are keeping me busy.

Also, who doesn't love a babywearing daddy? :) This guy is awesome. He's been sick for a couple of weeks, and suddenly this week I was even sicker and dude took care of EVERYTHING while I pretty much slept three days away.

This thing I know: Theo's starting to get the hang of napping in his bassinet, and that gives me all kinds of new freedom. But he's still new, and he wants to be close to us, and that's fine. In fact, better than fine - I love it. I'm going to miss this when he's bigger.

8. I love what I do.

As far as I'm concerned, motherhood is the best gig ever. I get asked about how I cope with the "hard work" of having three little ones. Strangers at the shops love to tell me I've "got my hands full".

And I have.

Full of blessing. Full of love. Full of fun. Full of joy. My kids don't just fill my time with tasks and my car with crumbs and my ears with songs from Frozen and my house with plastic nonsense which may or may not be turned into "shooters". They fill my whole heart. Pretty sure mamas actually grow a new, bigger heart, just to hold it all.

Sure, my days might look like they're full of child-care-related busyness, without much more than a stolen moment or two to myself. And that's mostly true. But that busyness isn't WORK. It isn't something I HAVE to do, to get to the two seconds of enjoyment. It's ALL good.

I'm not suggesting there's anything glamorous about washing out little undies, or breaking up fights, or collecting the detritus from a week's worth of snacks from under the car seats. And getting a solid night's sleep, or going to the toilet alone, or having a snack without the need for stealth? Sure, they all sound like lovely notions. But I LOVE WHAT I DO. I love doing the hundred little things they need me to do for them every day, because I LOVE THEM. And THEY NEED ME. That's the deal.

And it's a pretty sweet deal. I drop what I'm doing to intervene when they're fighting, and I get to see two little people learning about relationships and social skills and kindness and grace. I herd my little circus through the supermarket, and through all the "ComeonOwen don'ttouchthat waitforme slowdownplease keepupEllie putthatback youdon'thavetocountthemALL we'vegotenoughchocolate STOPTOUCHINGTHINGS" routine, I get to see my daughter practicing her newfound reading and numeracy skills, my son taking such puff-chested pride in being a good helper, my kids working together and encouraging each other and doing their best to be patient.

Like a family photo, from the outside this life might not always look all that glamourous or fun. Tired eyes, strained smiles, stressy babies, four-year-old attitude, two-year-old angst... great big looming red-eyed koalas...

(Liam: too tired for a photo. Ellie: too cool for a photo. Owen: shall not be made to stand where he does not wish to stand. NO. I GO STAND WITH MUMMY. GOOD BYE.)

But despite appearances, that (pictured) stopoff was nice. We stretched our legs. Theo was fine. Owen slipped his warm little hand into mine and we had a lovely little moment. Ellie practiced skipping and happily ticked off another spot on her roadtrip map. And Liam had a cup of coffee just up the road and felt much better.

Likewise, my moments might look chaotic. My kids might argue and interrupt and make a mess. You might not get as much of me as you once would have, because my time and attention have to spread a little further first.

But in the words of the Chilli Peppers, THIS LIFE I CHOOSE. It wasn't thrust upon me to add to all the work I already have to do. "Whoa, yikes, now I've got another one to deal with..." No. I love these kids. I love being their mum, with everything that entails. It's challenging. It's fulfilling. It's FUN.

I love what I do.

And at the end of the day, when they all fall asleep, then no matter how crazy it's been, no matter how busy, no matter how noisy and messy and exhausting...

... This thing I know: I am so blessed.
be happy

Theo's Birth Story

At this time one week ago, our little boy was born. It was my dream birth. I am so incredibly thankful - to my midwives and my doula for their wisdom and support; to my family and friends for their assistance and love; to my children for their awesomeness through the whole thing; to my husband for his calm patience and best-friendship; to my baby for being the perfect little chooch of a bonce #3 that we always knew he'd be... and above all, to the Lord for always seeing us through and always knowing exactly what's best - and giving it to us. I am so blessed.

That it's been a week already is astonishing two ways:
1. It's been a week already??
2. How can it be that I've only known him for a week??
So, in honour of this first milestone, I'm cooking chicken noodle soup and sharing a very special story.

Monday 5 May was a day I hadn't really expected to get to: my baby's estimated due date. Ellie, who was posterior and came at 41+1 after over a week of false starts, probably would have come that week earlier if she'd been anterior and triggering more effective contractions. Owen came at 38+4, and took 2 1/4 hours from start to finish - and Liam packed my hospital bag while I was in labour! This time, I was ready by 37 weeks.

And then 37 weeks passed. And 38. And 39.

I wasn't exactly miserable yet, but I was very heavily pregnant and still responsible for two busy little children. I'd had enough of my physical limitations when it came to doing things with my kids. I'd had enough of Discussions with OBs about the best way to manage the birth of my baby because of my (completely diet-controlled and never a high reading) gestational diabetes. Every time a new concern had arisen, we'd prayed and the Lord had dealt with it immediately (and I'll share some of those stories another day), but I'd had enough of new concerns arising. I'd had enough of understanding the facts and statistics and theories enough to believe it would all be fine, but never really knowing. Oh, had I ever had enough of not knowing.

I wanted to meet this little person who I've always known we've been waiting for. I wanted to see my baby's face and touch my baby's hair and smell my baby's skin and feel my baby's warmth. I wanted my baby to stop having violent hiccups on my bladder, also.

I spent that Monday working on congratulating myself for making it so far, for having a perfectly cooked baby, for carrying this baby so well for so long. It was a long day, but it was okay.

Tuesday I woke feeling peace. I was back to truly feeling what I'd been saying all along - that the Lord had this all figured out, baby would come when ready, and I was in no rush. Everything would happen as it should, at exactly the right time.

I had no idea how right I was about that.

We gobbled an early dinner that day, and I dressed up nice and went out for the first time in days - with Ellie, to Mother's Night at her kinder. I spent a lovely hour and a half playing with her and chatting to other mums, most of whom couldn't believe I was there. I was feeling great. People kept offering me chairs, and I kept suddenly remembering I was 40 weeks pregnant.

That night we went home, took photos of Ellie and I in our dresses (and Owen in his "Awesome" jumper, because where there's a camera there's Owen), and put the kids to bed. I chatted to Liam about how peaceful I was feeling about the whole waiting thing.
4am, I woke to go to the toilet, and realized the crampy feeling I was having was starting and stopping. At regular intervals. Almost like... contractions.

There's something unmistakeable about early labour contractions, to me. I'd had a false alarm the Friday before, but those (reasonably strong) contractions only had me wondering if I was going into labour. These mild, crampy feelings were different, and just like last time, deep down I knew.

Around 5am, I remembered the contraction timer app I'd downloaded on that Friday. I spent an hour timing increasingly strong crampy contractions, which were coming roughly every 12 minutes and lasting a little over a minute.

At 6am I decided I'd had enough of being in bed. I grabbed my dressing gown and slipped out, leaving Liam sleeping. By the time Ellie woke at 6:20am - bringing Daddy with her, as she does - I'd set up most of my birthy things and was contracting for a little under a minute and much more frequently (7.5 - 4.5 minutes apart). They were definitely feeling more like contractions than cramps by now, but I was still able to walk around and talk through them, and I was feeling quite peaceful and relaxed about the whole thing. Owen got up shortly after, and I sent Liam back to bed while the kids settled down to breakfast. I told Ellie what was happening, and that this might be the day that the baby would come - she was excited, but understood that I needed her to be calm. Actually, she was an absolute darling.

At 6:45am I started feeling stressed at the thought of the kids needing me for something during a contraction, and took that as a cue to get Liam back up. I set him to work contacting Allison, our midwife, Sandy, our doula, and Renae, who'd offered to help with the kids, to let them know today was looking like being the day. Renae was supposed to be working, but managed to get the day off and arranged to pick up the kids soon. Allison and Sandy both made their own arrangements and put themselves on standby, awaiting further news.

By this stage, I was definitely retreating into Labour Land. When Liam tried to tell me what was being arranged, or ask what needed to be done, I was unable to process the information and really had no interest in trying. He immediately stepped up and Took Care Of Things, which was just what I needed.

I came out of the shower (reluctantly, because that warm water was amazing) and pottered around a bit more, and Renae collected two excited little people at 8am. My contractions paused while everything was happening, which didn't worry me at all - I knew that was to be expected. Liam went out to help Renae get the kids and their suitcases to the car, and the second the door shut behind them I was hit by the biggest contraction yet. My body had been waiting, and was keen to get on with it.

Liam came back in and we switched on my pre-selected CDs (Coldplay, Of Monsters & Men, Jack Johnson, Ella & Sascha, Mumford & Sons) and spent a nice half hour together in the kitchen, preparing chicken noodle soup in the slowcooker between contractions, and enjoying the peace of the morning.

Between 9am and 10am I timed contractions again - they were back to 1:30 every 12 minutes or so. Definitely contractions, but manageable. Sandy contacted Liam for an update, and I realized I was no longer walking or talking through my contractions. That gradual progress was reassuring to me, even though there were sometimes longer pauses between sets of contractions. It was all progress. We inflated the birth pool, set out a few last bits of birth-related paraphenalia, and rested.

At 11am I was still feeling peaceful and safe enough to send Liam out to the shops for a few groceries and last-minute baby things. While he was gone I had a couple of bigger contractions... then another fairly long pause. Liam came back with Baker's Delight for lunch, which I devoured and immediately wanted more of. In early labour with Ellie (there was no early labour with Owen) I'd been too edgy to eat - I can still remember the pie with a single bite missing, sitting on my plate all afternoon. This enjoyment of my lunch was another reminder of the peace and calm I was feeling this time. Everything was going perfectly.

After lunch I timed a couple of contractions again. I recorded one interval of 6:55, with a 1:04 contraction, followed by an interval of 3:04 and a 1:39 contraction. The irregularity of those contractions, and the effort involved in remembering to hit "start" and "stop", started to feel like too much bother. I quickly abandoned the timer and got into the rhythm of contraction, drink, wander, contraction, drink, wander, contraction, toilet, horrible toilet-related contraction, weird follow-up contraction, pause, repeat.

I reflected to Liam on how closely this resembled the "my perfect labour" I'd described to Sandy a few weeks earlier. Waking up knowing I was in labour, having time to peacefully get things together and settle into being in "the zone" (as opposed to the sudden intense speed of Owen's labour/birth)... it was wonderful. And being able to relax and know I was staying at home made a huge difference.

At around 1pm, we sat in the lounge and watched a couple of Olan Rogers stories on YouTube. When the second video finished, I realized it'd been a while since my last contraction. Liam went to get changed, and I started pacing the lounge again. Suddenly at 1:30pm, after a pause of exactly 16 minutes, a big two-minute one hit... closely followed by another... and another. I was leaning on the back of the couch and beginning to moan through them. Liam let Allison and Sandy know things had intensified and we'd probably be wanting them soon, and then rang them back a few minutes later to ask them to come over.

I sent Liam to fill the birth pool and turn on my labour playlist on my iPad, abandoned the timer completely, and moved into the next stage of labour with the simple, calm acceptance I'd always wanted. Perfect.

Sandy arrived at 2pm, closely followed by Allison. Allison checked my blood pressure and baby's heart rate, while Sandy made me raspberry leaf tea and gave me sips of water and reminded me to stay relaxed. We spent the next couple of hours chatting and laughing (and introducing Allison and Sandy to the wonderment that is a Terry's Chocolate Orange) in between contractions, during which everyone sat quietly while I leaned over the kitchen counter and moaned and breathed. It felt wonderfully calm and positive and joyful. I loved those couple of hours.

My contractions were becoming more and more intense, and after a while Allison tried applying pressure to my lower back while I was bent over the counter - which felt fantastic. I was finding myself stretching and swaying my hips instinctively, and wondered if I was helping baby move into a better position.

Baby had been sitting very much ROA for weeks (and oblique before that), and feeling quite unbalanced. During my false alarm the previous Friday I'd had some unusual pressure in the right side of my pelvis, which seemed to be related to that night's lack of progress. On the Saturday Sandy came over and tried some rebozo and positioning techniques, and I'd felt much more balanced since. A glance at my belly was enough to see baby was still hanging out over on the right, but I was feeling the head sitting evenly on my pelvis at last.

Alli later told me that when she heard how my earlier contractions were coming in sets, she thought it sounded a bit like back labour. Turns out baby was most likely rotating throughout the day, from ROA, through posterior (hence a patch of backache and a weirdly empty-looking belly at one point), to (optimum) LOA! Good job, baby!

At 4pm I had a contraction that challenged me with its intensity, and came out of it saying, "I think I'll get in the water soon." One more contraction and I was in. Oh, immediate relief! The warm water felt beautiful, and the bouyancy of the water helped me move freely to get comfortable. During my first contraction in the pool, Allison's backup midwife, Jenny, arrived. I remember being vaguely aware of her arrival, and opening my eyes afterwards to see her smile and wave at me.

Things started picking up pretty quickly from that point. I was vocalizing more, matching the intensity of the contractions with my voice just as I had in labour with Owen. Alli brought me sips of water, and Sandy leaned across the pool like an absolute trooper to apply pressure to my lower back for ages. When I began to moan she would murmur a simple acknowledgement, and I was surprised by how much that made me feel better.

I was getting loud, and every so often I'd find myself hugely uncomfortable and have to lean and shift around all over the place to find a new comfortable position. For the most part I was labouring on my knees, with my head on my arms on the side of the pool, but at times I was stretching up high on my knees, or sitting back between my heels, bracing my hands on my thighs.

At the time, it felt like a bit of a struggle - but in light of what we now believe was happening positioning-wise makes total sense, and it's wonderful that I was able to work so freely and instinctively with my body to help baby get perfectly aligned. (Imagine if I'd let the OBs talk me into inducing early, for no reason beyond a diagnosis of GD. Would my baby have had time to turn? Would I have had the capacity to help the process? Or how might that labour have ended up? Hmm...)

*steps down from soapbox*

In the middle of it all, there were little moments of awareness - Liam standing in the kitchen patiently waiting for a pot of water to boil for the pool, Allison and Sandy quietly offering me sips of drink, snippets of the songs I'd chosen (which buoyed me along much more than I'd expected). At some point, I became aware that the candles - which we'd left in the box because it was a beautiful sunny autumn day - had been brought out and lit. It added a soft, peaceful ambience to the room which was absolutely lovely. I remember saying "Hey, the candles are out!" and then leaning into another big contraction.

Suddenly, I found myself making a grunting sound and felt a huge urge to push, halfway through an otherwise normal contraction. I heard Allison comment on the sound I made, and say that it was good. The work got much harder from here. I was vocalizing so loudly into the side of the pool that Liam later told me I hurt his ears at one point. I think I remember that point - it hurt mine, too! I was finding it harder to pick a good position, moving my legs out behind me and back under, lifting up out of the water, leaning side to side, rocking right back, leaning into the side of the pool again, and hearing myself babbling strange sounds through the most intense contractions.

I let out one little "I can't!", which I didn't even mean, and Allison said "You can," and I already knew I could... and then the pushing urge came back and it was on. I was leaning right over the side of the pool (which was deflating slightly because of a tiny leak we'd discovered that morning - Liam had to bring out the electric pump and reinflate it a couple of times while I was in there). I found the edge of one of the big towels we'd spread under the pool, which was perfectly anchored by the weight of the water, and used it as an anchor to pull while my body pushed. There was no conscious decision to push - my body just knew what to do, and I trusted it.

In our discussions about homebirth, Ellie had told me she would like to cut the baby's cord. It was completely her own idea, she was very sure about it, and I loved it (ah, the beautiful things that are possible when birth happens at home!) - though I'd made sure she understood that we couldn't guarantee it would work out that way. Now, realizing baby would be coming soon, I took a moment to tell Liam I wanted Ellie there as soon as the baby was born. He called Renae, and she put the kids in the car and headed over to a nearby playground to await the news.

I switched back into labour mode and let the huge pushing contractions take over. Sandy later told me that during one contraction, as she was applying pressure to my back (where she'd been able to feel baby moving down), she felt a shudder from inside me as the baby shifted. I could feel everything, and this time I was able, in some distant part of my mind, to identify exactly what I was feeling at each stage. There was the pressure of the baby's head pushing down, and I was aware of the fact that my waters hadn't broken - the membranes were still intact. I knew babies were sometimes born this way, but I didn't know what it meant in terms of the birth process. It didn't worry me - nothing worried me throughout the whole process - I simply felt mild curiosity.

After one slightly more deliberate push, just because it felt right, I could feel baby's head starting to crown. Alli encouraged me to go slowly, and I did, giving it a couple of gentle half-pushes to allow things to stretch. There was a moment when I became suddenly aware of the humidity in the room, and felt like I couldn't get a breath. Then the head was coming and I was completely focused again. I felt the slow progress of brow, nose, chin as Alli quietly announced them. It did hurt a bit, but the water was wonderfully soothing and there was no burning or stinging sensation at all. Allison reached down to gently guide baby out, as it was compound presentation, hand next to face. I had no idea until they told me afterwards! That protective bag of waters - still unbroken - made this much less of an issue than it could have been.

Finally - after a contraction in which I leaned so hard on the softening pool side that water rushed over the side and up my nose - the baby's head was out. In my previous births I had paused at this point for another contraction to push out the body, but this time I suddenly had a hugely painful muscle cramp, which I couldn't extend my leg enough to release. Without waiting for a contraction, I focused and, at 5:35pm on Wednesday 7 May, I shoved the rest of my baby out by sheer determined force.

The relief was immediate, and there was a moment of utter calm in which I took a breath and realized that baby is out meant baby is in the pool with me... somewhere. I flipped around and found my baby floating in the warm water. I reached for that warm little body, lifted it up and cuddled it to me. There was a cry, and a beautiful little scrunched-up face, and my arms were full of baby, and it was the most beautiful moment. Perfection.

I thought I'd caught a glimpse of boy parts, but wasn't sure in the dim light and the water. I lifted baby up and Liam and I looked together...

"It's a boy!" we said.

"Hello, Theo," I whispered to him.

Then I looked up and registered smiling faces in a darkened room. "Hey!" I exclaimed, "When did it get dark out?"

Renae had left the park as it got dark, and pulled up outside our house just as Theo was born - more perfect timing. Ellie came in all giggly and excited, and said "Hello, baby Feo," in her most delighted and loveliest big sister voice. She absolutely exuded all the joy I was feeling, and it was so amazing to have her there.

Over the next half hour or so I had a few more (milder but still moany) contractions, gave Theo his first little feed while trying to get comfortable and still keep him warm in the pool, and eventually birthed the placenta at 6:20pm with a couple of decent pushes. Oh, and that chicken noodle soup we'd started that morning? Finished cooking about ten minutes after Theo was born. Perfect timing, even in the little things.

We waited for the cord to finish pulsating before cutting it, so in the meantime the placenta was floating in an ice cream tub next to us - occasionally it would bump against my elbow and I'd nudge it away. During this beautiful peaceful lull, Ellie kissed my forehead and told me she loved me about a thousand times. She also politely declined my offer to touch baby Theo, saying she would "when he's a bit cleaner" (he had a pretty decent coating of vernix).

And then it was her big moment.

I am so proud of my girl. She and Liam held the scissors together, and with great serious concentration she cut through her baby brother's cord in two careful snips. She can't wait for him to be older, so she can tell him all about it.

Oh, my heart.

Owen came in next, looking very pleased to meet his new little brother (whose name, Ellie announced, begins with "F"). He was gentle and calm and very lovely, and gave me the sweetest and wettest little kiss.

I moved from pool to couch, Allison and Jenny did their checks on Theo and myself, and I gave him another (more substantial) feed. Mum called, and I gave her the glad news. Renae gave the kids dinner (which Ellie ate with relish; Owen opted instead for two bananas and a couple of portions of my chocolate orange, because special occasion). Theo was cleaned up and dressed (as not a smurf - sorry, Owen, whose first outfit was accidentally a smurf-blue sleepsuit and a little white hat) and bundled up all cute and whatnot, and had cuddles with Liam and Ellie and Owen and Aunty 'Nae.

Alli checked Theo's blood sugar level, because, you know, the gestational diabetes, there's a risk it'll be too low... and laughed. Because it's supposed to be over 2.5mmol/L, and Theo's was 6.1.

Yep, he's fine.

The next couple of hours were filled with the kind of sweet, lovely, domestic little moments that only a homebirth can give - people in my kitchen, handing around servings of the soup I'd made; Allison holding Owen in her arms like a giant baby and measuring him "like baby Feo"; cups of tea and chats on the couch as we recapped the events of the day; apparently Allison clambering through a fort made of chairs in the kids' room with Owen... and finally, after kissing Ellie and Owen goodnight (they were going to sleep over at Uncle Ben and Aunty Nae's), a nice warm shower in my own bathroom. Bliss. Sheer, perfect, bliss.

I came out of my shower, feeling happy and clean and refreshed, and a little woozy, to find the rest of my house back to normal - a dining table and chairs where the birth pool had been, floor mopped and drying, couches back in place, washing machine and dishwasher loaded and washing. As Liam said, it was as if we'd spent the day hanging out at home, and now we had a baby.

That baby, that cute little bundle of vernix and smooshy backrolls and thumb-sucking gorgeousness, was 50cm long (2-3cm longer than his siblings) and 4.42kg, which sent us scrambling for a phone to convert to baby-language... 9lb 12oz! I was surprised to realize he was nearly a pound heavier than 8lb 15oz Owen - he just didn't look that big to me. But he sure is smooshy!

Allison, Sandy and Jenny headed home around 9pm, leaving us settled in the lounge with our new baby boy. We contemplated relaxing there for a while... then realized how completely exhausted we were. Heading to bed was a good move, as Theo woke pretty much hourly for sleepy feeds until 4am. He then slept until 7am, which was delightful.

I fed and resettled him, left my littlest and biggest boys sleeping, and went to have breakfast. They woke and joined me at 9:30am when Renae brought the (big! so big!) kids home.

And there we were: our first day as a family of five.

And you know what? It feels so right. He's beautiful - a lot like Ellie, a lot like Owen, and a whole lot that's just pure Theo. And you know what's the best? The not knowing is over - and now we've finally met him, I see he's the little person we've been waiting for all along.

Welcome, Theodore Hurtado.
You are so loved.