Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fingers and Toes

There is just something absolutely delectable about tiny baby fingers and chubby baby toes...

...and babies in general for that matter!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Big Brother

When I was pregnant with Ari I wondered how in the world I could ever love another baby as much as I love Riker.  He's such an awesome child - curious, engaging and clever and we are delighted by him every day.

What is it about sunnies that kids love so much?
At the fountain in front of the National Library.  Note mom's sunglasses in hand :)

When Ari came along I found that I somewhat miraculously had the ability to feel the same depth of emotion once again.  I read a nice analogy recently to explain to children how there can always be enough love to go around.  Love is like the sunshine – sharing the sun doesn't mean you get any less of it. 

Sharing the sun

It's still difficult to know how Riker feels about Ari, however, and it can change from minute to minute.  Sometimes he starts calling out for him as soon as he wakes from a nap.  "Baba!"  When Ari cries, Riker has been known to point to my chest and then to Ari to let me know he needs milk.  He shows him things and pulls at his arms and legs as if to say "play with me!"  But that soon turns into frustration as of course Ari just lies there (often looking at Riker with something resembling fascination or adoration).  There are also plenty of angsty moments where he seems to feel jealousy and resentment and these can lead to hitting or scratching at the drop of a hat.  Fair enough.  Who wouldn't feel upset if the most important person in their world brought home a new someone special?

Two special someones

Despite the hitting episodes, I can see affection developing and it's my greatest hope that they grow up to be playmates, confidants and friends. 

We turned our backs for a split second yesterday and found this scene! 

Any outbursts of hitting or scratching are usually promptly followed by a make-up kiss and while I don't want to send the message that anything goes as long as you atone for it afterward, it's very sweet! 


In general, Riker is mostly affectionate with Ari, kissing him all the time and not just after he's hit him!  Sometime it's all a bit much for the little guy and while he's having a totally different babyhood to the calm and quiet life that Riker knew at this age, I think it'll be a good life. And as for the mama, I've got my hands full, but I remind myself that full is better than empty!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wrapped in Love

Ari's great aunt Nancy in Cleveland sent him this gorgeous afghan and I just know it will be a favorite for years to come as it's so big and soft and cozy!

And just for fun, here's Riker at about five months old with his coordinating afghan from aunt Nancy:

Big hugs and thanks to Nancy for sending hand crafted love to keep the wee ones warm and snug! 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Puppy Feet

Riker was given an adorable sleeper with monkey feet as a gift and now Ari has one with puppy feet from Grandma Betty.  I couldn't pick just one photo to share!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Australian Rainbow Gathering

We recently returned from a somewhat epic camping adventure to the Australian Rainbow Gathering in the Hunter Valley region of NSW.  We had to travel to Sydney to get documentation of Ari's American citizenship and to apply for his passport (both of which involve lots of paperwork and an incredibly annoying trip to downtown Sydney) so we decided to drive the two hours north out of Sydney to get to our first Gathering in about six years!  The site was on private land and about 130 people came together to camp, eat, swim, workshop, converse, make music, relax, retreat and rejuvenate.  It was good fun as usual and we ended up camping for nine days, in part because the road out became impassable in a two wheel drive vehicle for the last few days of our stay due to heavy rains!  I didn't take very many photos but here are a few of the best:

A camp chair makes a great improv bassinet!

It was a beautiful site and we spent lots of time by the river to keep cool and splash with the other kids in camp.  Brian and Ari enjoy a swing in our hammock. 

Our little mimic washes his shirt in the river.

Wirunga, an aboriginal elder, kindly led a children's ritual similar to one he experienced as a small boy.  The children all sat together on a blanket while parents daubed dots of red, yellow and white ochre on their faces representing earth, sun and spirit.  When he finished he gave a gift to each child, boomerangs for the boys and small paintings for the girls.  Very special!

The youngest child at the Gathering, Ari slept through the ritual but was painted just the same. 

Dad has a cuddle while mama has a swim

Sleepy smiles in mama's lap

All tuckered out in the tent.  Thanks to Beth for loaning us a family sized tent and toddler gear for our first family camping experience!

Going to a Gathering with children was a very different experience to what I've known previously. Normally I'd get out and about a lot more (working in the kitchen, drumming, socializing and dancing after the evening meal circle) but I spent a lot of time at our camp nursing babies and getting them to sleep. There were good things about that too though in that we really connected with the other families and enjoyed making new friends.  It wasn't an easy nine days though - some extreme heat (for my Minnesota blood anyway) and some rainy days stuck in the tent proved difficult for me.  Not to mention the fact that I had two little people glued to me almost nonstop including a toddler who was ultra clingy, presumably from being in a new environment and still adjusting to life with a sibling. People keep commenting on how brave we are to have taken a newborn backcountry camping but at least at a Gathering, all necessities are taken care of - yummy food twice a day and filtered water for example, so it wasn't as difficult as going it alone would be.  Nonetheless, it's good to be home! 

Thursday, December 08, 2011


Riker turned two on October 29th and he shares his birth date with his two little friends Jago and Imogen. This year we once again marked the occasion with a joint fiesta for the three toddlers. Here are the highlights:

Jago, Riker and Imogen are TWO!

Opening a gift with Coral and Ariella

Helping Imogen with her new bicycle


Jumping castle fun!

Mmm ball pit

A little bit of rain and a stunning double rainbow to end the day

Perfect for puddle jumping!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Quick Update

My friend and colleague Su stopped by the other day and snapped this photo of the boys and I on her phone.  Thought I'd post it as a quick update and let you know that there are several new blog posts in the works to tell you what we've been up to for the last month. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's All a Blur

I  can hardly believe that Ari was one month old on Wednesday and that Riker turns two tomorrow!  Parenthood has somehow accelerated the overall passage of time yet strangely, some groggy days can seem to drag on for eternity.  I've been frequently reminding myself of a mantra I heard recently that sums it all up pretty well:

The days are long, but the years are short. 

That always reminds me that in no time at all I'll be looking back longingly at these sleep deprived days with a newborn.  The photo below captures well the blur that is life at the moment  Messy house. Me on a comfy chair with my trusty nursing pillow.  Baby in arms.  Toddler trying to get in on the action.  Cuddles.  Sleepy haze.  Moments that make it all worthwhile.

Babies Don't Keep

Mother, O' Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth.
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I've grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due,
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek - peekaboo.

The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew,
And out in the yard there's a hullabaloo.
But I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren't his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

~ Ruth Hulbert Hamilton

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Riker adores his nanny, Coral, and I just recently realized that I didn't have any photos of them together!  Here they are sharing a laugh:

Coral joined us in November of 2010 when I went back to work part time and Riker was about thirteen months old.  I'd never been a fan of group child care and having been a nanny myself to the fabulous Oscar and Zuzu when I was in college (uni), I knew the benefits of the arrangement and thought it would suit our family well.  Add to that the difficulties of getting a place in an inner north child care center here in Canberra (on five waiting lists for a year and a half with no offers!) and hiring a nanny became even more appealing. 

While a nanny does cost more than group care, the benefits of having one on one loving care make up for it many times over.  Not to mention the fact that I never had to wake the baby if he was sleeping or force him to eat breakfast and get dressed in order to get to work on time.  No getting him into the bike trailer or car, making an extra stop on the way to work or having to deal with separation anxiety issues.  And perhaps the best part was sparing him (and us) from the seemingly constant illness that comes with group care - which of course translates to fewer days of missed work.  Knowing he was well cared for in his own home made my return to work a really great experience for me.  When a spot in a child care center did open up a month or two after we'd hired Coral, we turned it down. 

It's meant the world to us to have someone so reliable looking after our dear little boy and we are all sad to see her looking for a new family now that I'm on maternity leave.  Many thanks for everything Coral and we hope you won't be a stranger - Riker talks about you all the time and clearly misses you already!

Friday, October 21, 2011


A few photos from week three:

Asleep in the capsule after a visit to ANUgreen

Riker loves to hold his brother, until he doesn't :)

Trying out the new bike seat on a ride with daddy

What is cuter than a sleeping baby?

Two sleeping babies of course!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mums Again

I adore my mother's group.  It's been great getting to know a group of really awesome women and watching our chubby cherubs grow into adventurous toddlers together.  It's also been really wonderful that a few of us are sharing the experience of expanding our families once again.  Here's a photo of my friend Jess and I, both about seven months pregnant.

And here we are with Baby Ari and Baby Gideon, born two weeks apart.

It's also somewhat helpful to know that someone else is up feeding and rocking a wakeful baby at all hours of the night!  Ah, camaraderie!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Birth Story of Ari Jaden McMillin

I've just finished writing the complete birth story and while I've decided not to make it publicly available for the world to see, I'm more than happy to share it with any readers who'd like to read beyond the quick version from my original announcement.  Just leave a comment here or on facebook or send me an email and I'll forward on the pdf.

I didn't manage to get a photo of the entire birth team together on the night, but have since got photos with both our midwife and doula. Can't rave about them enough!

Our midwife Helen

Our doula Janette

I might also mention that I put lots of time and research into writing a birth plan when I was pregnant with Riker and I only made a few minor modifications this time around.  I'm happy to share it as well if any of you would find it useful at some point.  Some people think birth plans are useless as of course things often don't go to plan, but I think it's extremely useful to have considered all possible outcomes and to let one's carers know your expectations and desires in relation to pain management, interventions, breastfeeding, etc. 

Monday, October 17, 2011


Ari Jaden McMillin

Whew! After much deliberation we've finally settled on a name for our sweet little man.  We ended up going with Ari, which is a common male name in many languages.  Some of its meanings include "lion" in Hebrew, "brave" in Armenian, "eagle" in Old Norse, "gorgeous" in Kurdish and "visible and clear" in Maori.  Grandma Betty suggested the name Jaden and I really liked it so it became the middle name.  Clearly we take this baby naming thing seriously as it took seventeen days to select Riker's name and now twenty one days for baby Ari!  Okay we might just be indecisive, but we've found that we really need some time with the baby before we can select a name that fits.

Some of you may have heard another name tossed around as the probable winner but after hearing that particular name at the playground about a hundred times yesterday, it fell out of favor along with all the others on the short list.  I, for one, will be very happy to think about something other than names for a change!

Happy three weeks little Ari!

Postscript:  We just learned from our friends at the Turkish restaurant in Lyneham that Ari means "bee" in Turkish.  Fitting for a family of mead makers

We've since been told that Ari means "cute" in Hungarian.  Also fitting!