The morning after my surgery, I caught a glimpse on the news of the tragedy unfolding across the world in Manchester. Still groggy and in increasing pain, I headed home to begin recovering in my own bed. After a little nap I woke to messages on nearly every social channel that Gemma’s photo was circulating as one of the missing children after the bombing. There she was on the front page of The Daily Mail and in a collage retweeted over 20,000 times despite being safe and sound at high school in Australia.

I shared with my Facebook page that she was fine and that our hearts were with the real victims. News agencies picked that up and I was then fielding requests for interviews from everyone… I politely declined as I felt word of the misinformation was out and it was time to focus on the people who needed comfort and help. 

Of course then I was chastised for my reckless parenting decision and or naivety in allowing my children to be pictured online in the first place. These trolls couching their disdainful and arrogant opinion as concern is nothing new to me. And I stand firm in my resolve that we as parents (because this is a family decision) are doing nothing to put our children in anymore harm’s way than we were to allow Gemma to attend her first concert last March. Living in public and allowing our children to be seen as they live their full lives is not negligence. Just as those who go out in public and are lost to the deliberate act of an evil person, I feel like the blame for the taking of a photo that does not belong to you is solely at the feet of the person doing the wrong thing. We don’t live our life making decisions based on fear. If your level of comfort differs from ours, we respect your decision for your family and will not shame you for it. In fact, your decision for your family’s safety has no impact on my life…just as your opinion of my parenting. 

People asked how Gemma felt about the incident and she said “I am not embarrassed. I didn’t do anything wrong. Some people share photos and some are more private. Who cares about that, can’t we focus on the people who actually lost loved ones?”

So trolls, I’m pretty confident that I am raising good human beings who don’t feel ashamed for living their lives and don’t force their opinions on others. They are not in any more danger for having a curated presence online than if they didn’t.

And while all this was happening, I was trying to recover from abdominal surgery and not think about the pathology results pending from the biopsies taken. But as I safely delivered my children to school this morning with their homemade lunches containing fruit, vegetables and a treat (omg, I’m so bloody RECKLESS AT PARENTING) I got the call. 


Not cancer. And I giggled and felt like dancing the rest of the way and Kieran asked why I was so happy. I told him and both he and Clover asked, “You could have had cancer? You were worried?” With that I knew that I protect my children just fine, thankyouverymuch.

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  • Angela - Oh Rachel…I knew about the photo part but I did not know about your surgery part. So so glad the news is good. I hope recovery is quick and quiet.ReplyCancel

  • Bree - Much love your way for a quick recovery – glad you got good news!ReplyCancel

It has been a while since I last posted. I didn’t mean to take a hiatus, but in the face of a few different factors I have taken time off from this space. Overwhelmed with the demands of adulting lately, I kind of began to see my blog as just one more creature who needed something from me. Since the humans and animals under my care actually depend on me for their mortal survival, this was one thing I could ignore. 

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Recently I was speaking with someone who is beginning a journey of sharing online in conjunction with marketing her new business and it got me thinking about why I started sharing my stories and what the writing and photography involved meant to me. “How was it so easy for me to share so openly?”, she asked. The truth is multifaceted, but comes down to these top two things; I share to feel less alone and I share so that someone who is searching and identifies with my experience feels less alone. This is my connection to a wider world. Visual storytelling has been my lifeline through the isolation of post natal depression and new motherhood right on through the changing landscape of photography as a profession. I guess I started just to see if anyone out there could actually hear me when I was silently losing my mind in the newborn days of 2004, but I continue because people not only heard me, but needed to be heard too. 

In the last couple of years a business grew up around blogs and demanded statistics beyond the emotion. Numbers killed the heart of blogging for me, but not the underlying need to share experiences. When numbers or math is involved in my life, I find other things to do… like napping. It has been the same since childhood. 

Oh how I have napped over the last few years though. No, actually sleeping during the day not poetically unconscious to life. For the last year or two, I have been utterly exhausted. Despite getting into bed at 8 or 8:30 every night and sleeping until my alarm went off at 7am, I woke up tired. Working from home some days meant a guilt ridden nap simply because I couldn’t function without it. Even after three coffees. But we are moms. Moms get tired. The internet is filled with memes about how tired we are.

So I attributed it all to the twins not sleeping well and coming for me to comfort them nearly nightly for eight years plus the emotional fatigue of navigating the transition to high school with a tween girl. Bigger kid, bigger problems. I feel like the patron saint for all things lost, broken or hurt. 

Except for when it came to me because each month (like clockwork still, I mean, where is menopause when you need it?) I was in pain. Lunches still got made, homework found and I tried to keep smiling. Then I started missing out on fun things like a friend’s 40th and other gatherings as I was pinned to the couch under a useless heating pad and a giant black cloud.

I finally took one of my lunch hour nap sessions and got to the GP. Guess what? All that sleeping and exhaustion? Apparently not normal. None of it. Many tests and one absolutely amazing specialist later and I am close to having the answers. My iron and vitamin D levels were both abysmal which makes sense in light of the monthly massacre. But there was another test that said something might be going on in my womb. They have found endometrial hyperplasia which carries a higher cancer risk than normal. And this is why I am sharing. I know I am not alone and there might be someone out there searching the web tonight to see if they are “crazy” to go to the doctor for painful periods and being tired. 

Tomorrow I am heading into the hospital to have surgery. Fingers crossed that they rule out cancer, fix my energy levels with an iron infusion and figure out a simple reason for my pain. Like mental health issues, nobody wants to talk about “lady problems.” I might as well. It just might be what someone needs to hear.

I’m back and ready to stop hibernating! I’ve got a half marathon to train for.

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  • Patricia - Dear Rachel, here’s wishing you all the best for your surgery and a quick recovery. I found about your work ten years ago on Flickr, while my youngest daughter was fighting a nephroblastoma at the tender age of 18 months. You inspired me to go get a dSLR, learn photography and document the lives of my children “beyond snapshots”. Sending happy thoughts and caring wishes on your way from Germany, warmly, PatriciaReplyCancel

  • Jen - Rachel — I can totally relate to the tiredness. For the past few years I’ve had to go in bi-annually for IV iron infusions. It really helps, in fact I’m going in on Tuesday for another one and can hardly wait to get “pumped” up. Good luck with the surgery!ReplyCancel

    • sesame - I’m hoping for this to be my only one as the surgery should fix the underlying cause! Hope your infusion gets you going again!ReplyCancel

  • se7en - Oh you poor poor thing, hope you are feeling so much better really soon. Hope your surgery goes well… sending love.ReplyCancel

  • Gabbie Smith - Hi Rach,

    Iron deficiency was the answer to my fatigue. Weekly shots in the butt brought me back to life, but it’s not the only answer.
    More and more lately, I find myself stopping to smell the roses – a necessity if going to see old age. Being a little more what us mums would consider selfish, time to ourselves, is a gift we need to give ourselves. Because we deserve it.

    Take care of yourself. If I was in Melbourne, I’d be over with chicken soup. But since I’m not, please accept this virtual hug.

    Gab xReplyCancel

  • suzanne - Best of luck, and love your stories and images. Wonderful and so on point to how I have been feeling. Thank you for sharing your journey.ReplyCancel

    • sesame - Thank you so much. Take good care of you!ReplyCancel

Still looking for zebras, but narrowing down the direction from which they are running at us. We are also now secretly hoping they are unicorns or at the very least, cute ponies.

primary school aged girl in a doctors waiting room

Clover is now under the care of a paediatrician as well as a paediatric gastroenterologist so somewhere in all of those degrees, one would think they would find her some relief!

The new doctor has ordered a lot of different tests to see if there are not some rare, but treatable things causing Clover’s near daily distress. She is still tracking along the 25th percentile for height and weight, so while she is super tiny, that is not a worry. Her hand is actually too small to properly spin the fidget spinner Kieran bought for her. When she holds it between her thumb and finger, the edges bump into her hand so it can’t rotate.

She just spins it on her knee instead. This kid can pivot problems like a champ. She even managed to run 2 kilometres in her school cross country event. To say that I am proud seeing the twins push themselves like they are at the moment is an understatement.

Our next appointment is in four weeks just to give all the tests time to be completed and results returned.

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  • Robin - Hoping you find something treatable!!!ReplyCancel

  • Kaitlin - As someone who spent years looking for her own zebras, I wish you so much luck on this round of tests.ReplyCancel

    • sesame - Thank you. I hope you have your zebras all under control.ReplyCancel

The scales, the mirror and the waistbands of all my winter clothing are joining forces with my three cups of morning coffee to tell me something. It is time to move again.

I can’t do my best work with a weak body nor a cloudy mind.  I personally find that running builds my strength both physically and mentally and when I return from a run, I am filled with new ideas and motivation for my photography and blogging. Something about the rhythm of the run unlocks inspiration and ambition deep inside my soul.

A few months back, Officeworks tasked me with picking up an old hobby, sticking with it for a two  month period, and then report back on how it has impacted my life by actually making it a priority each week – I chose running with the reason being that I wanted to run like I used to.

I decided that if I do not commit to a program again, track my progress, and have people hold me accountable, it isn’t going to happen. The first time I learned to run, I did it in private – I still like to run alone, but this time I will have you on the virtual sidelines.

So every morning I have been putting my Garmin Vivosmart HR Activity Tracker on after my shower and getting started. If I am sedentary during the day, the device buzzes with a simple message, MOVE! Three times a week for at least an hour, I run away from home. At this point it is actually mostly really fast walking. I have made you a little video to get you motivated for your own hobby.


If you can’t run, I am challenging you to pick up a hobby that you have abandoned. The point is to spend our free time doing something good and then reap the benefits, like focussed energy and work/life balance. It is time to upgrade our downtime and that means committing to something that moves your soul.  I have picked up and stopped many hobbies in the past – anyone remember my weaving phase?  Running, however, is one I now wish I made more time for.  With my blog and my kids, I would often use the excuse that I had no ‘time’ to make my hobby a priority in my life, but truth be told I wasn’t making the time for myself.

I have given myself a head start as I started training for this back in March as I needed to build up my stamina. Also, if I did not just start, then I would continue to find excuses. According to the fitness tracker (available from Officeworks), I have clocked up a staggering 80 kilometres already! That is like running from Melbourne to Geelong, and while I am not quite seeing it on the scales, I keep telling myself that muscle weighs more than fat.

A slight head cold sidelined my progress for a week and I must be super careful as I have asthma, so anything that affects breathing is a legitimate reason to stay home. That said, I am convinced that recovery from the cold truly began the morning I put my running shoes on and met a friend in the neighbourhood to get back out there. It might have been half the distance and a bit slower paced than normal, but being outside & heading down to the bay is therapeutic for me. The combination of conversation and fresh air cut through the mental fog and I am back running my business easily today!

Have you taken any steps to upgrade your downtime?

Tell me about rekindling your lost love of something or the new hobby you have discovered. I want to hear what is making light in your life right now!

This blog is in partnership with Officeworks.


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When I was growing up I don’t remember ever hearing that I could do anything. It certainly was not a common refrain. My parents were very supportive and I was coming of age when Sally Ride took to space, literally showing how women could not only smash through the glass ceiling, but keep on going right on out of the earth’s atmosphere. My father made it possible for me to learn photography by paying the costs of film processing and my mother taught me by her beautiful example how to be a mom. No one ever told me that I could be a photographer when I grew up but no one said that I couldn’t either. They just supported me along each and every step forward and all the setbacks. Through my hard work, experiments and years of learning, my parents showed interest and offered encouragement.

a ballerina swans on the set of Dance Academy The Movie in Sydney -
Now that I am still working everyday to continue working as a photographer and raise my own children, I see that there has been a shift in the culture. Kids today expect that they can be or do anything. And they expect it as soon as they want it.

a ballerina swan on the set of Dance Academy The Movie in Sydney -
Modern day media has contributed to an interesting environment in which to raise children. Like digital photography with the camera set to auto, success is seen as immediate and easy to get. Overnight sensations are seemingly everywhere. I have started to wonder, where are the stories of the hard work and dedication aimed at our youth? Where can they find the stories to prove that sticking with something when it is hard will be worth it?

Gemma on the set of Dance Academy The Movie in Sydney -
I’d never deny my kids their dreams and I certainly want them to feel like they can do anything, I am just searching for others to reinforce what I know to be true. It takes years of hard work, dedication and perseverance to become an overnight success.

Xenia on the set of Dance Academy The Movie in Sydney - SesameEllis.comOn the set of Dance Academy The Movie in Sydney - SesameEllis.comOn the set of Dance Academy The Movie in Sydney - SesameEllis.comOn the set of Dance Academy The Movie in Sydney -
Last winter, Gemma and I had a chance to head up to Sydney to spend a day on the set of filming for Dance Academy. The return of this story in such a big way from TV to the cinemas is in itself a testament to hard work and believing in your dream. Also actually seeing how many people are involved working long hours for so many months to produce something that runs just a couple of hours at the most is eye opening for anyone and I am glad that Gemma was there to experience that behind the scenes. The storyline of Dance Academy itself will be something for kids to look to for further encouragement in putting themselves out there again and again if they want something enough. It is not sufficient for kids to simply believe in themselves. They need to keep pushing and working towards their goals even when that means they have to work around real life.

Miranda Otto on the set of Dance Academy The Movie in Sydney -

We, as parents, have a big job raising this next generation and it always helps when pop culture supports us with a strong message as well.

Dance Academy opens on the 6th of April.

This post made possible by Nuffnang and Dance Academy 

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  • Breanne - Lucky you and lucky Gemma!! Even as a grown adult I love Dance Academy – it takes me right back to my dancing roots and I agree about the message to persist and keep working if you want something enough. I’m looking forward to when it eventually gets released in the US.ReplyCancel