the rambles of a family of five in Australia

Leave a comment

Suzannah turns two!

Happy Birthday to our little English Rose! Two years have flown by and we are thankful to be celebrating her second birthday. Here are some photos of her birthday week.

S & E at Gma & Gpa's, watching the digger at work

S & E at Gma & Gpa’s, watching the digger at work

THE photo! We love this!

THE photo! We love this!

Just about to open presents- S and Aunty Lolly!

Just about to open presents- S and Aunty Lolly!

Opening her gift from Grand Nan - Spike the baby Dragon!

Opening her gift from Grand Nan – Spike the baby Dragon!

Getting ready to feed her dragon baby... The bottle was soon ditched in favour of 'mummy's milk'. Not sure dragons mind bottled milk, but heigh ho!

Getting ready to feed her dragon baby… The bottle was soon ditched in favour of ‘mummy’s milk’. Not sure dragons mind bottled milk, but heigh ho!

Still cuddling Spike, for a birthday photo with Mummy and B.

Still cuddling Spike, for a birthday photo with Mummy and B.

Just about to blow out the candles - a long-awaited moment!

Just about to blow out the candles – a long-awaited moment!

Mmmmm, ice cream cake...

Mmmmm, ice cream cake…

Our two year old girl, running for joy on the morning of her birthday.

Our two year old girl, running for joy on the morning of her birthday.

Leave a comment

This Christmastide

This Christmas is bittersweet for us – bitter because away from traditions and friends in the UK who mean a great deal to us, sweet because closer to family, back in our own house and expecting joy in the New Year.

We wish you a Happy Christmas with your loved ones, filled with the knowledge of the good news that makes Christmas a day of rejoicing. Love, we four.

God has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:3

Christmas tree, cut down from our fourth paddock and dragged up to the house one hot Sunday afternoon by R and E. Purty, isn’t she? Ben and Gaynor, the fairy lights are in honour of you and our family Christmas with you last year.

E and Aunty Lolly decorating a gingerbread house. E: ‘One for the house, Six for me’ Aunty L: ‘Just eat those, they don’t taste good. Leave the good ones for the house!’

Stockings, check! Gingerbread house, check! Tea lights, check! Nativity, check!
Our John Lewis Advent calendar. Something we love and remember from Christmas last year.

Christmas verse a day. E learnt this one last year.

H decided that into the Christmas crazy she would insert some calm sewing of bunting. Great fun, yes! Purty, yes! Calm, no.
It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas!
E and S with Aunty Nat, posing with Aunty Lolly’s Christmas camel.


Ewan’s doings

Modelling his Timmy the Sheep backpack
Happy Mr E, ready for another great day at preschool

E started preschool in April, three days after Suzannah arrived. When we had filled out his application form, there were spaces for all sorts of things: allergies; likes & dislikes; settling routines; comfort items etc, all designed to help the staff to get to know him quickly and to help him to fit in and adjust easily.

At Stanwick Lakes, with the unexpected treat of a fire engine, up close and personal.

We were struck by all the things that wouldn’t fit into the form that we think people should know about him:

‘Doing stickers’ with some lovely new stickers from Grandma and Grand-Nan.

He will eat just about everything (seriously), except salad items. Why? Too crunchy, and he doesn’t like ‘skin’. He takes after his mother and doesn’t appreciate (and won’t eat) imperfections in the food set before him i.e. bruises on fruit; soft spots; or whole fruit (such as tomatoes or grapes) that might have something unsavoury concealed inside. Yes, it sounds picky, but there it is.

Eating crumpets – having a second breakfast – a sneaky treat he likes whenever he can get it.

He loves to be with Suzy. He brings his toys to her to show her how they work and he likes to pick her toys up and make them talk to her.

Sitting in Suzy’s nest – pretending to be on a sailing boat. Suzy is in awe of her Captain.
He doesn’t like to be dirty, but he loves to play outside with his backhoe loader; shovels and wheelbarrow. Naturally enough, these two desires often come into conflict and create a certain amount of tension.

You can’t see it here, but it is tipping it down with rain and he is watching the water down the downpipe and trying to build a dam with all the pebbles.

He can often be found sitting in front of his bookshelf, reading to himself for up to an hour. He remembers large slabs of text and will mouthe the words when he is being read to, or will recite them if he is ‘reading’ to himself.

First day of toilet training – some quiet time with his books.

He likes to lie on Suzy’s playmat with her, looking up at the mobile and talking to her about what has happened so far that day.

First day of toilet training – a picnic with friends up at the Cedar tree.

He will refer to her as “my beautiful Suze”, “funny Suzy”, “clever Suze”, and “our precious Suz-nannah” while leaning over to give her a kiss.

SEE, I TOLD you there was kissing!

He will always prefer to be outside, but under virtually no circumstances would he choose to go barefoot.

At Stanwick Lakes, digging in the sand.
Mini Cedar Tree with a wheatfield in the background. An idyllic place for a picnic.

Hi-jinks in the loungeroom with Daddy.

Down at the Farm Shop “to see the chicken babies…”

Entranced by the tiny fluffy chicks peeping out from everywhere. There was even one riding on its mother’s back.

He always wants to help in the kitchen – washing up; chopping; stirring; sifting or grating; sweeping; emptying the bin; tidying up or putting things back in the fridge. Sometimes the running commentary on what we’re doing can be a little wearing, until we realise he could probably do most of our jobs without us!

These gloves are TOO big!

He will make H a ‘cup of coffee’ in his tea set at any time she looks tired, adding milk and ‘sugar’ (from the carpet!!) and stirring vigorously. He loves to pretend to feed Suzy in this way.

All in all, there are so many things we find special and amusing about our son, and we love to celebrate them and remind ourselves of how wonderful childhood is – it certainly is fun from his point of view!

IN the fire engine – a fine ending to a fine day!


Spending our time fruitfully…

Broadbeans from a neighbour’s garden: an unexpected delight – R loves them!

Once again we are experiencing the bounty of an English summer harvest: our own raspberries, as well as loads of fruit from the Pick-Your-Own at the farm shop; plus the kind gifts from friends with productive kitchen gardens.

Last Sunday afternoon, after a week of sickness and being cooped indoors with indifferent weather, we decided to meander down to the PYO and see what was ripe for the plucking…

Our two poppets ready for a lazy walk down to the Farm Shop

Dad ‘n Dave, down on the farm….

E thought that picking redcurrants was ‘fantasic’!

A family endeavour – E ate them up and down the rows of bushes…

A new crop for the garden at Glenorie…?

Beautiful Suze slept throughout the whole experience. What a nice way to spend a summer afternoon.

3 kilos of red-and-white-currants – a bumper yield for an hour’s leisurely picking.

No afternoon sleep for E (due to our little jaunt) meant a nap on the couch with Dad on our return.


 The large pot with spoon is our redcurrant jelly; the smaller saucepan is a medlar, apricot and blueberry compote…

Redcurrant jelly – enough for all the lamb we can ever eat.

Medlar compote – yummy on cereal in the morning.

Spending time outside (all four of us) is a great joy and blessing. We continually give thanks to God for His gift of our children, and the things we can share together here in England as a family.
We are also giving thanks for all the friends we have made since we arrived. The conversations; advice; time; comfort and love we have experienced has been monumental. E and S are clothed (in large part) with the gifts of friends here; our sanity is saved by kindly neighbours who let E run amok in their gardens; the difficulties of parenting are eased by the advice and humour of those near to us who are experiencing the same path. We see here the love of our God for even these small details of our life. How wonderful to be cared for in this way!

Leave a comment

Messing about near boats…

A couple of weekends ago when the weather was fine we decided to drive to Campbell Park in MK to have a walk. Unfortunately this coincided with E having had a high temperature for three days, which ended with a trip to the Out of Hours Doctor Service at the Danetre (for all the Aussies reading this it is pronounced ‘Daintree’) Hospital in Daventry. 24 medical centres just don’t exist here, so it doesn’t pay to be sick on a weekend or at night. (Word to the wise, y’know.)

Anyway, we had only a short time in Campbell Park (down by the canal) but we managed to snap some pix of boats with GREAT names and have a little wander around. Here are the results…

Great name for a boat, awesome name for a holiday destination.

The duck pond. E was a happy bunny – chucking his poppyseed water crackers to the ducks.

There seems to be an awful lot of sculpture in MK (no pun intended)…


You could’ve fooled us.

Roses and sunshine – we felt like sunbathing and cheering – but a one and a half hour wait at the hospital beckons…

This is our all-time favourite name for a boat. EVER. The question we so wanted to ask was ‘WHY’?

It took near enough five minutes to get even this picture – the font was so intricately painted that it looked blurry. You are seeing this picture because of the effort that went into capturing it. Some would say unnecessary effort.

Reading our Butterworth/Inkpen classic. Suzy looks unimpressed but is already started to be attentive while we are reading to E. What a blessing to have children who love to read and be read to.

After pfaffing at the hospital with their automated entry system (which misdirected our appointment by 1.5 hours!) we picked up E’s antibiotics at the nearest pharmacy and started for home. After administering said antibiotics as well as judicious amounts of calpol and nurofen, our little man was right as rain (as witnessed in the picture above). God is very good and we are thankful for E’s swift recovery.


six weeks and counting…

According to our obstetrician we are approximately six weeks away from our new bubba’s arrival. H has her 34 week check at NGH tomorrow morning, and E is tagging along for the ride. We are consistently amazed at the differing standards between the NHS and the Australian system, although possibly the public health system in Aus has greater similarities to what we are experiencing here.

We are very blessed to be under the care of a consultant obstetrician, which is unusual for women here unless they have complications or a prior history of complications. Due to H’s pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure) and induced delivery last time, we had no option but to be under a consultant’s care. In practice though, it means we have seen a midwife for about half the scheduled checks and an obstetrician (never the same one twice) for the other half. We have three photos of our beautiful bub up on the fridge to admire while we wait and have heard the heartbeat for the first time at the 28 week check. Tomorrow is probably the last check by an obstetrician (barring anything unforeseen) until the birth/labour process begins. Everything from now til the birth will be monitored by a team of local midwives.

We would really appreciate prayer for a couple of things: labour itself; the immediate post-birth fandango, and getting the feeding stuff sorted and family life adjusted when we return home.
H is not really an ‘earth mother’ type and is a bit concerned about the early discharge policy that is quite common here. After her six day stay at the SAH with E it feels a bit scary to think about possibly being sent home as early as six hours after birth this time.

E is pleased about meeting the new baby and we are keen to ensure that he receives love and support from us in the midst of the upheaval that a new baby engenders.

Pray for R too as he was the linch-pin and support for our family for E’s birth and home-coming, and he will have more pressure and responsibilities over here, with less support from the near and the dear.

In all things, we remain grateful and full of wonderment at the gift of another new life for our little family from our great Heavenly Father. We know that ‘children are a gift from the Lord’ and pray for strength and wisdom as we grow together with our new little addition.


tempus fugit *

Our little grown-up boy

Sometimes we look at the calendar and wonder where the time has gone. We are fast approaching autumn and in two days’ time will have been in the UK for four months, and Dairy Cottage for three.
Little E is not so little anymore: the baby who was toddling when we landed (but still mostly crawling) now runs everywhere as fast as his legs can carry him. He walks very firmly and solidly – when he is upstairs and one of us is downstairs all you can hear is
“thunk-thunk-thunk-thunk-thunk” hither and yon as he runs between bathroom and bedroom.

I’m the King of the Castle…

E can pull himself up onto the kitchen chairs and the couches in the lounge room – albeit with a bit of scrabbling and flailing. He is a bit of a climber-in-the-making, and we have had several sticky situations – especially on the first floor. R has since installed child-proof window catches, which has gone some way to helping us feel more at ease.

It was very quiet in the playroom – looks like we have a reader-in-the-making.

E loves our next-door neighbours very much and is usually not downstairs for long after breakfast before he is ‘asking’ H to put on his shoes so he can get outside to knock on the gate. Once through the gate he makes a beeline for the (usually) open kitchen door, then plonks himself on ‘Nanny’s’ lap with little ceremony. We think their house is like an Aladdin’s cave for him – full of things he doesn’t encounter at home, all of which he is allowed to touch and play with (carefully) as long as he puts them back in the right spots. Thus far he is good as gold: playing with keys and ‘unlocking’ all the doors; moving magnets around on the fridge and squeezing himself next to the person with the most comfortable-looking chair. Some days (not all) he is given a cup of juice or water or maybe a chocolate digestive. H is not so keen on the biscuit since the last time when she ended up with little chocolate handprints all over her nice clean shirt and trousers.

Ok, so it’s upsidedown and not quite Shakespeare, but already he has a devoted audience.

He also loves the garden next-door (which is truly a garden, rather than merely a patch of lawn and a couple of flower beds, like ours) so when the inside conversation and activities get a little slow he trots out to play with the flowerpots, wheelbarrows, the hand-cranked water pump, multiple watering-cans and the bead curtain at the entrance to the greenhouse. In high summer when the garden loungers were out, E delighted in stretching himself full length in the most lushly padded one. The prince is firmly in charge of his little kingdom on the other side of the gate.

This is his “Look what I can do” face.

E is getting taller now – his head now rises above the level of the kitchen table – and he remains quite strong. The things he manages to lift and drag are often enormous, but we are almost used to it now, except if someone else comments, when we remember that it isn’t as common as we think.

First go at an ice block.

He is still keen on his food, although more sensitive to textures than before. He isn’t particularly fussy – although grapefruit and melon are not favourites – but makes himself heard when things don’t go according to plan. Last week, H was preparing to give him morning tea but obviously wasn’t moving fast enough… E got his bib, put it on and then climbed into the highchair (which we didn’t know he could do) as if to say “What’s the hold up? I’m famished.” He truly is an entertaining little fellow and we are having a lot of fun together.

A young Bendicks BitterMints fan

One of our favourite forms of entertainment while eating is to watch the birds on our bird feeder. We are slowly learning all the different kinds – nuthatches, tits, robins and the odd woodpecker. We’ve even seen next-door’s scavenging squirrel heading for our bird-table, but so far we’ve been able to frighten him off before he snatches so much as a mouthful.

With T – a special visitor from Aus.

He is now saying a few more words than before, including the names of his two best friends from down the road. ‘Tractor’ is possibly the clearest of all his words, bar ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’, but he makes himself understood to us quite well – if not always to people outside the family circle.

“No, Officer, of course I wasn’t texting and driving at the same time.”

We hope that (doting though this is) you’ve got a reasonable idea of where E is up to as well as a sense of his cheeky self.

He loves to sit with Chaucer-Bear and watch all that’s going on in the kitchen.

* Virgil: Sed fugit interea fugit irreparabile tempus, singula dum capti circumvectamur amore, which means, “But meanwhile it flees: time flees irretrievably, while we wander around, prisoners of our love of detail.”

Leave a comment

in honour of birthdays

As the boxes multiply and our possessions vanish, variously to warehouses and storage; shipping containers and the ocean; and the abodes of friends and family who are taking charge of our more desirable (!) stuff in our absence, we are re-noticing all the changes in our house since we moved in, in December 2008.
Rob has:

  • installed a slow combustion stove in the family room

  • replaced four steel windows with aluminium ones that actually open
  • chopped down trees, split the trunks for firewood and hauled it all undercover to dry
  • replaced every single internal door
  • built a fitted bookcase, transforming the study into a library
  • demolished a wall between two poky rooms, converting them into one lovely, light-filled space
  • constructed two built-in wardrobes with fitted shelving
  • painted Ewan’s bedroom, and various other rooms besides
  • created a walk-in linen cupboard
  • demolished the old pool-fence and replaced it with a brand-new one
  • planted nearly 100 plants, including trees that will be beautiful in 50 years’ time

This list is not definitive, and owes much to the generosity and labour of some friends, family and professionals but, by-and-large, Rob has dreamed up and executed this work himself. It has made our house beautiful and more functional – especially with a small chappie beginning to move around under his own steam.

The said small chappie is due to celebrate his birthday on Thursday 8th April, and we are using this milestone to reflect on the joy he has brought to us in the past year. It is an honour to have shared the entrance of our little man into the world as a couple, and a delight to see the changes he has wrought in our lives. We have a messier house with more plastic than we ever hoped for; more food rubbed into the floorboards and more scratches on the floor; and we have been initiated into the mysteries of feeding, bathing and nappy-changing a wriggling (and occasionally protesting) pre-toddler at home and in public. Some nights we long for an umbrella-wielding Mary Poppins to step smartly through the door and put our offspring to bed with a song, others we spend chasing E through the house as he runs around pushing his trolley and careening into walls and doorways, giggling like a speed-freak.

We are getting better at the multiple enthusiastic readings of the stories he loves, and at letting him eat the occasional leaf/handful of sand/fistful of dirt/half a cockroach from one of the moving boxes, without screaming in a deranged fashion and lunging for the offending item in a manner calculated to put him off us for life.
We are accustomed to giving him select morsels from our plates, despite the full meal he consumed only moments before, as well as his bottomless appetite for stirring whatever is on the stove with his own personally selected wooden spoon.
In short (and this hasn’t been) we are joyfully celebrating E’s first birthday as the countdown for our overseas move shortens drastically.
We thank God for the gift of our son, and we wonder more and more each day at the great love of our Heavenly Father, who loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not die, but have everlasting life.

Leave a comment

reflections from rain and how to be thankful

So…it is raining at home (not particularly heavily, just a constant fall of water from the sky) and we three are a bit under the weather. Naturally, E and I chose not to go for our usual walk, using the rain as our ‘get-out-of-exercise-free’ card. However, it occurs to me that this is probably bright spring weather in the UK, and, over there, people will think we are nuts for choosing to curtail our outdoors lifestyle on such a gorgeous day.

I am sitting at the computer sipping honey-and-lemon in hot water with just a sliver of ginger in it, and wondering whether a lemsip would have been a better idea.
There is washing to fold, boxes to be filled and Don Carson’s reflections on the Sermon on the Mount to read. What I really feel like doing is sleeping, followed closely by re-watching another episode of The West Wing or starting Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy (which has defeated me in the past, but I am determined to mine for the gold that I’m sure is there, somewhere).
At the same time E is sitting on the floor in his second pair of leggings for the day, banging his beloved wooden spoon on the floor boards and chugging water from his cup. He would really like to be outside on the grass, staring down Miss Chook and throwing mud at the plovers. He has been a cross little critter the last few days: a combination of a foul cold and some impending teeth. He can, however, still conjure up a smile at bathtime, or when we’re eating something he thinks he would like to try too. Last night we finally wised up and administered some Dymadon and the effects were extraordinary: our grizzling, cross little boy began cooing and smiling for about an hour and a half before bedtime – butter wouldn’t have melted in his mouth and it was as though he’d been perfect all day. He was lovely and we were loving it.

Today is a day that makes me want to complain because it is not the day I want it to be, but by anyone’s standards it is actually a great day in a lovely place, with family who love each other. My lack of thankfulness for God’s good gifts has been made plain to me over the last few weeks, so the list that follows is an exercise in recognising and appreciating the good things I have been taking for granted:

* Friends who drop toys off for E to borrow, since ours are all packed.
* Our usual good health – always taken for granted – but missed in the middle of a miserable cold.
* The big adventure we are embarking on!
* Having a verandah big enough for E to run around on while it rains.
* Jesus’ death on the cross for my sins – a wonderful redemption.
* A husband who changes nappies and whose patience begins when mine is running out.
* A little boy whose great delight is snuggling on my lap.
* Woolworths’ location 2 minutes away – fantastic today when the ingredients for chicken soup were not in the pantry.
* Friends who are available for a ‘sanity chat’ for those times when it is all a bit ‘whelming.
* Family who visit, hang out and help out – so thankful!

No pictures today – just imagine green fields, gray skies and mist swirling through the treetops to a soundtrack of rain – you get the idea!