the rambles of a family of five in Australia

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Quiet down, cobwebs.

So… somehow it is December and we are in the throes of Christmas preparation, but according to the blog, little Miss S has only just turned two and we are heading into winter.

What can I say? It turns out that I am not a very good blogger, and that keeping some of my plates spinning at home means dropping all of my internet related ones.

So be it, I guess.

I came across the poem below very recently, and although I don’t have five children, it resonated with me.
Many people can do lots of things well, I can’t. But I do want to spend as much ‘best’ time with my three littles as I can. They are fast becoming bigs, and I want to soak them in, drink them up and shower them with love, compassion, fun and joy.

So here’s to me remembering (and making time) to record some more of their lives here, and not to beating myself up if it’s a while between posts!

Song for a Fifth Child
by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown 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 her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For 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.

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He is here – safe and sound! (And more than 13 weeks ago…)

It is with thanks and in a certain amount of awe that we welcome our newest addition – Benjamin Sydney. Born oh-so-quickly, but safely and with no complications, on Saturday 5 January 2o13.

Meeting their brother for the first time

Meeting their brother for the first time

Little feet - so so tiny and curled up! New little babies are wonderful.

Little feet – so so tiny and curled up! New little babies are wonderful.

Snug as a bug in a rug

Snug as a bug in a rug

First cuddle at home.

First cuddle at home.



Benjamin Sydney - our miracle is here, safe and well!

Benjamin Sydney – our miracle is here, safe and well!



First cuddle with Gma.

First cuddle with Gma.



First cuddle with Gpa.

First cuddle with Gpa.




First cuddle with Nanna.

First cuddle with Nanna.


Trying to get a first 'full family' photo - we're struggling to get ourselves organised!

This is what trying to get a photo of all five of us looks like!


We are giving thanks to our Heavenly Father for Benjamin’s safe arrival and for the fact that his big brother and sister ADORE him.

(The fact that this post is only just going up 13 weeks after Benjamin’s arrival is a lesson in how long it takes us to do things now that we have three children!)





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After Christmas we…

Pre-Christmas 2012 was a harried time for us, so at Christmas and for two weeks afterward, we hung around as much as possible – relaxing with each other, family and friends and resting up for the labour that was shortly to follow.

Suze trying some specs on in the pre-present-opening-entertainment ceremony on Chrismas Day.

Suze trying some specs on in the pre-present-opening-entertainment ceremony on Chrismas Day.

E, following suit!

E, following suit!

Getting her Amelia Earhart/Hayley Lewis on!

Getting her Amelia Earhart/Hayley Lewis on!

E's new big boy bed.

E’s new big boy bed.

Suze jumping on the trampoline.

Suze jumping on the trampoline.


Some sand-bound relaxation by the lagoon.

Some sand-bound relaxation by the lagoon. Yes, my baby bump is more of a blimp!


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How to skin a pheasant…

So, on New Year’s Day we were given two pheasants and two partridges ‘in the feather’ and it fell to us to get them ready for cooking.
Here are a few quick photos.

Sydney handing over our feathered bounty

R & E in the coal shed, working on a plan of attack.

E thinks a hoe would work better than mere kitchen scissors.

Before we realised that plucking it was NEVER going to work!

Ready for a quick wipe-down, then into a curry. A good afternoon’s work, really. Although H did tell R that if there ever were a survivalist-type scenario, she would be a vegetarian, as killing and plucking/skinning animals each day really isn’t her bag.

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2011: Reflections on our year

Looking back, 2011 has been a very full year.

We had a trip back to Australia in January, comprising two 24 hour plane flights with Mr E – about which we lay awake and worried, and which went beautifully smoothly when we had to actually do them! We had a wonderful time in Sydney and on the coast: visiting family and friends; swimming; lying on the warm sand; dipping our toes in the water; eating summery food; drinking wonderful coffee; catching up on 9 months of news that never makes it into phone calls but is interesting nonetheless; and watching Ewan become reacquainted with all those who love him.

February and March were spent setting up the nursery for our eagerly awaited new baby, busying ourselves with work and church life and looking forward to spring and its freshness after the lowering grey skies of winter. We also welcomed our great friend Bill, who stayed with us and lived an English life with us – always encouraging and entertaining us.

April heralded Ewan’s 2nd Birthday, followed by the London Book Fair and then Suzannah’s arrival early on Easter Sunday morning. Ewan began at preschool for 3 hours on a Wednesday morning, and we entered on a period of busy spring social activities.

May and June were full of new baby health checks, burgeoning spring flowers, visitors – like Cousin Matt and our lovely friend Asa – and exploration of new historic houses and gardens – courtesy of the National Trust and  our Tuesday expedition leaders: Ben, Gaynor and Phoebe.

July brought our 9th wedding anniversary – our good friend Kerry up from London for a visit and exploration of Stowe, and the summer harvest on Wakefield. We added to our busyness with toilet-training Ewan, and although it was potentially frustrating, actually yielded results in under a week and has been a source of joy to us all since!

August was grey and cool, so September was a warm and welcome relief – an Indian Summer which we relished. We took to the high road and had a week’s holiday in Wales – and although the weather was less than ideal, we had a grand time and loved exploring all the gorgeous countryside.

In October, people were prophesying a repeat of last year’s snowstorms, so we rugged up, topped up our oil supplies, made preserves and waited. And waited. And waited. No snow. Hurrah!

November was full of cool, but blue-sky days which we celebrated by spending as much time out of doors as possible.
December was long-awaited because of a pending visit from family from Australia – Steve, Bronwyn, Hannah and Isaac – and we loved preparing for Christmas and family festivities.

In the midst of all of this there have been sickness (although far less than we experienced in 2010), sleeplessness, and worries of one kind and another – both for our lives here and the lives of those we love in Australian and elsewhere in the world, but overall we have learned and are learning of God’s continuing faithfulness to us, of His Fatherly love and care, of His grace and favour in teaching us more of Himself – through both the rough and smooth ways of life. We are reminded that Paul ‘learned to be content’ and that Christ was a ‘Man of Sorrows’ and we are inestimably thankful for the faith in our Saviour who sustains us.
“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”

Suze watching Bob the Builder

E and P at Hidcote, in the Cotswolds.

A beautiful day at Cliveden

A rare smile during the difficult business of ‘tummy time’.

E and his proudest creation – “A crab, Mummy, a crab!”

Painting some Christmas wrapping paper. E loved the roller best of all.
“If you go into the woods today…you’ll see two little bears!”

Mummy and Suze

Suze in her pod, having a lovely time in the garden helping Mr E.

What a joyous occupation, to fill a bucket with mud and stones!

Suze hoes in to H’s apple at Blenheim after a not-very-satisfying first course.

Bill, washing up, and smiling. How we miss him!

Our lovely cottage on a bright sunny morning.

Waddesdon – one of our favourite National Trust haunts.

The pram snuggle in evidence, but not too cold yet.

E’s favourite in-car occupation (like his mother before him) until he attains his licence, of course!

At Stoke Bruerne in March

The spring flowers erupt along our side path

Summer scuttle-bugging!

Our first walk with Suze – she is lying (fast asleep) tucked in behind E.

Our small Mr E, prior to Suze’s arrival. R loved his long curls.

Pajamas from Grand-Nan and a train set from Mandy – life is good!

We four, in spring, when Suzy was new!

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Canons Ashby: a potty; a surfboard and our ‘first day out’…

July is a significant month in our family life: containing a birthday and our wedding anniversary. This year, it loomed monumentally for another reason: toilet training.

No caption needed here, I think. Except if you haven’t yet embarked on the joys of toilet training: note the removable bit in the middle. One of the cleverer inventions, we feel.

Stickers + chocolate = 90% success rate (AT HOME, anyway) by the end of 5 days.

Tired, pooped out Mummy…

Our first outing, to Canons Ashby (a lovely Jacobean jewel box of a house), on the first weekend of toilet training. This is not E’s first pair of trousers for our visit, and we’ve literally only just walked through the entrance.

The parterre, a peaceful place for contemplation, just below the croquet lawn and in front of the giant mulberry bush. Sadly for all the other visitors that day, it wasn’t peaceful once we arrived.

R with S, or as we like to think of them: a slave and his princess…

E, having built a big tower, with only a little help.

…then proceeds to demolish it with gusto.

He was desperate to play croquet – joining himself into the middle of a family game (but not our family!)

Our son, Sport personified!

H ran through this section of the garden at speed, dodging refined English retired couples, shouting to E (in her arms) “Don’t poo! Don’t poo! Don’t poo! Don’t – oh!”

In the Eeyore House, post-lunch, having a marvellous time. R and H were sitting on a bench feeling wrung out.

A rare moment of rest.

The surfboard enters the picture as we left it. We had finally run out of changes of clothes for E and were heading back to the car. R carrying S in one hand and the (empty) potty in the other, and H behind him with E perched in the buggy in t-shirt and underpants like an under-dressed maharajah. Our caravanserai attracted a reasonable amount of attention and resulted in general hilarity. H was so overcome she could not make eye contact with anyone and had to stare fixedly at the ground to avoid collapsing into giggles. The last time she looked up she saw a young pre-teen girl unloading a surfboard (!) from the back of a car, which was H’s undoing. We can’t imagine how a surfboard contributed to a great day out at Canons Ashby, but we’re convinced it must’ve been more rewarding than a potty!

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Neath Abbey (and the importance of signs)

Reading the signs at the entrance. Worryingly, the main one warned about slips and falls and advised parents to watch small children carefully.

Neath Abbey was a Cistercian Abbey founded around 1130AD. The ruins can be seen just outside the town of Neath today (about 5 miles from where we were staying at C-il-y-bybell) and we thought it would be a nice little excursion from home to fill in an hour or two one afternoon.

A bit of exploring down some of those slippery surfaces we were warned about.

Maybe you can’t tell, but the ruins covered an awful lot of ground. The original, complete Abbey must have been ENORMOUS and incredibly impressive.

More ruins, with safety rail!

“It’s dark in here, Mum!”

E: “Wait for me, Dad!”
H: “Don’t run, Ewan, it’s slippery!”

Double height windows.

I would like one of these in my sitting room!

The crumbling remains of a staircase.

Enjoying the Abbey, right before…

Ewan then proceeded to slip over, backwards, and smack his head onto the flagstones – creating two very impressive (and ever so slightly bleeding) eggs on the back of his head. Our 20 minutes of Abbey touring was over, and we headed back to our digs – googling ‘head injuries + children + serious symptoms’ and reflecting on the unheeded wisdom of signs at the entrances to tourist destinations…

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Sunshine (at last!); the Gower Peninsula; Rhossili; and a nice lunch afterwards

It doesn’t display very well in these pictures (and admittedly there is a vast grey cloud rolling in) but on our trip to the Gower Peninsula we saw the first sunshine of our whole trip.

The Gower Peninsula is about 60 minutes from where we stayed in Wales and was a scenic drive through more sparsely populated countryside, with views across rolling hills sloping down to the sea.

A view from the clifftop, via sheep, of the beach. The week before we were there, a giant sand sculpture was drawn to help raise awareness of this special National Trust location.

Rhossili is known for its 5km stretch of golden sand, but we were agreed that it would take a great deal of coaxing to tempt us into the water. The climb back up the hill alone would have been a struggle with our two tots in the buggy.

The cliff/hillsides. E was very taken with the sheep (and the fact that there were NO fences, AT ALL, between us and the edge.)

 Once we had walked to the cliffs and back with a strong wind blowing through our hair and ringing in our ears, we were all eager to be out of the wind and find somewhere warm to have lunch. Suze was the most easily pleased, being able to drink the first part of her lunch in the car, before we set off to find a cosy pub.

Suzy, wishing she had chips to eat, instead of fingers.

E, munching chips like a walrus.

At our chosen pub we ordered food and set about feeding Suze the more interesting portion of her meal. She has been eating ‘solids’ (a misnomer if ever there was one) since 4 1/2 months and really enjoys participating in the mealtime family ritual. She ate her food whilst ours was being cooked, and then sat happily in the highchair watching us eat and craning to look at everyone around us.
E ended up with cod, chips and peas, and ploughed his way through most of it. Unfortunately for him we finished quite some time before him and when we decided to leave, he hadn’t quite finished his chips. He was reluctant to leave (“I need to finish my lunch!”) so we said he could take a couple of chips with him to eat on the way to the car. Lo and behold, he filled his fists with as many chips as they could hold, yet could still be heard from the backseat (whilst munching) “I need a go back and finish my lunch!”

Plum tuckered out.

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Swansea; Mumbles; and the Lovespoon Gallery

A drizzly Monday morning in South Wales with two poppets. What to do? Why, head through Swansea out to Mumbles to visit the Lovespoon Gallery and have fish and chips, of course!

Spot camera-shy Mr E…

 Lovespoons are a traditional Welsh betrothal gift, carved from a single piece of wood with various designs symbolising various elements of the carver’s love for the intended recipient. Idiotically, we took no photos of the lovespoons, only of the sign…oops.
No Lovespoons for us, we’re afraid – although we did meet a lovely couple who were looking for one to commemorate their 60th wedding anniversary in a few months’ time.

A lovely church building on the way to Mumbles.

“When is lunch? What are we having? Fish and chips?”

Lovely waterproof Suze!

On the waterfront…

A view of the bay, with the pier in the distance.

The lighthouse. E has been building Lego ones ever since we saw it!

Camera-itis – a sudden illness afflicting our first born.

Fish and chips was from Yallop’s and was a revelation: battered cod – the size of your leg!; a pile of chips as big as a dinner plate (each – yikes!); and mushy peas. Absolutely delicious. E got his own paper cone of chips, fish and peas to eat in his car seat (it was pouring with rain by this stage) and was the happiest little munchkin you’ve ever seen!

All in all, a great day out was had by all (we won’t mention H & E’s colds/ear infections and the ensuing tiredness…two good nights’ sleep have improved matters enormously!)