Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Long time no see!

Well, hello!  It's been a while.

It has been nearly 3 years since I wrote anything here and a fair bit has happened since.

I got a job teaching Religious Studies in a high school, we moved house, we got cats. We became legit Aussie citizens!  The Prof got a new job so we moved house again (all in the space of 6 months...).  This time it was interstate, so we had new schools and new systems to navigate, 2 boys learning to drive, and no job for me.  We've been in the Outer Eastern suburbs of Melbourne for 20 months, and it is starting to feel like home. We had thought we'd be back in the UK by now, but that is looking less likely for the foreseeable future.  Decisions like that get more and more tricky once you have 1 kid just about to sit his VCE and leave school, with the rest hot on his heels for the next 6 years.


There has been less and less crochet, same amount of cakes (although probably a little less ambitious) and a far greater amount of chaos to accompany all the kids.  And cats, and dog.

Interestingly, in my last post I mentioned how difficult I'd been finding the No1 Child, and I'm delighted to report that, at some point over the last 3 years, he has actually become far more enjoyable, cooperative, responsible and reliable.  Obviously we all have our moments, but how nice to be able to do a quick compare and contrast and realise that we have come through the other end relatively unscathed, and with our humour largely in tact. I'm aware that putting those words out there, could well be tempting fate, but I'm feeling pretty cocky today!

The whole blogging thing has been on my mind for a little while.  I slowed down, and then stopped, as I found it a very time-consuming process that felt rather self-indulgent when there were kids to feed and drop places, laundry to do and meals to cook.  Instagram became my go to for catching up with creative ideas as it was quicker than reading through loads of blogs, and pinterest gave me instant recipes and projects.  About the same time, I stopped writing the book I had been working on, and haven't really started again.  There have been a couple of occasions where I have found a cafe and tried to write, but nothing has come.  Maybe it's the lack of my beautiful, inspirational view at Merewether, or maybe there's just too much going on in my head.  

Whatever the reason, I was chatting with The Prof yesterday (with a coffee and that lovely view above) about my frustrations and boredom and he thought I should just dip my toe back in with a wee blog post, see if anything starts to flow and see where we end up.  So here I am.  Do say "Hi" if you're reading, it's always nice to catch up with old friends and make new ones!  

See you again soon...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


You may or may not be aware of the political news from Down Under.   If you are, you will most likely have heard that the Australian people ( I can't say 'we' as I can't vote here yet) have just elected Tony Abbott's Liberal (read Right wing Conservative) Party into Government.  I think it was rather a vote against the nonsense from within the ruling Labor Party, but there we go.  Anyway, you will surely have seen the many quotes from the newly minted PM about women, the environment and refugees ("Stop the boats!") to name but a few.  You might also have seen that the government of Afghanistan has more women in it than the cabinet of Australia. Good times.  

I never thought of myself as particularly political until we came here.  I also used to laugh at my husband for describing himself as a feminist.  Maybe I am changing with age, maybe I see the world differently because I have children.  Certainly I am much more aware of injustice and inequality than I was years ago.  

A couple of weeks ago I was helping our most-likely-to-be-an-engineer boy to write an essay.  The topic was Life in Other Lands and was to be based on a novel they had been reading about a girl in Afghanistan.  We spent a lot of time talking about the way that women and girls were treated by the Taliban in the 1980's.  Jonathan, really struggles to get his head around the issues of sexism.  It makes absolutely no sense to him that women shouldn't be able to do any job that they want to, or that they should be objectified.  He gets that there are maybe some jobs that are physically more suited to men than women or vice versa, but believes that anyone should be allowed to have a go at what they want to do.  All 3 of my older boys have asked many questions during the (interminably) long election campaign about the Liberal Parties views about women and about issues of feminism in general.

He loves the tech subjects at school, electronics and graphic design are his favourites so far, but he has throughly enjoyed the traditional 'girl' subjects, food tech and sewing.  Last night he noticed that the pocket of his hoodie had come unstitched so asked, NOT if I could mend it for him, but, if he could borrow my sewing machinre to fix it himself!  I did offer to do it, but he got quite annoyed at me!  

He did a great job and has asked if he can use my machine during the holidays to make some cushions.  Absolutely!  I posted this pic on instagram last night with the hashtag  #proudmama

After dinner, Joseph, decided that he wanted to make muffins.  This has become his thing and his favourite are the Gingerbread muffins from Susan Reimer's wonderful 'Muffins: Fast and Fantastic' book.  He refused all offers of help so I took photos!  Again these got posted to instagram #proudmama.

And here's the result with my cuppa at 11 o'clock this morning.  So very good!

Now Archie has not been making muffins or mending things, generally he is just being 'nearly 15'.  To be honest, it hasn't been a fun year, I struggle to parent him and often feel like we're in a big black hole.  He drives me to despair but then I see glimpses, as I did on Sunday

We were at the new house of friends.  While the other boys were vegging on their ipods, Archie came and spent ages entertaining my god-daughter, then he and John played games with Robert and his friend while we organised lunch.  He was polite, helpful, thoughtful and cooperative and John and I both told him how proud we had been of him.  It can happen occasionally and it's always good that it happens outside the home, but it would be lovely if it happened more often at home...

I didn't post this then, but I will now #proudmama

The point of this post was really to show how proud I am of the fact that my boys are growing up to be the kind of men that, I hope, will treat others with respect no matter whether they are male or female, black or white, rich or poor.  The kind to take responsibility for their actions, not put the blame on others.  My motto in life is from Micah in the Old Testament.  Ch6 vs 8 encourages the reader to 'do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God'.  This is what I hope for my kids, it seems to be so obvious, doesn't it?

Anyway, enough of the heavy stuff for now, more reasons to be a #proudmama -

Smallest Boy has his very first Sports Day on Friday.  He has been preparing for weeks.  He loved the running races, had fun in the egg and spoon race, but really showed them who was boss in the sack race!

That's me in my green cardi to support Green House!

And last, but certainly not least (or quietest),  Miss Meg sat her piano exam and got an A, then proceeded to perform for the whole school in the annual Talent Quest.  No photos of that sadly, but I do have a pic of her up a tree...

That's my girl! #proudmama

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The next adventure.

Here are the thoughts I jotted down in January about my last baby starting school.  A bit late, but hey, better late than never!

"After 14 years and 3 months of having at least one child at home, the next chapter is now beginning.

No5 started school yesterday.  We live next door but managed to arrive late as he couldn't find his hat, nevertheless he was excited, happy and ready to go.  He has the same Kinder teacher that my daughter had 4 years ago, and although new classrooms have been built since then, he knew the routine and what was expected of him.  

I've read a number of blog posts, facebook posts and Tweets from mothers who have shed tears and are sad that their babies are off to big school, lots of people have asked me if I would be sad or shed a few tears.  My honest answer is no.  I'm not sad, I'm delighted!  From his point of view, this is what is meant to happen, kids grow up, develop their own personalities and move away to start their own lives.  If I've done a decent job as a parent, then hopefully each stage will go relatively smoothly.  As for me, I've sent kids to play group, nursery, Infants/Primary and now High schools for the last 10 years, the practicalities are no big deal, but rightly I suppose it IS a big deal for me as much as for them.  I didn't cry, I'm not sad, but from here on in my role as a parent of a pre-schooler is over, a part of my life is over for ever and I will miss having my little buddy around during the day.

 In actual fact I think the role of a parent gets harder once your kids are at school.  After school activities and homework, keeping up with who is doing what/going where/friends with whom etc intensify (especially when you have 5).  I had always looked forward to the kids being at school so that I could get a job, until older, wiser parents told me about how much more older kids need parents around than younger ones, and another great friend told me that findings from a conference she had attended show that kid do drugs and get pregnant at 4pm because parents are at work and don't know what the kids are getting up to.

Maybe I should have pointed out that he is not yet 5.  This has been an issue that I would not have had to think about in the UK, but I have been asked if he isn't a bit too young for school, especially when some in his class have already turned 6.  My answer is simply that he's bright, he's bored with pre-school and he's ready.  So am I.  Yes, he's a bit small, but interestingly, one of the already-6-year-olds is smaller than him.

I guess we'll wait and see how he goes..."

UPDATE - September

As we get close to the end of term 3, I can give a little bit of an update.

At the risk of sounding like a show-off mum, he's doing really well.  I mean REALLY well.  His teacher told me that he has read every book in her classroom, the year 1 classroom and is now reading at a year 2 level.  My response was to apologise!  I haven't taught him, but the child loves reading.  I was helping out in Kinder this morning and he insisted on writing 3 pages about Thunderstorms rather than the 1 sentence he had been asked for, frankly his handwriting is shocking - he's a lefty- but his spelling was all correct.  I truly don't know where he came from and to be honest, he scares me!


This year has flown.  I had such great plans and as usual they have come to very little.  Nevertheless, we've been busy.  I was sorting through photos on the computer and realised that I have not shared any birthday cakes with you this year so, in order to justify my blog title, here are some cakes!

Smallest Boy was 5 not long after starting school in January (that should probably have been a blog post in itself, I did scrawl some stuff in a notebook that I might share at some point) and requested a very grown-up Spiderman cake.

I love the pre-emptive "Don't even think about it" hand over big brother's mouth.

Blue icing.  Awesome idea before bed...

A month later we had No 2 boy turning 13, another teenager in the house!  He requested pizza so I baked him one.  Someone on Instagram thought it actually was a pizza so I must have done a good job!

6 weeks later we had No3 Boy,  he asked for a 4-star Dragon Ball, from Dragon Ball Z.  I had to google that one!  This was what I came up with...

Being the very lucky child that he is, he managed to score a second cake when he had his birthday party.  I wanted something impressive without too much work so did a variation on a rainbow cake.  It turned out well but I think I might vary the amounts a little next time to make the rings look more even.

Then the Girl had her birthday and I was stuck.  She is horrified by anything "too girly" but had no particular ideas.  I spent a while googling and searching Pinterest (yep, days gone right there) and found this (there are lots of images but I still can't find the original).

Pinata cake!

I've got one more to do this year, tricky one as No1 will be 15.  Maybe something a bit understated?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Adventures pt3

I had a wonderful weekend over in Fife and Edinburgh.  There is something about the women you spend those early, crazy years of motherhood with.  They were there when I had to be in 2 places at once;  reassured me that my child wasn't the only one;  kept me sane; they were there when I had a miscarriage and took 3 bouncy boys while I had appointments, they cried with me;  they celebrated new babies and laughed when I told them I was pregnant again unexpectedly (that's YOU Wendy!), some knew to avoid me or I'd just start gubbing in the street again!  We've had picnics, walks, adventures, plenty of tea and coffee, cocktails, cinema trips etc.  They are special ladies.  It was so good to see them and sad to have to leave again.  Thank goodness for Facebook where I can still see most of them everyday.

But then I had to go home and prepare to say goodbye to my parents and my brother again.

We're a family that has always been very close, despite the many miles between us all.  I went to university in Aberdeen, which was about as far as I could have gone from the New Forest, where Mum and Dad lived at the time.  We came back to Cambridge for 6 years when we did our postgrad studies, and the 2 big boys were born during that time.  In the meantime Mum and Dad had moved to Kent so were able to pop up and down easily, then we went back to Scotland, where my brother now was too, and then to Australia.  For that reason when we see each other it is usually for a couple of weeks at a time, in houses that were not designed for 9 or 10 people.  Amazingly we all still get on!  There are obviously moments, all the celtic blood ensures some feisty discussion at times.

Being on my own with my parents was very special,  I can't think of a time when I've ever been with just them.  Occasionally I did have to remind my father that I am in my 40's and have 5 children, but I do appreciate that he is always going to be concerned about me!

This is one of my favourite photos of Mum, we got her a Google Nexus Tablet while I was there, but found that the only place in the house with decent wifi was the stairs!  This is her trying to play Candy Crush as some kids at church on the Sunday had shown it to her and she wanted to be able to play it next time!

My last day was spent trying to close my case.  I had managed to get clothes for everyone at my favourite outlet centre at Livingston - fab place if you hate shopping- and had got the required Percy Pigs, Jammie Dodgers and Jaffa Cakes.  The final result was a case that looked like it could split open at any moment, but weighed in at 29.9kgs.  My limit was 30kgs so I was very pleased with myself.  My hand luggage also squeaked in at just under 7kgs - I was on fire!

We had one last walk along the front at Largs, to the marina where we had a fantastic lunch.  It was just as well we had to walk home!  I chose the Gateau of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties which was fabulous.   We're definitely missing our haggis in the Southern Hemisphere, in fact I don't think Robert has even tasted it!

I was determined to get a good shot of the Pencil Monument, which commemorates the Viking Battle of Largs in 1263.  In yr 7 the 2 big boys have both had to do a project on the Vikings and have both downloaded pictures of the Pencil to explain that Largs was a Viking settlement.  When Joseph goes to high school and has to do the project next year, he can use one of mine!

The world famous Nardini's art deco ice cream parlour.  Hasn't change since Dad was growing up here!

And then that was it.  A quick meet up at the airport with my brother to discuss when we'll all see each other again, Dad retires this summer so we 're hoping that they'll be able to come out before Christmas...  There were tears, it's a very long distance to be apart from family and I think it gets harder every time I have to say goodbye to them all.  Having said that, the long flights gave me the chance to get back into 'home' mode.  Being away was like being in another dimension where the family didn't exist (except first thing in the morning when they sent me messages and every available smiley!) so I felt like I had a chance to properly recharge my batteries for the first time since becoming a mother.

By the time I was back home, it was like I'd never been away.  Noone had suffered, been injured or starved while I was away and everyone was delighted to see me.  Apparently the house is much tidier when I'm away, and John even managed to, not only conquer the laundry, but due to having one arm in a sling, set in motion a fantastic new system where all the kids make/prepare their lunches the night before.

They were so organised I now feel able to plan my next getaway...

PS in case anyone is interested, I flew with Emirates from Sydney to Glasgow, through Dubai.  The A380's on the Dubai -Sydney leg are amazing!  Thanks Faither xx

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Adventures pt2

*disclaimer - there are many, many photos*

The town that my parents now live in is about 3/4 from Glasgow centre and on the coast overlooking Bute and the Island of Cumbrae.  On one side the Clyde and on the other, gorse covered hills.  May/June is definitely the time to see it, everything was in bloom, green and beautiful.  I also really enjoyed the long evenings, which we don't get even in the summer in NSW.

When we were kids, we would jump on the ferry and head over to Cumbrae, hire bikes and spend the day cycling around the island.  Dad decided to take a day off work (ahem - the phone still buzzed with emails fairly regularly... just sayin') and the 3 of us jumped on the good ol' CalMac with a coffee from a new wee Nardini's and had a walk around the island.  The views of Bute, Arran and Ben Lomond in the distance were fabulous, and there was plenty to see on the island itself.


Sunset over Bute

2 CalMacs going to and fro

North end of Cumbrae looking towards Ben Lomond in the distance

Ready with binoculars

Arran from Cumbrae

Painted rocks.  This is over 100 years old according to my father.

Seals off Millport

Beach volley ball at Millport!

Crocodile Rock

Paddling - it was freeezing!

Having a wee break before catching the bus back to the ferry.

Largs from the ferry.

We finished the day off with a fish and chip supper from Nardini's.

My last weekend was spent heading over to the east and catching up with our gorgeous friends in Dalgety Bay where we lived for nearly 9 years, and where 3 of the kids were born. 

This is the view as you head in.  We lived in one of those red-roofed houses at the bottom of the picture.  

We put out the word and Wendy declared an open house for the weekend.  We started off Friday night with pizza and cocktails, and moved on to breakfast, lunch and many, many cups of tea on Saturday.  It was wonderful to catch up with people who have made me laugh, kept me sane, shared pregnancies, toddlers, dramas, etc.  They've seen me at my worst and still love me!  The weirdest thing was how weird it didn't feel.  As Wendy said later "Friendship is picking up where you left off" and she's absolutely right.

Saturday night was a girls' night out on the town in Edinburgh.  We got the 'happy train' home!

Sunday was a quick whip around Dalgety Bay to see what was new, visiting our old puss cat (who, at the grand-old age of 18, I had honestly expected to be deceased) and heading back into Edinburgh to 'do lunch' and generally be a bit touristy.

Believe it or not, I have deleted a lot of pics but there still are loads - feel free to not bother!

New College on The Mound, where Hubby used to work.

The view from New College - you can see why he loved it!

Peering in through the gates

Princes Street Gardens

My Granny's favourite shop

The Bank of Scotland building

Piper and Scott Memorial.  It would have been rude not to.

Ladies lunching at the National Gallery

St Giles' Cathedral

Some tourists...

The Royal Mile looking towards the Forth.

I love these buildings, and look at the colour of the sky!

Royal Mile looking towards the castle

I love all the Closes

Edinburgh Castle entrance

Mews hidden behind the castle

and from the other side.

It's a beautiful city.

I think I'll leave it there for now, I can squeeze another post out of the remaing pics!

Back soon!