Saturday, 21 June 2014

Sienna Travels : Part 4 - Family, Friends & Pizza

It's taken a while to write this final entry due to the sheer volume of images that needed editing first! But, with Tom working tonight and Sienna asleep, I'm finally going to complete the series. It's taken nearly a whole packet of KitKat bites (try them!) to complete the editing, but hey-ho, never mind.... Tom would say that's unhealthy but I can guarantee he will not have read this far to find out....!

Like all good stories, in this final instalment of our 2014 UK blog series, we've ended up back where we started - in Poole. The end is by no means close however, as we have an astonishing number of people still to meet!

In chronological order....

Our first guests were Rod and Christine (my Uncle and Auntie), plus my cousin Emma, her husband Marc, and their kids Jake and Daisy. Jake is my godson and we skype with Jake and Daisy from Australia, so they had met Sienna via the computer, if not yet in person. It turns out nine-year-old Jake is a natural with babies, and the oh-so-kind Daisy gave Sienna a cuddly toy elephant which I had given to Daisy when she was a baby. Said elephant has since become a *huge* hit with Sienna, so thank you Daisy :)

 Also visiting on the same day were Uncle Toby and Auntie Melissa!

In between visitors Sienna enjoyed hanging out (read: taking over) Granny Pam's daybed, and soon also commandeered her iPad and magazine! Grandad, meanwhile, continued educating Sienna in the rules of 'Peepo!'

We also had lots of family friends visit whilst we were in Poole. Pam and Bob are long-time friends of the family and Pam has knitted some marvellous creations for Sienna (so has my mum, it must be something about the name Pam and being great knitters!).  In fact, a hat that Pam knitted for Sienna as a newborn is still worn everyday at eight months old!!

We hosted an 'open' house one day, and along to visit were Margaret (my Godmother) and Gordon, Roland and Pauline (family friends), and Gully & Mr B (my ballet teacher of many years). It was lovely to have a house full of guests and Sienna enjoyed all the attention.. prior to our visit to the UK she had been a very timid baby, but she was very obliging in giving cuddles to all who requested!

The next person to meet was Mum's longtime friend Marion! It was a HOOT.. no more explanation required!

One essential stop-off every time we visit the UK is Pizza Express! Tom and I splurged on two pizzas AND two side salads, because, you know, we only go to Pizza Express once a year or less! It was divine and I cannot wait for the next time....

Sienna also paid a 'get well' visit to Aubrey and Valerie:

The final people for Sienna to meet, numbers 62 & 63 on the list but by no means the least important, were Di & Si! We had a fun time catching up with the Tammam family, and neighbour Val popped in for a cuddle too! [I know that sounds random, but it actually isn't - Val's daughter Amy lives in Melbourne and is a friend of ours, so Sienna and Val had already met during a recent trip. Are you following all of this? There will be a quiz at the end.]

On our final night we had a Hague family get together, which included a joint birthday dinner for Dad/Grandad (who turned 70 this year), Toby (age undisclosed!), and Tom (age undisclosed, but close to mine!). Mum made her legendary rice-krispie cake, and the three men did a great job of looking incredibly awkward as I made them pose for a photograph....

We also took an updated family photo:

On our final day it was all about packing and trying not to dwell on the upcoming goodbyes. We took some gorgeous photos with Uncle Mat, who lives in Bulgaria, and so has aptly been named Uncle Bulgaria (after the character from The Wombles). Mum thought it would be cute to get an Uncle Bulgaria toy. So did Mat. So now we have three Uncle Bulgaria's - two stuffed and one real! Obviously the real one is the best :)

We also took some really sweet photos with Granny Pam and Grandad and I really hope you've all stuck with me and are still reading because these photos just MELT MY HEART! I cannot believe that I have taken this sweet thing away from her grandparents and brought her back to Melbourne because these photos just symbolise a very happy time and will be cherished for ever. Moments like this make the distance, the expense, and the upheaval of travelling 10,000 miles all worth it.... we will be back!!!

Congratulations if you've read this far! You win 100 points! Points can be redeemed for cuddles with Sienna at your next opportunity :-D

Friday, 20 June 2014

Sienna at 8 months

The time is really flying now.. our little miss is growing up so quickly, and today marks the 8 month anniversary of her arrival!

A few snippets that I want to record about Sienna May at 8 months....

- she is an observant and thoughtful baby, always looking around, rarely making much of a show but taking everything in

- she now eats three decent meals a day, particular favourites are avocado, cruskits and water

- she weighs 7.6kgs and measures 67.5cm in length

- she can sit independently and roll over both ways, but shows no sign of crawling and is generally a very stationary baby

- her favourite toys are her Jumperoo (a true happy place for Sienna!) and her bead roller coaster (google it!)

- she is developing a good head of hair, currently in the 'spikey' stage, and very very fair (see image below)

- she likes to babble away at home (but is generally quiet when we are out), and favourite 'words' are babababa, dadadada, and huh-huh-huh!

Today we took some photographs to mark her 8 months (of course). Taking a photograph with the milestone cards is becoming near impossible because she just grabs it and eats it! Oh well... :-)

Everyone comments on her eyes, if I had a pound...... etc etc!

Oooh, the spikey hair, I love it!

My attempt at the milestone card photo:

Embracing the chubby legs whilst she still can:

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Sienna Travels : Part 3 - Lovely Little Ones in London

Oooh I'm so excited for this post. I'm warning you now, there is going to be cute kid overload as we meet up with 24 fabulous friends in London, eight of whom are gorgeous little people :-)

Being away from my friends has definitely been one of the downsides of our move to Melbourne. I have two close friends from my younger days, and a tight knit collection of university girlfriends. Together we have been through many a rite of passage together, and it's lovely that the bond we share never seems to fade.

Since we left for Australia, my friends and I have been blessed with engagements, marriages, babies and new homes. Tom and I have shared these moments through fleeting visits and Skype glimpses, and I've ignored the pangs of homesickness through the pace of everyday working life.

The arrival of the next generation of little friends makes this so much harder however - three of my good friends were pregnant at the same time as me, and between us, our four babies are separated in age by only a couple of months.  We exchanged bump photos via email, birth stories via FaceTime, and share sleepless nights via text message conversations that never end... but despite all of that, nothing beats catching up face to face and meeting all of the new additions in person.

So, back to where we left off in the last post... we departed Norwich en route to London (well, Raynes Park to be exact), but first made a stop off to catch up with Sarah and Neil, our UK friends that we met in Melbourne. They have a three year old daughter Amelie, who was born in the same Melbourne hospital as Sienna, and a new addition, Sebastian!

It was fantastic to see them all looking so well, and I enjoyed a cuddle with the gorgeous Seb. Amelie has grown up so much since we last saw her, and is full of infectious happiness. She couldn't wait to show me her bedroom, especially the 'hoppity hares' on her wallpaper! I took some creative licence and encouraged her to jump on the bed for some fun photos... sorry Sarah!

Our hosts in London were Sarah and Matt, part of the uni girls clan. Matt, to be clear, is not a girl, but is married to a uni girl and did also go to uni with us. He and I also used to work together. (Are you following all this?)

Sarah and Matt have just renovated their Raynes Park home and have done a fantastic job - the pièce de résistance being a large open plan kitchen/dining/living extension at the back of the house. Notable features of their new 'room' are a huge skylight, a tap which wouldn't be out of place in your shower and meticulous kitchen cupboard organisation (which features a shelf for 'seasonal' items such as bunting and party games, and makes it very easy for guests to navigate, thanks Sarah!). Sienna was honoured to get her own shelf allocation for her little food pouches. I'm not sure if this is because Sarah likes Sienna or dislikes her mess?!

On the Friday Tom went off into central London to take care of some work, and I set about catching up with the above-mentioned friends with new babies. First up was Lynne and her little boy Bertie, who is about 12 weeks younger than Sienna. Lynne and I have known each other for ten years through work. We always joked that we should have babies at the same time and then return to work together as a job share, never imagining that the timing of actual events would align so perfectly. Just the distance factor to get over now then....

Three hours of constant chatter probably covered a similar amount of ground to the past three months of constant text messaging, and it was really really lovely to catch up. Next I hopped in the car to go and meet another of the new arrivals. Sally and I lived together for years in our early 20s - who would guess that in our early 30s we'd have baby girls just two months apart? Oh, and 10,000 miles...

 Sally and baby Lucy

Lucy was born just before Christmas, and until now we had only met on Skype. It was so lovely to be reunited with Sally and to introduce each other our baby daughters. I get a bit emotional just thinking about how lovely the afternoon was..... I blame the breastfeeding hormones!!!

Lots of blondies.. check out the tenderness on the bottom row!

Saturday was devoted to my Poole friends - Lucy and her daughter Dora (who was a baby when I left and is now about to turn five!), and Elian, who in the 15 months since we last caught up has got engaged, bought her first home and moved jobs! There was barely enough time to catch up on all of that news, but we still managed to fit in photos :-)

A picnic in the park with Lucy and Dora

Sienna's first Starbucks with Elian

Back at Sarah and Matt's, our hosts were busy preparing for the main event - a BBQ for all of the uni girls plus husbands (some of whom are uni boys) plus all the children. In anticipation, Sarah had of course checked the seasonal cupboard in her kitchen and dug out the bunting, but alas she could not find a BBQ. So, off they went to buy a shiny new BBQ (the 'Bondi' model, no less!). It was quite possibly the most complicated assembly job known to man, but with Tom and Matt on the tools, obviously it was an easy job. We were slightly concerned when we heard Matt with his electric drill out to make some 'modifications', but it worked with no safety issues!

One BBQ, two degrees, four hands

With the BBQ built, a huge Waitrose shop done, and the bunting hung, we were ready to entertain! What followed was the most *amazing* day of catching up with my dearest friends and their loved ones. We met baby Leo for the first time, son to Pippa and Rowan and just one month older than Sienna. We also got to meet Annabel, nearly 15 months, daughter to Alex and Fiona who were Best Man and Bridesmaid at our wedding. I had met Annabel as a three week old, but that almost didn't count given how much she had changed :-)

Clockwise from top left: Our wedding tea towel in use, Sienna ready for the party, the guests have arrived, the garden dressed from the 'seasonal' cupboard!

Clockwise from top left: Rowan and Leo meet Tom & Sienna, Pippa and Leo with Katie and Sienna, Sienna & Alex, Fiona & Sienna

Annabel and Sienna get acquainted

Annabel prepares for the sunshine

I had loads of fun taking various different group photos, which we have vowed to repeat on a regular basis as the children grow up and more are added to the group.

Left to Right: Andy, Richard, Sally (with Lucy), Rowan, Pippa (with Leo), Tom (with Sienna), Alex, Katie, Fiona (with Annabel), Matt, Sarah, Ella, Tush (with Michael).
Part of the clan but not with us on this occasion are Andy and Ameile (belonging to Ella!), and Kate & Chris, and Sarah & Anthony.

I may profess to be a children's photographer but photographing five children under three in one shot is hard!
Left to right: Annabel (14 months), Leo (8 months), Michael (29 months), Lucy (5 months), Sienna (7 months)

It's ten years since we all graduated from Bath University. We've been together for Friday nights at Babylon nightclub as students, for happy hours in London bars as young professionals, and now we have civilised BBQs on weekends and turn down booze because we are either pregnant, breastfeeding, driving or just too exhausted to bother!

And so our London stay came to an end. Tom and I both absolutely loved it and can't wait to see you all again! It was a shame we didn't have time to catch up with everyone, and we look forward to seeing more of you next time. A huge thanks to Sarah and Matt for hosting us so generously.

If you add up all the names mentioned above, you should get 24. That brings the total number of people we've met so far on this trip to 45, leaving only 18 to go.... in Part Four, coming soon!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Sienna Travels : Part 2 - Norwich & Impressions of the UK

Having been away from the UK (barring visits) for nearly five years, there are many things which make quite a distinct impression on us when we return. It's odd to think of us making observations on the country that we're from, and it's usually the little every day things that stick out the most.

For example, the drivers... UK drivers are much better educated on stopping distances than Australians! We also love the  'no undertaking' rule on UK roads, and the general courtesy (especially thank you waves) shown by Brits on the Road.

Supermarkets were also a hot topic during our trip. Oh my goodness, if there was ever a reason to return to living in the UK (besides family and friends of course), it has to be Waitrose. What a DELIGHT! It is not just the lower prices that pleased us (we accept that food prices, in fact most prices, are higher in Australia), but the product range too. It was a real treat to browse the aisles and enjoy some old favourites as well as new yummy treats.

Enough observations, back to the real stories... and it's off to Norwich, home of the Lister family.

In my previous blog post I talked of 63 people that we met on our trip, well in Norwich we saw 16 of them... in order of appearance: Granny and Bubba, Great Grandma Florence and Great Great Aunt Marian, Auntie Anna plus family (Uncle Kev and cousins Millie, Rosie and Jamie), Auntie Claire plus family (Uncle Steve and cousins Charlie, Emily and Ellie), Great Aunt Anne and Auntie Em!

It was a better than expected road trip from Poole to Norwich, all thanks to Sienna for sleeping, to Tom for great driving, and to South Mimms services for the Burger King. (Incidentally, since when do Burger King serve FAT chips instead of fries? This was disappointing to me!)

After our arrival with Granny and Bubba, and baby cuddles for all, it was straight off to see the oldest members of the family - Sienna's Great Grandma Florence is 99 years old, and her Great Great Aunt Marian just a couple of years younger. They are both doing so well and it was very momentous for Sienna to meet them both.

Sienna meets Florence, between them they are 100 years old!

Four generations of Listers - Florence, Peter, Tom, Sienna

Sienna enjoying her first visit with Great Great Aunt Marian

The next day was a big family gathering, as Anna's family travelled from Cheshire and Anne travelled from Billericay to join together for the day. We celebrated Ellie's 6th birthday, and she didn't seem to mind that most of the attention was on her younger cousin. I was amazed that every single one of the cousins was really interested in Sienna, even the boys! There was hot competition for cuddles and poor Anna and Claire did not get much of a look in. Thanks to Claire and Steve for hosting us all on this fun day.

As an aside, many thanks Claire for the inclusion of the mini Haribo packet in Sienna's party bag. I saved these little delights and pulled them out during an hour of need on our intrepid 30-hour sleepless trek home. THEY SAVED ME!

Cousins: Jamie (9), Millie (13), Emily (11) with Sienna, Rosie (11), Ellie (6), Charlie (12)

Lunch is served, and the iPad generation

The next day we all gathered again but at Granny Sue's house. Yet another wonderful spread of food and also time for an update to the Lister Family photo (sadly minus Emma who was ill and so kindly stayed away). Spot the differences (and the similarities!) between December 2012 and May 2014!

Top: December 2012, Bottom: May 2014

We also took lots of less formal photos of the cousins together:

And Anna finally got a proper cuddle:

We sadly said goodbye to the Wood family on Sunday evening and the rest of the week was spent enjoying more 'normal' life in Norwich, which was really lovely. We had walks in the sunshine, met the cousins from school, shopped in Waitrose and the city centre etc.

Auntie Emma got better and came to visit (yay!), bring me some Percy Pigs. These pigs have single handedly fuelled me through the jet lag, so thank you Em ;-)  (Yes, there is a theme here of me eating sugary sweets when exhausted. Don't judge me until you've flown around the world with a baby!)

Sienna also had her first 'aquarium' visit, courtesy of Auntie Claire and the Notcutts tropical fish shop!

We also had two more visits with Florence and Marian:

 And that was Norwich, done! Six days, sixteen family members and a whole heap of lovely memories.  Thanks for having us!

Next time on the blog.. we travel to London :-)

Monday, 2 June 2014

Sienna Travels: Part 1 - Poole & Meeting Grandparents

Wow. Where do I start? We've made several trips back to the UK since our move to Australia nearly 5 years ago, but this one was rather special. There are not many things that would tempt me to spend 24 hours on a plane with a 7 month old, but introducing Sienna to my parents was one of them. Dad said he thought the day would never arrive, but on 6th May it finally did :-)

In 18 days we saw 63 people, and as you can imagine there are a lot of photographs to share and stories to tell. So, I'll break this up over several posts.

The first story of the trip - our flight - I am not going to share. A bit like a birth story, flying with a baby is not something I wish to remember every detail about, so lets gloss over the horrors and just remember the delightful ending. Just like giving birth, maybe one day the scars will heal and I'll be brave enough to fly with a baby again... until then, lets remember that WE MADE IT!

We started the trip with three days in Poole to introduce Sienna to the delights of her mother's and father's homeland (this primarily comprised Sainsbury's), and have some good bonding time with her Granny Pam and Grandad.

With Granny Pam

With Grandad

This outtake makes me laugh!

Just reviewing these photos again makes me so excited for our next trip! (See, I've forgotten about the flight already!!)


It was so wonderful to see her little face light up as Grandad popped up from behind the sofa / around the door exclaiming 'Peepo!' for the hundredth time! For a while we think Sienna thought her name was Peepo...

The jet lag was surprisingly easy to deal with on the way over (focusing on the positives here), and Sienna had a couple of great sleeps to allow me to recover slightly myself.  Granny Pam had collected lots of baby items at her house for our use - some kindly leant by Tom's family, other items excitingly purchased in anticipation of our arrival. It made things really easy to have a ready made kit available on arrival.

Three short days went incredibly quickly and before we knew it we were packing Grandad's car and off on the long drive to Norwich... which is another blog! We've only covered meeting 2/63 in this post, but I promise to pick up the pace a little bit in the next entry. Until then....