Sunday, December 23, 2007

I can't believe it's nearly Christmas so before we get into festive photos and tales I thought I'd post a couple of pictures from the last month. Although it's been freezing cold we've still managed to continue discovering Bristol - namely it's parks. Blaise Castle has lots of walking trails and a great playground.

The highlight of the month so far was being visited by our fantastic friends John, Anna and Elijah. The boys were quite excited one morning when they realised they were monopolising the kitchen and they wanted a photo - clearly all the testosterone went to their heads and they forgot whose son was whose!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Christmas preparations are in full swing in The Ark and we did not delay in getting our (7ft) tree; we who've been in NZ are quite enjoying the fact it's dark enough for the lights to have an effect!

Matthew has already chomped through a chocolate and a gingerbread heart but is learning that we'd prefer it if he looked but didn't touch!

Friday, November 30, 2007

New Addition

The most exciting event of November was yet to come; the arrival of the very cute Joseph John Taylor Kelly. Considering the little fella made his appearance 3 weeks eraly we can forgive Mags for thinking that she had indigestion rather than she was in labour! When we established this was the real thing I was thinking what very good timing considering we were in the middle of planning our Christmas shopping trips and there was a HUGE turkey - we're talking 9.6kg! - in the fridge waiting to be cooked.
Christmas had not arrived early, but surrounded by Americans (and those who'd lived there) we had planned a grand thanksgiving meal! Well, as Mags had reassured me, Delia Smith did have all the answers and the turkey was beautifully cooked after 6 and half hours! And everybody elses contributions, including incredible sweet potato and pecan pie, made for a very full-filling evening!
And Mags and Joseph were home to join us so we really did have lots to be thnakful for! No photos of the thanksgiving - too busy wrestling the bird - but here are a couple of the baby and proud mummy, daddy, big sister and excited housemate (I know the photos don't really show it but Matthew thinks little Joseph is amazing and particularly likes helping change his nappy!).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

November (so far!)

It's been a pretty busy month so far - but judging by the photos it's been alot of autumnal frolics!
We were excited about the prospect of a bonfire night when it's actually dark and the fireworks actually show up! We were even more excited about having the event at Wick Court, the Jacobean mansion in the countryside on the outskirts of Bristol that we (the people exploring new expressions of church here) are renting as a retreat and training centre. It's a fabulous house and a great venue for big events.

Matthew didn't exactly enjoy the fireworks but wasn't freaked out until one fell over and the crowd ran screaming! We decided to retreat to the safety of the house and Matthew seemed to appreciate the pretty colours much more when they were minus the bangs!
Sam has purchased two ducks, Dave and Janine, which are living at Wick; Sam's diligently working on a duck house for them but here they are wth Phil and Skye.

Fallen leaves are currently providing much entertainment - every time we go out Matthew wants one to hold and it's getting harder to find one that is to his desired colour and shape as they become more and more mushy. The children helped Mags and I out raking the leaves in the garden; their tools obviously being the limiting factor in their usefulness (nothing to do with them running through the neat piles of leaves we'd raked).

We also went out to the Forest of Dean with some friends one Sunday and there was lots of opportunity for leaf frivolity.

We've been preapring for the arrival of baby Kelly too which involved finally painting over the 'seascape'.

And Matthew has suddenly decided he quite likes the television. He isn't interested in any old rubbish; Thomas the tank engine is popular but nothing compares to the joy of seeing Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy in 'In the Night Garden'. I'm sure there are child psychologists who have some clever explanation for it's appeal but I am truly at a loss. Never the less, it's the only thing - ever - that has held Matthew's attention for so long.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Eye

Whilst Neil was on half term last week we took the opportunity to go to London, leaving Matthew with Nanna and Grandad. We realised when we went to NZ that there was lots in and around the UK we'd meant to do and not yet got round to; one of those things was 'flying' on the London Eye, so we seized the gorgeous, clear autumn day (and the fact that we didn't have Matthew to queue up too).

It was good fun trying to identify different landmarks and interesting how out we were with our sense of direction and perspective!

Friday, October 19, 2007

We've had a busy couple of weeks and been catching up with lots of friends. My sister, Sally, came to visit us last week and bought me these gorgeous sunflowers.

Matthew loved her being here and seemed to read her his entire library.

We've begun to have regular Sunday brunch with our friends Olly and Sonia and their gorgeous 7 week old son, Seth.

Most things we do revolve around food and this has given us a perfect opprtunity to introduce the Kiwi pancakes, bacon, banana and maple syrup though there was a reluctance for the banana.

On a Friday morning we go to the library for Story Time where we sing some songs, listen to a story and then do a craft activity. Generally I end up doing more of the craft than Matthew does and his favourite part is trying to eat the glue stick but today we made a lion mask and he loved it! It took him a while to realise what it was for but now he walks around roaring his head off when he's wearing it! (oh, and he's finally sussed that cows go 'moo')

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Last weekend it was Ken's 60th birthday so the Shepherd clan met for a 'surprise' at a cottage on a farm in Herefordshire. Matthew was made up with the cows, cockerels and pig - though you would have thought that after a weekend surrounded by mooing creatures he would know that a cow does not 'roooaaaar' like a lion!

Neil was well enough recovered to drive the kids around on the go-kart; Emma was far more impressed with "Mat-mat" than Matthew was when Emma took his spot on the back of the go-kart and went riding off with his daddy!

The early mornings have continued resulting in Matthew and I touring the farm practically in the dark and seeing the cows being milked and Neil getting to watch live coverage of the grand prix - again focussing on the positives of being completely shattered.

Life back in Bristol is heading back to normal - hopefully no more trips to the hospital for a while now that Neil is better and Matthew's little op is over and done with.
It's all feling a little more like home. Although the views are very different, I do have some favourites and one is this one of the rooftops driving down Ashley Hill.

The wonderful Sam Lovell is staying with us for a while and Matthew is made up because as soon as Sam appears in the morning Matthew grabs a football as he's got a boy to play with!

Friday, September 14, 2007


The new term didn't start quite as we'd expected; Neil came back from a weekend in Denmark in lots of pain and, after a day of frustrations and not getting very far with the GP, ended up in A&E and subsequently having his appendix out! Bless him! He doesn't do poorly - he's never ill! After three days in hospital he came home and has been a pretty good patient, mainly because he's had to be - he really can't do much at all. I was able to spend quite a lot of time at the hospital because Sylvia came to stay (hot off the plane from holidaying in Croatia) and looked after Matthew which was wonderful. Here is the little man with his Grandma...

And this photo is of Matthew having a tantrum, something that is becoming a more frequent occurance - it's obviously hard work being 16 months old.

They generlly occur when Matthew's hungry or tired but he really does get quite cross and throws himself around - can't imagaine where he gets it from...Anyway, this proves (for Jo P) that Matthew isn't always smiling!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Face Off

I now realise why blog posts have diminished as everyone has jumped on Facebook. I only properly got started last night and I really could get quite addicted. I think my saving grace will be the fact that Neil starts back at school on Monday (boo) so he'll have the laptop and I'll have less opportunity. Anyway, Neil is in Denmark and so for the weekend at least, I have unlimited access to technology and so will endeavour to catch up on blog and facebook.

So, the summer...not really summer weather but definitely summer activities including exploring more of Bristol and the surrounding area and travelling around the country visiting family and friends.

We went to Cheddar gorge, walked across the Clifton Suspension bridge and Matthew and I got to see the 6am launch of the hot air balloons from the balloon fiesta (one of the very few benefits of having a son who is an early riser!).

Neil and Mags swapped children at Cheddar!

Took several photos in between as gradually the sky filled with balloons but I wouldn't want to bore you!

In Liverpool we stayed with Alastair and Helen and did something we haven't done for a very long time - we went out dancing!!! We ended up in 'Heebie Jeebies' which is more soul/funk and I loved it, especially as I didn't feel like I was harping back to my student days (I always did very cheesy clubbing as a student) or trying to reclaim some previous life - we were just having a good night out. We looked after our neice for the day when Helen was working and now not sure how quickly I want Matthew's vocabulary to develop; whilst out shopping Emma (only 5 months older) spent the whole time saying "Get out me!" to let us know she clearly wasn't happy in the buggy!

In Hartlepool we had lots of rest and relaxation. The weather wasn't great but we did manage to get to the beach and climb Roseberry Topping.

One of the highlights has to be Neil and I having extended time just the two of us in a very nice hotel while leaving Matthew with grandma and grandad for the night! What a treat for all of us (not sure grandma enjoyed the 1 and 2am wake ups - we may have to work on that before we leave him again).

Then onto Sheffield to stay with the lovely Lovells and catch up with friends; seeing people has become so much more regular now that I've stopped taking photos! Though should have taken one of the gorgeous Sam Breen as we've not seen him for 3 years - Matthew was made up with the very big Sam boys to look up to!

Monday, August 06, 2007


Matthew has been in desperate need of a haircut for a couple of weeks now and so I took the 'bull by the horns' (or 'hair by the scissors') and had a go! I had more confidence as Neil, Mags and Phil were around and there have been a few DIY haircuts in the house recently - all successful I might add! Matthew was amazing and sat very still, clearly aware that Mummy had not done this before and his ears are very precious! Anyway, Phil did a whizzy montage of the photos so you can see before and after shots and how delighted Matthew was when he could see clearly again!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Monkey Business

Neil has broken up from school (just in time for his thirtieth birthday) so we're getting into holiday mode. It's nice to get out and about and the newly discovered walking means Daddy can now begin discipling Matthew in football!

We've actually had some summer weather lately which has been a treat - especially as we've had lots and lots of visitors! First some Norwegians came for the night on their way to Momentum - that sounds like we didn't know them which is nearly true (though Phil did, but he was climbing a big mountain in Wyoming!) but I do know Miriam Cave rather well from time in Sheffield and it was so good to see her again. Then the Manserghs returned (we'd like to say they can't keep away from us but the arrival of a new niece was the greater pull I think!). Not much personal space when there's three in the bath!

I managed to get to Momentum for the day (student Soul Survivor) but I have to say my very spiritual encounters were catching up with friends over hot chocolate and lunch! Here are Matt, Toby, Phil and Miriam sheltering from the rain in one of the venues.

It was good to have some time with Debbie and to see Joannah S and meet the very beautiful Tia and Zoe. It's so nuts you don't see people for three years and nothing very much feels like it's changed (yes, we've had children and moved countries - twice - but other than that...). The downer of the day was that I wasn't very thoughtful lifting stoller and travel cot and toddler in and out of the car in the rain and my back objected strongly over the next few days - praise the Lord, it's much better now but I must be kinder to it in future...

Giles and Naomi stayed overnight and then the lovely Ducker family came to hang out for a couple of days; we went for a walk and a bit of a kick around on the Downs though it was a little blustery! Here are Ella, Skye and Matthew having a look down the Avon gorge towards the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

To add to the fun the Shepherd family descended (with the obligatory surprise thrown in; Neil's parents flew down from Hartlepool for the day and it was lovely to see them. We've decided the surprise to pull next is when there's no surprise and everybody in the clan knows everything!). The plan was to head to the zoo but the afternoon was spent in the children's emergency department checking out a dubious rash that Matthew and Emma both had; it turns out they both had randomly and independently caught hand, foot and mouth! They are both fine now and we don't think we passed it on to anybody else which is quite miraculous considering the amount of hugs and kisses that pass between Skye and Matthew at the moment!.
We did manage to get to the zoo on the following day and Matthew is now beginning to appreciate such visits and there is much pointing and many excited noises made! The Monkey Jungle allows you to get very close to the lemurs and it was amazing to be just a couple of feet away - amazing that is until they all start going ballistic, shrieking, bearing their teeth and then running straight towards you!

For a few moments I thought the traditional bars were a better idea but on seeing that the warden looked completely unphased and the lemur bounded off over our heads to join it's mates I thought it was probably ok. Matthew was not bothered though Skye was slightly more sensitive and there were a few tears.
Our children don't stay still for very long so photos were hard to come by but I'm sure Alastair and Helen will appreciate this one!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Yesterday Matthew and I went to visit my parents and also my sister, Sally. It's lovely to be able to drive over for the day - it's four hours there and back but that's a good opportunity to sing my heart out without anybody else having to suffer (Matthew sleeps most of the way!). Dad and Lis are getting set up for a small person being around and have bought a high chair and a little ride-on which Matthew loved (he is crawling away from it and a fair speed but that's because the camera is more interesting!).

It felt like summer should do to, just being able to sit outside and enjoy the garden and we even needed suncream!

This photo is especially for Emma and Dan who sent Matthew some All-Black shoes for his birthday - who knows, maybe they're what got him walking!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Matthew and Skye

A video of the two of them playing - well Matthew is more wrestling - on the sofa!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Matthew's first steps

We're back!

I seem to have spent lots of time this year catching up on our blog. This time I have a very legitimate excuse for my lack of communication - not only no broadband or dial-up but no phone line for what seemed like a very long time! I'm assuming there was life before the internet but judging by the twitching and shakes in our household it was certainly long before our time. Anyway, now we are totally connected (and wireless, so Neil says I can update the blog sitting on the toilet on the second floor of our house - I don't think anybody's that desperate for our news!) and have a very good deal on international phone calls so nobody can escape!
So, what's happened in the Shepherd family...

Well, the biggest change is that we've moved from the quaint Pucklechurch into a rather large house in the centre of Bristol (there will be a video at some point, I promise Emma!). Although there's a lot less countryside around there are more people and I like having shops and other facilities I can walk to. Having said that, Neil can now walk to work so it's more feasible for me to have the car. One of the lovely little discoveries is the pohutakawa tree in one of the local gardens so every time we walk past I think of all our Kiwi friends and smile...

We're living with the lovely Phil, Mags and Skye Kelly which seems to be working out rather well and we're beginning to get settled and find our way around.
Highlights of this include finding all the back routes to avoid the rush hour (though not necessarily) traffic and sampling the various coffee shops and pubs; we have a rating system on our fridge for the various establishments though Phil and Neil seem to have the monopoly on the pubs!
I've been to a couple of parent and toddler groups (one has a waiting list!) which have been ok but different people go each week so it's not all that easy to get to know people but I know this takes time.
The house is great and we've named it 'The Ark' - partly because our children have three Noah's Arks between them and we have one large piece of artwork depicting it, partly because of the ridiculous amount of rain that fell in June (and thus far July too!) and at one point flowed through the porch but also because the drains got blocked and overflowed down the path and the toilets needed fixing on three occasions (the house doesn't sound that great now does least we're renting!) There's loads of space which is great because shipments have arrived from the US and NZ (ours took 21 WEEKS!!! having gone via Valencia and having been quoted 8-10 weeks) so there are boxes galore. There's also a cute little garden, just about the right size for two toddlers, and Matthew and Skye love it - they'd love it even more if it would stop raining...

Sharing life (highs and lows) with the people we've joined here in Bristol is continuing to be fun and it's been great to have friends to stay including the wonderful Mansergh family.

Outside of life in Bristol, I had a weekend with my Nan in Peterborough (I got a whole two nights of undisturbed sleep which has not happened for a very long time!) and we went up to Sheffield for the TOM weekend which was great as we got to catch up with lots of people and I shared my 30th birthday with some special friends (no photos as I was too busy chatting!). I'm feeling ok about this milestone, though have to agree with Debbie, there's something about saying I'm in my thirties and not my twenties...

Other headlines include the fact that Matthew is now independently walking! He's been walking holding our hands for a while but would drop straight to his knees whenever we let go. Well, last Thursday he walked straight out the bathroom
all by himself and did about ten steps! As Mags and I are whooping (well, more me than Mags) Matthew stands still with the look of "What's all the fuss about?"! He's so confident (when he thinks we're not looking!) I think he's been secretly walking for weeks!

There are a couple of movies to follow but here's a picture I've found proving the sun does shine in this country, albeit occasionally!

So that's about it. We're getting settled - again! One thing that has obviously helped this is the arrival of my Pride and Prejudice DVD - just need an uninterrupted six hour stretch to watch it...