Family Video

The year that Kitty was six

20/09/2017

I am not ready for Kitty to be seven tomorrow. I know I say this every time one of the children turns another year older, and it’s true that I would happily slow down the sun to enjoy their childhood just a little bit longer, but in this case it’s a fairly literal not ready. Her present is made (just as long as John goes to buy me the final component) but there are cakes to be made (one for school and one for home), and birthday banners to be found and hung and all the last minute flurry of wrapping and trying to keep one super super excited little girl just about calm enough to sleep tonight.

So for now, it’s time to look back at the year in which Kitty was six:

And if you want a little blast down memory lane, here she is at two:

The year you were two from Carie K on Vimeo.

three:

four:

and five:

she was so little – sob!

Family Siblings

Siblings 2017: September

15/09/2017

The evenings are dark, the mornings have turned decidedly nippy, and for the first time since February at least one of the kids is wearing a coat; it’s definitely September, and the time for Siblings posts seems to have rushed around once again.  I’m certain that it wasn’t five minutes ago we were all in shorts and now we’re digging out the fluffy socks.

September has been a milestone month for two of my little trio.  Kitty started Class 1 (equivalent to Year 2 in mainstream and the formal start to Lower School), and Pip Squeak has graduated from parent and toddler group to spend three mornings a week in nursery.  Both mark big changes, Pip joining the Early Years section just as Kitty leaves it to start the next adventure, and I think Elma started to wonder why she was the only one doing exactly the same as last term.

It’s made for a start to the month full of last minute shopping trips for new boots and shoes, the search for comfy slippers that don’t have characters on them, and then the early morning search for a slipper that has mysteriously gone missing between purchase and school (we found it a whole day later zipped into one of the kid’s camping backpacks.

Kitty has shot up over the summer, though thankfully her feet haven’t grown too much.  That being said, an adult 2.5 is good going when you’re six.  Elma is still taller than Pip, but she’s so much slighter in build that there’s barely any difference between them.  They can share wellies and t-shirts and jumpers and all sorts of useful things, though for some extraordinary reason they think this is a lot less exciting when we do when we’re scrambling around the house looking for whatever sock is nearest.  With only 20 months between them I can easily see that they’ll leapfrog each other all the way through their childhood until eventually Pip grows taller and stays taller.  Elma is never going to be short, but she might well end up the littlest of the three.

But for now that’s years away; now they are all three about the excitement of school and seeing their friends again, exploring our new house and working out which trees to climb in the garden.

They bump into each other during the school day; Elma and Pip are often playing outside at the same time, even if Pip is just in the nursery garden, but they’ll have a little chat over the garden gate before Elma rushes off to play, and Kitty told me of her class heading out to play and seeing their kindergarten class friends from last year peeping out of the window.  I love that they have half an eye and an ear out for each other, and that they do seems to really underscore the relationship they have as a trio which is entirely separate to their part in our family.

It’s a relationship that has it’s ups and downs and fallings out, and there are days when I wonder whether it is genuinely possible for them to spend five minutes in the same house without someone wailing, but they’re balanced by the days of coming home to find that they’ve all been working on a “show” (to be performed while balanced precariously on top of our garden chairs), or to see them snuggled up in a big arm chair to listen to a story.  They’re friends, with the added layer of sibling that allows them to push every button going and forget about it a minute later.

For our pictures this month we headed up to the Clent Hills.  I had a perfectly brilliant plan that involved gorgeous evening sunshine, views of Wales (just), and not a single drop of rain, and to be fair, when we drove up to the car park, and when we first started out along the path, the sunshine was dimpling through the trees and it was all looking very perfect.

And I must point out that it didn’t rain on us until after we’d climbed to the view point and were heading over the ridgeline and back to the car.  But rain it did.  All those clouds that you can see in the back of my photos converged on the top of the hill and we dashed down the hill and into the woods for a bit of shelter.  It was drier, but definitely darker, and with everyone else finding their own shelter it felt as if it could be just us and the fairies.

It gave it a spirit of adventure that just isn’t there when the sun shines.  Which as we go into the autumn is probably a good idea!

Two little sisters, and their brother too, in September

Do go and say hi to my co-hosts: Donna at What the Redhead Said Natalie at Little Jam Pot Life,  Keri-Anne at GingerLily Tea, Amber at Meet the Wildes, Katie at Mummy Daddy Me and of course the mastermind behind the whole thing, Lucy at Dear Beautiful.



Family Handmade

Socks to climb a mountain

14/09/2017

I have adventures knitted into my socks.  They’re the ultimate in portable knitting and as you never know when you’re going to have a few moments to sit and knit, especially in a life that involves commutes on the train, three children that love play parks and a husband that can be persuades into taking a few moments to sit and sketch, there’s usually a sock in progress in the bottom of my handbag, hopefully also with the right amount of needles.  It means that there’s a pair of socks in John’s drawer that I made on a trip to Paris, another pair that I think went to Vencie, or perhaps to Spain, and there are socks that could tell stories of road trips around Europe and some solid stints on the motorway back home in the UK.

But more than that, they are often the souvenirs I buy of the places we visit; I have a very good radar for yarn shops (thank you Ravelry), and a ball of sock yarn is so nice and neat and doesn’t have to match anything else in my stash, it can be it’s own little reminder of somewhere we love.

This yarn came from Hebden Bridge, which we passed through on our way back from the Lakes earlier in the summer.  It was bucketing it down for most of the day and, not wanting to rush too much on the last day of our mini child-free escape, we pottered our way along the streets, dipping in and out of anywhere that took our fancy, a rare luxury not afforded when the children are around.  We browsed bookshops, took shelter in the Arts Centre (and came out several cards and a butter knife later), and then we found ourselves at Ribbon Circus.  And while I picked out a couple of buttons for Pip’s Snowflake Hoody and looked at all the pretty things, John started to peruse the sock yarn.

It is by this that I know that I have irrevocably changed my husband; not only does he appreciate a hand knit sock, he’s even happy to get stuck in and pick out the yarn.  And with that much effort put into the choosing (and our unpacking revealing just how many overly ventilated socks he currently owns), they were an easy choice the moment my sock knitting needles became free.

The yarn is Stylecraft’s Head Over Heels sock yarn, in a colour which they’ve called Everest.  All of their colours are named after mountains but while I get some of them; Etna and Fuji have lots of hot reds and yellows, Everest isn’t the first mountain that comes to mind looking at those socks.

To me, it looks far more like the hills behind Ullswater; the views along the route that took us high up into the hills, to sit at the shore of Red Tarn and gaze still even further above us to the tiny dots on the skyline as a steady trail of raincoats and backpacks climbed up to the summit of Hellvellyn.

The greens are the grass and the bracken, the blue the sky, the indigo is the colour of mountains off far away in the distance, beyond another lake, and the red and purple are stone and heather bathed in the evening sunlight.  That holiday, even all the way back in July, is still stuck in my mind as the two days when we switched off from the world and went to live in a bubble.  It’s not sustainable in the long term but for two nights it was pure bliss and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  I suspect that the socks have absorbed that memory, and that they carry with them love and hope and relaxation.  Because I finished them on Tuesday night, and on Wednesday John headed off for a trip to Majorca, where hand knitted wooly socks are not traditionally the choice of footwear, even if the temperatures have dropped a smidge for September, and the socks went along for the ride.

For Knitters Notes on this one, it’s a 72 stitch sock with a heel flap heel.  On the leg I knit to the first colour change past 60 rounds of plain stst (on top of the 20 rounds of ribbing) which really helps to get identical socks when working with self striping sock yarn.  Or at least it should.  I did everything I could to make these identical and yet …

Sometimes you just have to laugh with the knitting furies and move on!

The final note is that this is a very sticky yarn and trying to use the ball pulling out from the centre I got horrible tangles time and time again.  I’ve got another ball from Stylecraft in the stash and I will definitely working from the outside in, no matter how much that makes the ball of yarn run away from me on the train!

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On

Writing

Writer with a capital “W”

12/09/2017

I’ve been waiting a long time to write this post.  In one sense I’ve been waiting since April, but really it’s been the best part of 37 years coming, since a tiny little version of me first settled down to play let’s pretend.

I promised myself that this was the year when I was going to claw back some time from all the busy chaos of job/parenting/house selling/everything else, and pick up my pen and write fiction.  Something, anything, it didn’t have to be good, but it did have to be finished.  More than that, it was getting submitted for publication.  Sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and a pen with no plan and no idea what to write about is possibly the best way to make my brain freeze, so I bought a few magazines (procrastination: check) and flipped through them looking for something to help shovel the cobwebs out of my brain.

And so in January I sat down with a short video on the Battle of Britain Memorial, the names Tom and Bernard, and asked my imagination to find their backstory.  I don’t think a single paragraph of the first version survived even into the second edit, but I liked the second better, and as I wrote and re-wrote, both characters started to get under my skin and I’d find little post it notes littering the corner of my desk with clues written on them, “they go to the pub”, to be deciphered at home in the evening.  On the last day for entries it was nearly finished, but not quite.  It was a long day at work, Pip took forever and a day to settle to bed and there was a huge part of me that was tempted to chalk it up to experience, know that I’d at least had a stab at some fiction, and try again later in the year, maybe when I wasn’t so tired.  Except that I’d put a lot of work in, and I have three small children; I’m never not going to be tired.  Two hours to the deadline. Bum, meet seat.

As an editing technique I’m not entirely sure it’s got longevity, but I can tell you that when you’re trying to bring the word count down to under 1700 with the clock ticking away, nothing is precious, and I slashed away great chunks of text, no matter how many pretty words were in it.

At quarter to midnight the text was done, I added the spacing and the cover sheet and we were good to go.

Never has making an account on a website felt like it took so long.

Five to midnight: the website doesn’t accept Apple’s Pages, we need a PDF.

11.58: I grabbed the PDF, uploaded it, paid the entry fee, pressed submit, and breathed a huge sigh of relief as it landed just inside the deadline.

12.01: there was just one problem.  That story, the story I’d worked so hard for, the story I’d pushed myself to finish and pushed myself to let out into the world, that wasn’t the one I uploaded.  What I uploaded was a PDF copy of a page of scribbled thoughts and half finished sentences, blindingly obviously not the right thing. Cold dark fury at myself ran down my spine.  I did the only thing you can do at five minutes past midnight; I emailed Writing Magazine, explained I’d just entered their competition but sent them the wrong document, and asked if there was any way they could swap it.  What did I have to lose?

Two weeks later, when I got an email to say that they had sent the right PDF to the judges I was pleased and relieved in equal measure.  All I had been trying to achieve was to write a story and submit it; success, for now at least, was measured just in taking part.  And so I promptly forgot about it.  I didn’t read it again, certain that I’d find something I wanted to edit a bit more, and life was busy enough.

Until one day in April, I opened my inbox to find a message headed “Writing Magazine Battle of Britain Competition”.  I was so certain as I clicked on it that it was a nice standard, “thank you for your entry, your story is free to go” sort of a message.  It wasn’t.

And now there are no excuses, no possible justification for listening to any inner self doubt, and while I’m sure I’ll have many regrets throughout life, this will never be one of them.

I am a published Writer, with a capital “W”. But of course, this is only the beginning.

Family Milestones

First Day(s)

10/09/2017

On Friday morning John and I walked out of the school gates. Both of us together, and for the first time entirely without any of our children.  It’s been a milestone kind of a week.

If the kids were in a mainstream school then this week would have marked Elma’s start in Reception, while Kitty would have gone into year 2.  As it was, my littlest miss was the only one of the three for whom absolutely nothing had changed.  She moved up from Nursery to Kindergarten at the start of last term, and will stay there until she is six and ready to join the lower school.  She’ll spend more days there now because it is equivalent to school not pre-school, but for her Friday morning was about things getting back to normal.  She was so excited to see her teacher again that she snuck off for a quick hug the day before when we took Kitty in, and when she finally got to go to her classroom and stay there, she barely remembered to say bye to us, and we couldn’t ask for more.

It was a good omen for Pip, who has really truly started nursery.  Just for three mornings a week, but that’s three mornings more than he’s ever spent away from us on a regular basis.  We weren’t really sure how it was going to go with Pip; half the time he’s incredibly confident and barrels into things without a worry, and the rest he’s still my snuggly little baby, wanting to make sure that I stay put and give him cuddles, and then stay there some more so he can play and still come back for a hug whenever he likes it.  We took the precaution of having him drop off both of his sisters before he went in, to just reinforce the message that this was a good thing, and then we put his coat and bad in his locker, his shoes and wellies in the shoe locker, and it was time.  His nursery teacher has known him since he was 9 months old when he and Elma first went to parent and toddler group, and she came and took him by the hand and asked if he wanted to go and find some toys, and that was that.  As soon as the door shut we scooted off down the passage, not wanting him to catch sight of us the next time it opened, and confident that if he got upset he had two sisters and his parent and toddler group teacher on hand for cuddles.

Apparently he had one slightly wobbly moment but was entirely diverted by going out in the garden and getting properly muddy.  Elma, playing in the big garden at the same time, told me she heard him shout “I’ve got a soggy bottom!” with great delight as he came down the slide, so all was clearly well there.

And for Kitty, this was the big jump, the move from the early years into Class 1, and the start (or in her case, re-start) of formal education.  Last year when we brought her for her first day she was shy, a bit scared, and holding onto her courage with both hands.  This year she couldn’t wait to get there.  She’s been so excited about Class 1 I think she started counting down from a good two weeks out, and she wasn’t the only one.  All the way through the school grounds she was calling out to someone, or they were calling to her, and she just couldn’t get up to her classroom fast enough.

The school does milestones with a degree of ceremony, and so we went from her classroom to the school hall to watch the other classes file in and get ready to welcome their new Class 1.  We heard them singing before we saw them, brought to the hall by their kindergarten teachers and their new class teacher, all wearing golden paper crowns and I’ll admit, when they first walked in, and I saw Kitty looking both so little compared to the older children, and yet so very grown up and very ready for this, the lump in my throat may have pushed out a tear or two (and I know I wasn’t the only parent who felt the same).

They were told the story of the little golden acorn, and then it was time for each of them to walk through an arch of flowers and leaves to be formally welcomed to Class 1, and to be given a gold painted clay acorn from one of the current Class 9 pupils; a gift from oldest to youngest to pass the baton on.

I know I go on about how wonderful it is to see her happy at school, but I promise you, when you’ve had a child who is seriously deeply miserable in their education you get to a point where you feel as if they may never be happy at school again, as if such a thing is entirely impossible, and to see her not sucking her thumb and hunching her shoulders, but confident and smiling, and at home, will never get old for me.

And so they start the next chapter, and so do we.  It had more practical impact on John (who went to the gym), but it is another marker that we’ve stepped out of the baby days, and more adventures await.  Now all we have to do is remember to get organised for tomorrow.

PS – in case you were wondering about the unusual photo props – Kitty was asked to collect a stick big enough to be a walking stick and a stone that she liked and bring them to class on her first day – both came from our garden; the stick was a bough cut from a laurel at the very end of the garden because we couldn’t find a stick lying on the ground that was long enough or sturdy enough – such are the perils of being tall!