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September 2015

Elma Family Kitty Me and Mine Photography Pip

Me and Mine 2015: September


After the international jetsetting theme of August’s photos, it’s time to return to the more everyday ordinary location of our back garden.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

And yet that seems very apt for our September photos. If August’s theme was traveling purely for the joy of it, and the fun of being away from home seeing the world together, September has been about the time we’re reunited back home.

It’s been the month when the big changes happened, when Kitty started school, and H and I threw our world on its head as I went back to work a couple of weeks ago, leaving him at home as the stay at home Dad.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

I think for all of us there have been hard parts and easy parts of our new normal.  I’m still not used to being away from the children for so long, I miss spending so much time with H, and there are moments that just tear me with guilt; Pip’s tears in the morning, or Elma telling me (quite happily) that she’d been crying for me at the play park, “but you didn’t come Mummy!”, even if I know in my heart of hearts that my tiny boy was all smiles as soon as he was presented with his breakfast and Elma was crying not out of sadness but because she was cross that H had buckled her into the buggy after she refused to walk home.  But when I get to work, I’m doing a job I know how to do and which I take pleasure in doing well so the days are passing quickly enough.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

H is loving spending more time with the children and really getting to know the ins and outs of their personalities but misses the halcyon days of our summer at home: save for the day I went to Blogtacular he’d never had all three by himself for more than the odd hour and I think it’s been a bit of a learning curve to balance their needs with running the house.  I’m trying quite hard not to giggle when he tells me in surprise that he hasn’t sat down all day, bless the man, I’m not sure what he thought I did all day for the last few years.

And then we have our little trio, who on the whole seem to be coping pretty well.  Aside from the switching the obligatory guilt trips from Daddy to Mummy, and I suspect a bit of a change to the lunch menu (H is less keen on veggie pasta shapes and cheese), life for the littlest two has stayed quite familiar, with playgroup and gym club and shopping and playing in and out of the house.  When we took Elma out of nursery last January she got used to the concept of Kitty being somewhere she was not and so while she and Pip clearly love having Kitty around, there hasn’t been a terrible sense of loss of their ringleader and life potters on quite happily.Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

And Kitty, my little newly five year old, has decided that we’re part of a Mummy and Kitty club of grown up girls who go out to school and work.  And aside from a tummy bug that put her off school for a couple of days, though thankfully she was better after a couple of hours, she’s been happy and settled.  She seems to collect helping stickers like they’re going out of fashion, is very proud of having been the one to take the register back to the office by herself, and yesterday I got a picture from H half way through the afternoon showing her beaming smile as she hold out a little card that says she was ‘Star of the Day’.  I think it’s safe to say school is a hit.Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

But for all that, life is still at its best when finally we can all be back home together again.  Silly little moments sat mucking around in the garden, trying to make a human pyramid just because Kitty asked if we could, these are the ordinary moments that are more precious to me than any possession, the moments that make my very everyday sort of life my biggest blessing.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

I take our picture, a portrait of a family home at last, not because I think that our separate days could ever diminish the love that knots us together but to recognise it and to cherish it.

My family, in September:

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine

dear beautiful

Elma Family Kitty Pip

The Parisian Stereotype and the Culture Chasm


Space for the Butterflies - the Parisian Stereotype and the Culture Chasm

We knew not to expect any facilities for the children in shops or cafes in Paris; no high chairs, no smaller child’s portions, baby changing is a shelf in one cubicle of the ladies if you’re lucky and I’d heard of the “seen and not heard” expectation for children. But I think I thought it was as much a stereotype as the idea that the English only eat roast beef; a bit of a joke, and last accurate in the 1950’s.

And for many of the people we met in Paris it seemed to be.

But as I mentioned in my Postcard from Paris, as soon as we tried to do more than simply wander the streets, we came smack bang up against the stereotype.

It started in the basement of the Musee d’Orangeries. Elma, up in H’s arms so that she didn’t run about or disturb people, dropped a shoe, and wailed to tell us it was gone.  We got it back and were calming her down and heading for the exit when one of the Musee staff came rushing up to us shouting in French and English that we had to take her out, she was ruining the paintings, and on and on and on.  It was unpleasant for us, and poor Elma was really scared, someone was attacking her beloved Daddy and she did not like it one bit.  The irony that in shouting at us, and having us stop, turn and face, he made more noise, possibly further ruining the paintings (I’m still going “what!!?” over that one), was apparently lost on this man.  We explained that yes she’d been upset and we were already on our way out but this apparently wasn’t good enough and when H finally in deep frustration asked (in French) whether it was forbidden for French children to cry, we got a final barrage that I couldn’t translate before he ran away. As in actually ran away into the next room.  The cultural divide has never seemed so much of a chasm.

We put it down to bad luck and I was determined not to let it spoil the day so we headed on to the Musee d’Orsay but while they didn’t shout and run at us it was more of the same.  They didn’t like the fact that Elma was walking, winced and hurried over to stand in front of her if she got within a metre of the cable that you need to stand behind (so still a good couple of metres from the actual paintings) even when she was holding my hand.  They didn’t like Pip being in a sling on my front but couldn’t do much about it and when the girls were tired they said we couldn’t carry them.  Their conversation was shushed and we were given ‘the look’ when Pip started making happy chatty noises.  None of this was by other visitors to the Musee, several of whom smiled at Pip and were rewarded with beaming grins and chatty noises (and frowns from the Musee staff), and a few of whom had small children and were getting similar treatment.

The museums might be free for children in Paris but it turns out they’d really rather you didn’t bring them.

I’m not writing a post just to say “oh the French people were mean to me!” While I will never ever understand their attitude, they’re perfectly entitled to it and there’s part of me that’s reading this back and thinking that perhaps I ought not to write it,

But I am writing and I will publish, mostly for the me that sat in the cafe of BHV, slumped over the table, tired, hot, on the point of tears, worried and feeling very very judged. What if our children are awful, what if they’re so incredibly badly behaved and we never realised, what if I am the super special snowflake mummy who thinks the world revolves around her children after all?

I know I’m opening myself up to a floodgate of comments from super mummies who took their seventeen toddlers to all the Musees in Paris and not only did they have no problems, but the Musee staff gently applauded them as she left for having such awesome children and in fact if I’d done a better job of parenting I would have been fine. But I also know it’s not just me or my family.

Because while H went for cake, I turned to Google, and with huge relief found this article from Bee Rowlatt writing in the Telegraph back in 2012 about a trip to Paris with her toddler.  Everything she described, I recognised.

I’m not trying to start a crusade to make Parisian museums nicer to children.  I think it’s really shortsighted that they don’t encourage the next generation to love and enjoy art in the same way that so many British galleries and museums do, but it’s their loss.  If they want to change their culture it will only ever come from within, not because some English people think that for all their geographical closeness, the culture might as well be on another planet.

No this is simply for anyone reading this in a department store cafe, or in the corner of a park in Paris, trying not to feeling hurt, judged and found wanting, and desperately googling “did I ruin my children”. Firstly, your children are awesome, secondly, you are a great parent. With a number of charming and lovely exceptions, the Parisians just don’t seem to like children very much, which is a tragedy for them (I don’t know what they do with their children but we didn’t see a single Parisian child the whole time we were there) and to quote Bee “I’m sure it’s a lovely museum. Maybe one day I’ll find out.”

Elma Family Kitty Living Arrows Photography Pip

Living Arrows 2015: 39/52


Living Arrows: a little moment of the week to pause, savour and treasure

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows


Back in the pre-children days H and I had a long standing hockey competition running between the two of us.  It was played across the width of our garden, with folding crates at each end as goals and pretty much the only rule that you lost if you hit it under the fence and into the neighbour’s garden.  The patio was off the edge of the pitch and all other obstacles were valid.  Our rivalry was fierce, and only my complete lack of any sort of hockey skills prevented the score from being more evenly matched.  If will power, commitment and determination were enough it would have been a solid draw.

H found the goals this week, tucked into the back of the shed and looking slightly the worse for wear for having spent several years being a home to spiders, and pulled them out for a little family hockey practice.

One of Kitty’s birthday presents was a Kitty-sized stick, and she was absolutely thrilled and quite desperate to get out and hit something with it, so she and H played while I pushed Pip in the swing and he told me again and again how he really ought to be playing too.

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows

So we had a go and with his assistance as ‘obstacle to be given a wide berth’ I did manage to score the first goal and promptly retire, thereby ensuring victory!

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows

Happily, there was no shortage of volunteers to take my place; Elma got really stuck in, and Pip was crawling crawling crawling desperately trying to keep up.  It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if his first steps are straight to a hockey stick.

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows


Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip Working Mum {the ordinary moments}

Five o’clock feeling


There is an invisible force that starts to work at about ten to five.  The clock has been showing 16.50 for at least the last half hour, during which I’ve sent at least a hundred emails, tidyed my desk, checked the clock, written my next to do list, checked the clock, checked all my letters went out, and checked the clock, but now finally it says 17.00.

I know that I’ve got plenty of time for my train but even so it’s like a shot of adreneline and I whizz round closing email and trackers and cabinets and put away all the other bits of detritus from a work day, and go.

Down the stairs, out the door, along the road, round the corner, down the hill. Not running, not yet, but walking as fast as I possibly can.

Into the station, check the board and my train is on time, but something catches my ear; the station announcer apologising for a late train.  Well it might be late for him, and it might be late according to the text that scrolls across the announcement board and possibly according to most of the people on the platform but for me it’s beautifully, wonderfully on time.  The train that will get me home a full 15 minutes earlier isn’t here yet and I sprint, pushing every last ounce of energy into getting me up the stairs three at a time, along the bridge, around the people with a giant suitcase and a cello case, down the stairs, juddering to a halt at the back of a mass of people queuing at the train doors.

But even though I know I’m getting home faster than I’d thought I’m still longing the miles away, counting down each and every station.

But finally we get there, and finally I’m in the car and pulling into the drive.  And when I open the door of the house there’s a tiny moment where they haven’t quite noticed yet, a family at peace and at play, or sometimes a family in noise and in chaos, but a family that is not yet quite complete.

Space for the Butterflies - Five o'clock feeling

Space for the Butterflies - Five o'clock feeling

A head jerks up and sees me standing in the door, and first one and then another shout “Mummy!!!” as they throw themselves into arms or legs or any bit they can get a hold on.  And the littlest wails to be picked up and cuddled and held as he realises what has been missing all day.  I hug them, kiss them, breathe in the smells of baby, of felt tip pen on fingers and a smidgen of someone’s lunch mushed into their hair.

Space for the Butterflies - Five o'clock feeling

Space for the Butterflies - Five o'clock feeling

Space for the Butterflies - Five o'clock feeling

It’s both the best moment of my day, and in a funny way one of the hardest.  Best because finally no one is missing, I don’t have to correct myself when I accidentally refer to myself in the plural, and because the backbone of grit and determination that has held me together all day can stand down, and best because of the armfuls of hugs and the warm smiles from H, and worst because it’s in that moment that I realise just how much I have been missing them.  The pleasure I take in my job, the fun and camaraderie in my team, and the extraordinary amount of cake we got through this week, all seem to fade into obscurity in comparison to the perfect joy of being back together, a five again once more.

Space for the Butterflies - Five o'clock feeling

Until tomorrow, when I’ll be looking forward to five o’clock again.

Space for the Butterflies - Five o'clock feeling