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January 2017

Family Me and Mine Photography

Me and Mine 2017: January

31/01/2017

In centuries past February was considered an unlucky month (we’re talking Roman history here). It’s why the month is so short, you wouldn’t want any more unlucky days than you really had to put up with, and why leap days (also unlucky) got added into the mix too, but I am really looking forward to it being February tomorrow.  January has been a whirlwind; hurtling past us while we clutched for our balance.

It’s been a month of colds and bugs, work and school and hockey matches and birthday parties, and constantly tidying the house for viewers who complain about things they could have known from the photos, and I could swear it was only Christmas a week or so ago, especially as I only just unearthed my Christmas fruit cake (made in November, tidied away in December before a viewing).

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine 2017: January

The kids are doing their best; it must be very strange and puzzling to be constantly being asked to help tidy up, especially when all they want to do is play trains and spread their crayons all over the dinner table, but they’re trying hard to help, even when their efforts go wildly in the wrong direction.  Even if we don’t find a buyer right this moment, at least in February the near constant flow of viewings should slow down enough to give us all a break.

The girls have loved being back at school and nursery; they celebrated Kings Feast last Friday (a delayed Epiphany celebration) with beautiful crowns, a parade through the three kindergartens and nursery, and a feast of raspberries, blueberries and grapes.  Pip is the one under the weather at the moment; our poor wee boy has been happy only when curled up in someone’s arms since mid morning on Monday and hopefully he’ll shake off whatever’s getting him down.Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine 2017: January

I think when months are crazy busy it’s hard to look back and pull the highlights out of the endless flurry, but this month I’ve loved the brief quiet times we’ve had at home; making lemon cake the way my Grannie taught me, sitting on the floor playing trains with Pip while the girls fill up their colouring books, and no one to phone me, no need to record what I’m doing in 6 minute units, and no pressure to be pushing myself just that little bit harder and faster even when I know I’m already maxed out.

Last weekend John had a double header of hockey matches so on Sunday I took the children up to Birmingham for the Chinese New Year celebrations and even in the pouring rain it was brilliant. I shan’t give away too many spoilers because with a bit of luck and a following wind I’ll post about it later in the week, but dragons, lions, and balloon arches were never going to go down badly.

My pictures for this month came from Warwick; we love going to the park there and we love watching the ducks on the river, and the kids adore the playpark.  I don’t have that many photos this month; my camera battery died pretty early on (fail to prepare; prepare to fail and all!) and the light was fading, but I love the few that I did get, for all that at least one child is making a funny face in the pictures.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine 2017: January

We had no idea Pip was blowing raspberries until I got home and saw it close up!

My intention for Me and Mine for this year is the same as my intention for Siblings; I want to take pictures that I’m really proud of, and I want to be organised enough to have the time and the light in which to do it.  We’ll gloss over the fact that my camera battery died fairly early on in proceedings this time round (fail to prepare; prepare to fail) but I’m happy that even the few I took have all five of us in focus and even vaguely looking at the camera.  It’s a good start to what I am determined will be a wonderful year of family portraits.

My little family, in January:

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine 2017: January

 

The Me and Mine Project
Family Kitty {the ordinary moments}

The Storytellers

29/01/2017

In all of the crazy work work work work work sleep work work work work of the last couple of weeks, when taking pretty pictures, and writing blog posts and visiting even my most favourite of favourite blogs has gone out of the window, I have been writing.  In September I got half way through a short story and all through the to the end of the year I was itching to get back to it, and one day I probably will, at least that’s what I’m telling myself.  This time, when an idea started to nestle into my brain and refuse to be ignored I just started writing.  Longhand, on paper, very pretty paper but paper all the dame, with little bits and pieces mapped out ahead so I at least have a vague idea where I’m going, but not much more than that.

Technically it’s a book, or at least it will be when I finish, but putting that there in black and white has distinct shades of over-egging the pudding.  Stephen King writes about the first draft being telling the story to yourself, and only when you get through the second draft can you even contemplate letting anyone else see it, and that’s oddly comforting.  Right now, as much as I am enjoying every word (and keep finding that I’ve sat down to write for 20 mins and it’s an hour later and I really ought to have gone to bed), I am equally certain that I have invoked every dubious cliche, every idea has already been had and it may just be the worst thing ever written, so it’s probably a good thing that I’m writing it just for me.  I’m not even going to tell you the set up, not now and possibly not ever.  But it is a lot of fun, and even though longhand is the most deeply impractical way of writing anything, it’s been nice to step away from the computer, and have a little screen free time.  When I never ever have anything published, you heard it here first!

But in a week when writing was my only creative recharge, it seems that my eldest apple has not fallen too far from the tree.  Kitty has been making little picture books for years, usually with the odd caption or two, but nothing quite resembling a full story.  But this week she upped her game and made me a story and activity book.

Space for the Butterflies - the storytellers

She started it in school as a surprise and had finished it before I got home so I got the first look at the finished article.

Space for the Butterflies - the storytellers

Her current school won’t teach formal academics until next year; she’s not learning to read or write at the moment, so everything she does is from memories of last year and input from us whenever she asks, and to see her pull that back out of the memory vault and use it, when this time last year she hated reading, hated writing, thought it all boring and pointless and couldn’t understand why she was being asked to do it, is just wonderful.  It’s in Kitty words rather than the traditional English but I would so rather that she wants to tell stories, but needs to work on the vocab, than that her spelling be perfect but she’s entirely disengaged.

Space for the Butterflies - the storytellers

To you and I it reads:

“The Lost Bear

Once in a land far away the forest was very empty. But a bear came to the forest and he found his mummy at the edge of the forest. The end”

Space for the Butterflies - the storytellers

And just in case the story isn’t enough to melt me into a puddle, she’s added “ativtes” – two sums, a butterfly maze, and a spot the difference.

Space for the Butterflies - the storytellers

I love it, I cherish it, and I’m definitely tucking it away in her memory box to pull out on her 18th birthday (after all isn’t that what parents are for).

And perhaps it comes across as being all super special snowflake; in the grand scheme of the world, and probably in comparison to some of her peers in mainstream school, this is peanuts.  And apart from the obvious caveat that my daughter is a genius (a line of facts to which we swore fealty in NCT classes regardless of anything so rigorous as a truth), I’m not claiming that either she nor I are ever going to be anything special.

This is special to me for two reasons.  The first I’ve touched on; we took a gamble at the end of the year that the change we made would be the right answer for a very unhappy Kitty, and that she has come back to writing of her own accord, without pushing or enticement, gives me comfort that the risk was worth it, and that when she learns again next year, she’s going to soar.

And the other is perhaps more selfish.  Is it greedy to want to see some aspect of the genetics of your own that you like showing up in your children?  All three of mine look like John, clearly have his sporting abilities (especially Pip), love music as much as both of us, and art and generally creativity, but wanting to make little books, that’s just a little bit of me bubbling to the surface and narcissistic or not, I’m not ashamed to say that I take pleasure in seeing that I’ve passed on to my lovely eldest daughter something that gives me so much fun.

 

 

 

Family Photography

Sunset at the Windmill

25/01/2017

Eventually you get tired of paying £16 to take your children to soft play every time someone wants to come around, criticise your paintwork, object to the existence of trees (in a village in rural Warwickshire), and conspicuously not buy your house.

It’s definitely been a blessing when we’ve had a run of viewings on the sort of wintery day where the damp swirls around you like a lethargic blanket, and you desperately need somewhere for the kids to blow off the head of steam built up from 20 minutes of sitting on the bottom step while their parents run around like headless chickens hiding normal things that normal people would have in a normal house all in the interests of appeasing the furies of the property market.

But Friday, despite my horribly cold, was an utterly beautiful day.  Clear sunshine and warm blue skies dotted with popcorn clouds that faded to lilac as we loaded up and left the house to our estate agent.

I knew in the moment that John said he had an idea, exactly where we would be coming.  If When we sell our house and move away, this will be one of the places I miss the most.  So many adventures, so many spur of the moment picnics, and so many pictures.

For once, I didn’t have my big camera with me, and while part of me contemplated sneaking back home, nipping in to get it and sneaking out again, part of me also wanted to accept the challenge.  My phone camera is brilliant, and in things like low light it’s probably better than the big camera, but I rarely use it for taking ‘proper pictures’, the sort that have a bit more thought and effort behind them, the sort that I’d print, not just pop on Instagram.

Space for the Butterflies - Sunset at the Windmill

It was so much fun.  As far as prettty light goes we couldn’t have had it much better, lovely golden rosy curls of sunlight, and just a few other people who’d climbed up to watch the sun sink into the trees on the far horizon.

Space for the Butterflies - Sunset at the Windmill

The kids loved being up there too; there was space to run around and jump off the wall, and for Pip the time to find a seriously muddy puddle and start to wallow in it.  He came home looking like he’d been auditioning for Oliver, but with a beaming smile underneath all the smudges.

Space for the Butterflies - Sunset at the Windmill

I love this shot, even with someone standing in it. I thought about asking her to move but as the sun crept lower there was a sort of camaraderie of all of us watching, a stillness that it felt wrong to disturb.  And I’m English so that was never going to happen, and I hope it tells the story of that sunset up on the hill, watching until the only glimmer came through the trees and then was gone, leaving only big wide skies and the start of the stars.

Space for the Butterflies - Sunset at the Windmill

But my final shot is my absolute favourite.  I was trying to get Kitty to do some jumping shots for me; I love the picture I have of her reaching up on tiptoe to stretch to the windmill’s sails, and I thought we could try something similar in silhouette; a winter to that summer.  But we couldn’t quite get it right and she decided she’d had enough jumping for one evening, so John took over.

Space for the Butterflies - Sunset at the Windmill

Suspended in mid-air, hanging from a windmill sail – or perhaps not! Basic physics will tell you that he can’t be holding on – if he could jump that high then his weight would pull the sail down to the vertical, so yes, it’s a trick shot and all down to perspective.  It is however, probably the best trick shot I’ve pulled off yet.

Not bad for a quick escape out of the house, and something for me to remember next time I do have the big camera with me too.

Family Kitty Motherhood {the ordinary moments}

Milestones like buses

22/01/2017

Do you find that with little ones the milestones come all at once?  When they were really tiny they were saying “Mama”, and walking, and proving their father wrong on the question of broccoli all within a moment, and then it was running and throwing their arms around your neck for a jam smothered kiss and the first unprompted “I luff you”.  It feels like we’ve hit two more within a breath of each other.

 Space for the Butterflies - on milestones and the lessons that my daughter teaches me
The first of Kitty’s teeth coincided with the start of school, falling out into a post-church-coffee bourbon biscuit much to her very great surprise when aged 5 and a smidgen her parents had entirely failed to mention that teeth fall out and it’s not a problem.  It’s our biggest parenting fail to date but in my defence I thought I had another year to cover the subject.
Tooth number two, another bottom one, followed quickly after and then for the last year or so we’ve got used to that gap, and watched the new big girl teeth make their way in below.  One top tooth in particular has been very wobbly for months, to the point that we were starting to contemplate a dentist visit to check all was well when I got a text message late one Friday afternoon while I was down in London.  Her first top tooth was eagerly awaiting the tooth fairy.
In our house the tooth fairy doesn’t take the teeth, because Kitty wants to keep them, and she doesn’t leave money because she didn’t have any to hand when the first tooth fell out and had to make do with whatever she could find.  Back then it was a chocolate coin which I’m near certain had my dentist grandfather turning in his grave, and most recently it was a tiny notepad with a gold initial on each page and a pen with radishes on it (because the tooth fairy came with Mummy on a trip to the Kikki K shop on the way home from work).
When I took this month’s Siblings photos that weekend, she was determined that everyone would see that shiny new gap, even if it did make her look less like she was gazing affectionately at the rest of the family and more as if we were a tasty snack.
Space for the Butterflies - on milestones and the lessons that my daughter teaches me
And in the same week we discovered that she needed new glasses.  It’s not the newness that makes this so much of a milestone; she’s worn glasses for nearly a year now, and we’ve got through several pairs of glasses both from a change in the prescription and Kitty’s determination that glasses will not prevent her from doing anything, right up to and including being sat on by her brother.  But this time, there is a change.
Space for the Butterflies - on milestones and the lessons that my daughter teaches me
(this is the look she’s going to give me when she’s 16 and I suggest that 10pm is a perfectly acceptable curfew isn’t it!)
Since that first letter came home from school to suggest that we might like to take her for an opticians’ appointment, Kitty has been working her way through a cast of Disney characters on the arms of her glasses (bless you Specsavers for having glasses that she wanted to wear, and my mother in law for suggesting it).  We’ve had Elsa and Tinkerbell, Ariel, Cinderella and the Minions and all of my scruples about not letting my children be walking adverts (“you can wear a t-shirt with Elsa on it when she wears one with you on it”) were thrown out of the window because of all the selections of children’s glasses in all the opticians within easy reach they were easily the nicest.  And truth be told, when John took her in to have her latest check up I was expecting more of the same, perhaps Belle this time for variety.
Except my lovely tall girl, who rocks age 10-11 clothes at age 6, has grown out of the characters range.  Nothing with a princess on was the right size for her face, and found myself sat in the office, wishing I was there to lend a helping hand as they entered the world of pre-teen glasses and a world of uncertainty.
 Space for the Butterflies - on milestones and the lessons that my daughter teaches me
Choosing glasses for Kitty worries me, far more than it does her.  When I was little my choices were whether to have the pink NHS pair or the blue (I generally alternated) and the photos between age 5 and 13 show me with one or the other; enormous plastic frames and every so slightly Dame Edna Everage pointy corners (well it was the 80’s) and I swore to myself when she and her brother and sister were born that if they needed glasses they would always look smart and modern and up to date and never feel less because they’d inherited my dodgy eyesight.  So far we’ve had not problems, but what I think of as the antithesis of what I wore as a child; metal frames, small lenses; isn’t the fashion any more.  The 80′ are back (and you have no idea how old that makes me feel). The current trend is for bigger lenses and more obvious frames and there was a little six year old incarnation of me that whispered “don’t do that” in my ear when I heard of the options that they had in the shop that fitted my lovely eldest daughter.
But times have changed, and the joys of a vintage revival is that it tends to keep only the good stuff and ditch the bits that you skim over in the family photo albums, and if I’m honest with myself I can see that. I cannot and I will not let my own experiences overshadow my children.
So Kitty has new glasses.  They’re bigger frames than last time, they’re definitely more of a statement, they have Cath Kidston flowery arms (or Cath Kit Kat as Kitty says) and my not so little girl rocks them.  She is in every inch, wearing the glasses, and not the other way round, and she looks awesome in them.
Space for the Butterflies - on milestones and the lessons that my daughter teaches me
It was the first time that I’ve really had to let go of what has made up me, to recognise what it is that makes up her.  No one will tease her for having Cath Kinston glasses; she wore them to school and her classmates were only excited for her, and at home she couldn’t wait to show them off to her siblings.  And for me, to get that wrapped around my brain until the worries calmed and the tension ebbed; that was the latest in a very long line of lessons that my daughter will teach me.

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me for The Ordinary Moments

Blogging Inspiration

A little bit of planner love

20/01/2017

I have blank page syndrome when it comes to diaries and organisers.  Every time I buy one it sits in front of me, beautiful and empty and ready to be filled with my perfectly organised plans for a perfect year, or month, or even a week, all filled in with perfect handwriting, none of my usual scrawl.  It’s unobtainable overachievement at it’s best isn’t it.  It means in the past I’ve bought diaries and only kept it going a few weeks because all the humdrum of life just seemed too normal to be the story of me smashing through all of my life dreams.  There’s only so many times you can write “be a good mother” for your daily goal before it starts to bore even the writer.

But at the same time I do want to be a little bit more organised when it comes to blogging.  At work I am organised to the point of OCD; our calendars are all online and unless I know I’m going to be spending the whole week on just one case, I have a printed to-do list with all my cases on it that I fill in every Monday and mark up what I need to do on each day.

I probably don’t need to be quite that level of colour co-ordinated crazy and while I’d love to have all the time in the world to put into the blog, at some point something has to give, no matter how many time management books you read, but my intention for the year is to at least have an idea about what I’m aiming to blog in the week before I’m supposed to be writing it to give my subconscious a chance to start thinking about it, rather than sitting down of an evening, having poured all of my brain power into the day job, and wondering if I can really remember how to put one word in front of the other.

Taken back to basics, I wanted something that would fit in my handbag so I always have it with me, where I could plan out some blog posts each month, write a few notes and give myself a bit of a storm warning when I need to take photos, especially during the winter when photos are a weekends only deal.

Space for the Butterflies - Kikki K Small Inspire Weekly Diary

And after much blissful searching of the internet between Christmas and New Year (and yes I know I probably should have been a bit more organised about being organised) I landed on the Kikki K site, decided I loved it all and after much, much deliberation, settled on the Small Inspire Diary.

Space for the Butterflies - Kikki K Small Inspire Weekly Diary

It is gorgeous.  At the front is a month at a glance which I’m trying to use as a blog editorial calendar and then the majority is a week at a glance with space for the days of the week down one side and notes on the other.  So far I’m using it to track where I’m working each day, when I’m aiming on publishing a post (aiming being the operative word because I’ve already crashed and burned on keeping to that intention) and little reminders throughout the week.  But that’s just the diary.

Space for the Butterflies - Kikki K Small Inspire Weekly Diary

I ever so slightly fell down the rabbit hole of Kikki K’s own YouTube channel, and then all the other YouTube posts playing with their stickers and washi tape and all the diary decorating loveliness and it pushed me past my blank-page-itis into organising and decorating each week as I like.  The quote cards and stickers will always be my favourite, a little dash of motivation and drive whenever I open the page.

Space for the Butterflies - Kikki K Small Inspire Weekly Diary

And yes, we’re only a couple of weeks into January so perhaps we should come back in July and see if I’ve stuck with it, but so far I’m really enjoying getting my random thoughts and inspiration out of my brain and onto paper, being able to see what I’ve got planned really easily, and I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I wasn’t having a lot of fun decorating each week’s pages.

Space for the Butterflies - Kikki K Small Inspire Weekly Diary

As I said, I spent a lot of time watching diary and planner walk throughs on the internet between Christmas and the New Year, and ended up buying the one diary I couldn’t find a video for.  And while I know it’s a little on the late side, and if you haven’t bought a diary before now you probably don’t want one, but just in case, I’ve also made a little walk through video. With occasional help from a certain tiny someone.

So, tell me that I’m not alone in the newfound love of planning and stickers, or tell me what you’re doing this year to be more organised.