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Family Photography {the ordinary moments}

Delightfully messy

19/03/2017

Space for the Butterflies - Making a mess

We sold our house.  It is frankly a phenomenal relief, just as long as we gloss over the fact that we’re due to exchange in May and we don’t have anywhere to move to yet.  We’re working on it, we’ve got back up plans (the tent!), and May is many many weeks away yet.

But the feeling of having sold is wonderful.  I don’t think you can possibly know what it’s like to keep your house to viewing levels of clean and tidy with three small children underfoot until that first week when you realise that you’ve a viewing every day except Tuesday.  We had 33 different people view the house between Christmas and selling, with a fair few second viewings thrown in there for good measure and that’s a lot of tidying up.  We are, to be honest, not people of the tidy variety.  I will always neglect putting away the toys in favour of a good book, or a new quilt, or just one more row, and to quote the photographer who took pictures of our very messy studio, our house is a “creative space”.  But in the interests of house selling we upped our game.  In the run up to a viewing we’d near enough empty the kitchen, moving the bin into the garage and the radio into a drawer and draping a spare tablecloth attractively over the bits that really couldn’t be moved.  In the lounge we’d put things away, and then have a mad run around and put the things that usually live out in sight into yet another long life carrier bag, many of which have yet to return from garage purgatory.

Space for the Butterflies - Making a mess

I doubt it’s easy when your household does not include a Kitty, and Elma and a Pip, but it was so hard to explain to them why we had to tidy up and tidy up now, and no that really amazing railway layout can’t stay down but we can take a picture and I’ll build it again with you later. Balancing that with trying to keep the kids enthusiastic about the move, especially when our multiple attempts at house buying have come to nothing, has been really really tough.

Space for the Butterflies - Making a mess

The day the sale was agreed I don’t think we let ourselves believe it, but slowly it’s sunk in, and we’ve celebrated with the little things; leaving the train track across the lounge all night, washing the laundry rather than hiding it in the boot of my car, and yesterday, doing the messiest thing we could think of: gloop.

Space for the Butterflies - Making a mess

Gloop is always an outside activity, but even then it’s usually pretty messy and needs a good heavy rain shower to wash away the resulting detritus, something that isn’t always guaranteed, even in England (I know!).  It’s the classic non-Newtonian liquid experiment, made with cornflower and water and then a blob or two of food colouring for good measure.  I make it the same way as in the instructions I wrote last year only this time we used green gel colour, blue liquid and a pink liquid that I found in the back of the cupboard and I’m pretty sure had seen better days.

The green was by far the dominant colour and as the kids mixed and swirled and dug their fingers in it all turned a pretty spring green, very appropriate if unintended.

Space for the Butterflies - Making a mess

All three of them enjoyed mixing it up and pushing it around, and picking it up to let it ooze through their fingers.

It’s such a weird but wonderful sensation, even if it does always end up on their feet, and the perfect excuse for making monster faces.

Space for the Butterflies - Making a mess

Space for the Butterflies - Making a mess

But most of all, it was a chance to reclaim our house from property selling perfectionism, and let it just be our home, for a little while longer.

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me and Donna at What the Redhead Said for The Ordinary Moments

Family Photography Siblings

Siblings 2017: March

15/03/2017

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in March

Each month I sit down to write about my little trio and my first reaction is usually along the lines of “well nothing much has changed”.  And in the grand scheme of things perhaps it hasn’t, but I love that in writing these posts, and in coming back month on month to record them just as they are right now, I’m mindful of the minutiae.  And sometimes the change is simply the evolution of something started months before, but to me that’s still worth recording and remembering.

This month it’s been in the relationship between Elma and Pip.  Ever since Kitty went off to school they’ve been each other’s near constant companions, and it was only when Elma started nursery in September that Pip spent any time without her.  They’ve loved each other and laughed and giggled and been entertained by the same things, and wound up by the same things, and had screaming abdabs over the same toy, but Pip was barely one when Kitty started school, and when you’re two and a half, a one year old is next to useless in the fun stakes.

Over the years I’ve watched Elma work out how to be a sister to Kitty, and been present for all of the wonderful award-yourself-a-gold-star moments when they’ve played lets pretend in gentle co-operation; and all the ones when they haven’t.  In that sisterly relationship both my girls work out how to create their own little worlds and bring their sister into it, and while they happily include Pip in their play, it hasn’t really mattered whether or not he got it.  Each of the girls got the recognition and co-operation that they needed from each other, and if Pip wondered off half way through being the baby they’d learned to cope.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in March

But watching them this weekend from the sanctuary of the sofa, where Kitty, John and I all fought off the same tummy bug I could see that Elma and Pip have found their own world of make believe too.  I’m not entirely sure what the game was, which is always the most fun sort to watch and try to figure out, but it involved them having to go to each other’s houses (armchairs) on Pip’s balance bike with Elma sitting on the front and Pip riding pillion and clinging on around her waist, and then they all got off and got on a boat.  All very adventurous and Pip was completely into the game with her; he could understand the story she was weaving, and was getting stuck in.

He’ll go on some amazing adventures with her too, because while Kitty will tell you about her day through her stories, and her favourite games involve mimicking the things she sees around her, playing schools, or mummies and babies, Elma is my storyteller.  If you listen to her playing with the dolls house, or making things up for her Lego people they’re all crazy and brilliant and completely outside the sphere of her experience.  I love listening to both of them, and I find it fascinating how differently they reinterpret the world around them.

These pictures come from a hill that once stood in for Kilimanjaro, on a day when it was decidedly calmer, sunnier, and less likely to pour with rain at any moment.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in March

The girls rushed up and down the slopes, and poor Pip felt his shorter legs for once, finding it hard climbing until Kitty came to give him a hand.  She is so incredibly sweet with him, a lovely big sister who dotes on him and cossets him and he thinks that she’s the best thing since sliced bread, if sliced bread had also run off with his most important lilac wooden block – or was that just yesterday?

He was starting to go down with a horrid cold that would see him spend the rest of the weekend, curled up in my arms, snoozing and nursing and generally reminding us all that I’m his indentured servant first and foremost, and then everyone else’s.  He was happy enough to sprint up the hill, but wore himself out before we got down to the bottom.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in March

I can’t work out whether in this picture whether he’s trying to tell me what a pitiable state it is to be outside when he’d rather be inside and located suitably close to my stash of chocolate buttons, or imitating Kitty, who would very much like you to know that she has lost not just that other big front tooth (which held on by a corner for eons) but another bottom one to boot.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in March

He’s definitely dreaming of something in this one, but I wanted to include it anyway because it shows so clearly their height differences.  So often when I take pictures of the three of them they’re sitting down or Kitty’s bending down and I forget just how tall she is, and all three of them are.  For point of reference, in this picture Kitty is 6 (and that’s an age 10 cardie from Frugi who’s sizes are usually pretty generous), Elma is 4 (and wearing age 5) and Pip is 2 (and wearing 3-4).  One of these days Elma’s going to stop growing at 5’10” and find her brother and sister call her shortie.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in March

All three have shot up over the winter again and it means that all long last, two more pairs of boots can reach the footrests on the “spinny spinny round” and all three can plan world domination as they twirl.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in March

Two little sisters, and their brother too, pulling funny faces, in March:

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in March

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 Goblin Child, Katie at Mummy Daddy Me and of course the mastermind behind the whole thing, Lucy at Dear Beautiful.  And then link up your Siblings posts below, and if you’re joining in on Instagram if you use the hashtag #siblingsproject and tag @siblings_project_ we’ll be able to see them too!
The Me and Mine Project

 



 

Family {the ordinary moments}

Picnics in the rain

05/03/2017

Space for the Butterflies - Picnics in the rain at Compton Verney

I grew up in a family where weather was an accompaniment to adventures, never a factor in their existence.  Only when the rain was spirit level horizontal, and the gale hurtling around could it be suggested that perhaps we didn’t really fancy a walk, and even then it would probably have had to be winter.  You were planning a walk and it was raining, you put on your waterproofs; you’d thought about going swimming, well you were going to get wet anyway; and if it happened to rain while you were already at the beach you’d never think of heading home but rig up a tent from driftwood and beach towels and weather out the storm.

It’s left me with a resiliance to getting wet that served me well when I did DofE, and which I think I may be instilling in our children because when we had to scarper from home to allow for some viewings and I suggested a picnic, all three children looked at me, at the gloom of a thundery sky then gathering outside the window, and brightly declared it to be the best plan anyone had had all week.

And so with a swift detour to the supermarket for the makings of a picnic and new wellies for Kitty whose feet (now an adult 2) seem to grow every time I look away, we found ourselves drawing in to Compton Verney’s carpark as the first drops of rain plopped onto the windscreen and trickled lazily down the bonnet.  For one moment I seriously considered having the picnic in the car, but they were all far too excited about the prospect of proper outdoor picnics to be in any way worried about something so trivial as rain.

Space for the Butterflies - Picnics in the rain at Compton Verney

The gallery itself is closed over the winter and as there was unlikely to be much about in the water for pond dipping we decided to skip the potential to get the children soaked through in favour of tackling the orienteering course.  Given the number of times we’ve been over the years I was surprised we’d never done it before, but little legs only have so many steps in them so it’s probably seemed like too much on top of the pond dipping and visiting the house.  Kitty loved it; she took charge of the map and pencil and was off searching for posts and writing in the letters and her enthusiasm for the whole concept stayed strong all the way to the end, so at some point we’re going to need to go back to do the really long version.

Space for the Butterflies - Picnics in the rain at Compton Verney

The course starts easily enough, with lots of markers within a very short space of time, and we had seven letters entered on our map before we stopped for lunch on a damp bench underneath the drippy shade of two deciduous trees.  At which point the rain, which had eased when we started walking, decided to revisit the situation.  But we had waterproofs and sausage rolls and cartons of apple juice and the rain didn’t matter.  Somehow that feeling of doing something against the ordinary, something slightly crazy, adds excitement to a fairly mundane picnic.  Dodging rain drops made it feel like we were on an adventure, not merely picnicking and the giggles became infectious as Kitty and Elma acted out a sausage roll dance while Pip and I applauded curiously.

Space for the Butterflies - Picnics in the rain at Compton Verney

Despite extensive explanations I’m not certain that Pip or Elma really got the point of orienteering, but they very much got the point of chocolate biscuits (bribery and corruption will get you everywhere) and puddles.  While Kitty headed off in search of the next marker, they tracked down every dip and every dimple that might possibly have water in it, to make sure that when they’d finished there wasn’t a drop that had not been redistributed.

Space for the Butterflies - Picnics in the rain at Compton Verney

They navigated a treacherously squelchy puddle in the verge with only muddy knees to show for it (on a not unrelated point, when did welly boots start being so short?) and so when Pip ran ahead to a wide mischievously serene example further up the drive I wasn’t anticipating any problems.  More fool me.

Two steps in he lost his footing and plunged down, arms outstretched, coming to rest tummy down into the deepest part.  I scooped him up in seconds but the damage was done, and before us stood one very unhappy little boy loudly protesting the uncomfortableness of his wet trousers while muddy water trickled down his face.  We were at almost the furthest point of the walk and if we walked back to the car and the spare clothes then my chances of persuading Pip and Elma all the way back out again to finish the route were slim to non existent, which in turn would have left Kitty bereft of half of her letters.

Space for the Butterflies - Picnics in the rain at Compton Verney

There was one thing we had to try before we gave in, and with an impending sense of cold and damp, I lifted Pip onto my shoulders (please note the change of colour of his trousers!).  The puddle had soaked all the way up the inside of his trousers and as he settled around me the water hit warm skin as rivulets ran down the back of my neck.  It got better when we both warmed up, and Pip decided that this was a perfectly acceptable substitute for dry trousers and proceeded to direct the expedition from on high.

Space for the Butterflies - Picnics in the rain at Compton Verney

The final leg took us out into the park, and then back under the avenue of enormous Wellingtonia trees to finish up at the Ice House.

Space for the Butterflies - Picnics in the rain at Compton Verney

A little knowledge of Compton Verney history solved the anagram for us and Kitty was thrilled to have it confirmed right.  All the way home she talked about the orienteering and Pip and Elma talked about how he fell over in the puddle; a memorable adventure, if not for quite the reasons I’d planned.

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me and Donna at What the Redhead Said for The Ordinary Moments

 

Family Me and Mine Photography

Me and Mine 2017: February

28/02/2017

This February’s Me and Mine pictures are brought to you by the tale end of Storm Doris.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a family portrait project - February 2017

I actually managed to miss the entire thing; I left on the 5.47 train on Thursday morning headed north, arrived before the speed restrictions were in place on the trains, and then was in court from 9.30 to 5.30.  The court didn’t have any windows, and by the time we got out there was a little damp on the pavements and a light breeze rustling the trees.  Meanwhile back down south emails circulated my office to the effect that all trains had been cancelled going in and out of Birmingham, the Premier Inn next to our office was fully booked from early afternoon and several of my team had some adventurous journeys to get home.  Sat in my nice comfy hotel room I started to think it had been a rather well timed two day hearing.

At home it wasn’t too bad; the barn behind our house has lost a row of tiles, and a tarp blew down the hill and plastered itself to a few cars before making a bid for freedom, but most of the trees around us are still standing.

Friday was a lull but on Saturday and Sunday the wind and rain returned.  We caught a glimpse of a sunbeam and headed up to the windmill to capture a very windswept portrait of our family for February.  I know I’ve taken goodness knows how many shots of us all up at the windmill, and it will always be a favourite spot for photos, but it’s also quite hard to get a sense of the scale, and how proudly it stands on the peak of the hill so for this month all our photos are from lower down the slopes.  It also reduced our chances of getting blown away which was definitely a good thing.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a family portrait project - February 2017

Life this month has been busy as always; when February disappeared in no more than a moment I’m beginning to expect that this is just how life is at the moment.  I’ve been travelling a lot for work, and that’s going to keep going for this week at the very least, but we loved loved loved having half term together; time for the slow mornings and the big adventures both.  It felt very strange to go back to work and be without them, especially for Pip who was definitely discombobulated by the Mummy at home then Mummy goes to work and doesn’t even come home combination.  He was my little limpet at the weekend and I loved it, even if my biceps do feel like they had a serious workout.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a family portrait project - February 2017

I’m not going to tell them to say sausages next time – these are all expressions of great delight I promise!!

They got a week and a day thanks to a teacher training day so the first day back for Kitty is today and Elma tomorrow.  They’re both really excited to see their friends; Kitty has finally lost the tooth that was wobbly for ever so she has a whole new look to show off, and she spent Friday afternoon making a get well soon card for her friend who was too poorly for a playdate that I hope we will find in time to take in.

We’ve also got Kitty’s parent teacher meeting this afternoon, which I’m equal parts curious and nervous about.  To us it seems as if she’s settled in really well and is loving school, so I’ve got all my fingers crossed that the school thinks she has too.

So before we move into March, in February we have loved:

  • Half term! No school run (John), two days off (me) and their half term treat (the kids)
  • Our trip to the Chatsworth Farmyard;
  • Watching the carpet fitters lay our new lounge and stair carpets – if you’re two it’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in weeks, only closely ousting pavement chalk from top spot;
  • Adventures fuelled by white chocolate buttons;
  • Being woken up by a small boy two inches from your nose saying “Wake up! It morning Mummy!” and discovering that it is in fact half past seven.
  • Carpet picnics (on the old carpet!) and lazy pyjama Saturdays.

March looks likely to be similarly busy, especially this week when I’m in London two days out of five, so perhaps these are very apt photos as we continue to be blown through the year!

For now though it’s my little family, in a very blustery February:

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a family portrait project - February 2017

I’ve also just realised I was wearing the same outfit in January’s photo, I genuinely do own more clothes, I promise!!
The Me and Mine Project

Family {the ordinary moments}

Halfterm in the rain at Chatsworth

26/02/2017

On the sunniest of all of my half term long weekend days, it seemed somehow both inevitable and quitessentially British that I decided we ought to go to the one place in the country where the clouds were lowered and grey drizzle stretched across the horizon.  John’s theory is that that’s what happens when you decide to go to a National Park on any form of school holidays, some sort of precipitatory predestination, but whatever the reason, it was as we crossed into Derbyshire that the first drops hit the windscreen.

Chatsworth has been on my must visit list for ages, and even with the house and gardens still shut for the winter it’s still set in some gorgeous countryside just perfect for exploring.  And in some ways it was a good thing, becuase there is so much to see and do at the Farmyard that if we’d have been trying to see house and gardens and farm all in one day we’d have felt hurried at best and probably had to skip something.

As it is we’ve already decided that we need to take the tent north for a weekend’s camping so we can keep exploring; but under sunnier skies.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

The Farmyard was perfect for a half term treat.  It’s sort of separate from the main house and garden; you still park in the main car park but it’s a separate entry fee (£22 for a family of five ticket) and then everything through the gate is included.

We started with the animals and the most adorable 10 day old saddleback piglets, squeaking and jostling each other to get to their mum, who lay there, eyes half closed, expression entirely familar to any mother of many.  Every now and then one of the piglets would just fall asleep, only to be woken again by one of its siblings treading on its head.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

Despite the rain all three of mine loved the tractor in the yard, to the point that Pip was quite prepared to hide away and spend the night there, just so he could keep driving it around his imagination.  Only the promise of a real tractor ride lured him out of his seat and up the steps.

The tractor and trailer ride is a brilliant set up.  Firstly you get to go in a tractor and trailer, which is Pip’s idea of seventh heaven.  Then you get views down to the roof of the house and across the valley to the other side, probably more of a plus for the parents but still pretty cool, and last but by no means least, every child is equipped with a pump action water pistol as they climb aboard.  The rules are fairly simple: shoot out of your side of the trailer and don’t shoot at any walkers.  What you can shoot at are targets and cut out cowboys lined up along the side of the route; Pip shot indiscriminately until he ran out of water, smiling fit to burst every second of the way, while Kitty got tactical, lining up her sights on the next target and surveying the route for the shots she could make.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

It was over all too quickly for all of them.

Back in the barn we hid from a rain storm with some colouring and sticking and making (horses and cowboy hats), and when the reptile show and tell started at the same time that Pip and I went on a little wonder to allow his sisters some more drawing time, he found that he’d stroked a dragon (just a little one) before deciding that the better part of valour was letting other people pet the snake (sensible boy).

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

From there we found sheep and goats, an enormous wild boar and his equally huge pig stablemate with a fabulous turned up snout, and a gorgeous Jersey cow who was very unimpressed with our arrival given that in her world we really ought to have been her afternoon feed.

But even with the tractor ride and the piglets and all the animals, the highlight (once we’d lured the children away from the pedal tractors) was the adventure playground.

Now adventure playgrounds of my youth had a tendancy to consist of exactly the same things as an ordinary playground, but made out of wood, along with a zip wire and one of those things where you have to get from one end to the other without touching the ground all made up of wobbly wires and oddly placed tree stumps.  They were fun, but they were nothing to this.  This is an adventure playground and a half.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

For starters it’s vast; the girls and John ran off to one corner to climb up into the tree houses and try out the slides, and Pip and I couldn’t see them as we headed down past swings and slightly more toddler sized climbing frames to what is the nearest thing you will find to a beach in Derbyshire.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

A stream runs through the easterly side of the playpark, and not only does it have a bridge to stomp over, and some low banks to let you in to paddle your wellies, but there are two Archimedes Screws fitted to run from the stream up to the top of a series of channels and basins.  You turn the handle to pump the water up and then lower and raise gates to let it run out into a sand pit via the water wheel or a big flat dish.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

If you can pump enough water it then runs down to a little climbing frame at the far end of the sandpit so you can make a good puddle, or nice damp sand, perfect for turning into castles with all the buckets and spades on hand to help.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

Watching Pip, and later his sisters, respond to it by making castles, or big heaps, or trying to dig a channel to run the water all the way down to the bottom, was seeing my childhood all over again. This is what we used to do at Gara Rock with the stream; we’d try to dam it, or divert it to make moats for our castles, or just dip hands and feet in the icy water running off the hillside.

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

Space for the Butterflies: Chatsworth Farmyard

And it was with great reluctance that we dragged them back to the car, damp and sandy and in dire need of their spare clothes.

Later on in the week, working from home on a sunny afternoon, I realised from the fact that I couldn’t see my laptop screen for the glare, just how long it has been since it’s been sunny, and so I think a wet adventure was exactly the right way to celebrate half term and blow more than a few cobwebs out of the way as we go back to the run up to Easter.

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me and Donna at What the Redhead Said for The Ordinary Moments