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Milestones

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!

Birthdays Family Kitty Milestones Photography

And now you are six

21/09/2016

Well my darling eldest girl, here we are at six.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

A sixth birthday for you, and six years of motherhood for me, and I don’t think I’ll ever quite believe that time has past as fast as it has.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

We’re at the point now where you’ll be able to reach your memories of these days even when you’re grown up so I hope that you remember that for your sixth birthday you really really wanted Lego and a volcano cake.  The Lego is sat in a box on the dinner table, waiting for the end of the week when you’ll have time to get stuck in and do some building.  I love seeing what you make, you’re quite happy to make the build on the box first, and then play with it and incorporate it with your other bricks, so Cinderella can meet the Lego Friends girls for a cake at the cafe, after which they’ll slide down the side of Elsa’s palace and go for a ride in a yellow submarine.  I love the mash ups and I find it fascinating how for you it’s all about the build.  When you’ve made whatever it was that was in your imagination you’ll quite often happily hand it over to your sister for her to make up lengthy games about what all the different people are doing, while you set about making them a holiday house or a new garden.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

And as for the volcano cake; well we co-opted a recipe for a bonfire cake (red velvet cake, matchmakers around the outside) and on my last trip to London I came across a packet of cake fireworks and if a cake has ever appeared more likely to erupt I’d like to see it.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

Your school make a big fuss of birthdays; you wore a crown and served everyone birthday cake for little meal, your friends sang the birthday songs, and your teacher told the story of your milestones so far.  You came home cherished and beaming, and very pleased to be six.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

For a six year old you are still very tall, you wear age 10 clothes, and size 1.5 shoes and we haven’t even hit the growth spurt that will arrive when you do make it to ten.  When we went to your friend’s birthday party at the weekend, a little boy whispered to his Mummy “look at that girl, I think she must be nine or ten” and even when we told him you were five I’m not convinced he believed us; you are after all, head and shoulders taller than that birthday girl, but as I suspect you won’t stop anywhere short of my 6’0″ you’d probably better get used to it.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

The biggest milestone of the year in which you were five was the falling out of your two bottom teeth.  The new adult teeth are already coming in and I suspect that the tooth fairy is going to be a big part of the year in which you are six.  Hopefully there’ll be a time when the big bottom teeth are in but the top ones haven’t gone so that you can bite an apple properly again; I know you miss scooping one up to munch – like mother, like daughter.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

You still paint and draw as much as ever, colouring in is your favourite way to switch off and chill out, and your colouring crayon collection seems to grow every time you and your Daddy visit an art shop; one of these days we will find that we do own one of every pink pencil crayon currently made.  You love stories and books, and there’s nothing better than snuggling up with you to read another chapter of your latest favourite.  It doesn’t happen too often, your little brother is only just at the stage where he’ll sit and follow the bedtime picture stories, but I cherish the time as much as you do.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

You love to sing too; this year you learnt how to hold your own part in a round, well most of the time at least, and as harmony singing is one of my favourites, it’s wonderful to see your skill and confidence improve, and we both get a lot of fun out of it.

At the moment you’re trying to teach yourself how to do the monkey bars at school; every day you tell us “well I tried…” and I know that one day, and probably not too far away in the future, you’ll come home having absolutely nailed it.  I don’t doubt that if you’ve set your mind to it, it’s going to happen.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

All our plans to take these birthday portraits a few days early were scuppered by one thing and another, so we headed out after I finished work on the day itself to see what we could do with a slightly grey and overcast evening.  Every single one of your sets of portraits have been taken in this park, and we know your favourite spots well enough by now.  The contrast to taking pictures of your brother was huge; he ran around and I followed him with a camera, but you know what I’m doing, and you enjoy the treat of going out just the two of us to take pictures, and it’s so much easier now that you know what I’m asking you to do.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

As a birthday treat the pictures themselves are a treat stored up for the future, after all, you know what you look like right now, and I think it’s the time together that I love the most, especially in a month where stupidly busy and not enough sleep doesn’t even begin to cover it.

You are just so much fun to be with; a loving big sister who will do anything for your little siblings, even if you’ll do it while also pushing every button they’ve got.  You are chatty, and sweet, and clever and funny, all wrapped around a steely core of determination.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

We love you more than you could ever possible imagine.

Mummy x

Elma Family Kitty Milestones Photography

One week in

08/09/2016

Last year was the big “First Day”, the very first day of school ever ever ever for Kitty, and the very first day for us to re-enter academia on the other side of the fence as parents.  It was a very friendly baptism of fire.  Kitty stepped out and away from us as a family, and we got our heads around school runs, producing costumes at short notice, and the gauntlet of PTA cake sales.  There was a lot that she loved about that year, and we’ve all made some wonderful friends, but for some very excellent reasons that are Kitty’s, and therefore not mine to share, we’ve done a bit of academic reshuffling and moved Kitty to the school where Elma is starting nursery.

Elma has been going to the parents and toddler group there for the last year and a bit and as that’s all set within the same early years department she knows her way around, and so many of the friends she plays with on her three mornings a week are friends she’s known from toddler group (and parents that we know) and for the last term her toddler group leader has been taking her down to nursery for a few minutes, just to have a little look around and say hi.

Space for the Butterflies - back to school photos

We had no worries about how she’d settle in and sure enough, on the first day she bounded in with the most enormous smiles, dancing around in her new slippers and rushing over to give a huge hug to her new teacher.  It’s all lovely and familiar and if there’s anything that disappoints her it’s that she only does three days and she has to come home at lunchtime.

Yep, I’m the parent in the hall with the child who’s crying because it’s home time.

For Kitty it’s a new school, a new class and a new teacher. New everything.

She was excited right up until we reached her classroom door.  She’d been up to visit the school both on a tour and just to hang out at the summer and winter fairs and we’d done everything we could to make it less daunting, but as she reached the doorway the enormity of what was coming suddenly hit her.  Even last year, though she’d not been in the pre-school she knew two of the children in her class (one from her old nursery and one from spending vast amounts of time at the playpark in the winter), but this time she was going in alone.

Space for the Butterflies - back to school photos

There were no tears, no wailing, no pleading with us not to go, but she wrapped her arms around me as if she wished she could curl up in them and be carried back to babyhood and never need step out into the world.  In that minute this new adventure was just too big and too daunting.

I am proud of her for so many reasons in the everyday, and there have been moments in the last year that made me almost well up with love of who she is and who she is becoming, but it would be hard to top watching her in that moment, She gathered all of her courage up, held it tight, and allowed me to unwrap her from my arms, and give her to her teacher.

We hoped, and tried to make ourselves know, that she was having a wonderful time, and sure enough when we went back to collect her there were big smiles and a firm thumbs up.  She’s settled in beautifully; we’re a week in today and she has a couple of friends in her class, and another friend in a neighbouring class who she plays with every day, she’s gradually figuring out who everyone is, and she’s still more excited than you would think possible about her pack lunch.  There’ve been a couple of days where she’s been exhausted, but in a sleepy thumbs up kind of way and she’s eating us out of house and home to keep up with all the running around she’s doing.

She started on Thursday and on Saturday morning she said “Mummy, I don’t really know what to do today because I just really like going to school!”

So far, so very very good.

Birthdays Family Milestones Photography Pip

Two

27/08/2016

To my darling wee boy

To my mind there is now way that my littlest baby can be two.  Whenever I’ve been the mother of a two year old before I’ve always either been heavily pregnant or also the mother of a newborn and as I am/have neither, there is just no way that you can really be two. Perfect Mama-logic. Except for the fact that you really actually are two.

Space for the Butterflies - Pip Squeak is Two

Space for the Butterflies - Pip Squeak is Two

For all the times when you snuggle in my arms to go to sleep, there’s really no denying that the baby that can also give me quite a hefty accidental thwack between the shoulder blades with a rogue hockey stick is fast leaving his babyhood behind.  When I was putting together your birthday video I could suddenly see so clearly how much you have changed in the last year, and why lots of people we meet are a bit surprised to find out just how little you are.  At age two you’re wearing age 3-4 clothes, with size 7 feet, and the jumper that I knitted for your birthday will also easily fit your next biggest sister; they day when you’re taller than her is coming sooner than we think.

Space for the Butterflies - Pip Squeak is Two

The only thing waiting to catch up is your teeth, you finally have your fourth bottom tooth coming in to match the four on top and you’ve just rather painfully acquired four molars but you’re far from having a full set just yet.  It doesn’t keep you from your food though, and if anyone has something you’ll be after a bite, even if it’s met with the most amazing pouty face and an “I no like it Mummy!”.  On our way travelling back across Europe we asked all three of you what your favourite part about the trip so far had been, expecting perhaps tales of watching thunder storms in the mountains or climbing forest towers but quick as a flash you came back with “chok-lat”.  Well it was pretty good chocolate, I’ll grant you that.

Space for the Butterflies - Pip Squeak is Two

I suspect your real favourite was all the times when you could just be outside exploring at your own pace, be it paddling at the edge of a lake and throwing stones into the deep water, or finding a stick and setting about digging a nice big hole in the dirt right in front of our tent.  Like your sisters before you, you love being outside, and the more mud pies the merrier, much to your poor Daddy’s dismay when your favourite digging spot in the garden turned out to be where he’d previously been trying to re-grow a bit of lawn. You love hockey and football and golf and I’m pretty sure while we were travelling you invented a version of croquet using the tent mallet It has to be a really miserable day to keep you from the garden.

Space for the Butterflies - Pip Squeak is Two

You love the water too, even if you are convinced that any expanse of water that isn’t a puddle is a bath.

“Look Mummy! Bath!”
“That’s the English Channel sweetheart; it’s a bit bigger than a bath!”

Space for the Butterflies - Pip Squeak is Two

On the days when we’re besieged by the weather you make a beeline for your train tracks.  It doesn’t matter if you can make them join up or not, though you’re getting better with practice, you just like to play with all the different pieces and then usually send a few trains hurtling off the edge of a cliff.

Space for the Butterflies - Pip Squeak is Two

Last summer on a whim and to give you something to play with in the car we bought you a few “Petit Bebe T’choupi” board books, just pictures and the words in French, and a whole year later they’re still your favourite books, and I’ve added a good few bits and pieces to my French vocabulary from reading them to you on a near daily basis.  Until recently you’ve not been too bothered about snuggling in for stories as your sisters do, you would always listen and play at the same time but now I think you’ve started to figure out that it’s fun to see the pictures too and I love having you curl up and claim your spot too, it makes bedtimes all the more fun.

Space for the Butterflies - Pip Squeak is Two

In the last few months, and even the last few weeks you’ve had a real language explosion, and you’ve gone from random words to trying to put together little sentences.  You are our little mimic at the moment and when you’ve got something that we understand and respond to then you’ll tell us lots of times just for the fun of it.  I think the last hour of our journey to Calais this week was punctuated with “Underground tunnel. I go in Underground Tunnel Mummy!”, and so we did.  You’re using it to good effect when we go shopping too, if I ask you what else we need you’ll invariable say either “Like Beer Mama!” or “Daddy Monster!”; and you’re so proud to take it to him when we get home, even if a beer at 11am wasn’t quite what your father was planning.

Space for the Butterflies - Pip Squeak is Two

Oh my little boy at two you are just so much fun.  You are at times loud with joy and loud with rage; boisterous and yet so sweet when we remind you to use your gentle hands.  You adore your sisters and you’re becoming more and more their equal every day, especially with your middle sister.

Space for the Butterflies - Pip Squeak is Two

Space for the Butterflies - Pip Squeak is Two

We took these pictures on your birthday itself, heading out after supper with your balloon to take advantage of the gorgeous evening light, and after we’d run around the windmill a few times, and taken photos of you hugging/attacking your balloon, I tried to take pictures with the sails in the background, lying on my back in the long grass.  But where I went, so you wanted to be, and you came and lay down on my tummy, gazing upwards at the last few clouds of the day, just content to be with me, and it was the perfect way to end a day of singing and laughter and start a whole new year of adventures.

Love Mummy

Space for the Butterflies - Pip Squeak is Two

Space for the Butterflies - Pip Squeak is Two

Space for the Butterflies - Pip Squeak is Two

Elma Family Kitty Milestones Pip

Taking Time

28/04/2016

Harrogate, Bath of the north, is little but lovely.  In all my years with visiting our family I’d never actually been for a wander round and so when we idly suggested places we might go on some hypothetical day away from the children it came pretty high on my list.  A town with a shop just for buttons and a Betty’s Tearooms really shouldn’t be missed.  And so as the idea of our actually taking that step and taking time away from our little trio to remember what it was like to be just the two of us started to become less hypothetical and more an actual reality that we might actually do, Harrogate kept cropping up. It was far enough from the family to feel as if we’d gone away, and near enough that if it all went horribly wrong we could be home in an hour or so.

And so we went.  We travelled up to Yorkshire on Friday, saw the children loaded up into the car on Saturday morning to start their day of adventure, and then we packed up and we left, for a whole 24 hours, starting with a gentle potter around a very pretty northern town.

Space for the Butterflies - an adventure in Harrogate

H jokes that Harrogate is posh Yorkshire, to the point that he claims I’d be better understood with my southern accent than he would, but to me it sounded exactly as if we’d walked onto the set of Downton Abbey, in the best possible way.  It felt so strange to be wandering around without the children; to go into shops that we know would present a serious challenge to the family “look with your eyes not your fingers” rule without constantly being watching and turning and trying to keep three little ones in one field of vision at any one time.  Strange and lovely.

Space for the Butterflies - an adventure in Harrogate

We found Duttons for Buttons which is a treasure trove of every sort of button under the sun, and I could easily have said “six of everything” and come home a happy woman.  We found The Remnant House which is the closest I have ever come to encountering a Tardis, full of roll upon roll of beautiful fabric and all the trimmings you’d need to go with them, and somewhere where I may perhaps have had a little falling down and swiped the bank card as I tumbled.  Suffice to say that the girls are going to have some awesome skirts this summer. Space for the Butterflies - an adventure in Harrogate

And then of course to Betty’s.  Not to the tearooms themselves, with a queue snaking out of the door and around the side, which must have rather obliterated the nice view of the park for anyone with a window seat, but to the shop section for an extraordinary amount of cake, parcelled up as the very best sort of picnic.

Space for the Butterflies - an adventure in Harrogate

And so it was, that in the last sliver of sunshine before the dark clouds returned to pelt us with rain, we sat in the park in the Montpellier quarter, taking in the tree carvings that celebrated the Tour de France’s Grand Depart (it seemed very fitting to have found the Eiffel Tour given we went to Paris for our first work anniversary!), and eating my very first Fat Rascal.  It will not be my last; fat rascals are a sort of rock bun come scone filled with spices and cherry and topped with three almonds and two cherries to make a face – utterly delicious.

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We stayed just north of York, at Aldwark Manor, a hotel that has possibly the best customer service that I’ve ever encountered, they genuinely couldn’t have been lovelier, and the food in the restaurant was amazing (I highly recommend the Rhubarb Meringue pudding!).  But the biggest treat was to have the time to talk, even about silly inconsequential things, and to relax.  I think when you’re in the thick of parenting the early years it’s easy to fail to realise that you’re not giving yourself a break.  I know I can get to the point where I just have to have some time to myself to recharge and yet I don’t realise it fully until H kicks me out of the house and tells me to go and have a couple of hours at a coffee shop to just be me, and it’s the same for him; I’ve thrown him out of the house with his golf clubs and told him to go to the driving range for a bit of space even while he’s still telling me he’s fine.  We can see it in each other and we try our best to recognise it and look after each other but it always needs the other to pick up the full weight of daily life for a bit so to be both taking time at the same time was a very special treat, even if we did have to turn the radio on when we first checked into our hotel because we’re just not used to it being that quiet!

20160424-DSC_0053

But what of back home.  We didn’t make contact while we were away, thinking that FaceTime would probably just remind the children that we weren’t there, and might just upset everyone, and I’ll admit there was a good part of me that was just telling myself that the worst case scenario was that my in-laws would be driving Pip around during the night and they’d be tired but OK.  As it turned out they had a wonderful Saturday, playing and exploring and shopping and when it came to bedtime (or somewhat past bedtime according to my eldest daughter) Grandma and Grandad loaded everyone up in the car and one, two, three they duly passed out and were gently tucked up in bed together.  And as for that middle of the night wake up where Pip will wail at each and every person that is not his Mama? He slept through it and woke up fresh as a daisy to start the day at 5am.

And so for all my worries and concerns it turned out that he barely noticed I was gone.  Kitty was the only one who had a half hour of needing some extra cuddles from her Auntie, but in some ways I expected that; she’s really the only one old enough to grasp the concept of Mama and Daddy being away and she was happy enough pretty soon after.

I am incredibly thankful to my inlaws for looking after them and giving us such a treat.  My mother in law said that the gift was to them in sharing our children, and whilst I can well imagine that, seeing her sat on a kitchen chair with a girl leaning up against each side, and Pip bouncing on her knee, I also have a sneaky suspicion that they might have had an early night the day we left!

In short though it was a definite success, and in another 10 years we might even go away again!