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Me and Mine 2017: July

31/07/2017

We still live in a tent.  I know that at the end of last month a combination of hope and will power had me near certain that we’d be in the house by this point, but, well, we’re not.  All things being equal we should exchange this week and then complete as soon as possible afterwards, which basically means as soon as the mortgage money can get to our solicitors.  Next month, next month I promise we will not be living in a tent, because if we’re not living in our house then something has gone horribly wrong and we’ll be looking for a long term rental while we start all over again.  Not going to happen though.

We originally thought that we’d be living in the tent for a couple of weeks, three or four at most, and sitting here at six weeks and counting I am beyond grateful to my aunt and uncle for letting us stay; aside from the sheer joy of watching Kitty, Pip and Elma come to know and love them as much as John and I do, and the fun they’ve had helping to pick strawberries and raspberries and swimming in the pool, staying here has meant that while we may not have had a house, we have always had a home, and there just aren’t ever going to be enough thank yous to cover it.

We’ve just come back from a week going “housing”, firstly to Yorkshire to stay with the family, and then John and I escaped to spend a couple of nights away in the Lake District climbing mountains.  If you follow me on Instagram please note that the holiday spam shows no sign of letting up soon, and I’m utterly unapologetic about it – the Lakes are much much prettier than the view from my desk when I head back to work today.  The children, as far as I can gather, wore their grandparents out and flew kites, and we all enjoyed such modern conveniences as walls, beds and electric lights.  With the evenings not as light as they were when we first moved in, and camping lights good enough only really to find something, not read or knit something tricky, it was a revelation to have light that we could just turn on!

The holiday was pretty well timed to avoid a very soggy week; two days before we left the tent sprung a sort of leak, when splits on two sections of the back ridge got so bad that they let the back wall of the tent start to puddle on the ground, and where there was one puddle, another soon followed, and then the day I finished work our gazebo/shelter took off in a rogue gust of wind (despite being fully pegged and guyed out), so this month I have learnt how to mend shelters with self-adhesive tent plasters, and how to replace sections of tent pole and refit the whole shebang while leaving the rest of the tent standing – top tip, don’t try to use cheap and cheerful hacksaws on fibreglass tent poles; I think I cut it mostly through strength of mind!

The tent is much the better for the tlc and despite torrential showers bucketing across the skies yesterday afternoon we’re as dry as a bone.  I did however make the mistake of promising the children a biscuit when it rained, which they interpreted as a biscuit every time it rains, which means that an entire packet of crunch creams were laid to waste in the course of one afternoon.

On the whole the kids are doing pretty well with their life in limbo.  We had a few wobbly moments that could have been as much to do with the end of term as the house moving, and Pip has taken to telling us he loves any new toy so much that he doesn’t want it to go into storage, but they’re a happy little trio (despite Kitty’s very teenage expressions in some of these shots), currently obsessed with playing Swallows and Amazons, right up to and including the rigging of a Wild Cat Island style tent courtesy of some rope (charmed out of their uncle), out badminton posts, and their aunt’s old sheet.  You’d think that they’d have had enough of camping of late, but as I should well know, there’s camping and then there’s proper Swallows and Amazons camping.  Yesterday afternoon they performed Swallowdale: the musical, with particular focus on the climbing of Kanchenjunga and the spotting of goats, which was quite a sight to see.

Despite all of our adventures, this month’s photos could only have been taken in front of our tent.  Neatly cropped to avoid showing you how much of a mess it still is post flood and holiday, but still very recognisably our very own Buckingham Palace.  We haven’t decided when or whether we might go travelling this summer, but I know that even though we’re really really looking forward to the next stage of this big move, it hasn’t dinted our love of life outdoors, and there will be plenty of opportunity in the future to take out photos on our canvas doorstep.

My little family, in July:

 

The Me + Mine Project - Dear Beautiful

 

Family Photography {the ordinary moments}

The end of term

16/07/2017

Space for the Butterflies - the end of term

Wednesday marked the end of Kitty’s time in Kindergarten, and the end of Elma’s very first term.  All the parents were invited in for the last circle time of the year and oh there wasn’t a dry eye in the back of the room. Even John, stoic Yorkshireman to the last, admitted to needing his coping mechanisms as we listened to their lovely teacher tell the story of the children climbing the tree in their garden, a branch for each of the years that the Transition class have been in Kindergarten, until finally they reached the third branch and could see over the hedge into a new garden and all of the different paths that wound their way through it that they will discover as they head off to Class 1 and the beginning of the official Lower School.  It was so beautiful and so very personal to the children making the big remove; even writing about it makes me think that someone must have been cutting onions in the vicinity.

Space for the Butterflies - the end of term

In September she started into a relatively established group of friends, wearing her heart on her sleeve and clutching every ounce of courage she could find, and what a difference the year has made.  She seemed so grown up when I took that photo of her in September, and now my first reaction was to think how little she looks!

Space for the Butterflies - the end of term

She’s grown in height (that happens every other week), but also in confidence, and she’s made the best of friends in her new peer group.  She’s developing the silliest sense of humour, with endless variations of why did the cow cross the road, and the little girl who didn’t sing in the Christmas circle time because she didn’t want anyone to look at her (the six year old me would sympathise), sings out happily in every circle time.  This year took a little girl nervous of school after becoming burnt out and disengaged in her previous year and put back some of the joy.

Space for the Butterflies - the end of term

 

The fact is that Kitty loves school, and that’s a sentence that for a while I thought I’d never get to write.  If there were more days in the week she would go for all of them, and still be bouncing around on a Monday morning wanting to be the first through the door. Space for the Butterflies - the end of term

This year she made a mallet from a log, she stitched up a very sweet felt needlecase, and she finally finished her weaving on the penultimate day of term.  It’s gorgeous, and when we move into the new house I’m determined to find a spot on the wall for it somewhere.

And as for Miss Elma, she seemed to go from toddler to school girl overnight.

Space for the Butterflies - the end of term

Elma started the year in nursery, running in with barely a backwards glance, and by the time she moved up to Kindergarten at the beginning of this term she was ready to tunnel her way in over a weekend.  She’s a very self contained contented little girl for the most part and if she ever had any regret it was that she didn’t get to go for all five mornings.

Space for the Butterflies - the end of term

This term she’s done some drawing, painted a crown, made very slow progress on her pompom, and learnt so many songs and finger rhymes and blessings that she and Kitty sing together.  As far as I can work out they didn’t spend that much time in class playing together, but they, and the other two sibling sets, gravitated towards each other at meal times, and would often end up sitting next to each other.  They certainly enjoyed having that time together and I’m glad they had the opportunity to share it.

Space for the Butterflies - the end of term

In mainstream counting she would start Reception in September but at our school she’ll stay in Kindergarten for another couple of years, one of which she’ll share with Pip, and then it will be our time to hold back the happy tears all over again at her final circle time.  By the time Pip leaves Kindergarten I give fair warning that I’ll be a blubbering wreck – we have at least three years before then though.

Space for the Butterflies - the end of term

All of which means that once we’d dried our eyes, the girls had hugged all of their classmates and their teachers, and we’d gone back to rescue Elma’s jumper from her peg before the doors were locked, it’s the summer holidays; and that’s a whole new adventure waiting to happen.

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

 

Family Photography Siblings

Siblings 2017: July

15/07/2017

We’ve uprooted ourselves, put just about everything we own into two storage containers, and moved ourselves and our tent half way across the country and yet this month, my siblings pictures come from Warwick cricket pitch, just like at least one set of summer portraits from every year of my Siblings project.

But for all the pictures that I could share of my little trio this month, these were the ones that I wanted to share.  Whilst he’ll keep commuting back and forth for hockey, cricket is John’s social sport and I suspect that when this season comes to a close, he’ll be looking for a team closer to home for next year, and we’ll be looking for a new outfield to run around.  These pictures sum up not just the children and their ever changing relationship, but the essence of our cricket days out, and it would be remiss of me to move on without recording it.

It had started as the kind of scorching English summer’s day when the humidity thickens the air to the point that you could eat it with a spoon, and we’d all taken refuge from the sunshine in the clubhouse, but as is so often the way, as the sun began to drop and the breeze picked up it became a truly lovely afternoon.  Pip played football with our team, and our spectators, and even some of the opposition after tea, and the girls sat and read stories or ran around to play tractors before all three of them took on the challenge of making themselves as messy as possibly with choc ices at cricket tea.

Space for the Butterflies: Siblings Photo Project

The picture says it all. Elma, with chocolate smears down her dress and mucky feet from running around barefoot, Kitty with her hair all hot and straggly, and Pip Squeak whose apparent cleanliness belies a distinct stickiness about his person, and the three of them closer than ever.

Space for the Butterflies: Siblings Photo Project

Even in the sticky heat it we were all so very content to be there, watching John play and just being together.

It might be living in even closer proximity than normal, it might be that most of their toys are in storage, but I suspect that a good deal of their relationship now is just a product of their ages; the older they get, the closer together they seem, especially Pip and Elma, whose can happily wear each other’s clothes, just about borrow each other’s wellies, and are always swapping sunhats.

Space for the Butterflies: Siblings Photo Project

Elma is still very much the taller, even if she may well be lighter, and while for the most part she and Pip can do pretty much everything together, just occasionally there’s a moment where she can put that extra 20 months to good use.  The nearest playpark to us at present has a wonderful rocket ship slide, but to get to it you have to be able to climb up the ladder.  Kitty has no trouble at all, Elma has finagled a way to make it work, just, but Pip, for all his trying, and frustrated grumping, was most decidedly left behind.  We have a playground rule that if you can do it, you can do it, so Pip had to stay down on the ground until he found another slide more suited to his stature.

Space for the Butterflies: Siblings Photo Project

This month Elma and Kitty finished their first and last ever term together in the same kindergarten.  They’ve both had a wonderful term and a wonderful year and one of the (many many) things we love about their school was that they got this extra time together.

I never took it for granted, and never take it for granted, that these three little individual people will get on; that shared genetics would take them past the hard wiring of love into friendship, but for all their squabbles, they are true friends.  Just before we left the old house, I asked each of them what they liked most about the house, and Kitty’s immediate answer was “my brother and sister”.

Space for the Butterflies: Siblings Photo Project

To watch them play swingball, with a hockey stick for a third bat, or those moments where Kitty and Elma crowd round Pip to make sure he’s OK, and call him “my baby bunting”, or pretend he’s their baby so they can put him to bed in a sleeping bag precariously positioned on the upturned slide, is to watch my hopes and dreams for the three of them surpass themselves and I can only hope that it contines for many years to come.

Two little sisters, and their brother too, in July:

 

Space for the Butterflies: Siblings Photo Project

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

 


Me and Mine Photography

Me and Mine 2017: June

30/06/2017

It became abundantly clear, as we tried to set up for photos, wrassle Kitty into school mode, and keep on packing, just why we have never before tried to take our family photos by our old front door. It’s a really lousy spot for photos; unless your dream set up involves a drainpipe, a really pointy windowsill that you keep bumping your shoulder on, and enough orange brick to give everyone a charmingly oompa-loompa-like glow. Also the light is wrong, but as I never discovered a place in our old house where the light was right (except the studio, and that was a conservatory, so that’s cheating) that at least should not have been a surprise.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a monthly family portrait

I’m not quite sure why we’re half out of the frame either, I suspect the involvement of some small child between the camera set up and the pressing of the button but we are still all in the frame, and imperfect as they are, these are the photos that I wanted to capture to mark June in our Me and Mine year, and to mark the end of more than a decade of calling that our front door.

That was the last morning in our house; we owned it until mid-morning the next day, but by that Thursday evening we were all moved out of our house and our village and our county, and setting up a tent.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a monthly family portrait

It’s strange looking back at these photos. It’s only been a couple of weeks but it feels like a different life and I can’t imagine living there anymore, any more than I thought I could imagine it as someone else’s house in the weeks leading up to the move. It’s an inner confidence that even though we are living in a tent, and we still don’t have a completion date other than “as soon as possible”, moving has been the right decision.

It was a difficult sale, and to be honest one of both John and my highlights of the month was seeing the sale go through without any more hitches. That and watching the removal men lift the kids playhouse out of the garden and straight on the van all in one piece – I’ll show you the video soon, I promise.

Of the children it was only Kitty who was upset about leaving, and while she found it hard to say goodbye to the only place she’s ever known as home, she and her littler siblings have done really well with the whole upheaval.  There have been tears and moments when discombobulation won out over common sense (and that’s us as well as the kids) but I think they’re doing pretty well.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a monthly family portrait

It doesn’t hurt that the move has brought them their much adored aunt and uncle, the strawberry fields, the swimming pool and Bob the cat, they’re nearer to school and spending no time at all on what Pip calls “the overtake motorway”.

And while they re-enact snippets of my childhood, John has made sure there’s a bit of his sneaking in as well, taking them for their first ever trip to the bowling to liven up a wet afternoon.  The girls enjoyed it and Pip was completely in his element – finally, finally he’d found a place where it was OK to throw balls inside!

I had planned to bookend this post with a picture of us in our current canvas home, but it’s England, and summer, which means that when it was sunny it was too hot to move, I only left the swimming pool under sufferance, and digging through a pile of things to find the camera and tripod wasn’t at all appealing, and now it’s raining.  But last weekend we went “housing” and drove south late on Friday night to spend the weekend with my Dad, and while we were there we went to visit Coleton Fishacre (otherwise known as my dream house and garden).  John had just run a half marathon, hence the “I’m shattered, let me go and have a cream tea and then a snooze in the car” expression but it’s a lovely memory of a weekend well spent.

My little family, finishing June as we mean to go on!

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a monthly family portrait

Now roll on July and the real dream home.

The Me and Mine Project

Family Photography

Siblings 2017: June

15/06/2017

For the last set of Siblings photos from this house, from this county actually, there was only one place we could go.

I’ve been holding off on the windmill each month, knowing that only such an incredibly special spot would do to mark the end of an era in style.  Today is moving day 2, which means that when you read this we will have spent our last night in this house, had our last morning walk here, and probably be melting into a puddle while trying to work out what to throw into what box and what needs to go on the lorry and what’s coming with us.

It’s a funny feeling, sitting in a half empty house, and as the month has gone on and we’ve got nearer and nearer to moving date, I can see that it’s had an impact on my little trio.  They’ve all been pushing boundaries just that little bit further, trying to make sense of that very unsettled feeling and quite often tripping over each other’s feelings in the process.  On the face of it they’re all very excited about the move, and the tent phase of the whole palaver.  They’re looking forward to being nearer to school and their friends and seeing Bob the cat and camping and my aunt and uncles’ swimming pool, but at the same time I’ve been able to see the moment for each of them when it all became very real.

Kitty started to feel a little worried about the whole thing a couple of weeks ago, but for Pip and Elma it’s only really been this week, and for Pip, possibly only when he saw his Duplo being loaded onto the removal lorry.  We have kept some toys out for them, but obviously we can’t fit that many in a tent so some of them have had to go into storage, which seems very exciting at the time because the removal men let you walk up the loading ramp to see the box going in, but less exciting when you get to bedtime and realise that it’s gone.  I see tent Duplo in our future!

As we were packing up I asked them all what they loved about the house, and both girls mentioned their brother and sister; this is the house where their sibling relationship was forged, and it’s one of many memories that makes it hard to accept that we really are leaving.

But among the boundary testing and the worrying there have been moments of incredible sweetness and when we’ve quite literally had our hands full I’ve loved watching them band together to help each other out.  Kitty is a great big sister to both, but where her relationship with Elma is one of near equals, especially now they’re in the same class at school, with Pip it’s more a case of brotherly adoration.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings

He will follow where she leads without question, which isn’t always a brilliant idea, but I’ll take that for every time she runs to scoop him up if he topples over, or finds a way for him to join in their game of Swallows and Amazons or what Elma calls “Mums and Dads and Sisters” in which she gets to be Kitty, Kitty gets to be me and Pip gets to be a younger version of himself, and somehow they all love it.

As we walked up to the windmill under a still scorching sky they were hatching another game that seemed to involve saying “I’m going to work now” and then diving into the long grass so that they could only just be spotted – what do they think I do as a job?!

Ever since we first realised that there was a path up to the top, the windmill has been our happy place.  I’ve taken one and two and then all three along for impromptu picnics on so many sunny evenings, and I’m glad that for once the weather played along and chased the afternoon’s muggy grey clouds back for a perfect last visit.  We could have stayed there for hours, drinking in the sunshine and memorising every inch of the horizon, but real life means bedtimes and school runs and bringing the laundry in before the dew falls, and so with one last lingering look back, we headed home to tuck three tired little heads into bed and to let them dream of tomorrow and the next big adventure.

Two little sisters, and their brother, in June:

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings

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