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{the ordinary moments}

Family Photography {the ordinary moments}

Sunny Nights

08/04/2017

While I love many things about winter, by the time Spring comes around I am more than ready to have my daylight back.  When you get up in the dark, go to work in the dark, see the daylight only as the square of the window. and then come home in the dark, by the end of March all aspersions towards Hygge or the latest pseudo-nordic counter to the winter blues have long since faded and I’m ready to great the sunlight.

It should be obvious, but it does make getting up in the morning just that little bit less of a struggle; somehow it just feels right, and it’s nice not to have to scrape ice off the car.

My first day of Spring isn’t necessarily 21st March, though it’s pretty close. It’s the first day that it’s still light enough to take photos after I get home from work.  Even though I haven’t yet rushed home from work and dashed to the camera, just to know that I can, that the part of me that itches to take photos isn’t confined to weekends and Wednesdays, feels like the pressure to get it right first time has eased up a little.

Space for the Butterflies - Sunny Nights

The girls broke up from kindergarten and nursery on Wednesday and to celebrate, as the clock hit 5pm I abandoned the laptop for a couple of hours in favour of taking them out from under their Daddy’s feet (because de-mob happy and cooking do not mix) and the four of us headed down to the woods for a little wander.

Space for the Butterflies - Sunny Nights

It was the most beautiful evening, soft and warm and the woods seemed all but deserted.  The path leads through trees that in a few weeks will be surrounded by bluebells but now have a carpet of lilac white wood anenomes.  They’re incredible pretty with just a whisper of magic about them, even as the girls ran through them in search of puddles.

Space for the Butterflies - Sunny Nights

Space for the Butterflies - Sunny Nights

It’s been pretty dry here for a couple of weeks at least, but our woods are to puddles and squishy mud what alpine mountaintops are to snow, and for every nice dry detour around the edge, the centre remains satisfyingly damp and squidgy.  It was only a matter of time before one of them fell over, and Pip took the honours, entirely unfazed and only pausing for a moment before heading off to find the next.  We only had half an hour or so before it was time to head home for supper (and back to the laptop for me), but we puddle jumped, found tiny baby bird feathers by the side of the field, and added a couple of sticks to our favourite den.

Space for the Butterflies - Sunny Nights

As the time for us to make our move comes nearer, with or without a house to move into, it brings into sharp focus, just how many memories have been made in the places we all but take for granted.  There have been so many photos taken in the wood, or up at the windmill, or even just at the gardens in town, and I know that we will find the places near our new home that mean as much as those that have seen so much of the story of our family.  But just as I know that, I know that I will treasure the chance to make just one more memory. It’s an extra reason to welcome the return of the sun, a reason to gather up the welly boots and push back supper for just a few minutes, and let the magic in with the light.

Space for the Butterflies - Sunny Nights

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

Family Photography {the ordinary moments}

Hello tiniest nephew

02/04/2017

As the train rattled me home on a Friday evening, the news came by text:

“You’d better get knitting!!!”

Now we’d known for a couple of weeks that England’s future spin bowler had been giving his mother more than his fair share of chaos and havoc during her pregnancy, to the point that he’d already been pulled up the batting order from being a May baby to an end of April baby, but this was still March. A good 5 weeks before even the earliest that we were anticipating him; I phoned my sister immediately:

“I haven’t even chosen the colours yet!”

She’d just popped into the hospital for a growth scan at lunchtime, with the famous last words “I’ll be about 20 minutes”. To my Dad, who has developed an impressive ability to be in the right place at the right time to babysit his existing grandchildren while their siblings arrive, this must have sounded all too familiar; when Pip was born I was certain I was nipping into hospital to have it confirmed that my waters had broken and then I’d be home again for the labouring bit, we didn’t even take the hospital bag.

And so after a long, and probably rather hungry wait, my newest and littlest nephew arrived in the world at 34 weeks at 27 minutes past midnight last Saturday morning , 3lb 11oz and utterly cute with it.  He is absolutely perfect, just really tiny, and so after a quick cuddle he headed off for neonatal while the proud parents tried to remember what sleep looked like.

Peregrine Love Train (bump names attributed by my Dad, Elma (whose other suggestion was “Friendship”) and Pip) has I believe set out on a course of showing off to the nurses as much as humanely possible.  He was always going to have to stay in neonatal for three weeks or so but he’s a week old as I write and he’s already dispensed with all but a foot monitor and his NG tube, never needed any help in breathing (yay the steroids from a couple of weeks before), and has graduated from his incubator to clothes and a nice cosy fishbowl cot.

I’d always assumed that we wouldn’t get to see him until he was home and quite a good bit bigger.  It’s not that the kids couldn’t be suitable gentle but they’re little germ factories at the best of times and no one wants that with a premie baby in the house.  But then we were talking, and I remembered that I had a meeting in our London office on Tuesday, and we hatched a plan.

Work finished, I took a tiny detour in the direction of Konditor & Cook for the most amazing box of mini cakes, and caught the tube heading south.  And in about the time it would take me to get most of the way to Warwickshire on the overground train, I made it to the hospital, made it through the hospital (a serious feat in itself) and found my sister, and then together we went to see her baby.

Even when you know that he’s going to be small for a newborn and even smaller compared to my babies, who all saw 41 weeks in utero with the corresponding weight gain, the only reaction I think anyone has had to meeting Peregrine is, “Oh! He’s so small!”

He is the dinkiest little boy and was clearly more than happy to be cuddled up on his mama and snooze for an hour of so while we chatted.  And while Rosie could see the top of his head, I was getting all the expressions, from blissfully fast asleep to the occasional accidental sort of smiles.  I have a couple of really beautiful photos that I took while we were there; Peregrine cuddles up and Rosie looking down at him, but anyone who’s ever done kangaroo care will probably be able to hazard a guess as to why I’m not sharing them on the internet.  The pictures above are from the day I visited, and those below are more recent and it’s amazing how much he’s changed even in a few days.

With the wee boy tucked back up into his incubator, and in a vest for the very first time, we sat on her bed in the postnatal ward and ate all the cake, and laughed until she told me off for making her tummy hurt, and then laughed a little bit more.  I tied her hair up in bunches with the cake ribbons and threatened to leave them in until the next doctor’s round, read magazines and talked about all the ordinary things of a sister chat that usually takes place though a computer screen.  I don’t think we’ve been together in person without our children since before we had children, and I’m going to hope that the reason they moved her to a private room after I left was because she’d been in for a while, and not just because we talked the hind leg off a donkey and they wanted to give the rest of her ward a break.

Rosie teases me that my meeting was the reason why her baby had to come so early; just so I could meet him at a few days old, and whilst I suspect it was just a teeny tiny bit more medical than that, I’m so happy that the timing worked perfectly. By the time I got back across London and on the train and in the car and through the front door I just about managed to say hi to John before falling fast asleep on the sofa but it was a wonderful completely out of the ordinary treasured moment to spend that time with her, to be guilt-free company to while away the boredom of the postnatal ward knowing that the world’s best eldest nephew was having a treat with Daddy and Grandma; a little bit of silly sisterhood after some intense few days.

 

 

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 {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 {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