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{the ordinary moments}

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

Family {the ordinary moments}

The phone call at 4.30 {the ordinary moments}

12/02/2017

My phone rang at 4.30.  That was never going to be a good sign.  I’ll quite often talk to John and the kids on the phone at lunchtime but if the message is “come home via the chippy, we fancy fish for supper” it’s going to come by text, not a call.

Poor little Pip Squeak had fallen over in the supermarket and banged his head on the bottom of a shelf unit as only an overly bouncy toddler could.  He had a nice egg coming up and a bit of a nasty cut, and John and the pharmacist had both looked at it, and each other, and made that face that you make when you know that it might be all right if you just left it, but you can’t take that chance and you know you’re going to A&E.  With three increasingly hungry children.

Space for the Butterflies

So they headed off through rush hour traffic, I threw everything in my work bag and headed for the next train with a small detour for chocolate biscuits.

In an odd way there was a sense of inevitability about it; Pip is utterly fearless and tall and strong with it, he will climb anything, run jump and throw himself into whatever he’s doing, usually literally, so to be so excited that he fell over his own feet is very Pip, it’s just that supermarkets aren’t quite as friendly places to fall over in as the sofa at home.

Space for the Butterflies

I was never particularly worried exactly; John is a veteran of many, many sports related injuries (see here and scroll down for evidence!) and seems to leave the best part of his knees on an astroturf almost every week so I trust his judgment absolutely when it comes to bumps and scrapes on the kids but oh did I wish that train could have moved faster.  It isn’t the same as when I’d get a call from nursery to say one of the girls was poorly and I’d have to dash home as fast as possible to pick them up and cosset them, but it’s still enough to make you feel every mile.

By the time I got to the hospital it seemed that miracles of miracles had occurred and they’d found A&E to be fairly quiet so they were already in with the doctor, and my little boy was bumbling about to show everyone just how bright eyed and bushy tailed he was feeling.  General prognosis: he was fine, he just needed glueing back together again.  Which is exactly what happened; as Pip likes to tell people “I went hospital! Doctor fix me!”, and he was petted and given a fruit roll in the butchers so as far as he’s concerned he’s had fewer baths and a nice adventure.

I was so proud of our girls too; when I got to the hospital they were both crammed into the same chair, trying desperately not to fidget too much, and just sit and wait, and for all that they were glad to be sprung when I took them home first while John and Pip waited for the glue, they wouldn’t go until they knew what was happening to their brother, and given him hugs and checked he was OK.

Space for the Butterflies

It’s been quite a week.  As well as Pip charming the A&E staff into giving him a biscuit, we’ve had house viewings, seen a house we quite liked the look of be sold to someone else, and John and my in laws have done a herculean task in two days and repainted vast swathes of the house (you can hear all about it in this week’s Little Loves video).

It makes me very very glad to be sat on a cold and grey Saturday evening, writing this with a glass of wine to one hand and the comfort of knowing that right now we’re all tucked up and snug in our castle.  But here’s hoping to a slightly less eventful week coming.

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

 

 

 

Family Motherhood {the ordinary moments}

A snuggly sort of Saturday

05/02/2017

Somewhere it’s written down as an actual genuine rule, that when you’re at your most busy, the exhaustion that runs with it only hits when you stop long enough to notice.  My January has been dominated by two big work moments, one in the middle and one at the end of last week, and the sudden realisation that I was done, or rather that I had just a smidgen of breathing space before the next urgent deadline hit me with all the force of a month’s worth of late nights and my poor little brain had to be coaxed into action with the promise of our team goodie shelf (and the very welcome and now traditional Toblerone from my boss on his return from the Alps).  I was so glad to see Friday, and even gladder to see 5pm on Friday and the train home.

I know when I was the full time at home parent, the weekend felt like the chance to do something or go on an adventure as a complete family, and it’s a mindset that I think I’ve carried across into going back to work.  Add in the omnipresent lurk of maternal guilt and I have a default setting that weekends should be for adventures and for making enough memories with the children that they never look back on their childhood and think I was missing.  It’s also a lot of fun, as our trip to the Chinese New Year festivities last Sunday proved, but sometimes you just need to have a really lazy day.

Well sort of a really lazy day.  The viewings continue so we were up bright and early yesterday to get the house back to showing standard and then headed out for breakfast to wait for everyone to finish traipsing through, but once we got home, we were home.  And part of me thought that on such a beautiful sunny day we really ought to go and do something, and the really tired part of me looked at the comfy sofa and the window open to let the sunshine, and knew that the furthest we were going was the garden.

Space for the Butterflies - A snuggly Saturday

And so we settled into one of the sort of ordinary days that I seem to have so rarely now; sat around the dinner table while the girls did some colouring, Pip drew expansive blue swirls, and I picked up his Christmas jumper (sadly neglected since the big day) in between fielding illustration requests, because why shouldn’t you have a hockey player, Pip watching hockey, a helicopter and a rainbow all in the same picture.  With John home for a little longer thanks to a change in hockey plans, he joined the art club and it felt very peaceful, even in the noise of a family of five.

Space for the Butterflies - A snuggly Saturday

Space for the Butterflies - A snuggly Saturday

Space for the Butterflies - A snuggly Saturday

For lunch we gave the kids a carpet picnic, a favourite treat of theirs, and when we’d rescued cheese wrappers from the floor, they brought down their duvets and pillows and quilts and we set up the play frame to make a snuggly den.

Space for the Butterflies - A snuggly Saturday

But whatever game they were playing didn’t quite stack up to just cuddling up; I sat on the sofa with my knitting and one by one they came to join us; Kitty and Elma down the other end giggling and wiggling my toes, and Pip snuggled up by my side.  We didn’t read stories or even sing, I just listened to them chatter away and caught up on snippets of all the vitally important things about school; Elma’s next playdate, how many teeth each of Kitty’s friends have lost, and where she sat to eat her carrots last week.

Space for the Butterflies - A snuggly Saturday

Space for the Butterflies - A snuggly Saturday

When I was all grown up and heading back to see my Mum she used to keep patting me, just to check I was real, and really there, and at the time I thought it was sweet and a little bit funny, but now I totally get where she was coming from.  As the full time working parent in this family my arms are empty more often than they are full, even in the weeks where I wake up to find Pip on one side, Kitty on the other and Elma sleeping across my feet, and though all three kids are little cuddle bugs, I can’t spend all my home time clutching them to me to try to compensate.  To spend hours just curled up together with no pressure to be anywhere or doing anything was one of those days that feel like Saturdays should; the days that drop into the “you’re doing OK” side of the scales.

Space for the Butterflies - A snuggly Saturday

As I’m writing this I feel bonelessly relaxed; definitely a feeling to hang onto as we head into another week.

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