Browsing Category

{the ordinary moments}

Family {the ordinary moments}

In which we have a date


We exchanged contracts on our house this Thursday.  A week ago we were still batting back another silly question from our buyers, and then suddenly we got an email asking if we could complete by the end of the month.  Well no, that would be ridiculous, but in a flurry of phone calls and organising we went back with a date, and suddenly our days in this house are numbered to a little less than three weeks.

It’s very exciting, and very real, not least in the prospect of sorting out all of our things for packing.  We’re not actually moving into our new house yet.  The purchase is all still on track, it just had to sit around and wait, and wait, and wait again, and finally the letter the mortgage company needed arrived and we’re all systems go.  With the best will in the world, that’s not going to be in three weeks’ time, so we have a masterplan.  My lovely aunt lives a stone’s catapult from the *fingerscrossed* new house, and so while most of our stuff goes into storage, the five of us, Buckingham Palace (the tent*) and the important things in life are going to camp in her garden until we complete our purchase.

The kids are very very excited; they adore their auntie and uncle, and Bob the cat, and their swimming pool, and their strawberry fields! John and I are definitely looking forward to shorter school runs, a shorter and easier commute, and just a little bit, the simplicity of our camping life.  It’s not going to be exactly the same as our summer adventures, for one thing we’ll be staying put, and for another I’m still going to be working, but the truth is that when you have to boil your life down to what will fit in a tent, even a really big one, it’s a lot less than tends to build up in a house.  I suspect that we’ll take a bit more than we cram into our family car for travels, but only as much as we can fit in the other car.

So that’s the exciting bit, and we’re all looking forward to the house at the end of the journey too.  It has a compromise or two, and it’s a bit of a fixer upper, but they were compromises that weren’t on the really important things (garden, not too far from school or a train station) and it’s got some seriously beautiful bones.  Touch wood now because I can’t wait to show it to you or to start to get to grips with making it truly ours.

But at the same time, it’s starting to feel just a little bit too real.  We moved into this house 11 1/2 years ago.  It’s the house we moved into on an impossibly cold and foggy November day, when even the hottest curry that could be delivered couldn’t keep out the chill as we made trip after trip from our rented house with all of our things in the back of a van.  It’s the house we came home too as newlyweds, and the house that was a first home to each of our three children.  It holds so many memories and will always be precious.

We’re not just moving house though, we’re moving county, all the way over to the other side of the middle, and I think that lends the whole thing an air of standing on the edge of a precipice.  We’re more embedded here than perhaps I think we are, and there’ll be a good bit of finding our way around and making new friends before it feels as much like home as our little village here.

I went into town yesterday afternoon, and the thought struck me that this might be the last time I go into town living in this house, and while that’s not a big deal, and with John still playing hockey over here I can be back every other weekend all through the season if I want to be, it brought it home that there are going to be lots of lasts to come in the next few weeks.

As it turns out, I have already bought my last monthly season ticket.  The next one I buy will be a weekly, and then that will be it and my commute will be totally different all over again.

So while we pack up camping kit, and try to work out what needs to come with us, and remember to buy new air mattresses because three little trampolinists appear to have fatally wounded our one remaining one, I’ve got a definite plan to make sure that we cram in as many memories of our favourite places as we can possibly manage, before the day comes that we pack up and drive away to our next adventure.

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

*so named despite our original intention of calling it Wendy, when a German guy crawled out of his tiny take-it-up-a-mountain sized tent as we were putting it up on the shore of Walchensee and exclaimed “Ist Buckingham Palace”. Nicht ist Buckingham Palace but the name stuck!

Family Photography {the ordinary moments}

On Kinver Edge


With the girls in school only until lunchtime on Friday it scarcely seems worth it to drive there and back only to turn round and drive there and back again, so for several weeks John and Pip have spent Fridays exploring this new part of the world that is going to be our home before we know it.  I get photos of them wandering through bluebells, taking a detailed survey of the new village playpark and having a coffee and cake, all in the name of research or so I’m told.  It sets a nice unhurried feel to their Friday morning and I suspect makes it a favourite part of their week.

I took Friday off work so that John could have an early weekend, heading off with friends on Friday to play a couple of rounds of golf on Friday and Saturday as a warm up for the worlds ugliest golf trophy competition, but Pip and I saw no reason to change the normal Friday morning routine.  As soon as we’d dropped the girls off at school we hopped back in to the car and headed to Kinver.

Where I come from in Devon, Kinver would be a decent size town. According to John, who grew up in Yorkshire next to the largest village in Europe, it’s practically a hamlet.  However you designate it, it is lovely, and at one stage we seriously thought about trying to move there.  The town centre itself has lots of proper shops, unlike say Stourbridge, which alternates charity shops with coffee, including a great bakery, perfect for midmorning cake.  But first we had to earn the cake.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Kinver Edge is a sandstone ridge sitting high up above the western edge of Kinver, and it’s one of those places where you can feel that you’ve climbed to the top of the world, even if you only have little legs.  Pip and I headed up the eastern end, first wandering along the path and then my tiny boy determinedly climbing step after solid step, throwing his legs up as if he were hurdling them.  When we finally reached the viewpoint, he was more than ready to perch up on the map and trace out rivers and hills only vaguely visible under grey skies.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Even with the map to help, I’m not sure I could have particularly recognised Droitwich over Bromsgrove, and while I know Pip’s eye sight is better than mine, his instant “I see it!” response to my pointing out the direction for New York, rather suggests that he was just enjoying the view wherever it may be; that or he thinks it’s a sort of sheep.  (Forgive me American readers, but I suspect that we do talk about sheep more than we talk about cities in the USA).

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Along the top of the heathland we found a herd of longhorn cattle, with some impressively long longhorns.  So far as we could work out it seemed entirely a quirk of nature whether the horns went up, down or out, I wonder if it’s the cow equivalent of whether your resting face looks cheerful or on the edge of being irritated? Imagine being the most upbeat cow that ever moo-ed only to have droopy horns.  Pip was more interested in their breakfasts; he was utterly convinced that cows eat cowpats and nothing I said could convince him that the cowpats come afterwards – these are the joys of two year old boys.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Past the cows we found the puddles, and Pip set to, splashing through even the tiniest drop of water before declaring himself all tired out and ready to be hoisted up onto my back.  He’s a tall and sturdy boy, and neither John nor I can carry him for long in our arms, and he makes an awkward weight on your shoulders, that and he tends to hang on around your throat, so we both wear the Ergo if there’s even a chance of him needing a lift.  Once onboard he’s quite happy, and at just the right height to either snuggle in for a little rest, or lean forward to chat into my ear, and I definitely had the chatterbox version with me for the day.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

As we headed back down into the trees we heard a cuckoo; I’m not very good at bird noises but that’s one I can recognise, and further on we found a pair of chaffinches hopping up and down the path looking for breakfast.  You’ll have to take my word for it because toddlers are not the best accompaniment to stealth photography!

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

And then we came to Nannys Rock.   There are rock houses excavated out of the sandstone up on Kinver Edge, and on the north easterly end they’re preserved and renovated by the National Trust.  Pip and I were there two hours too early to actually go inside, so we peered through the gate and they’re high up on my list of places to visit once we’ve got settled, but Nannys Rock, down at the other end, was left just as it was; a series of three caves carved out of the rock and open to the elements and to casual explorers.  They are eerily beautiful, and the sandstone is so soft that they’re completely covered with carved graffiti, but it only adds context.  One day, even the names dated this century will have softened and faded away into the sand on the floor.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

For Pip and me the photos were enough, and soon we were back on the trail home with Pip walking the last little bit, singing the final round of the Grand Old Duke of York to bring tired little legs back to the car.  He always sings “neither down nor up” at the end, however many times we sing it the right way round, and it’s endearing in its wrongness, his voicing singing out with full heart and hot little hand clasped in mine.

Space for the Butterflies - Kinver Edge

We did make it to the bakery before it was time to pick up the girls, and we did have a gentle domestic sort of an afternoon with them, but while I treasure that time, because frankly there is no job in the world that would let me spend as much time with them as I’d want, there was something so very special about our morning’s adventures; time with Pip that felt as if we had all the time in the world to stand and stare, and give full reign to toddler flights of fancy.  I can see why it’s become a Friday favourite.

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


Family {the ordinary moments}

Tiny chatterings


When Kitty was a littler person I used to write down all the funny things she said.  It’s one of those moments as a parent when you look down at this tiny little person that you made and gave birth to and nurtured and nourished and watched over, who can speak. Actual genuine words, in roughly the right order, and so beautifully back to front in their logic that we’d struggle to keep a straight face.

But alas for Elma and Pip, I’ve had less chance to keep the same notes for them.  Partly it’s just that life is busier now; I look back now on the days when I blogged every single day and wondered how on earth I was doing it, I’m not aiming half so high now and even then I don’t write nearly as many posts in me as I would like.  And part I’ll admit is that they are the second and third children in the family, and I’m afraid that their sister will always have the novelty value; it’s the flip side of the coin that means that she is also the guinea pig so I don’t think they’re missing out too much.

But in my week at home I got to spend so much time with all three of them (and John), and to really hear how both Elma and Pip see the world.  During most week days I only see them first thing in the morning when they’ve just woken up, and last thing before supper story and bedtime, and it’s not exactly their finest hour, so there tends to be less chatter and more “Mummeeeeee”.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings Monthly Photo Project

Elma is trying her hand at jokes, probably because Kitty is also experimenting with jokes, largely of the “why did the chicken cross the road” variety, but Elma’s are just wonderfully factual:

Why did the caterpillar climb the tree?
Because he wanted to get some leaves.

Shortly followed by:

Why did the witch get the caterpillar?
Because she wanted to put him in the soup

And my personal favourite:

Why did the elephant wear glasses?
Because he wanted to see properly without blinking.

She falls off her chair laughing at them; the only thing funnier in her world is her Daddy saying “I want some chicken and a can of coke” in a fake scouse accent, which all three kids think is screamingly funny, to the point that they try to trick John into saying it, which is quite hard to do, given that his usual accent is Yorkshire.

Pip’s thoughts have, for the most part, been running along a protective streak; it’s as if he learns things during the day and then wants to make sure that I know them too.  It’s usually just as he’s about to go to bed, a big bundle of bright eyes and soft cotton sleeping bag, curled up in my arms for the final cuddle of the day, and he’ll suddenly look up at me:

Mama! You shouldn’t eat buses, should you!

He also heard us talking about Bake Off Creme de la Creme and thinks that Mummy and Daddy watch a program on Cranky the Crane after he’s gone to bed – and he wasn’t very impressed with it!.

But the best comes via John, when he and Pip were turning into our road earlier in the week and spotted our neighbours’ cat sat on our drive.  It’s a very silly cat and it likes to think it can take on cars so you quite often have to nudge the car gently onto the drive, beep the horn and wait for it to stop prancing about before you can park.

Mama went beep beep!
Mummy beeped the horn did she?
Yes, at the idjot. Beep horn at idjot Daddy!
Oh Mummy beeped at the cat!

after a small pause

Did we run over the cat Daddy?
No, we didn’t run over the cat.
We don’t run over cats do we Daddy?
No, that’s right, we don’t.
It’s OK, we can run over cat on Monday!

Well that’s going to make for an eventful start to the week!

Space for the Butterflies

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


Family Photography {the ordinary moments}

Sunny Nights


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


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.