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Do you think there will ever be a point when I don’t find myself thinking “how is it The end of October/Christmas/summer already?” Does time ever slow down again?
Because surely only a moment or two ago it was August and I was waddling around like a heffalump and wondering whether I ought to take some back up Me and Mine pictures. And now there’s a chill in the mornings and a damp earthy sort of smell in the air as leaves flutter from the trees and swirl through the rain to land in a sludgy pile in a corner of the garden. The sort of smell that should come with woodsmoke and a bowl of soup. And the ticking over of the calendar reminds me that it’s time for a family photo.
And for this, our third with Pip in the picture, I decided to be a little adventurous and deviate from what had all the hallmarks of becoming a whole series of “photos of our garden fence with people in front of it”. It’s just not that exciting a garden fence.
So we loaded up. Three children, two adults, one camera, one remote trigger, one sling, one nappy bag and all the other paraphernalia that comes with small children to make a military operation look like tiddlywinks in comparison, and headed to Charlecote Park to play their pumpkin trail in the hope that somewhere along the line we’d find a pretty spot to rest the camera. It’s a National Trust house; there’s always going to be a pretty spot.
It turned out to be a wonderful afternoon. Kitty took charge of the pumpkin hunting, dashing off to find the next one, lifting the lid to find a letter and scribbling them down on her card, and we strolled along at Elma-speed behind her. We saw the deer and the sheep grazing in the park, found a pumpkin in the old laundry, watched the pigs snuffling under the trees and the girls jumped off the mounting block again and again while Pip snoozed away cuddled up in the sling.
And on the little bridge over the river we found first a nice wide bit of bridge to rest the camera on,
And then a very kind stranger who offered to take a picture for us and even managed not to be too baffled when I explained that you actually had to look through the viewfinder.
My little family – in October.
And I’m so pleased that we did go out and about for this month’s photos, even if Pip is no more than a tiny sleeping face peeking over the side of the sling, because I think they reflect where we’re getting to as parents, the point where it really isn’t a big deal to go out for the afternoon and not bother with the buggy, the point where we’re completely within our comfort zone but still doing the things that we love to do. We’re not always there yet, but we’re getting there.
Well, that and the out takes are priceless, as H decided to show Kitty how to pose for “your paparazzi mother” based I believe on his experience of appearing in a promotional picture holding a bike once when he was a teenager and, from the looks of things, too much exposure to adverts for mature cruises and/or harlequin golfing jumpers in the back of his art magazines.
In the last few weeks since Pip arrived we’ve had a little flurry of baby related post. And at first it was addressed to Baby Butterflies*, or The Parent or Guardian of Baby Butterflies, and that was fine, it was exactly the same as the letters we’d had about the girls, usually right down to the words inside.
But then as Pip’s real name started to filter through the system they changed. And we came across another of those ‘things you never knew about until you had a boy’.
The girls’ letters were addressed to Miss Kitty Butterflies or Miss Elma Butterflies, and that always seemed to fit perfectly. If you think of a Miss it can just as easily be the tiny baby girl in your arms as the memory of your third form primary school teacher, who though probably only in her 40’s at the time seemed utterly ancient to a seven year old me.
But it appears that boys, even the tiny ones, are Mr. And even though I know it’s his name, there’s still part of me that looks at a letter addressed to Mr Pip Butterflies and has to double take. Mr Pip is a grown up, the teenager who will one day loom over me, and the man that he’s yet to become. Mr is the future, it doesn’t really feel like the present.
I mean, how can someone who looks like this:
Be a Mr?
*NB. Butterflies isn’t actually our surname – wouldn’t it be lovely if it was though, I wonder if anyone actually has it as a surname?
Back in the day, in the days when a good night’s sleep consisted of a minimum of a solid eight hours, the days when walking barefoot across the carpet didn’t involve the complex navigation of a minefield of small sharply cornered plastic detritus, the days before the definition of a treat included going to the supermarket without any of the children, the clock changes were merely an entertaining eccentricity in the year.
In the spring loosing an hour meant that summer was on its way, and in the autumn there was the joy of an extra hour in bed, and at least a week of feeling more awake and refreshed in the morning because it felt just that little bit later than it really was.
And to be honest until this year the clock changes have treated us fairly kindly; Kitty has been able to adjust without too much of a problem and Elma’s been too little for it to really have an impact.
But this year. Well so far it’s been brutal. On the old time everyone woke up between 6 and 7am, and I know it’s only Wednesday but I promise you I’ve seen 5am accompanied by all three very wide awake children enough times to last the rest of the year already.
And then of course we seem to get caught up in a crazy sort of sleep spiral with overtired little girls crashing out mid afternoon. It’s lovely that they’re getting the sleep they clearly need, and for Kitty it isn’t really a problem, she still goes to bed at the same time quite happily, but my poor little Elma is suffering.
Under the old time Elma napped once during the day; just before lunch if she was at home and just after lunch at nursery, with the promise that they would wake her by 1.30pm if she hadn’t woken before. It sounds unbelievable written down but we’ve discovered by painful experience that if Elma has even a moment of sleep after 1.30 it seems to completely reset her body clock. You can think that she’s exhausted and will fall asleep in a heartbeat but suddenly she’s scampering around like it’s morning, and no matter how much running around, fresh air and all the rest of it we factor into the end of the day she still resists sleep with every ounce of her being.
Cue one increasingly exhausted but very awake little lady.
So if you take 1.30 and make it what used to be 2.30, you can see where we’re going with this one.
Early starts. Long bedtime routines that stretch on into the evening. Let’s just say that I think caffeine is a very wonderful thing right about now. I’m shattered. Possibly more so even than when Pip was a teeny tiny newborn who thought that nights were for catching up together.
And aside from making me firmly in favour of anyone who wants to just have one time and stick with it (I really don’t mind whether it’s GMT or BST, it’s basically much of a muchness), it’s also showing me oh so clearly that for me sleep deprivation isn’t entirely about the amount of actual sleep that I’ve had.
I know that if I went to bed the moment that the girls drifted off and slept all the way through the late evening and the night to whatever extent Pip deems appropriate I would definitely be getting more hours of sleep, but I just can’t do it, and I don’t think it would make me feel any less exhausted.
We get everyone settled and sleepy and then even if I’m still nursing or cuddling Pip I can curl up on the sofa next to H, to chat through our days, or watch a film together. My evenings are the time for planning all the million and one creative projects that whizz round in my head, even if they’re never going to get further than the planning stage; the time for a little knitting, for sewing the buttons on the latest project, or deciding the next colour in a blanket, for writing, or for sorting through the day’s photos.
And it’s those moments that recharge me, that set me up to face the day that’s coming with calmness and patience. If I skip that down time, that dare I say it, “me time”, then I’m not sure it would matter how many hours sleep I’d had, I just don’t feel quite me without it.
I would love it if the girls could find their routine again, and if you’re a veteran of many clock changes please tell me that they will, but for now, if you’re up at 5am, say hi. I’ll be the one crocheting for calm. With my eyes closed.
Once upon a time, when Kitty was just a teeny tiny little baby, or not so teeny tiny as the case may be, we ventured out to the library on a chilly winter morning in search of a story or two.
It’s hard to imagine now, looking across the lounge to the play kitchen, the boxes of Duplo, the train set in its basket and the bookcase overflowing with stories of all shapes and sizes, that once upon a time we had a coffee table, and ornaments. Once upon a time that bookcase held grown up books. Well sort of, at least one of the shelves was given over to housing my hardback collection of the Swallows & Amazons series but you know what I mean.
And the change from then to know all stems from that library visit, that gateway to a world of children’s stories far beyond the things I remembered from my own childhood, and the limited appeal of the “that’s not my …” Board books, and the story of Sniff Snuff Snap.
What better place to begin than with Lynley Dodd.
We brought it home, read it, read it again, and again and again and again. It was the first of the children’s books that I found I’d sort of accidentally memorised, the one I’ve recited a hundred times over my shoulder on long car journeys or rocking a sleepy little girl in my arms.
And it’s still awesome.
In the heart of the African plains lives a little warthog, tail up high, guarding his waterhole from all and sundry.
He chases them away, the weaver birds, the zebras, even the elephants, with a sniff snap snap, but to no avail;they all come back. And slowly the water goes down and down.
Poor little warthog, tired and hot, all they leave him is thick brown mud, and in the distance the looming thunderclouds and the promising first drops of rain.
Unlike many of our other Lynley Dodd favourites this isn’t all about the deliciousness of tongue twisting language, the focus is all on the repetition, the same key phrases used for each set of animals and that gives it both a familiarity and the rhythm that Kitty loved as a baby.
We bought it as soon as the original was due back at the library, along with the bookseller’s recommendation for something similar, a book by an author I’d never heard of before, but with some lovely looking illustrations, a book called Room on the Broom. And from that point there’s been no going back, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Last wek Vickie discovered a whole heap of classics with Usborne’s Illustrated Stories for Children and Jess joined us for the first time (yay! and welcome!) with a book I must look out for for Pip, Baby’s Day. And if you have a favourite, or just something fun your little or not so little ones have enjoyed reading lately please do join us. There really are no rules here, it doesn’t have to be a book you own or for a particular age group. I write about books for pre-schoolers because that’s what I have, some of them from our exploding bookcases and some from the library, but I’m always looking out for the next stage up, and anything that’s really good tends to transcend age groups anyway!
The linky is always open for the whole week so there’s plenty of time. And so, without further ado, it’s over to you to tell me what we should be reading!