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April 2015

Elma Family Kitty Me and Mine Photography Pip

Me and Mine 2015: April




April has been the month of sunshine, the month when we threw off our winter coats, and full waterproofs, put the wellies and the knee length boots back in the cupboard and just about halved the number of wooly socks waiting to be washed.  It’s been wonderful.

Last year we finally bought new garden furniture in an end of season sale in July (no, I’m not sure why the garden furniture season ends in July either but according to our Homebase it does, and you never argue with a discount) and shortly after my maternity leave started we became the proud owners of a nice glass table, six chairs and a lovely big parasol.  We had a couple of suppers outside, several lunches and I started to envisage a blissful long summer, eating outside for every meal, relegating the indoor table to a mere sideboard.  But this is England and summer here so rarely means what you want it to mean and so the heavens opened, and I sat inside watching fat raindrops plop off the end of the parasol onto the puddle on the table.

We packed away most of it for the winter but this month we’ve dusted off the spiders and set up our outdoor dining room again.  Meals outside mean so much less mess from a baby led weaning baby with a rather impressive right overarm throw, it means family meals where everyone is less distracted by the toys they’ve just left or the noises in the kitchen so we seem to spend more time just chatting together, and on the loveliest of evenings it’s meant sitting out until late on in the evening by candlelight, wrapping up in more and more blankets as some very Aprily temperatures exerted themselves.

And when not eating outside we’ve been playing outside; the girls have endless variations on games which start with a bucket of water and some washing up liquid, from washing their tin tea service, to painting their toy car and scooters with my pastry brush (RIP pastry brush – I bought a new one in a different colour shortly after discovering it being used on the potty).  We’ve had play tents, we’ve currently got the real tent up and I’m just waiting for a day of pouring rain to go and hide out in it and read stories while we listen to it beating down outside, and the swing, the slide, and the trampoline have all been in near constant use.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

As for Pip, he’s perfected the ‘roll and grab a handful of grass manoeuvre’ and I’m pretty sure is straining to crawl just to reach those lovely tasty looking leaves.

So it seems only appropriate that this month our pictures come from our garden, in the late afternoon sunshine at the end of a gentle Sunday with the smell of bacon butties for tea drifting out of the kitchen.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

They are in what I think by now has become our trademark style of “utterly bonkers”, a chief requirement of which is that no picture shall be taken while all five people are looking at the camera.  As I don’t think I have particularly uncooperative children I think that the only thing that’s going to get that sort of a picture any time soon will be an actual person behind the camera to call to the children.  Kitty and Elma just aren’t interested in it and I’m not sure Pip can even see it.  I tried putting one of his noisy toys on the tripod and he peered myopically in that vague direction before returning to the all important task of eating the grass while Mummy and Daddy are distracted.


Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But they are undoubtably happy photos and that’s really what I’m trying to capture; the closeness and the laughter.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It’s that feeling of utter contentment that comes over me when I look around the dinner table and Pip is throwing carrots on the floor while trying to get an entire stem of broccoli in his mouth at once, Kitty is telling us about who said what at nursery and Elma is showing us her “Frozen powers” (a sort of static jazz hands) and it’s noisy and jumbled and so very every day but I look across to H and catch his eye and neither of us need to say anything, I can hear his thoughts as clearly as my own; this life of ours, it’s every thing we ever dreamt of and more.

My family, in April:

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life


And because no Me and Mine post would be complete without the outtakes I can bring to you the before and after shot from the moment that Kitty decided that Daddy was a horse and he giddied up, and Elma decided that this was an opportunity that she really shouldn’t let pass!  Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Exploring Family

The Travel Bucket List

 I come from an adventurous family.  I know this because on school expeditions my Dad was regularly teased by my mother as being Mr “Just one more site!”  Let’s just say it was not entirely uncommon for him to persuade the coach driver to add in a little extra stop along the way, nor was I surprised to find myself legging it back to the bus on a classics trip in Delphi because we’d both wanted to climb just that bit higher.  The year they retired Mum and Dad went on a serious trip of a lifetime to New Zealand and Dad’ last holiday had him scaling mountains in northern Spain.
(South Devon where I grew up – on days like this you wonder how we ever got further than the nearest beach!)
While H and I aren’t planning any major expeditions just yet, we have both been lucky enough to travel a bit as children and in the pre-our-children days. My parents took my sister and I to Greece, to France a couple of times and on the most amazing trip across Canada, and H and his family have explored huge swathes of Europe and some sizeable chunks of the USA. Our first holiday together was to Rome, we put together a trip to New York and Boston on a whim, having seen a picture of the Empire State Building in a craft shop window we walked into the travel agent next door and booked the flights and although I’ll gloss over our trips to Florida which always seem to end up with me in the hospital, Paris, Venice and Southern Spain more than made up for it.
Suffice to say we have some plans.  And the bucket list starts with…
1. The Pacific Northwest
Top of the list for a few years now, I want to start at Portland and drive north, through Seattle and up and on into Canada.  The coastline around the Olympic peninsula looks incredible, and so completely unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, I want to go to really see it and touch the rocks and feel the wind whipping in over the sea and know that the next land in that direction is Japan; it’s just a smidge wider than the English Channel.  And when we’d tired of beaches (could that ever happen), Oregon and Washington state have spectacular mountains, and forests with trees that reach to the sky.  It’s everything we love the best at home but super-sized.
In Canada we would be crossing the path of my childhood trip but the area around Vancouver is just so beautiful and I’d love to introduce H to somewhere that I’ve been that he hasn’t.  I’d have to include a trip out to Vancouver Island to relive memories of fire roasted salmon on the beach and then travel further inland to see some more of the Rockies, though whether I’d go across the Capilano suspension bridge again and with three children I’m not so sure – I remember it being very wobbly, holding on very tight and being rather worried about the possibility of my glasses leaping off my face and disappearing over the edge.  And if we’re really making it a trip where all dreams come true then I’d want to be int he Rockies at the right time of year to see, or rather hear Thunder-snow; I love snow and I love watching thunderstorms so the two together intrigues me.
It would be the trip of a lifetime and I suspect the way I’m planning it we’d need to go for at least six months just to fit everything in.
Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life
(this is North Devon – an equally dramatic coastline!)
2. An island entire of itself
I don’t actually have a set destination for number 2 on my list, because there a quite a few places around the world that would fit the bill, it’s more the experience that I want. I want to go to an island that is practically uninhabited or totally uninhabited and is small enough to walk around in a day.  I don’t live in a terribly populated part of the country but there are always people within shouting distance and I’m a little curious to know what it would be like to be truly alone.  Alone, but not stranded, I’d want a boat to go sailing in and we’re not talking about Bear Grylls style hunt-a-caman-and-drink-your-own-wee kind of an island, more like anywhere from RM Ballantyne’s A Coral Island upwards. I think I can go so far as to specify that it should be warm, and sandy, not populated mostly by midges, free from snakes and spiders, with a bay suitable for swimming and sailing.  Part of me is tempted to say that we’d have hammocks to sleep in under the stars, and part of the appeal would be the darkness at night, but for the sake of H, who is entirely unconvinced about camping unless it involves hockey festivals, I’d be looking for something a bit higher up the accommodation ladder, complete with a bathroom where you can sit in the bath and look out over the ocean, I’ve always wanted to go somewhere where you could do that.
H says I should try the Seychelles (warm, sandy, luxurious), I’ve always been rather fascinated by Pitcairn (slightly colder, every so slightly less accessible but with all the history of being populated by the descendants of Fletcher Christian and the rest of the Bounty muntineers), and I’m sure that somewhere out there is out perfect island adventure, we just have to go looking for it.
Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life
3. Volcanos and the stars
And for my final choice, after much deliberation, I’m going to go with one of H’s contributions to our joint list and say Hawaii.  I know the stereotype for a Hawaiian holiday is sun, surf and cocktails, and I’m sure we could fit that in the schedule somewhere, and we’d definitely want to do some sailing to see some of the spectacular coast, but the chief fascination comes from two things: stars and volcanos.
I’ve never seen a volcano up close and when you stop to think about it it rather blows your mind; watching the earth’s molten core bubble away just under the surface can only make you all the more aware of how precarious our existence is, and in awe at the make up of our planet that allows life to exist and flourish.  And fro one planet to all the others, Hawaii is the site of the Mauna Kea Observatory, up on the top of a mountain on Big Island.  Hawaii is one of the best places on Earth for astronomy; it’s got nice dark skies, it’s near the equator and the mountains mean you can get above whatever cloud and humidity there is.  H and I both love to watch the stars, and we know how much fun it is to find a clear night at Dad’s house and sit watching little twinkles of light pop into the sky the more and more you look at it.  The idea of being somewhere that makes the beautiful Devon night sky look like a cloudy night in central London is just so very very tempting.
Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life
Looking back on my list it seems that the recipe for a perfect holiday for me is sun, sea, and mountains; it sounds pretty good to me.
This is my entry to Transun’s #TransunLights competition to win a trip to see the Northern Lights.  I’m quietly fascinated with all things weather and I would love to see the Northern Lights in person and Norway and the arctic very nearly made the list (one day I want to be above the arctic circle in the summer to see a day with no night!).  When I was seventeen I sailed in the Tall Ships Race from Aberdeen to Trondheim (about half way up Norway), well I say sailed, there was absolutely no wind and our lovely concrete hulled gaff ketch was making the sort of gentle progress that puts your flight home in jeopardy so we (along with most of the rest of the fleet) retired, turned the engine on and went to explore a few fijords along the way.  I must have spent every night watch hoping for a glimpse of the lights but I don’t think we were far enough north and we never saw even a flash. I fell in love with that part of the world in an instant, it is utterly breathtaking, and so I very much hope that the wind of fortune is with me this time.
Elma Family Kitty Motherhood Pause for Thought Pip

On fostering a quiet determination


Kitty has started to try to call people names. She isn’t very good at it to be honest, mostly she’ll just tell you that you’re a “silly tent”, but it’s enough that we sit her down, try to explain that calling names is hurtful and just not something that we do and hope that the message gets through.  I asked her why she thought it was funny and of course the answer came back “D_ does it!”. And what happens at nursery when D_ calls people silly? Well Mummy, and out came the story; D_ had called names and then he’d had to go to explain to their nursery teacher and then he’d had to sit out with the teacher for a bit.  For a four year old it was clearly a moment of great drama and excitement in the day, compounded by the fact that Kitty herself has never, as far as she is aware, had to sit out with the teacher.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It was a little incident, and I can see why it’s absolutely developmentally appropriate for her to be reenacting at home both the things that she does at nursery and the things that have happened at nursery.  But it also gave me a little nudge, a little foreshadowing of the future, a little hint that we’re about to get into the days of peer pressure and wanting to be in with the crowd.

On the one hand, I do want her to enjoy her school days, to be well liked, and not to be picked on or bullied, but I don’t want that at the expense of her being her own self.  If she is popular I hope it would be because she is known as a kind, gentle and respectful friend, not because she’s head cheerleader (We’re pretty safe on that one if she inherits even half of my absence of sporting ability). If there is a choice I would rather she was not popular, but stood up for our core values, although I know that that sounds incredibly harsh.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

In the next eighteen years or so there are going to be so many times when she (and Elma and Pip in their turn) are faced with a decision to stand up for what she believes to be right, or to go with the group and let slide something that she knows would not sit comfortably within our family.  I hope that she will have the courage to always be her truest self and I’m willing her to have the strength of personality to stand firm, and not to simply be a follower, but to think for herself.

This is the time that we’re building the foundations for Kitty, and while I know the end result that I want, I don’t have a clue how to go about it.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But perhaps I don’t need to, perhaps it is not so much something that you do as something that you are.  Perhaps our family life simply is that foundation.  Is the way to nurture a quietly determined woman, just to surround her in infancy with such abundance of unconditional love that she cannot be anything but confident? And within that, to let her question and challenge us, and remind ourselves to be happy when she won’t accept things at face value, because they’re the characteristics you want in an adult, even if they can be very time consuming in a four year old.

I can see so clearly through the girls’ play that they are copying the behaviour that H and I model for them, good and bad (we shall gloss over the week when one of my daughters referred to her socks as “blooming” and when asked where she heard that word said “Grandma” – it wasn’t Grandma, it was probably Daddy and probably wasn’t “blooming”) and it’s that awareness that kicks in when I can feel myself getting towards the edge of my temper.  Sometimes of course it all fails and we have shouty Mummy (“if you do not put your shoes on this instant and go to the door we will be too late for nursery breakfast and you will be hungry and I will be a Bad Mother”), which no one likes and then I get a grip and apologise and we all go on.

I have always been confident in myself and, I think, fairly immune to peer pressure. When I was at school I was a gawky academic child who was quite happy just pottering around in her own company.  I wasn’t lonely, I wasn’t bullied, but I was never part of the rich popular group and somehow it never bothered me, I just did my own thing and waited until I got to university and met a whole group of friends who were just like me (and H, but that’s another story). And so odd as it sounds, because I don’t know what it’s like to not be like that, I feel like I don’t know how to protect Kit or teach her how to stand firm.Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But if I’m right (and I think I am – see aforementioned self confidence), there is nothing I can do but be myself, and go on in hope and with a giant leap of faith that in eighteen years time the daughter whom we love more than anything else in the world save her siblings, will be the strong, confident young woman that I can imagine right now.


Books Elma Family what we're reading

My First Root Children {what we’re reading}


As Winter relented and let go its grip on the world and parents everywhere began to let themselves just imagine the prospect of a day when going outside didn’t involve bundling their offspring into umpteen layers of waterproofs and wellies, one book kept appearing in my blogging peripheral vision, mentioned again and again in passing on some of my favourite blogs.  The Story of the Root Children seemed to be as much a part of their Spring as it is unfathomable to me to go through Christmas without reading The Night Before Christmas more times than you can remember to count.

And so my interest was piqued.  Which means I looked it up on Amazon.  In my defence I did also have to buy the Lion Storyteller Bible for a christening present for a friend of ours and the idea of adding in a little something for the girls and Pip was, irrisistible.  It always is when it comes to books.

But to my surprise, Amazon didn’t have a copy of The Story of the Root Children (we may all pause now at the wonder of discovering something that Amazon doesn’t sell) but they did have My First Root Children, and as it seemed about time to add a story to the more junior end of our library and I’d already picked something out for Kitty, into the basket it went.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It has been a huge hit.  I think in my mind I’d intended it mostly for Pip, and he certainly enjoys turning the pages, trying to chew the corners and looking at the pictures, but it’s Elma who has really taken it to her heart.  And will gamely wrestle anyone for possession of it, and the pictures from my attempts at taking a photo speak for themselves.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It makes me giggle a little because as soon as I looked at the pictures of the little root children then reminded me so much of Elma, with their sleepy faces and brown flyaway hair; I wonder whether that’s why she loves it so much, because she can see herself in them?

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But on to the story.  This is an abridged version of the original, but packed full of Sibylle von Offers’ original words and drawings. Over the five spreads of the book the root children wake up, sew themselves pretty new dresses and set to work getting the beetles, bumblebees and ladybirds ready to do their work, giving them sponge baths, brushing their fuzz and painting on their spots before they all head out into the sunshine. They dance and dance until autumn comes and it’s time for everyone to cuddle up inside again and sleep the winter through.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It’s a simple story, very sweet and with echos of a dozen other tales of fairies, fantasy and magic but it’s the illustrations that really steal the show.  I’ve said how much the little root children remind me of Elma and I’d always love them for that but there’s so much to look at in each picture too, the little details that only pop out to you after you’ve read it a few times; Mother Earth with her knitting or the root baby playing peekaboo with a snail.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

There’s really only one problem; now that I’ve fallen for the baby board book version, I really really want to get the full version for the girls, because I think this could just as easily become a stalwart of spring in our family too.

Space for the Butterflies: What We're Reading

If you have read something lovely recently, please do put your link in the comments section and shout to the world – and we’ll all come and have a read!  What We’re Reading is a weekly round up of posts about children’s books.  That’s about as far as the ‘rules’ go; it can be picture books, baby books, books for older children or even young adult if you like; just come and join us to tell us what you’ve been reading recently.  Or if you’d rather join in on Instagram or Twitter that would be wonderful too, just use the hashtag #whatweread and tag me (@cariemay on Instagram and @cariemaymakes on Twitter) and then we can all come and say hi.


Elma Family Kitty Living Arrows

Living Arrows 2015: 17/52


Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

If you were to ask me what this is, I would in all probability tell you that those are H’s swimming goggles.  And if you asked H he too would identify them as swimming goggles.  But there aren’t. Not really.

My little miss imagination (Elma) got hold of them last week when we were cleaning the kitchen together, rifling through a bag hung on the kitchen door and she immediately put them on and tried to run around holding them up to her face and not bumping into the walls, which in fairness is a challenge for her at the best of times.  I’m pretty sure she was cuddling them when she went to bed, so they can be added to the long list of unusual things that my children have decided to cuddle up to, and in the morning she and Kitty tried to adjust them, brought them to me for help, and then passed the rest of the day taking turns to wear them.

They have been goggles for a swimming lesson, glasses, part of some sort of superhero outfit, part of an Elsa outfit, part of a Cinderella outfit (what, you did’t notice that Elsa and Cinderella wore glasses either!), a hairband, a necklace and when all else fails, a prized possession to be hidden away from one’s sister.Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I was in the kitchen cooking our Sunday roast this week when a little pitter patter of feet heralded the arrival of one of the girls at speed and I turned to find Elma, clad only in an orange play silk for a cloak and the goggles on her forehead. She skidded to a halt, looked up at me, giggled at her brother and then turned without a word and scampered off again.  I’ve still yet to find out what the game was but I know the goggles were very important because she was adamant that Kitty couldn’t have them.

Oh well, as we have no immediate plans to go swimming in the near future as we’re outnumbered and the local pools have strict ratio rules for the under 5s, H has given in with good grace and I think they are now firmly part of the dressing up box.

I love seeing what their boundless capacity for imagination can come up with, and within reason, I don’t mind most of the household being co-opted for some great game.

I know that I said that this year I wanted my Living Arrows project to be about the stories of the things that made up their childhood, the toys, the inventions and the precious memories that went along with them, but for once I have to bend that rule rather heftily, because this is what happens when little girls put on swimming goggles.Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Suddenly she just looks so very very little, all the great height and grow up faces that make her seem four going on fourteen just melt away and there’s my baby again, the tiny little Kitty that looked so very like Pip does now.  I wouldn’t wish the years back, not because they weren’t wonderful but because it’s just as big an adventure seeing what comes next, but just occasionally, it’s nice to see a little hint, a little reminder that those baby years weren’t so long ago after all.