Monthly Archives

January 2016

Family Pip {the ordinary moments}

The tale of a little green teaspoon

24/01/2016

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Once upon a time there was a small green spoon. It arrived in a flurry of snow, soot and glitter, tumbling through the skies by magic and jingle bells until at last it found itself safe, snug and warm, cosied up with its brother and sister spoons in a dark punctuated only by the stars of twinkle lights shining through the canopy above.

Morning came, heralded by a baby’s squeal of excitement and high pitched fast chatter and the patter of little feet that just couldn’t keep still. The spoon waited, and waited, content in the happiness that radiated out from those voices, and knew that its turn was to come.

And with an “oh they are awesome!”, the spoon came up and out and into the dawnlight and the spoon was home.

I know it sounds like a strange stocking filler, a bunch of spoons, but my delight was utterly genuine because these are awesome spoons; a little bundle of six Rice melamine spoons tied up with string; a red, a pink, an orange, a pale blue, a turquoise blue, and a green.  They’re a riot of delectable colour and I loved them instantly. As did Kitty, who chose them, and, it seems, so did Pip.

Because it was mere moments later that he first started to make off with them, first the whole bunch, and then when he figured out that wriggling the string a bit could make it fall off, by individual handfuls.  And every time I’d scoop them back up, and try to put them further out of his reach (a tall task in our household) and get on with making Christmas breakfast and all the fun and games that comes with the morning.

it was the plinky plink sound that first alerted me to what he was up to.  I was stood at the sink looking out into the garden and when I turned around a certain someone was leaning over the bin with my pink spoon in his hand.

“Plink”

And in it went.

We scooped up our wee boy and rescued one, two, three, four, five spoons.  But not the green one.  We looked in the bin again but no sign of it, looked back in the lounge, in my stocking, under the footstool, in among the wrapping paper, but nothing.

Which is how I found myself donning the rubber gloves on Christmas morning to go through the bin all the way down to the bottom (thankfully mostly wrapping paper at this point) in search of my present. I found nothing of the green spoon variety, and neither did H went he went through it again later.

we gave it up as lost and just enjoyed the spoons I did have (they only add to the flavour of a really great Christmas pud).  And so life went on.

Until this week, when I had cause to go digging for the mop bucket.  Lest you think me terribly slovenly I should say that we sweep and swiffer regularly but only have a tiny bit of floor that needs a full scale mopping so it’s more of a monthly thing unless occasion demands.

I took the mop out, lifted the bucket up to fill it at the sink and there, sat gently in the bottom, was my missing green spoon.

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Baffled doesn’t come close.  Why did five spoons need to go in the bin but one in the mop bucket?

And whilst I would dearly love it if Pip would stop putting important things in the bin (we seriously thought he’d put my bank card in there the other day until it turned up in the play kitchen), more than that I would love to know why.

Babies and toddlers are such intensely logical beings; they quite often get the answer completely wrong but it’s a logical wrong, at least in their minds anyway.  Elma hid a tin of biscuits under the pile of quilts in the corner of our lounge for an entire day this week because H had told her that if she wanted one she’d have to check with Mama first and she wanted to make sure that nothing happened to them while I was at work.  Only as we sat down to supper did she unearth them and It was far too cute to do anything but say yes.

So while we continue to scan the Internet for “bins that would be hard for a very tall one year old to open”, I’m open to suggestions- what possible explanation can you come up with for green meaning mop bucket and red, orange, pink, blue and turquoise needing to be evicted from the house?

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me for The Ordinary Moments

 

Elma Family Kitty Living Arrows Photography Pip The 52 Project

4/52 {the 2016 Portraits}

23/01/2016

Linking up with Jodi and Living Arrows with a portrait of each of my children once every week for 2015.

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 Project

Kitty: drinking milk in the little den we made but still wanting to keep half an eye on what the rest of us were doing! I have a picture of your brother in almost exactly the same pose from a week or so ago and it made me giggle to see yet one more similarity in the pair of you.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/80, f/3.5, ISO 250)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 Project

Elma: Sprinting back down the path from ballet class and over you went onto both knees.  Scooped up and brought home to Daddy’s first aid clinic (a lifetime of bumps and bruises on the hockey pitch having made him something of an expert on bumps and scraped knees), we patched you up and then added plasters.  They’re not actually over your scrapes because they weren’t big enough and because your scrapes needed to air so they’re more of a consolation prize, but you were quite impressed with needing two, and all this week whenever I’ve got home from work you’ve given me an update on how they’re healing.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/100, f/3.2, ISO 250)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 Project

Pip: It is going to be the year of looks of mischief from you little man isn’t it! This one so clearly says “I’m sitting nicely now…” And what were you planning by any chance?

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 Project

Cheeky boy!

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/100, f/4, ISO 250)

Baby Knitting Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Baby Knitting Photography

Cadbury Purple for a Birmingham baby {handmade for baby}

22/01/2016

My team at work is largely made up of happily married young women in their late twenties and early thirties so I think you could guess that we have quite a lot of maternity leaves.  In fact since I went off on maternity leave to have Kitty the team has had eleven children, with three more expected imminently. There are only 14 of us in total so it’s made quite an impact; rumours that my boss is considering rearranging the department to eliminate the “pregnancy pod” are though apparently unfounded.

I’ve knit for almost all of these babies, my own three obviously, but a smattering of little jackets and hats and bits and bobs have made their way around the team, and anyone I missed with their first baby because I was off with one of mine, I try to make sure there’s something for the second.  There’s only one girl who’ll need to have a third if she wants some knitting, but she’s said she wants five so I think I’m safe there.

But the knitting that’s kept my fingers flying over the past week or so is for a first baby, for my pod mate (as in we share a pod – we sit open plan in little pods that run out from the wall like the teeth on a comb) of whom I am very fond, and that makes the knitting all the more joyful.Space for the Butterflies - Wee Liesl

She knows that the baby bump is to a be a girl, and a tall one at that, and so knitting makes the perfect present, it’s so nice and stretchy it fits for so much longer than little babygros would.  It’s also a great excuse to break out my stash of Cephalopod Traveller, one of the most snuggly strokeable yarns I own (and now sadly discontinued), especially in a rich Cadbury chocolate purple, it’s practically lickeable.

Space for the Butterflies - Wee Liesl

Space for the Butterflies - Wee Liesl

I knit a short sleeved Wee Liesl for Elma a couple of summers ago, to go over one of her summer dresses and it was so pretty and sweet it seemed like the perfect choice to continue what is apparently quite a purple feather and fan knitting phase (stretching all the way back to Kitty’s birthday cardigan cast on between Paris and Annecy).

Space for the Butterflies - Wee Liesl

And when that was finished I eyed up the leftovers of that skein, and the skein I used to make another very special girl her first purple cardigan and decided there was just enough to squeeze out a hat.

Space for the Butterflies - Wee Liesl

I’ve wanted to knit the Woodland Sprite bonnet since I first saw it on someone’s blog but decided, somewhat regretfully, that it probably was just a bit too girly for Pip to carry off.  For baby girl bump however, that lovely rippling edging to the hood would be just the thing to echo the waves of the cardigan’s feather and fan.

That the pattern is written for a heavier weight yarn and different needles was not going to be a stumbling block, I finally had the perfect excuse to knit that hat so knit it I would.  And on 3.75mm needles, and an extra pattern repeat (6instead of 5), it came out the perfect newborn size.

the only conundrum was the closure.  I knit until there was barely enough yarn to graft the seam closed, trying to make it as big a hat as possible and all I was left with was half a dozen snippets, the longest of which can’t have been much more than six inches.

I thought about ribbon ties, but couldn’t find the ribbon, or a matching yarn, but couldn’t find anything to match, even in tapestry wool, so I went back to those scraps and painstakingly spliced each and every one together until I had one length of yarn, a little over 12″ long, just enough to crochet a tiny little button loop.

Space for the Butterflies - Wee Liesl

And with that, and an extra pale pink flowery button to match, the set was done, wrapped up in spotty tissue paper, and tucked in a bag to go into work.

She opened the hat first, and I had to stifle a smile at the happy reaction of the mama-to-be to just a hat, knowing what the other little parcel contained.  She’s promised to send me photos of baby girl bump wearing it, and even promised to try to get the bonnet on the right way round and you can’t say fairer than that!

Space for the Butterflies - Wee Liesl

Joining in with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams  for Keep Calm Craft On

 

Elma Family Kitty Motherhood Pause for Thought Pip Working Mum

On the origins of a stereotypical mum

20/01/2016

Space for the Butterflies - on the original of the mummy stereotype

Wherever you look and whatever you’re doing as a mother, there’s a stereotype and a preconception to tell you that you’re doing it wrong.  It’s literally impossible to find a conclusion that “they” approve of isn’t it; if you’re a…

  • working mum – you’re selfish and you neglect your children. Why have children in the first place if you’re going to farm them out to someone else to look after, you should put them first, not your career.
  • stay at home mum – you’re a sell out. Our mothers and grandmothers fought for equality and instead of breaking glass ceilings and heading all of the Fortune 500 companies at once you’re sat at home like a good little housewife in a pinny, what a terrible example to your daughters.
  • work at home mum – you’re letting your children be raised by the television so that you can get your precious work done, they’re going to grow up to be disfunctional and short-sighted.
  • part time working mum – you’re on the Mummy track at work so you’ll never achieve anything and barely there at home, you’re neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring.

Doomed aren’t we!

So where have they come from, these little vignettes that bear no relation to reality? Who started them?

Usually a stereotype is rooted in some sort of fact, the legend taken from the real life hero, an amalgamation of a lot of personality traits and physical characteristics that might appear across a wider group, but don’t actually represent one individual. For example, the classic Scottish stereotype is a redhead in a kilt eating a deep fried Mars bar and bellowing “och aye the noo!”. There are plenty of people in Scotland wearing a kilt, a good number of redheads, I’ve been in at least two chippies with deep fried Mars bar on the menu (and deep fried pizza!) and I’ve heard “och” dropped into conversation as often as someone else might say “um” but I’ve never seen it all come together in one real life person.

But it isn’t the same for the stereotypes of mothers.  I absolutely love being a mother and I’m not neglecting my children and any more than my sister has given up on feminism and is setting a bad example to her son because she’s a stay at home Mum, having previously been extremely successful in her career. None of it is true.  And it’s the same across all the families of my experience.  Every family has made the decision that makes sense for them, works for their finances and gives their children the best that they can offer. Reality and the stereotype just don’t match up.

So where did they come from? Who started them? And who perpetuates them?

It’s very easy to claim “the media” as the bogeyman, but media isn’t some faceless computer churning out random words until they come out in some sort of sentence (although I swear there are occasions when you’d be forgiven for believing that); it’s people. Real people who may be mothers or fathers or not, but who interact with the real world and must know that the “city mum” they cartoon is really trying to check she has clean shoulders post snotty cuddle at the front door, to remember whether she sent in the money for the school trip and what time she’ll have to have left work to make sure that she’s home in time to take her eldest to his gym class, not waltzing off in a “children, what children?” bubble.

The ‘why’ the media presentation of mothers is divorced from reality is, on the face of it, quite easy to see. Sensationalism and inflammatory headlines sell newspapers and get people clicking on articles.  The way Kirstie Allsop’s comments on family were ‘repackaged for sale’ last year is a classic example.

But I think there might be a little more to it than that, I wonder whether in fact we collude.  Because the problem with all these stereotypes is that regardless of which category we fall into, they play to our deepest fears. My deepest fear is that my children, especially Pip, will look back on their early days and think “well I had a fabulous childhood and so much fun with Daddy, but I don’t really remember Mummy being there, she was always working.” And when we thought I was going to be the stay at home parent I worried, not that I’d be letting my girls down in choosing the more traditional role, but that my father would be disappointed that he’d invested so much into my education, and I would be wasting it staying at home.

I’ve never been a fully work at home mum, but to complete my set I also know that when I worked part time my big fear was that I was doing two jobs badly.

It sounds rather familiar doesn’t it; “the media” aren’t so much randomly inventing nonsense, as tapping into our fears. And because they play on our fear, it’s all too easy to take refuge behind the stereotypes that criticise every decision that isn’t the route we chose, as ‘evidence’ that actually we’re OK and doing a good job.

But fear I can do something about.  It’s very trite to say “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself” and for the record it’s wrong, there are plenty of things to be justifiably afraid of, that’s called self preservation. But when it comes to fear of our abilities and choices as parents, the saying has a point.

If I name my fear, and acknowledge that actually it serves a purpose in reminding me to be fully present and engaged with my children as much as I can, then it becomes less of a fear and more of a useful character trait.

That’s not scary. More than that, it makes the stereotypes laughable, just too far from the truth to have any impact.  And without that power, maybe, just maybe, they’ll stop.

What do you think?

 

 

Crafty Ideas Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip

Crafting a Snowstorm

18/01/2016

Is the winter equivalent of “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, “if storms give you only the tiniest dusting of snow, make a teeny tiny snowman”?

Space for the Butterflies - A craft snow afternoon

But any snow is better than no snow and you have to make the best with what you’ve got, which would be why at 7.30 in the morning I was stood in the garden watching the girls slush up and down an increasingly brown lawn.  Never have wellies and waterproofs been put on so quickly as when my little girls opened the curtains on a smattering of white, and I’ll admit I was just as keen to get out in it as they were.  It’s the magic of snow, it has never ever got old for me, probably because in the UK I know it’s not going to last. My absolute favourite winter was the year that Kitty was born when we had snow on the ground for a couple of weeks and it was just so beautiful.

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But today, even with our meagre offering we got to playing.  Kitty scooped up all the snow off one of our garden chairs to make a miniature snow blob which she proudly took back inside the house and upstairs to drip onto a sleeping H, while Elma tried to make snow balls and throw them across the grass.  It’s what we did the last time she saw snow, at the top of Gornergrat in Switzerland in August, but a Swiss summer has a lot more of the white fluffy stuff than a Warwickshire winter.

Space for the Butterflies - A craft snow afternoon

Pip was initially not terribly interested, he just loves being outside, but then he realised what Elma was doing and started to copy her, picking up individual snowflakes off the slide and hurling them all around him.

Space for the Butterflies - A craft snow afternoon

It was too cold to be out for too long, and of course by the time we’d warmed up again, so had the garden, and only a puddly snowman remained.

So to make up for it we decided it was the perfect afternoon to try out a little snow painting.

First up: Salt snow.

Space for the Butterflies - A craft snow afternoon

We have some pots of liquid watercolours and I diluted a little down into some glass ramekins while the watercolour paper soaked.  Wet on wet watercolours are great fun at the best of times; even with just one colour you can get some amazing swirls and patterns depending on the concentration of paint and it’s very therapeutic – like the whole colouring in craze but even simpler – and it’s fascinating how the four of us get so very different results.

Space for the Butterflies - A craft snow afternoon

Pip favours the pour as much paint on the paper and then use that to paint your head technique, Elma goes for big broad stripes and Kitty and I had lots of storm cloud sorts of swirls.

And then came the salt.  It’s as simple as take a pinch of sea salt and scatter it onto the wet paint; the salt soaks up the paint leaving beautiful ‘snowflakes’ in the storm clouds when they’re dried.  It works best if your paint is quite wet (hence the wet on wet watercolours) and you don’t use too much salt.  Too much and it all blends into to one wonderful blizzard like speckle, which is pretty but not very snowy.

Space for the Butterflies - A craft snow afternoon

While that was drying we moved on to experiment number two: salt solution painting.

The idea is that you make a fully saturated salt solution (put some warm water in a jar and keep adding salt until you can’t get any more of it to dissolve) and then use that to paint snowflakes on dark paper.  The idea is that when it dries you’re left with snowflakes made up of tiny crystals and it all looks very wintery.

Space for the Butterflies - A craft snow afternoon

Ours looked great when they were wet but I think we didn’t have the solution strong enough because I can just about see at the edges what it’s supposed to look like, but it was a bit of a fail.  I’m told doing it again with Epsom salts instead of sea salt might be the answer so we will have to give that a go soon.Space for the Butterflies - A craft snow afternoon

I really want to make some wintery window stars this week too as ours are looking a little bit battered around the edges.  According to the forecast our weather is getting wetter and warmer as the week goes on and that might just have been our one and only chance at snow so in lieu of waking up to 6′ snowdrifts (which I would adore), we’ll just have to craft up a storm instead.