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Family Me and Mine

Me and Mine 2017: November

30/11/2017

Ever since my first Me and Mine photo, with a bemused baby Elma under the shade of a giant sycamore, a one and a bit year old Kitty and not even the tiniest twinkle of a Pip I’ve loved how the photos document our family of four and then five.  We’re family in the most traditional sense, Mummy, Daddy and a parade of tiny feet that follow and I love the consistency of a series of snaps that has seen the children grow and John and I grow more tired.  I joined because I thought it would be a bit of fun, and I could never have imagined how long we’d keep it up, or that they would come to be some of my most treasured pictures, even the dodgy slightly out of focus ones where Kitty’s sticking her tongue out or Pip refuses to have anything to do with the camera.  Every photo, from the time we dressed up in Halloween costumes and climbed up to the Windmill, to the shots we’ve taken curled up in our house tells the story of the five of us.

 

We’ve snuck in a few extras along the way too; there have been plenty of months where we’ve been visiting John’s parents, or met up with my sister and my Dad, or added a cousin or two into the mix and for this month, bookended by my nephew’s christening at the beginning and a big family get together at the end, it seems only appropriate that November be all about an extended Me and Mine.

John grew up surrounded by uncles and aunts and cousins but until very recently I’ve never had that experience of living near to family.  When I was little my aunts and uncles lived all over the country, and occasionally all over the world.  My grandparents lived in the next village but my Grannie didn’t drive and so it was always about us going to see her rather than being able to meet up or just pop round and now that we have it, and I know that my cousins are just up the road one way, and my aunt and uncle no more than five minutes the other, it is for me one of the absolute stand out highlights of our cross country move.

The local cohort were well represented at the tiny nephew’s christening; we overtook my aunt and uncle just before we got to the M25, to the great delight of three small people in the back of our car and so the tiny man of the hour was feted, adored and cuddled to within an inch of his life by aunts (of both the great and the generally awesome variety), uncles, grandpa and one very smitten biggest cousin.  We all wrote in a book of wishes; our hopes and dreams for him as he grows up, and mine was that he always knows that he is so loved; despite the funny faces (thanks my kids), despite the giggles and the fact that someone is almost inevitably moving and yes sweetie, Auntie Carie did make you be outside for all of the photos, this picture is the proof of that wish.

Full of love and laughter and pure happiness.

Grandpa and all five grandchildren

It’s that feeling of being immersed in family; it was the same last weekend when we squished twelve of us around our dining room table; the five of us, my cousins and their girls, my Dad and my aunt and uncle.  We were all elbow to elbow, the table was groaning with food in the best possible way and we spent the afternoon pottering between the lounge and the dining room as John rolled out his magic tricks for the kids and the rest of us had a good catch up and a chance to just enjoy being all together.  It’s the very best thing about being part of a big family.

Me and lots of mine, in November:

Family Siblings

Siblings 2017: November

15/11/2017

If I told you that I bribed the children for these photos with lemon drizzle cake you might be forgiven for thinking that the three of them had inhaled half the loaf.  Believe me, my friends, believe me, when I tell you that that had had not a tiniest taste of the lemony sugar crystals that drift across the top, not the slightest scent of damp sponge nor heard the tiniest crinkle of its cellophane prison.  They don’t need sugar to spend Sunday afternoon rugby tackling each other over the front lawn, they simply need to be back together.

Their separation had been neither lengthy nor without purpose; Kitty and I spent most of Sunday at a birthday party for one of her dearest class friends, heading off mid morning leaving John with the little two, a radiator to remove from the wall and two large bags of plaster.  After having only each other for company, both Elma and Pip were utterly delighted to have their big sister back in the fold, and chose to demonstrate this in time honoured tradition by alternately trying to push her over, and smothering her in adoring hugs.  She in return spent most of the time trying to get them both in head locks for the photos as her best idea as to how to make them stay still long enough to be in focus.  It’s love, pure and simple.

As we went back to school for the second half of term at the beginning of the month it’s been really interesting to see how this school year, when all three are in separate classes, has shown up in their individual development and in their relationships as a little trio.  I always think of the bonds between them as being somehow elastic, a line between Kitty and Elma and a line between Elma and Pip with one big band keeping the three of them roughly together.  At any given time, one of the bonds will be stretched as one or two pull away from the rest, and one of the bonds will be slack as they become closer together despite the age difference, and no matter where there’s tension, it all seems to even out in the long run.

Sometimes the stretch will be between Pip and the sisters he calls “m’girls”, and it was very visible last summer when they were in the same class at school and Pip was still the little baby at home with Daddy; they had a shared vocabulary of songs and experience, and were less interested in involving Pip the destructive in some of their make believe, for somewhat understandable toddler tornado reasons.

Right now the stretch is between Kitty and the littler ones; she has thrown herself into school life even more so than last year and is just soaking up every scrap of information she can lay her hands on.  A lot of her learning is through singing and reciting verse (with actions) and she got beautifully peeved with me the other night because I got stuck reciting the last section of Skimbleshanks (from memory, in the dark) when to her mind a poem is something you say a couple of times in class and then you’ve got it (Mummy’s brain holds far more useless information than yours sweetheart, there’s less space available for railway themed poetry).  I love hearing her singing around the house or trying to test my entirely non-existent German.  If it’s got a bit of a latin root then I can have an educated guess but “curtains” and “chalk” were entirely beyond me.

Last week saw our first lantern parade (we missed last year’s because it was too far to travel) and it was so sweet to see her off with her class and all their gorgeous papier ache lanterns, right in the thick it, while Pip and Elma stayed back with us to wield paper box lanterns and admire the tea lights glowing through their painting, and sniff the paraffin burning in my vintage hurricane.  Kitty’s class will be starting to gear up to their end of term festival soon and I will move heaven, earth and meetings to be there to see what thriving really looks like.

And with that stretch, the slack has fallen between Elma and Pip; with only 20 months between them, once Pip left his baby days behind him, the age gaps was only going to close, and at quite some speed.  Pip has caught up, and while Elma is still learning and growing and changing every day, she isn’t doing it so speedily that she’s dashing away from him again. They’re pretty much the same size, though Pip weighs more, borrow each other’s clothes and spend half the time considering their wellies to be entirely interchangeable and the other half protesting loudly if you present them with the wrong ones.

Next year they’ll be in the same class and I can see them playing together in class far more than Kitty and Elma ever really did.  In the last week Pip has spend a morning in Elma’s class (and looked pleased as punch at being so grown up) and Elma has spend a morning with Pip, just because they wanted to be with each other.  They’re a contented little pair and without Kitty in the picture they treat each other as equals which is both adorable and on occasion leads to some pretty impressive falling out.  But after all, isn’t that what being a sibling is all about.

Two little sisters, and their brother too, in November:

Do go and say hi to my co-hosts: Donna at What the Redhead Said Natalie at Little Jam Pot Life,  Keri-Anne at GingerLily Tea, Amber at Meet the Wildes, and Katie at Mummy Daddy Me. Our fearless leader, Lucy at Dear Beautiful, has been laid up poorly so you might want to pop back later in the week for her post but in the meantime go here to see her latest big news.  And then link up your Siblings posts below, and if you’re joining in on Instagram if you use the hashtag #siblingsproject and tag @siblings_project_ we’ll be able to see them too!

 


 

Family Me and Mine

Me and Mine 2017: October

31/10/2017

Every half term of my childhood we’d back up the car, head home and escape from the bubble of life on the inside of a school, even if only for a week.  We’d go to the beach, explore up on the moor, spend rainy days reading a never ending stack of favourites, and almost always go to Hembry Woods to tramp along the river bank, and then more often than not end up in the pub up the road for hot soup and a chance to warm up by their fire.  The leaves would be all the colours of green and gold and fiercely burnt orange, and when the wind blew they would scatter around us like confetti.  the mud underfoot was dark and soft, decades of leaf mould producing a very satisfying squelch, and down in the valley the river would call our names in the roar of the rapids.

It hasn’t changed.  You still have to turn off from the main path to get there, down a little track, just wide enough for one at a time, over a fallen tree still wrapped in ivy vines and then down the final slope to see the river there before you.

The Dart, a lot smaller than down in the harbour , but ferocious through the rapids that carve islands into the centre of the stream.  When I was little I could imagine all sorts of secret adventures happening on those islands, and in the summer when the river was lower we could paddle and rock hop out to them, wading through cool peaty water, clear enough to see all the way down to our toes.

In the autumn they’re definitely more for looking at from afar, unless you travel by canoe, but being back in the woods was the highlight of my half term, and a definitely highlight of the month as we headed south to spend the final weekend of half term with my Dad.  The children were fascinated by the river; the sea is their familiar friend, and they’ve seen the harbour and big tidal estuaries, but this little moorland stream was something completely new.  They hurled sticks into the water and watched them get jumbled up in the rapids, and tried to stir the flotillas of beech leaves that amass in the calms, gently swirling, oblivious to the tumult behind them.

We saw a golden retriever swimming after a stick, and for all that they’re not that keen on dogs, we waited to see her come safely ashore, prize between her teeth.  On sandy beaches they dipped the toes of their boots, and starred down into the water as it shelved steeply away, or hung over the edge of the bank to count the fish, no bigger than a little finger, that darted across the shallows, brown against the white stone on the riverbed below.

Elma planted acorns along the path, heaping them under sandy soil and planting a feather or a twig in the top of each one to mark where the new tree will be.

And then we climbed a tree.

And I think these might be my favourite Me and Mine photos yet.  It seems to sum up so many things that we value as a family and that John and I try to build into our days; being together, being outside in nature, and doing something ever so slightly crazy.

So often so much of our months are characterised by the complete opposite, by being apart because of work and school, by being inside because I’ve not yet convinced anyone that I could be productive working outside in the churchyard near my office, and by the everyday ordinary, rather than the adventures, it made for a truly wonderful weekend to dive right in, to recreate a memory of my own and pass the tradition on.

But my last photo this month comes from a more recent tradition.  When I was a child the cafe was entirely washed away by a storm one winter; I can remember going down the next day and dancing hopscotch on the tiles that had been enclosed by roof and walls.  When I was a teenager I worked on the counter and watched people squeeze in to the picnic benches to eat their pasties.  Now, breakfast at the cafe on the beach is more of a tradition than fish and chips at the pub, and it’s completely delicious so we wouldn’t be without it for the world.

Me and Mine, in October:

Family Siblings

Siblings 2017: October

15/10/2017

It doesn’t feel like October does it? Around here it’s not just that yet another month has scampered away without so much as a backward glance, as a climbing thermometer that’s seen the first day of half term significantly warmer than most of our August.  Having just gone digging through boxes of clothes for the long sleeves and the wooly jumpers, we’ve gone piling back through looking for the shorts and t-shirts that I was certain I’d put away for this year.  Last month two of my three were wearing coats and the other a thick cardigan and wind blown pink cheeks.  And now look at them.

You’d be forgiven for thinking we’d jumped a few months backwards, both for the summer clothes and the fact that these pictures came from an afternoon expedition to the farm, to see my aunt and uncle and catch up on all of their news, and then to pick some veggies for supper.  Despite our long stay while we waited for this house to complete, I never did do a Siblings post from the fields; June was the last post from our old house, July a trip to our old cricket club, and by August we’d just moved in.

Topsy turvy though it might be, I’m glad to include them in this year’s set of twelve because it is without a doubt one of our happy places; and one of many reasons why our crazy stop gap house plans worked so incredibly well.

 

Today we needed potatoes and they made a concerted bid for beans and kale – and when I cook it they genuinely will eat it.  But then these are the children that will make sneaky inroads on a dish of cooked carrots and fight to the teeth over the last piece of broccoli in the bowl.  I’d love to claim that it’s the result of some sort of superior parenting but when they wolfed down a bowl of kale at the end of August no one was more surprised than me.  If I were to get evangelical about one thing though, I’d have to stay that farm fresh veggies are so far removed from anything that’s ever touched a piece of plastic that they shouldn’t really be classed as the same thing, and when veggies taste as good as they possibly can they’re just about irresistible.

All three are off school for the next two weeks and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  Kitty has been ferociously tired as we reached the end of the week, and in need of serious cosseting, as early nights as we can get away with, and just a bit of time to stop and let her mind catch up with itself.  She has adored the first half of term, is so happy she’d go to school seven days a week in a heartbeat, but I think she is more than ready to have a couple of weeks of just pottering around at home.  We have very minimal plans for the holiday, mostly because I used up all of my holiday allowance for the year moving house, and I think it will do her the power of good.

Elma and Pip both missed the last day of term, Pip because he’d had a slight temperature and a grouchy cold, and Elma, well Elma’s motto for life is “go big or go home” so she had to one-up us all.  After a horrible Tuesday into Wednesday night, when she was really struggling with a horrible cough, I asked John to take her to the doctors because everything we’d tried overnight hadn’t really done the trick and she was starting to breath like a steam train and I thought it must be a chest infection.  Well the doctors tried their magic tricks and when those didn’t really work as well as they wanted, they tucked her up in an ambulance and sent her to the nearest A&E.  Several inhalers and one diagnosis of probably a viral wheeze later we brought home a little girl who was absolutely bouncing off the walls with vitality.  That would be the steroids kicking in then.  She’s been having an inhaler every four hours since, including all through the night and hello sleep deprivation my old friend.

It’s funny, every time we’ve had a newborn we’ve just rolled with the lack of sleep and got through it more or less coherently.  This time, whether we’re older, or just less used to it, it’s wiped the pair of us out and I know John is definitely looking forward to some lazy mornings at home, without even our ridiculously short school run to interrupt the dozing.

Aside from comparing ambulance stories the three of them have had a lovely month together, and for all their ups and downs, they are such a happy little trio, I couldn’t imagine life any other way than with the crazy, noisy world that these three bring.

Two sisters, and their brother, in October:

Do go and say hi to my co-hosts: Donna at What the Redhead Said Natalie at Little Jam Pot Life,  Keri-Anne at GingerLily Tea, Amber at Meet the Wildes, Katie at Mummy Daddy Me and of course the mastermind behind the whole thing, Lucy at Dear Beautiful.  And then link up your Siblings posts below, and if you’re joining in on Instagram if you use the hashtag #siblingsproject and tag @siblings_project_ we’ll be able to see them too!

 



 

 

 

 

 

Family

And now you are Seven {family}

04/10/2017

I’m a little late with this post, but for the first time pretty much since I started taking your portrait to mark your birthdays the weather refused to co-operate.  The sunshine saved itself entirely for when we were out of the house and away from home and the only thing to do was to roll with it and wait for the gorgeous sunny evening that must eventually come.  And so these pictures are of you at seven and a handful of days, but as only you are going to be particular about the days right now, I think they can still count as the portraits for this year for my not so little any more little girl.

At the weekend you stood next to a height chart and was easily over the 135cm mark and you’re wearing age 10-12 clothes and size 2 1/2 shoes so I think I might be the only one still calling you little.  To everyone else you are a tall, strong, confident girl, even though we both know that there’s part of you that will always be my baby.  As I’m writing this you’ve flitted in and out a couple of times asking for a hug and claiming that you can’t get to sleep, so yes, very much like your were as a baby.

I’m sure last year I felt that six was a big step up and away into your own personality, but it had nothing on seven.  Last year you were in Kindergarten, later to be joined by your sister and with all three of you in various sections of the Early Years part of school I think it lulled us into a sense that we were still in those early days with all three of you; a sort of mental lowest common denominator that tells my brain that because your brother is three, all of my children are still tiny.  Now you’ve started Class One and even in those few weeks I’ve seen you stretch out and away from us again, growing more and more into who you are and who you are going to be.  Last Christmas we came to see your nativity ring time and you acted out your role as the star just beautifully, but you didn’t join in with any of the songs, and when we asked you if you’d forgotten the words you said that you just didn’t want anyone looking at you.  Nine months later you have blossomed, and it has been lovely to see your confidence in your place within your class friends.  Part of it is your natural development, and part of it is that you’ve found your school home.

And with that confidence has come the baffling mixture of old and young that is a seven year old.  You can follow something really mature and sweet and loving with something so utterly daft that we just sit blinking at you like goldfish wondering what on earth happened.

On occasion you are very very seven, in much the same way that from time to time you were very very six, but that’s OK, you’re not meant to be an angel, you’re a child, and one who is learning her way in the world and within a family as much as we are learning parenting as we go along.  For both of us it’s try to say that just when we think we’ve got things figured out, everything changes all over again, but on the whole I think we’re getting there.

And in other moments you are the loveliest part of being seven.  After last year’s constant array of knock-knock jokes some of yours are actually genuinely funny now rather than simply very factual, and you love to make people laugh and to sing and dance and put on a show to tell us all about what you’ve been learning at school.  My knowledge of German has nearly doubled and we can both knock out a mean rendition of heads, shoulders, knees and toes which I’m certain will be of deep practical application when we next travel in that direction.

In the last year you’ve started hockey training, a day I suspect your Daddy has been waiting for since you were born, and you’ve been so excited about training both at your old club and the new.  You’re one of the littler ones at your new club, which makes your sister seem even dinkier, and your brother resolutely angry as he fumes from the sidelines at the unfairness of it all.  He’d be with you in a heartbeat, and I love seeing the three of you race around our new back garden in pursuit of some game or other.  I know you’ve started to move ahead of both of them, and it’s stretched the gap out again a little bit, but they still adore you, and you them, and few things give me more joy than seeing the three of you playing happily together, even if playing later turns out to have been a code word for mischief making.

I’ve said before how proud I am of you as a big sister, and while sometimes you wind your own siblings up a treat you are also very loving with them, and any other babies who happen to be in the vicinity.  You met a vast array of aunts and uncles and first cousins once removed and second cousins and all the rest at a family party and you were just so sweet playing with the babies, just as you are with your own cousins.  If you had a say in it I think there’d be a dozen little brothers and sisters (just for the record; not a chance), but you can cuddle your baby cousin all you want.

Recently you’ve been scootering and our running with your Daddy and for the weeks before your birthday you desperately wanted a skateboard, very possibly because one of your dearest friends has one.  On your birthday you unwrapped a teeny tiny skateboard just the size for your fingers and you were so over the moon delighted with it it was just so sweet, and made it even more fun to give you a proper one as your final present.  We’re going to have to get you some lessons because I haven’t a clue how to skateboard and your Daddy struggles to show you the little bits he knows on a smaller board but if you can master it you’ll never have any problems with your core strength and balance, and I know you have the tenacity to stick at it until you do.

If sport is something to do with Daddy, then time with me is all about the creative and crafty.  You have all sorts of little projects on the go; from finger knitting a ball of rainbow yarn that your brother gave you for your birthday to sewing felt to make a picture for an embroidery hoop and half a dozen little felt and pipe cleaner creations that are scattered around the house.  If it has coloured pens and glue and sprinkles and glitter and feathers it’s your kind of project and I love that when I asked your sister how her scalp came to be shimmering in the afternoon sunshine her immediate reaction was to tell me that you definitely didn’t do it.  Hmmm.

I love that I can share so much of my love of making with you and there’s something very special about curling up together with our current projects for an afternoon of making and listening to Swallows & Amazons on audiobook.  When you get to reading them for yourself you’ll realise how much I’m sitting on my hands to only download the first two of the twelve, but I want you to discover them for yourself for the first time, and then we’ll get the audiobooks when all three of you have caught up.

Above all my lovely girl, you are clever and courageous and kind.  I am phenomenally proud of you, and blessed beyond measure to have you,

love Mummy x