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Living Arrows

Christmas Elma Family Kitty Living Arrows Photography Pip

Christmas 2015


You know that you’ve stepped up a gear into the next level of Christmas when Christmas Day starts, not with a leisurely waking up cuddled up in our bed, with sleepy eyed children gradually joining us as and when the light brings them to the morning, but when two very excited, very bright eyed and wide awake little girls dash into your room while it’s still dark outside.

“Mummy! It’s really Christmas!”

It was 6.10. Later than I get up on a working weekday I grant you but definitely a sign of wrigglish energy bursting to get out given that every other morning this week they’ve barely been awake by eight.  Pip snored sonorously from the centre of the bed and the girls tucked up on the foot to chatter in barely hushed whispers and try very very hard not to bounce too much.  They lasted until 7 at which point all of the general commotion had woken up their baby brother and with much fanfare we all headed downstairs to find out whether Father Christmas had paid them a visit.  And there under the tree lay a pile of presents and five enticingly lumpy stockings set out in a row.


Well not for long.  The girls dived in and sat in a happy sea of wrapping paper showing each other their new treasures and exclaiming with beautiful surprise every time they turned out to have something the same (gold coins and penguin socks) or nearly the same (ink stamps and some really sweet wind up music boxes that play Mozart).  Pip tried to get into the idea and even pulled a few things out of his stocking, but then he realised that Elma was much better at opening the wrapping paper than he was and crawled over to ‘help’ her with her presents.

Needless to say she was not overly enthusiastic about the assistance and so he and I cuddled up to do a little unwrapping of our own and discover what colour of face flannel Father Christmas had brought for him (sunshine yellow!)

I love the innocence of my little three at this age.  I don’t think it’s that they necessarily truly and wholeheartedly believe that Father Christmas landed a sleigh on our front lawn, magicked himself through our patio doors to fill their stockings, definitely did not go anywhere near them or their room and then whisked himself away again, it’s just that they don’t question it, they’ve never even thought to sit down and think about it.  It didn’t phase them that Father Christmas had applied the same washi tape coding system to their wrapped stocking presents as Mummy and Daddy had to their main presents, nor were they at all bothered that they’d chosen half of the things in my stocking, chosen and wrapped and written the labels!  I love that they did – they’ve chosen some brilliantly quirky presents for me over the year, including this year a set of Rice melamine spoons and a melamine tumbler that Elma has been trying to tell me about for weeks (“it’s flowery on the outside and inside it’s green Mama!”).

Every year we open our stockings by the glow of the tree lights and somehow it just builds the quiet magic of the morning, a sense of something special and something shared before the day really begins.

Breakfast was H’s domain; smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and toasty bagels definitely hit the spot, as did a little Buck’s Fizz in Pip’s present to me, a pair of fabulously festive Christmas champagne flutes.

And then to church to worship, to sing with joy, to catch up with dear friends and of course the annual sharing of the children’s Christmas presents to start the service.  Kitty, far too shy and scared to even take part in the crib service as a non speaking and slightly processing sheep, was more than happy to go up and confidently tell everyone about her music box – I was quietly amazed!

Back home Pip napped while H and I cooked and the girls played with a couple of their presents and then after turkey and stuffing and yorkshire puddings and pigs in blankets and potatoes and carrots and beans and cranberry sauce and sticky toffee pudding and christmas pudding and the Queen we settled down into a happy fug of contentment, tummies full, smiles fit to burst, all sat on the floor around the bottom of our tree, handing out presents one by one.

It’s my favourite moment of Christmas, when all the organising and the planning and the being at the butchers at 6.45 in the morning finally pays off.  The food has all been cooked and what seems like only a tiny amount has actually been eaten, the children are surrounded by presents that they’re excited about and I can sit back and just enjoy their smiles, and know that we cemented in another layer of our family traditions, that this is what Christmas looks like to our children, and I love it.

Christmas Elma Family Living Arrows Photography Pip

Living Arrows 2015: 51/52


Living Arrows: a little moment of the week to pause, savour and treasure

The German market arrived in Birmingham in early November, little wooden chalets popping up in the early morning and the smell of spice and sausages drifting down the street, but it wasn’t until I was counting down the last couple of weeks to my Christmas holiday that I realised that we just weren’t going to make it up at the weekend and H decided to bring the littlest two up to see me.  Elma was beside herself with excitement.  Not only was she going to go on a train but she’d see Mama’s office too and Mama’s friends – and the last time she came to my office my boss let her colour herself and a lot of paper with his highlighters, I think she may think that’s what I do as a job.

And so when the phone rang and I looked down out of my window, there next to H was a very excited little girl hopping up and down.

Pip on the other side was less than impressed with my lovely colleagues.  He flung himself into my arms from which vantage point he proceeded to eye them all warily.  Then the sceptical look turned to a frown, and then, as he realised that these were the people who STEAL MUMMY EVERY DAY the full Churchillian stink eye was deployed in full force.  Pip does not share Mummy and he was adamant that they should know it.  And as his displeasure turned to wails we scooted him out and off in search of some lunch.

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows 2015

I’ve lived in this part of the world for eleven years now and I associate the German market with steaming mugs of mulled wine, hot sausages, cold feet and a decided nip in the air.

Space for the Butterflies - Here comes Santa Claus

This week I wondered why I’d brought my jacket and even the work-appropriate non-alcoholic hot juice seemed unappealingly warm.  But in nod to tradition we did tuck into hot sausages (full marks from Pip, less certain reviews from Elma), a waffle and Elma’s favourite, grapes on a skewer drenched in chocolate.Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows 2015

It was so lovely to spend that little extra time with them during the week and just wander around and enjoy the Christmassyness of it all, but my highlight, and I’m certain Elma’s too, was the carousel.

Thanks to a summer spent whirling around French towns and cities we’ve become connoisseurs of a good carousel and the one in Birmingham (a permanent feature rather than part of the market) is a lot of fun.  Pip and I opted for a ride in the sleigh because horses and nice work dresses do not mix, and Elma decided to come and join us, while H found a horse called Kate from which to survey the scene.

I think we may have been the only people on the ride at the time, I couldn’t see anyone else and the guy running it had time to come and take some photos for us which was very kind.

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows 2015

We spun around and the market whirled past in a blur of Christmas lights and gingerbread, the music of the carousel dancing with the carols from across the square.  One look at Elma’s face said it all.  This was her idea of perfect.

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows 2015

And as I waved them off across the square and got back to the important task of helping the rest of the team decimate the Christmas sweetie box on our goodie shelf, my last sight was of Elma, skipping and jumping and dancing her way down the path; happiness personified.




Baby Family Living Arrows Milestones Photography Pip

Living Arrows 49/52


Living Arrows: a little moment of the week to pause, savour and treasure

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows - First Shoes

Ever since Pip took his first steps his walking has come on in occasionally literal leaps and bounds.  He can stand up all by himself pushing off the floor, and we’re just at that watershed moment where he’s walking and crawling about the same amount, especially now he’s worked out how to carry things and walk too.  He totters across the room to throw himself into my arms, or to use me as a step to reach up and grab my phone if it’s anywhere within climbing distance, waddles down the hallway after his sisters and usually wants nothing more than to be out of the sling and exploring if ever I stop walking while wearing him.

So when we took Elma for new shoes this week because she’d grown out of everything but her wellies, we thought it might be time to get Pip measured for his very first pair too.

I’ve still got the girls’ first pairs of shoes tucked away; Kitty’s little purple 3 1/2s with a flower on the toe, and Elma’s pink butterflies in a teeny tiny size 3.  Pip, well we measured and measured again, and checked the other foot, and well, Pip for his very first pair of shoes is a size 4 1/2.  Half of the first shoes on display don’t come larger than a 4!

But the very nice assistant went away and had a furret in the stockroom and came back with two pairs of lovely soft little shoes in just the right size, of which one pair were a clear favourite.  Dark inky blue (perfect for covering up mud and spaghetti stains) with the cutest little aeroplanes buzzing along one on each side.Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows - First Shoes

Initially Pip was very unsure about them; he only wanted to walk holding my fingers and he did that adorable little Thunderbird puppet walk, picking his knees up really high as if he thought we’d put lead weights around his ankles.  Shoes must feel so strange the first time you wear them, especially if your genetic predisposition is to wear shoes as little as humanely possible (that would be me!) but within a couple of minutes he was wandering around and trying to bring sparkly pink offerings off the shelves to his sisters so I think they’re a hit.

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows - First Shoes

And when we got home and went outside in the very end of the daylight to take some pictures to record the momentous occasion I looked at my son, sat on a tree stump in jeans, a shirt and a comfy stripy hoodie, with his little shoe shod feet dangling below and not for the first time, wondered where my baby has gone.

Because much as I hate to admit it, another milestone has come and gone and this little boy is all gorgeous adorable toddler.

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows - First Shoes


Elma Family Kitty Living Arrows Photography Pip Video {the ordinary moments}

Levelling up


It feels like just yesterday that we spent a rainy afternoon at the park with Kitty’s godfather, helping her get to grips with her wonderfully pink and new and shiny birthday present scooter.  Three years later that scooter has covered some serious miles, propelled by both girls, but it was only as Kitty flew down the slope in front of Kensington Palace, on a scooter borrowed from the Royal Garden Hotel, tried a little braking, and abandoned the effort in favour of leaping off and running towards me that I realised that perhaps, just perhaps, she’d out grown Minnie and Daisy and it was time to look at the next size up.

Kitty, hanging over my shoulder as I flicked through pictures of all sorts of scooters, was absolutely adamant that she wanted one with only two wheels.  She’s never had one with two wheels before though, her Minnie and Daisy scooter is three (two at the front) and everything I’ve ever seen her on in a shop was the same, but she insisted she could balance on two wheels and that’s what she wanted.  So we slept on it and showed her the pictures again, and again, and by this point she must have been getting really fed up with us because she was consistent across the board.  She wanted a two wheeled scooter, preferably in pink. So we took a leap of faith in her self confidence, and said yes.

Yesterday we drove to the bank to withdraw some of her birthday money and then to John Lewis to make her first big “I saved up for it” purchase.

We made it to the toy department and there on the shelf lay a pile of Sprite scooters, neatly boxed up, and every one of them black.  We asked but apparently colours only come online and I told Kitty that we could order a pink one straightaway and pick it up from the Waitrose in the next town over in a couple of days and it would be here before she knew it.  And she looked at me and with utter seriousness said “I changed my mind, I want the black one.”

What do you do? I was fairly certain that this sudden shift to black was all about coming home with a scooter right then and there, the not wanting to let go of a dream that had frankly been a long time coming. But would she suddenly realise in a few hours or the next day that it was never going to magically become pink, that this was her scooter for ages and ages? And would she always mind that it was black and wish I’d made her wait?

I think there are times in life that can be used as lessons in patience, in learning to be really clear about what it is that you want and having the courage to wait for it, but I also remember being this small, I remember how it feels to have been waiting for what feels like half your lifetime, and how crushed I would have been to go all the way on a special scooter buying expedition, all for nothing. And so I looked into Kitty’s determined face, her expression an exact replica of her father at his most decisive, and took the second leap of faith.

Space for the Butterflies - Micro Scooter Sprite - The Ordinary Moments - Living Arrows

I did hedge my bets a little bit; we found the pinkest of shiny pink scooter helmets, a pretty pink scooter band with a rainbow on it and a little bag that will eventually attach to the front (when I take it back to John Lewis and swap it for one that actually still has the attachment bracket with it) and I think that in the long run it’s actually going to be the choice with the most longevity.  When she’s twelve and pink is just not cool any more, all it will take is a little redressing of the accessories and she’ll still have a great scooter – at least that’s the theory I’m clinging too!

Space for the Butterflies - Micro Scooter Sprite - The Ordinary Moments - Living Arrows

We dashed back home to pick up Kitty’s hand-me-down, now Elma’s dearest possession (at least until after her birthday in a couple of weeks) and then set out in the very dregs of the daylight and the pouring rain, because what’s the fun of having a new scooter that can go really really fast if you can only use it the length of the lounge.Space for the Butterflies - Micro Scooter Sprite - The Ordinary Moments - Living Arrows

One circuit of the park (about a mile) was enough to allay all my fears about Kit on two wheels; she’s got much better balance than I have and she loves zooming around – closely followed by her sister who, it turns out, is something of the speed demon herself now that she’s on a scooter that’s a much better fit.  For once I was striding out after both of them and it was lovely to feel the roses come up in my cheeks.

Space for the Butterflies - Micro Scooter Sprite - The Ordinary Moments - Living Arrows

And in honour of Kicksy II’s arrival into our family, it seemed only right to record a little snippet of our day, and of Kitty’s first scooting on two wheels.

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me for The Ordinary Moments and, as tomorrow is a Me and Mine Day , Hayley at Shutterflies for Living Arrows Week 48


Elma Family Kitty Living Arrows Photography Pip

Living Arrows 2015: 47/52


Living Arrows: a little moment of the week to pause, savour and treasure

We got home from church on Sunday morning, walked in the front door, and straight out into the garden.  This week I’ve really missed the sunshine, as we rattle towards the equinox I’m definitely at the point where I can spend an entire day without being outside in the daylight, I don’t even know what the weather was like on Thursday because the building I was in didn’t have windows, but from the way Kitty, Elma and Pip reacted, I don’t think I missed much either.

I rescued a garden chair that had blown to the end of the patio in the gales and we had a little search in the shed for garden toys that hadn’t already made it into the garage.  There, sat in the corner, was Elma’s Toddlebike. It was perfectly Elma-sized in January and just about still fits her now, but it’s always made Kitty look like a giant in a world of Lilliputians.

Elma was quite happily scooting up and down and I could see that Kitty was desperate for a go as we didn’t have her bike or scooter out, but she just couldn’t work out how to distract Elma for long enough.  She tried offering her hula hoop, and Pip’s car, and just asking, but no dice.  So there was only one thing for it: tandem toddlebiking!

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows

They were surprisingly fast, especially once they worked out that it worked better if Elma sat on the cross bar so that Kitty’s knees weren’t quite digging into her chin at every scoot and they whizzed around and around and around, much to Pip’s very great amusement.

And as for that young man – well after the girls had decided that they’d had enough running around and went inside to cuddle up on H and warm up before lunch, Pip Squeak extricated himself from his beloved car, crawled over to the bike and sat there, arms outstretched with that baby expression that can only read “you know what I want, why haven’t you done it yet Mummy? Are you really going to make me ask?”


So I hauled him up and on and he sat there, prodding it, trying to figure out how it worked and why the big sisters love it so much.

Space for the Butterflies - Living Arrows

He just about managed to make it go forward before sliding off the crossbar and deciding that he’d rather it was cuddle and nap time than sitting on the floor under a bike time, but I think it won’t be too long before he masters it and there’ll be three of them bombing up and down the patio!