To my darling eldest girl,

Today you are four. As I write this the day before your birthday it seems extraordinary to remember that this time four years ago I was in labour with you, pacing around the hospital ward trying to persuade you that you really did want to come and meet us, back in those last few hours before you made us a family.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And now we sit here four years later, although I’d swear I’m not a day older than I was when you were born, and what was once my little plump baby is now a very tall, very bouncy big sister to a little sister and a little brother.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I am so incredibly proud of you my lovely girl and thankful for you every single day. There are days when I’m ratty and you’re tired out and it all seems to be going horribly horribly wrong I know, but somehow we always manage to find our way back to an even keel.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Right now you have an impish sense of humour and a deep love of a little gentle mischief, though the twinkle in your eyes gives you away in a heartbeat if you’re even so much as thinking about trying to do something that you know isn’t really allowed, and you find it impossible to smother your giggles if it’s Mummy or Daddy pushing the boundaries; especially when it’s Daddy. It’s usually Daddy.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I can see so much of both your Daddy and my personalities coming through in you, especially the bits that are pure eldest child. It made me smile when your nursery teachers told me one day that having finished the art project you were all doing in record quick time, you then promptly sat down next to your friends to help them finish up theirs, telling (and probably showing) them exactly what they needed to do all along the way.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

You like things to be logical too, and fair; you’ve got a very strong sense of what is just – all the way from the little things like making sure you have exactly the same number of blueberries as your sister, to being utterly bemused when one of your nursery friends suddenly decided that she didn’t want to be friends for 24 hours.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But the thing I treasure most is your sweetness; the way you run to give your cousin a hug, or cuddle your sister if she’s sad, even if you’re also not entirely unconnected to the reason that she’s sad! You absolutely love that you’re big enough to hold baby Pip and you’ll come running in to give him a little kiss and a “gentle cuddle” every morning or whenever you spot him even vaguely awake.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

At four years old you’re easily the size of a six year old and given that you’ve already got size 11 feet I think it’s safe to say that you’re going to be tall. And as you’re definitely a people person and you come across as fairly articulate and confident it’s no surprise people keep asking you which school you go to. I know you miss your friends who went this year but I think that school time will come around before we know it and in the meantime we’ll make the most of your freedom while it lasts.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

So what would I want you to know on your fourth birthday?

Be true to yourself.  You are a wonderful little girl, and you’re going to turn into an amazing young woman. Right now you are so clear about who you are and what you like and what’s OK and I hope that you never loose that clarity.

Know that you are loved utterly and completely with a fierceness that sometimes takes my breath away.

Keep seeing the world as a glass full all the way to the brim; I love your optimism and I hope it never fades.

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Oh, and enjoy shoes.  I’m afraid the way your feet are going your days of pink shoes with flashing lights in the heels might be numbered!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Happy Birthday my beautiful girl, I love you. xxxx

 

 

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Today is the eve of Kitty’s fourth birthday.  I think I still have to stop and pinch myself to truly believe that I could have a four year old.  But that’s for tomorrow along with lots of cake and partying and celebrating our lovely eldest girl.  For today, in what’s becoming a little annual tradition, it’s time for a little look back on the year in which Kitty was three.

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Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Joining in with {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember.

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Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It’s been a week of smiles and milk. Lots of milk.

In my eyes our tiny Pip still looks remarkably like a newborn Kitty. All three of my children have looked extraordinarily like mini versions of H at birth, without even a hint of my genetics getting a look in, but Elma had a bit more hair, and there’s just something in his expressions that makes Pip just seem that little bit more like his biggest of big sisters.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And I think in among those expressions might just be his smile.  There’ve been a few times in the past week where I’ve been certain that his eyes were smiling at me, even if the mouth was only twitching to catch up, and then a couple of absolutely full on gorgeous beams of sunshiny smile that I refuse to believe were just gas.  Gas makes him pull a face like Churchill and look every inch a scrumpled up little old man.

Whatever the cause, the entire family have now devoted all of their efforts to provoking more tiny Pip smiles so I’m sure there are lots more to come.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

He seems to love watching all of our faces as we make funny faces and smiles at him anyway, and this week he met his Grandad, Grandma and Auntie A for the very first time, so he’s added a few more faces to his collection.

this is the week where we’re first starting to see some of that very very new newborn fade.  Pip was back above his birth weight last week, and is continuing to march his way up the 91st centile, and with that comes the arrival of the baby chub.  Very very gently he’s starting to unfurl and fill out a bit; there’s a little roundness in his face, and where once we had to roll up the sleeves on his 0-3 month babygros because they were just so big around the middle that his arms were getting lost, now they’re just comfortably baggy, and the sleeves end where they should.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Actually, when I look at him stretching all out and pointing his toes I’m beginning to wonder how much longer he’s going to be in that size.  From memory the girls were only in their first size for a few weeks and I can’t imagine Pip is going to buck that trend.  If he grows too quickly though I’m going straight back to the shop for his current babygros in the next size up; they’re just too cute for me to be ready to be done with them, even if I have to cheat to make it happen (I did it with Elma and a babygro covered in pink elephants and I don’t regret it for a second!).

It’s proof at least that all the milk is doing something, and that’s always reassuring.  I’m led to believe that it is possible to have a baby that doesn’t deal with a surfeit of milk by returning it straight to sender but our boy, like his sisters before him, is not one of them, and is developing a serious knack for christening his parents with anything he doesn’t feel he needs to digest right now.  I’ve never been big on fashion or style at the best of times but even I’m not sure anyone can really rock the ‘hastily mopped up baby milk’ smudges all over the jumper look and the faint but all pervading odour that goes with it.  We get through a lot of muslins in this house.

But most importantly Pip doesn’t seem bothered by it, just slightly bemused.  I remember when it was Kitty being really worried that with all of this milk coming back out, how could any possibly be getting through (despite a body of evidence to the contrary from her nappies) until I read the suggestion to take a tablespoon of cows’ milk from your fridge and throw it in your sink just to see how much mess a relatively small amount of milk can make (try it and you’ll see what I mean).

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Two children down the line and as long as Pip is happy, bright eyed, bushy tailed, and producing enough nappies to keep me on my toes the only issue is whether I will ever wear a shirt that doesn’t smell of milk.

The only thing that I have found that made a difference was for me to cut dairy out of my diet so I’m bidding a fond farewell to ice cream and cheese (again) and hoping that it keeps us all a bit cleaner and drier.

And the big question of sleep? Well he sleeps exactly like a newborn ought to! And for Pip that means sleeping when he feels tired during the day, cluster feeding during the evening, and then settling down for a good snooze; he’s usually awake for a feed sometime between 2 and 3 and then up again between 5 and 6. There are nights when it all goes out the window and I’m pretty sure that between all of the children I don’t actually get to go to bed but they’re few and far between thankfully!

But for all the changes this week he’s still my little little boy who loves his cuddles. He falls asleep in my arms with such an expression of contentment (and a little bit milk drunk) and he will always snuggle down for a snooze if I pop him in the sling.

My gorgeous Pip. Just don’t grow too fast too soon ok, I’m doing my best to keep up but there’s definitely a part of me that wants you to stay my tiny baby for just that little bit longer!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Oh and for the record he does own more than one babygro – I just always seem to get the chance to take pictures at the same stage in the laundry cycle!

 

 

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

If you’re reading this anytime up to about a week after I post it and you should happen to glance down to your right you might just spot a little badge in the sidebar.  It says Tots 100 on it, and it says #235 underneath it. If you’re reading more than a week or so afterwards it probably just says #wellthatwasafluke but we shan’t dwell on that right now.

Because as un-English as it is to admit it, and possible un-feminine too, I am really proud of that little badge and that little number.

There seem to be two stereotypes of how bloggers in general respond to the whole question of stats, rankings, followers and all that sort of thing.

The first would be the crazy obsessive; glued to the stat counter, aggressively pursuing Instagram followers, churning out content that has been SEO-ed until it’s complete nonsense, or even worse, to the point of being utterly bland, fixating over every last place up or down the charts; each place gained celebrated like it’s the first conquering of Everest, each place lost mourned in tears, wine, and then an outpouring of derision against the whole system on the nearest available form of social media.

The second of course is at the other end of the scale; the professionally disinterested.  They may display a badge, but they’re not in it for the rankings, in fact they rather look down on anyone that pays too much attention to statistics, they’re in it with a higher purpose, it’s all about the love of writing, or taking pictures, or coming up with gorgeous recipes, or letting the world know exactly how we should be parenting our children.  They long for the good old days when bloggers were bloggers and there was none of this commercialisation nonsense. It’s the “if you build it, they will come” attitude on steroids.

I am of course wildly exaggerating, but then that’s what stereotypes are for. But I also suspect that anyone who’s been in the blogging community for a little while has seen an echo of one or both in real life, though most of us fall happily (and a little more sanely) in the middle.

So I wanted to shout out for the middle and to try to explain a little of just why that number makes me happy.

For me my blog is purely a hobby.  It has very occasionally made me a little income (I know, I’m a complete sellout!), and I’ve been pleased to accept invitations to a couple of events and to review a handful of children’s products, but I don’t rely on it for my livelihood, or use it to support a business, and I could walk away tomorrow without having to wonder whether I was jeopardising my family’s future.  And for me that’s a privileged position, and one that I’m thankful to be in.

So why, if I’m not trying to earn my income from blogging, if this is purely fun, with no targets, no appraisals, no gold stars, and no obligation to do anything with a pretty looking ranking, why does it matter what my stats say, or where the mystery that is the Tots metric places me this month? What am I going to do with it anyway?

Well obviously I am womanfully trying to resist the temptation to print the badge, laminate it and wear it as a pendant at all times, and after I’ve done that I’m wondering whether it would be overkill to write a very early and inaugural Christmas newsletter to all my nearest and dearest to tell them, with a big photo of the badge naturally, and a little PS, “oh and the baby was a boy!” (yes, yes it would!).

But beyond that, I’m not going to do anything with it. It isn’t about to springboard me into being the next American-style mega blogger, and it’s not going to change how or when or what I write about (well apart from this one blog post but then I promise to leave the subject well alone!). I don’t feel the need to do something off the back of ‘making it’ to #235 that I wouldn’t be doing if I were ranked at #2235, or wherever the very bottom of the Tots happens to fall and it isn’t a signifier that I’ve ‘made it” as a blogger/writer/photographer/any or all of the above.  I ‘made it’ as a blogger the very first time I pressed publish, and I continue to do so every day that I write.

So it would be easy to agree, to say no, it doesn’t matter. But while it may be true to say that it doesn’t matter to anyone but me, it would be a big fat fib to say it doesn’t matter at all.

Why does it matter? It matters as a result, not as a cause.  It matters because it means that I’m not shouting so silently into the abyss any more. And when I do there are people that shout back.

It matters because through blogging I have found community, a whole group of people who have similar thoughts on the merits of hand knit socks, the requirement that there always be cake in the house, and the joy of taking a gazillion and one photos of your children; and because within that community I have found people I consider my friends.

And it matters because I’ve found my way there by being me, by pulling together all the random jumbled thoughts in my head and letting them loose into the world, and the result is a collection of ideas and memories that feels very true to the real life me, and that I am proud to have written.

And that one littleish number? It tells me that you like to read what I write; and that’s more than I could ever have asked for. Well that and it tells me you all spent August stalking me to see if I’d had a baby.

So here’s to the middle, to loving your stats just because they make you happy, and to place #235; may whoever has you next month get just as much pleasure out of it as I’ve done!

*The picture incidentally is just because I love it; fountains playing through the sunshine on a lazy Sunday afternoon!

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This week should probably be entitled “What Sally told me I really ought to be reading so I ordered it and she was right and it’s really good”, but that’s not exactly the snappiest of titles even if factually accurate.

Yes, back in those days when it was actually sunny outside, when rain didn’t fall incessantly from the heavens, and when my patio table was not covered in an odd film of green dust, I wrote about our favourite book for introducing the concept of becoming a big sister. It’s still very much loved and very frequently read but when in the comments Sally suggested How to be a Baby by Me The Big Sister even to the point of wishing we lived a bit nearer each other so she could drop round a copy, I knew it would be worth checking out.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And lo it came to pass that I needed to order some more laundry liquid from Amazon, and I remembered about the book, and the preview pages looked hilarious, and before I knew it it wasn’t just laundry liquid that was winging its way to me.

And even though the bookcases are getting into a rather overflowing sort of state of affairs, I don’t regret it for a second. I think this book is properly laugh out loud funny and given the number of times Kitty in particular has asked us to read it, I think the girls might just agree.  Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It’s packed full of all the things that a big sister can do, but a baby can’t, but told in exactly the way both in language and tone that Kitty uses to explain what she’s up to or to tell us about her day. In short it sounds like it was written by a big sister, not merely an adult pretending.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

(seriously, this had me in hysterics – Kit’s been talking about people going to prison ever since the Police came to do a little show and tell at her nursery, and it sounds just like her)

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And the narrator is a lovely big sister too; she may be very disparaging about what the new baby can, or more likely can’t do, compared to all the exciting adventures that she can go on, but she also knows that babies are funny and cuddly and make her laugh. And she knows too that one day this baby is going to grow up and come on all sorts of adventures with her and together they will look back at the baby pictures and laugh at how small the baby once was.

Though she’ll still let him hold her hand, even when they’re both big, because he’ll still be a little bit little, and because that’s what big sisters are for.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

 

 

Incidentally, this is yet another of our favourites that has been published by Walker Books, who also published We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Oh No George!, Hooray for Bread, The Pencil and basically a good chunk of our bookshelf.  Has anyone else found that as well as having favourite authors they also start to develop favourite publishers? I know I shouldn’t be too surprised, I’ve yet to discover anything put out by the Persephone imprint that I didn’t want to read cover to cover in one sitting, but it’s nice to find it in a less niche publisher too.
Space for the Butterflies: What We're Reading

Last eek Vickie shared her daughter’s favourite, Winnie the Pooh and the Trouble with Bees; it looks like a wonderful book but more than that, if you missed her post you have to go check out the amazing Winnie the Pooh cake she made for her daughter! And if you have a favourite, or just something fun your little ones have enjoyed reading lately please do join us. 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!



 

 

Once upon a time there was a windmill. I may have mentioned it a time or two before.

And while I thought it was a lovely building, and a rather nice backdrop for photos, there are some people who are serious windmill fans.  They maintain the windmill and more than that, once a year they open it up, build the wooden staircase under the arches, arrange for a really great ice cream van to come to play, and let fly the sails.  Well, this weekend it was just two out of the four, but that was all that was needed to set the mill turning.

High up on the hill looking out over the top of the Cotswolds, the ditches and ramparts that show where a Roman fort once stood, and the silvery stream of traffic tootling up and down the M40, a monument to a slower pace of life and a beautiful and rather mesmerising sight as it slowly spun around.

And Kitty, excited possibly by the prospect of an ice cream as much as the changes since our last visit, ran up the path ahead of us, arms whirling.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And when you’re three, and still young enough to get away with it and only attract indulgent smiles, why wouldn’t you want to run across a hilltop pretending to be a windmill!

PS – She did get her ice cream (strawberry and cream). So did I (honey and stem ginger).

PPS – I really truly do feed my children food that isn’t ice cream I promise.  In the interests of balance I shall now devote myself to finding a reason to photograph them tucking into a giant plate of carrots or singlehandedly working their way through a box of cherry tomatoes or something similarly nutritious.

living arrows

 

 

Yesterday morning my younger daughter had a Mini-Milk for breakfast.

It’s all Mickey Mouse’s fault. Or possibly Minnie’s.

Absolutely definitely nothing to do with her parents and their love of saying yes to the little things once in a while.  No, it wouldn’t be that at all.

One of the girls’ weekend treats is quite often a little television in the morning, particularly if Mummy and Daddy are absolutely shattered and don’t quite have the energy for anything else until the hour on the clock is a little more sociable or H’s has had his morning coffee, and if Elma’s choosing then it’s either going to be “Iggle Pickle!” or “Daddy! I watchy Mickey Mouse!”.  Thank goodness for on demand television.

To be fair I can see the attraction of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, who wouldn’t like a magic clubhouse that appears when you say magic words and comes fitted with every room, every toy and every tool you could possibly need, and a whole host of handy helpers to clean up after you and do all the hard work.  And all for counting to ten occasionally; it sounds like a good deal to me.

Oh and if the handy helpers can’t fix it, or you’ve forgotten whatever it was that you need, all you have to say is “Oh Tootles!” and along comes a flying Mickey-shaped head with four options to fill in for whatever you’re missing.

Elma loves it.  And not just because of her long standing affection for Minnie Mouse.  And what Elma loves, Elma copies (Kitty doing anything being the ultimate case in point).

She sat up on H’s dinner chair on Saturday morning, a tiny girl in twinkle pyjamas with her hair splayed out and tickling her nose.

She giggled and looked at the television where the final credits were still rolling:

“Oh toootttlleees!”

And H, standing across the room from her, took one look at her face, put down his cup of tea, and with snitch-like hand flapping flying, trotted over to her:

“Blelelelelelelele!!!”

Elma looked up at her father, decided that his current mood was worth a punt, produced her cutest smile, and went for the kill:

“Ice lolleee?!”

Tootles chuckled.

“Blelelelelelelele!!”

And from the depths of the freezer produced one small pink Mini Milk.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

 

And yes I know it’s not the healthiest thing that anyone ever ate for breakfast, (dairy is a source of calcium and other good things though – but even I’ll stop short of claiming any involvement of fruit in the production of pink), but it might just be the thing that produced the biggest smiles from my baby girl.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It wasn’t really about the ice lolly anyway, not for any of us, so much as the fact that we said yes, yes to a request that 9 times out of 10 we’d say no to, or find an alternative, or just make ordinary breakfast.  We said yes to a frivolous request, the simplest thing in the world.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

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In the run up to Pip’s arrival I found myself pottering around the internet looking for people talking about the arrival of their third child, how to manage the increased family size, how their older children coped, all the sorts of things that you want to know from those who’ve walked the path before you.  And the overwhelming response that came back seemed to be something along the lines of:

“my friend/sister/colleague/random person that I once passed on the street had three children and it was definitely the third that broke them”

Helpful when you’re thirty something weeks pregnant!

I know everyone’s experience is different but I found the shift from one to two children to be huge.  And by huge we mean hard work and challenging, and all of that with Elma being an easy going little girl who liked milk and sleeping.

It wasn’t anything either of the girls did or didn’t do to be honest, it was all part and parcel of my adjusting to being able to share myself out to two children with equally valid but frequently competing needs.

When Kitty arrived I’d just dived head first into motherhood and found that I loved it. She was H and my sole focus, and we were her everything, her comfort, her play fellows, the providers of food and cuddles and anything else she could ever need. And it wasn’t just that she was used to having her needs met immediately, or as near to immediate as we could manage, but we were used to meeting those needs straight away.

Enter one baby sister and the concept of “just wait a minute” and it’s no surprise that Kitty didn’t really know what was happening. And there in the middle of the melee sat a Mama trying to parent two children in exactly the same way she’d parented just one.

It didn’t work. And after my first morning at home with Kitty and Elma in which Kitty ran through everything she knew she wasn’t supposed to do in the space of about half an hour (she was only two, she hadn’t yet mastered mischief) I drove them half an hour away to meet H for lunch feeling rather desperate that I didn’t know how to do this and was never going to be able to be everything I wanted to be to these two gorgeous beautiful daughters.

Twenty odd months down the line I can laugh at my naïveté; we stepped back, reassessed and I long ago found my feet in sharing myself between two – to the point that taking care of just one child seems like unimaginable luxury!

But even knowing all of that I did wonder whether the jump from two to three would be as big, and that first day of just me and the tiny three just as much of a challenge.

Well we’re only one day in so it would be presumptive to suggest that I’ve got it nailed, but actually yesterday was lovely. The girls played hide and seek under my duvet while I fed Pip, we all pottered around in pyjamas and had toasty bagels and jam for breakfast, we read stories curled up on the sofa and I fed Pip, we went to town to buy some food for the weekend and run a couple of errands, and after lunch I tucked Pip in the sling and did the washing up while the girls played Duplo and then we all sat in the garden for the rest of the afternoon to play Moon Dough (even outside it’s extraordinary how much mess that stuff makes), and then had a go at the mini golf hole that H and Kitty built last weekend.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Kitty was a huge help, fetching things that I couldn’t reach when I was nursing and finding books and blankies for her sister, and she and Elma just seemed relaxed and happy to be back in some approximation of their usual routine; sometimes playing together, sometimes glaring furiously at each other, and more often than not giving way to bouts of unstoppable giggles – apparently Elma chasing the remains of her ice lolly across the dinner table really is that funny!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

 

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

There were tears, but only of the usual sisterly “Mummy she has my …..!” variety, and a solid squeak from Pip when every traffic light in the entire world turned red and we took a bit longer to get home for milk than any of us would have liked, and I’m happy to say that all chocolate hobnob consumption was purely recreational!

And then after a bit of a late supper when we spotted the girls peering out of the front door “to look at the night”, we bundled everyone up, turned out all of the lights, lay on a quilt in the back garden and watched the sky as one by one the stars came out to play, two bats flittered and chased each other, a pigeon slowly flapped home to roost, and far above us the lights of a plane crawled across our little patch of deep blue.

With Pip lying back on my tummy, Elma curled into the crook of my arm and H next to me trying to point out stars to Kitty (with mixed success) it was the perfect end to the day, one of those moments when you feel in your gut that regardless of how things go in the day to day and in the full knowledge that there will be times when it all falls apart spectacularly,, overall it’s going to be OK.

 

 

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Joining in with {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember.

To see more, check out the comments to Soulemama

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