Having had two children myself, and with one more on the way, and having knitted for umpteen precious arrivals of friends and family you’d think I’d have at least half a clue by now as to how long it takes to have a baby.
And I do, in the technical sense, just apparently not when it comes to knitting. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that while I know how long it takes to have a baby, I no longer have any realistic expectations of how long it takes me to knit something for them.
And so it was that when one of my colleagues and friends started to blossom and bloom and count down the days, hours and minutes until her maternity leave started, I smiled, tried not to tell her too much about labour and birth other than that it’s all worth it (on the basis that innocence is bliss and it was far too late for her to back out now), and merrily made arrangements for the handing over of her files and for people to cover her caseload while she’s away.
Only on the Thursday before her final week did I realise that in all of this planning I hadn’t even thought about the knitting, let alone started it. Oops.
Well there’s never very much thinking about baby knitting for a first baby, my go-to knit is Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Surprise Jacket, and with good reason; it’s easy to knit, delightfully unisex unless you want it to be otherwise, and most importantly, it’s really easy to dress a tiny floppy little newborn in; no funny poppers or arms thinner than your fingers, just a nice squishy garter stitch jacket that lies open when you plonk it on the changing mat and buttons up the front without any bumpy seams for the baby to lie on and prove their royal connections, Princess and the Pea style.
Somehow in what can only have been a lunch-induced coma in which all logic flew out the window I found myself nipping out to buy a few balls of something warm and squishy in the confident expectation that I’d be able to whip it up over the weekend and have it washed and be-buttoned before the expectant Mama’s final day. You may now all laugh. A lot. I don’t mind, it seems pretty funny to me too in hindsight.
I mean way back in the day, before I had any children, with a bit of neglect of the household chores and the ordering of pizza for supper on at least one day, yes I could have churned out a baby jumper in a weekend. But now?
But the wonderful thing about knitting is that if you just keep doing the odd stitch here and there it does all add up, and little by little the rows added up until at last there was a little finished jacket and a whole heap of ends.
Kitty helped me to choose a set of buttons from my button stash and we washed it and blocked it, wrapped it up and sent it on its way. It arrived on Monday morning, at which point the future wearer was still firmly en-bump and answering to Bean. Phew.
The Mama-to-be not being a knitter herself I’m pretty sure she won’t have heard of the old wives tale that says that babies won’t come until the knitting is finished, which is rather a good thing (for me) as she was convinced the baby would be early, and I’m pretty sure she’s just sailed through her due date. Fingers crossed for her sake that the power of the knitting now prods this baby into making an appearance.
And for those that are interested in such things, I knit it pretty much to the pattern, alternating between the two colours of Rowan’s Baby Merino Silk DK (in Snowdrop and Dawn I think) to make the stripes pretty much on whim. The one change I did make was at the end of the lower back section where you knit back and forth on the centre stitches for a little while before picking up down the sides and carrying on to the ends; rather than pick up each side on subsequent rows I broke the yarn, started a new row at the very far end and picked up stitches for both sides on the same right side row. It keeps all the pick up bumps on the same sides so that the fronts match which is really obvious in stripes (not so much in one colour or self striping where I’ve never really bothered).
It’s the first time I’ve knit with Baby Merino Silk and I think it’s a relatively new addition to Rowan’s flock. It’s designed to be a baby yarn and certainly ticks the boxes for me; soft, machine washable and natural fibres – my inner fibre snob rejoices. It had a bit of a crunch to it while I knit it up, and it didn’t feel quite as soft as my other go-to, Baby Cashmerino, but after a little soak and a gentle blocking it bloomed beautifully and all that was left was silky soft garter stitch ripples, just perfect for snuggling up around a teeny tiny newborn.
Now all we need is the baby.
It seems like the last few weeks have been all about Kitty’s books so I thought we’d take a little trip into Elma’s bookcase with one of her current favourites.
This Little Monster was a book Kitty originally picked out, long before Elma made an arrival on the scene, but as time has passed it seems to have migrated to the shelf below thanks to a little skilful reorganising by Miss Elma.
It’s one a in a number of our collection of touchy feely baby books, but it has virtues that set it above the rest. I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of the ubiquitous “That’s Not My ….” series; they’re all right for what they are, and they’re fun to have around for little fingers to turn the pages and chew the corners, stroke the fluffy bits and prod the squishy bits, but literature they are not.
Because there’s no rhyme or patter in the words I find them harder going when you want something to read to little ones who aren’t really interacting yet. At Elma’s age and younger it’s as much about the rhythm of what you’re reading as the words themselves that have that magical effect on little ones as they unwind themselves and cuddle in for a story.
This Little Monster has patter and rhyme. Not a lot, it’s only a short little book after all, but enough to make it fun to read, with some nice words to wrap your tongue around and lovely invitations in the text to touch and feel.
And the touchy feely bits are fun too; a whole range of different textures, including some cut out holes on the front cover that are just the perfect size for poking with little fingers.
Cute little monsters for my little monsters – what’s not to like!
Last week Anne-Marie’s family were reading the book I think we’re all starting to need now it’s getting lighter in the evenings, I don’t want to go to bed (I’m certain it can’t just be our daughters); Claire found another gorgeous Usbourne interactive book full of lift the flaps and noises and beeps in the form of baby’s first BIG playbook; and Vickie had me giggling from the get go with the wonderfully named Don’t put your pants on your head Fred!
So if you have a favourite, please do share it with us; each linky stays open for a week so there’s plenty of time to join in. And so, without further ado, it’s over to you!
Most of our childhood memories are unique to us, even siblings will see the same experience differently, or remember different things for different reasons. But in among all of that I think there are some childhood experiences and memories that are a sort of universal constant. The precise details may differ, the location, who you were with, whether it was raining, or what happened next. But I’d hazard a guess that every one of us can remember swinging, or running til you thought you’d burst, or, just for example, rolling down a hill.
The smell of the grass crushed under your elbows, the moment when you figured out how to tuck yourself together tightly so that you rolled down rather than round and round in circles, that funny sort of flying feeling when the momentum starts to build and you turn faster and faster and faster, and the comfort of finally coming to a stop and gazing up at the sky while the world whirls around you; waiting for your sense of direction and a little bit of balance to come back together so that you can climb straight up to the top and do it all over again.
Kitty hasn’t exactly mastered rolling just yet, I don’t think she’s realised that she has to lie down and she spends a bit too much time sat up to get that proper dizzying spin going. But there’s no hurry, she’ll figure it out in her own time, and if childhood is for nothing else, it is for finding your way to things by a good deal of grass-stained trial and error!
We’ve been utterly spoiled this week. Not one, not two, but all three grandparents have been to visit the girls. It’s been wonderful.
First Grandma and Grandad arrived on Tuesday lunchtime to spend the afternoon with us, hiding from a rather biting wind pottering around the garden centre as Elma downed an extraordinary amount of tomato pasta and turned top to toe orange in the process (for their own protection no cameras were allowed into the fall out zone but you can imagine the number of baby wipes required to return the young lady in question to peachy pink), and then we all piled home for Chinese, story time, and all the cuddles two tinies could wish for.
And then, as if that wasn’t enough, Grandpa arrived on Thursday night to spend a couple of days.
(photo by Kitty!)
It’s fair to say that my daughters have left him smiling but exhausted. He took the girls to the play park while I hopped on a conference call for work, and then after lunch we went out again, down to Upton to bask in the gorgeous sunshine as Kitty did roly poly down the slope and Elma tried to decide whether she liked grass underfoot.
I’m going to hazard a guess that holding Elma’s fingers while she toddled along, or running after a Kitty calling “chase me Grandpa, chase me!” is a bit of a change to the norm. And definitely noisier!
It’s been wonderful to have extra adults around; I mean H and I even managed a quick ‘date night’ to the supermarket while the little ones slept one night, and a spare pair of hands is a real treat when you’re used to managing without, but even more than I’ve enjoyed spending time with my families, I’ve loved watching the girls with their grandparents.
There is general adoration in both directions; especially for the grandpapas. Elma trails them reaching up for a hug, and Kitty took one look at Grandpa on Thursday night and launched herself straight into his arms.
When I told her on Saturday morning that I didn’t think we should let Grandpa go home, and perhaps we should kidnap him and keep him, she decided that this was absolutely what we should do and told him so with utter seriousness.
And when Grandma and Grandad weren’t at our house on Wednesday night (I’m not quite sure where she thought we’d put them overnight) she got all upset and when we phoned Yorkshire to cheer her up she lay on her swing seat sobbing “Grandad! I just really need you”.
I’m so thankful that despite the crazy distances between us all the girls have such a close relationship with their extended family, their happiness in being together is just so lovely to watch and we’re all looking forward to the few visits we’ve got planned in the coming months.
Spring has sprung. We’ve shrugged off the gloom and the rain of winter for one wonderful weekend of warm and sunny weather and even when the cold wind returned it’s sent daffodils bouncing in the front garden, and the rain splatter down on a smattering of primroses nestling into the back lawn, all sunny yellow and that faintly brownish mauve colour that always reminds me of soap boxes and my grandma. In short there is new life and brightness in the world and that makes all the difference.
It’s meant afternoons spent outside in the garden (and mornings, and even the occasional pre-breakfast trip), long hours spent at the play park up the hill, and the promise of even more outside time as the weather gets warmer and the daylight gets longer.
And that, and Elma’s increased mobility, has had an impact on how they play together. My little girls get on incredibly well together for the most part (and I’m under no illusions as to how lucky we are on that front), but it’s only recently that we’ve started to see the shift from playing happily but independently near each other, to doing the same thing next to each other, to actually playing in the same little make believe world. Or at least, to Kitty including Elma as a vital part of the make believe world. Generally meaning that Kitty tells Elma what to do, Elma gazes adoringly up at her sister, and then does what she wants anyway.
The car at the play park becomes a pirate ship as Captain Kitty leaves First Mate Elma at the helm as she goes off in search of treasure; or the roundabout, which was something to do with fairies that I never quite made out, suddenly must have Elma on it as Kitty whirls around the outside to the chorus of “slowly please…… slowly…….more slowly!” from me while Her small sister clings on delightedly.
But for all the talk of the outside, my favourite pictures of my two this month are from inside, inside a garden centre to be precise – so that’s practically halfway outside isn’t it? We’d gone on an expedition with Grandma and Grandad to have lunch and a little wander round, and the girls came across two child-sized beanbag garden chairs on display and settled in for a little sit down.
It just seems so very them; Elma closely examining a little wooden railway carriage with her initial on it that was destined to come home with us for a girl who loves her trains, and Kitty, putting proof to the phrase “so relaxed she’s horizontal” and playing up to the camera with such a cheeky twinkle in her eye.
Two little sisters, in April.
This month I’m sending you to the lovely Jess who quite frankly has more creative inventiveness in her little finger than in the whole of me. I think she may also have found a way to warp the space time continuum that she’s keeping a secret from the rest of us too because not only does she write and take pictures of her two gorgeous children but she’s also started up a new blog Let’s Do Something Crafty which is filled with a gazillion ideas for rainy afternoons, many of which can be rendered in pink, purple or both (always a plus round here). And as a bit of sideline cheerleading she’s currently a finalist in the MADs awards and I would love to see her win a little something sparkly for her mantelpiece come the autumn so do cast a vote in her direction!
And now back to the topic in hand – I know there will be the ten of us sharing our siblings; would you like to join us?
I’m ashamed to say that until very recently I had no idea that Allan Ahlberg was still writing new books. We’re so very familiar with the classics that he wrote in the 80′s with his wife; Peepo and Each Peach Pair Plum being firm favourites, and favourites that I remember from my own childhood, that I think I’d rather chalked him up as being ‘of my youth’. Oops. Many apologies both to him and to my children in case they feel they’ve missed out on a whole treasury of wonderful stories.
Because whilst there are no more Janet and Allan Ahlberg collaborations, it hasn’t stopped the wordsmith half of the partnership from continuing to write, and I think there must be almost as many Allan Ahlberg books to discover as Allan and Janet books.
Hooray for Bread was only published last year, with Bruce Ingman providing the illustrations, the story of a day in the life of a loaf of bread from the warm crust smothered with butter by the baker (which incidentally is my absolute favourite way to eat homemade bread), to the eggs and soldiers for tea, the crumbs on the breadboard tossed out to the birds in the trees, and the final solitary crumb scooped up by a very tiny and rather hungry little mouse scampering through the bakery at night in search of a tasty morsel.
It’s such a sweet story to read, with the kind of beautiful rhymes that you would expect from its author, and the refrain “hooray for bread!” that repeats through the story, and just as easily learnt by little listeners as “here’s a little baby, one two three” was in its turn.
The illustrations are gorgeous too; Bruce Ingman has a looser illustrative style than Janet Ahlberg, but there’s a consistency in the colour palette used and in the detail of the bakery and the characters’ clothes that gives it that same timelessness. In short, it still feels like an Ahlberg book.
But before you rush out to hunt down a copy I should stress that there is one caveat to all this praise, one potential downside to such a lovely book – it will also really really make you want to go and make a loaf of bread, and then eat it fresh from the oven with butter, and laced with jam for tea. Don’t say you weren’t warned – now where did I put the yeast?
I’m obviously continuing an unintentional culinary theme as last week Anne-Marie found year another Julia Donaldson that I’ve yet to come across in the form of the wonderful looking Troll; any story that starts with pirates and a troll being fed up with their food and going on a treasure hunt to find enough treasure to buy a recipe book is always going to have me from the first page!
So if you have a favourite, please do share it with us; each linky stays open for a week so there’s plenty of time to join in. And so, without further ado, it’s over to you!
(By our special correspondent)
I think I might like this ‘walking’. If I do it lots everyone smiles and claps at me so I’m doing it lots right now. Except sometimes I sit down with a bump. That’s not so much fun but I get lots of cuddles anyway. I can still get to the shoes faster if I crawl and if I sit and look sad my Kitty brings me things. Sometimes she gets the wrong thing, but she tries hard so I smile at her anyway – and then frown at Mama until she brings the right thing.
But did you know that the walking thing makes these ‘watery trousers’ appear? And if you have watery trousers you get to get out of the pushchair at the play park? And, and, not just to be carried to the swing and the slide.
I do like the swing – a lot.
And the slide! Now I get to climb up it. Well I try but watery trousers make me all sliddy so it’s a bit hard. I like the crawling around though, it means I can chase after Kitty.
I think she must know I can crawl really fast; look where she went to hide so I couldn’t get to her. I tried to tell Mama that we needed to chase her but she just said “would you like to go on the slide sweetie?” and well, I heard “slide’ and I forgot I was supposed to be playing chase. I’ll catch her next time I’m sure, especially because she does this funny hopping up and down game that she calls “numbers”
I think I could do that, after all I can climb up the slide and onto the roundabout and I can do lots of steps in a row. I’ll have caught her up in no time.
So Mama, how exactly do we get to this “death slide” then? I think it sounds fun!
We spent last weekend celebrating the very special and very unordinary first birthday of my gorgeous little nephew. The young man himself was rather unimpressed by all of the fuss, and mostly seemed to be wondering why all these extra people were in his house, but Elma at least was forgiven the intrusion when she shared her plate of breadsticks and baby snacks with him, and all of those over the age of one seemed to have a wonderful time celebrating this lovely little boy.
But the moments I most treasure aren’t the party and the balloons, the cake (oh so much wonderful cake) and spending time with the people we love, though those were all special too, so much as quietly watching my eldest daughter.
Kitty is for the most part a very typical three year old at the moment; she’s buzzing from morning to night, asking a hundred and one “why?” questions, and being both intensely frustrating and adorably wonderful in equal measure. And with that she is also a great big sister to Elma. She looks out for Elma, shares her toys and treats, sometimes with a little prompting, and still hates it when Elma gets sad, or angry-sad, even if it’s because Kitty has removed something from her grasp on the basis that “she’s ruining it Mummy!”. As Elma gets more and more mobile they’re starting to play together more and more and it’s a lovely relationship to watch blossom.
I know first hand how Kitty and Elma respond to each other, and even Kitty and the small nephew, but what was lovely to watch was Kitty interacting with the marauding hoards of other one year olds at the party.
She fetched them toys and stroked their cheeks, threw the ball to them in the garden (admittedly with more enthusiasm than accuracy), and was most often found in another room chatting away to someone else’s slightly bemused baby. I think a fair few of them got a very good sense about what it would be like to have a big sister for a day. I know it sounds like she was being a bit bossy but it was actually really sweet; she wasn’t telling them what to do so much as looking out for them.
I’ve always loved the mantra that says you should never take too much of the blame or too much of the praise for your children’s actions, mainly because it’s a huge comfort when you’re getting the stink eye from someone two checkouts over while not one but both your children have a wailing meltdown in the supermarket, but the praise part of it is true too. I don’t take credit for the way Kitty acts with the little ones; it’s just a part of her personality, something in her make up that makes her want to take care of people, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not prodigiously proud of her, and why I want to save the compliments that were paid to her so that when she’s old enough to read this little moment in our family story she can know how much her Auntie’s friends and family thought she was lovely; how it was obvious to anyone watching that she has a nurturing soul, how hearing that made me smile with joy, and most importantly how it earned her several extra slices of cake from more than one honorary auntie.
Hello!Once upon a time there was a girl named Carie. She married her sweetheart, had two beautiful daughters and filled their days with an eclectic handmade life. Welcome to the story so far ...
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