Along with Audrey Tarrant’s Pip Squeak, Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s characters and anything by Arthur Ransome, Shirley Hughes’ illustrations were a staple of my childhood.  I remember my mum reading Alfie, I remember the story when he shut the door and got stuck in the house with his Mum outside, and of course, of course I remember her collaboration with Dorothy Edwards, My Naughty Little Sister.  Not that it’s at all predictable that the eldest of two girls would find those stories appealing. Of course not.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I had the appropriate sympathy for the big sister narrator, and when her little sister got up to all sort of entertaining scrapes I could laugh along from the vantage point of a big girl who clearly wouldn’t do anything so silly as that. Those of you reading who know this to be untrue are begged to keep my secrets, especially the one about the time I snipped into the hem of the dress made for Mum to wear to my own baby sister’s christening that I think has been brought up at every landmark birthday and possibly even my wedding.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

When Claire mentioned it as one of her girls’ favourites it reminded me that it was long overdue an appearance as part of this series.  I spotted The Complete My Naughty Little Sister years ago sat on the shelf in a charity shop and I knew in that moment it was never not coming home with me, even if the only little person I had to read it to was a tiny baby Kitty.  It was a day when my sister was visiting and we came home and poured over it, we both remember so many of the stories, the one about the gap in the fence, the one where she learns to knit and, my personal favourite, the washing day, when Granny stirs up the washing in a giant copper and then runs it through the mangle while My Naughty Little Sister swings in a little rope swing suspended from the ceiling of the wash house, just as her mother had before her.  I think I always rather liked the idea of swinging while doing the laundry and in truth that still sounds like a lot more fun (provided I can keep my nice shiny modern washing machine of course!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Reading them again now I can see and hear that they are very much books of their time, and books of their era of parenting.  When I was little it didn’t seem at all odd to refer to characters as naughty, or bad in the case of Bad Harry but I don’t think you’d ever find a modern book that would use that kind of language, and I’ll admit I edit a little as I read and make a few substitutions along the way.  But for all that they are lovely stories, stories of domesticity and childhood and just the kind of thing that appeals to little girls who oh so often ask for “a story from your head”. And as always Shirley Hughes’ illustrations are just so lovely, spelling out vast amounts in simple black and white sketches.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And while I bought this book when Kitty was very little it took a few years before she was really big enough to sit and enjoy the stories but now she and Elma too will snuggle up to hear about the crazy exploits of a little girl who I rather suspect might just be their latest heroine.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

 
Space for the Butterflies: What We're Reading
 

If you have read something lovely recently, please do put your link in the comments section and shout to the world – and we’ll all come and have a read!  Last week Jess and Rosalie expanded my knowledge of Dr Seuss, The Foot Book looks like it has the most fantastic patter for reading aloud, definitely a hit!

What We’re Reading is a weekly round up of posts about children’s books.  That’s about as far as the ‘rules’ go; it can be picture books, baby books, books for older children or even young adult if you like; just come and shout out in the comments to tell us what you’ve been reading recently.   If you’d rather join in on Instagram or Twitter that would be wonderful too, just use the hashtag #whatweread and tag me (@cariemay on Instagram and @cariemaymakes on Twitter) and then we can all come and say hi. What We’re Reading posts are usually on a Tuesday but as I finished writing my Me and Mine post on Monday night a small boy awoke in a most decidedly squeaky way and I decided it could wait until today!

After the roaring and only slightly lopsided success of buggy-tripod last month it seemed only fair that I should capitalise on that achievement and do another set of Me and Mine photos using the same trick. Well that and I haven’t taken the remote trigger out of my handbag yet (and in fact it may now have a permanent place there) so there’s no escape for the family now.

And it’s worth it, these pictures were all taken on one of H’s rare and treasured holiday days. We’d been in to town for lunch and full of the most delicious burgers, pulled pork and all sorts of other lovely things we headed down to the gardens to run off a little excess energy brought on by the application of fish and chips to small daughters.  It was a glorious afternoon, warm to the point of hot in the sun, peaceful, and really just perfect being there all five of us.  Pip giggled from his pram, Kitty and Elma raced up and over a row of blocks meant as stepping stones through the grass and H and I sat and basked in the sunshine.

The gardens have a lot of wooden sculptures; a couple of years ago a huge tree had to come down because the roots had become diseased and it was liable to topple at any moment.  But rather than just chopping it up and carting it away for firewood or something similar, they employed a sculptor.  The stump of the tree was left a little taller than me and cut at an angle; one half was carved with different pictures of bits of the park, all at roughly the point of the tree’s rings that correlate to it’s age at the time they were built and round the back there’s a little cubby hole for curling up and hiding in.  We watched it being carved when Kitty was tiny and I absolutely love it.  Other chunks have been made into seats, a tree to climb, and then there’s the crocodile.

Technically it is supposed to be a dragon although we’ve yet to discover if there’s a particular significance to dragons and Warwickshire or whether the sculptor just likes dragons (fair enough) but it makes a comfy seat and it’s hugely popular with little people for clambering over and if the girls want it to be a crocodile then I can definitely see where they’re coming from.

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So the girls clambered, Pip wriggled and H and I looked around at all these children and knew in a silent look that we have everything we ever dreamed of and more.

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My family, Kitty, Elma, Pip, H and me, in March.

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And as for the outtakes – well my favourite has to be my two best boys having a chat!

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dear beautiful

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Once upon a time H went to a hockey festival. Back in the day we both used to go, travelling down later after work on Friday and camping out in the field next to the pitches and playing increasingly tipsy games of hockey. Our club never won, as much by accident as design. But where we did succeed was in the fancy dress costumes. There was the year of Where’s Wally, a year where everyone had to be something with the letter P (lots of pirates), an official pirate year  and Hawaii Five-0 (which just happened to be the one summer that no one seemed to be selling Hawaiian shirts!). And then there was the super hero year. And as the traditional superheros all seem to favour rather more skin tight lycra than can truly be comfortable H decided his superhero of choice had to be Professor Chaos, Butters’ alter ego from South Park.  South Park was part of our university life and Butters was always our favourite character so it was an easy choice and H had shorts and a t-shirt in the right sort of colour so we were half way there. And one evening, while he made a helmet out of tinfoil and craft foam, I set to making him a cape.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It’s made to be floor length on a 6’1″ H, draped and pinched and sewn together out of forest green lining for the costume side and a sparkly lining for a bit of extra magic.  We painted two giant buttons with silver airfoil paint and originally it had a chain that held the two together – long since lost on a field near Milton Keynes.  But the coat itself survived and came home to live in our dressing up box.  And I think it might just be our girls’ favourite.  Because as should be immediately obvious, this is no longer Professor Chaos’ cape, not this is “my Elsa cape!”. Happily it’s still technically Daddy’s so all disputes over ownership are solved by handing it over to H but it does make me giggle how much they love it.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I’ve found it being used for a tent, snuggled with in bed and most often worn by some small girl sprinting through the house yelling “let it go!” or “stay away! you be safe from me! atchurly were not!” (that would be Elma).  Seeing them play with something I’ve made and choosing it over and above all the lovely sparkly glitter-shedding dresses that overflow from our dressing up box gives me a huge sense of satisfaction, possibly even tinging on the smug but we’ll gloss over that, and more to the point I am absolutely certain that I need to buy some more lengths of lining fabric and find time to sew up some cloaks for the girls that are the right sort of size based on a bit of measuring and draping onto them if they can stand still.  Probably in pink and purple.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But for the meantime they can run and swish and turn and get all caught up in it and know that they’re truly being Elsa.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

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It is amazing how much laundry five people can accumulate.  Even when two of the five are really rather small and another has a serious shortage of wearable outfits.  But with Pip utterly determined to wear as much of his dinner as he eats and Elma regarding her drawers as a really lovely dressing up box that she dips into every time she feels like a change and Mummy’s back is turned it all builds up.  And so we bung it all in the washing machine and watch it swirl around and I offer up prayers of thanks to the washing machine fairy that installed a child lock on it, and then haul it outside to peg it up on the line.

And once we’ve got several baskets full we pull out the bits and bobs that need ironing (I’m not big on ironing; it’s not a lot) and take the rest upstairs and dump it on my bed to be sorted.  The girls have got really into helping me out and they love climbing up on the head of the bed to grab their clothes for their baskets and nine times out of ten they get it right, and anything else gets sorted out when I come to fold and put things away.  It’s lovely to have their company and we can chat or sing along to the radio while we get through what to be honest can be quite a big task.  Of course there are times when they don’t want to or have a pixie moment or two and clothes go flying and I try to take a deep breath and start again (sometimes with more success than others) but mostly it’s a fun part of our week.

I love hearing their giggles when they think they’re totally hidden under the duvet, or when there little smiley faces pop up as they play peepo over the edge.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Pip generally hangs out in the sling but as he’s got bigger and bigger and decidedly heavier he gets a bit cumbersome if you want to bend up and down between baskets and drawers so I’ve started to tuck him into bed between his sisters for a little sibling hang out while I tuck the clothes back where they belong.  One day in the not too distant future I know he will be seen by the girls as a playfellow.  Probably not quite an equal because he’ll always be their little brother and I think he’ll be taller than me before he looses the “little” tag, but more so than now.  

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Now he is their baby, their little munchkin, someone to kiss and cuddle and pet, and someone who gives them the most enormous smiles when they do. And I love it. I love watching them together and seeing how happy they make each other. And I really love it when we’re all done and we can all cuddle up together or play tents under the duvet.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

We’ve just had Kitty’s last day of ballet for this term and I’m so horribly aware that this means we’ve got one term, and the summer, and then moments like this will be fewer and further between.  There will be days of the five of us at the weekend, and half terms and holidays but the rhythm of our days will be different, and it won’t be the three and me in quite the same way any more. I don’t think it’s a bad thing exactly, but it will be very different and it seems to be a change that’s hurtling towards us at great speed.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Now is the time for me to soak in every little moment of our daily pattern as it is now; cuddles with the laundry and all.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

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A portrait of each of my children once every week for 2015.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life    

Kitty: Your latest skill has been learning to tie your own hair up. It’s still sometimes a little haphazard but you’re definitely getting there and there are people who pay vast sums of money to hairdressers for a messy ponytail as good as that.

(Nikon D80, 60mm 2.8 lens – 1/400, f/3.2, ISO 100)

  Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Elma: Your Daddy was working from home this week and after lunch you went in to sit on the floor next to him and draw pictures while I settled your brother and hung out the laundry.  And while I was busy you scrambled up onto the little artist’s chair, pulled your blankie after you and fell fast asleep with your head on Daddy’s knee.  It didn’t look too comfy so her scooped you up and brought you out to me in the garden but you didn’t wake up even then so we tucked you up on the sofa to finish your nap.  You’re so very very little when you’re asleep, I hope you were dreaming of beautiful things.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/320, f/2.8, ISO 100)

  Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Pip:  I lay a quilt out on the grass and gently tuck you down in the middle of it. And the moment my back is turned you start your rolling, round and round and round until you’re lying in the grass trying to chew last autumn’s leaves and laughing at the suggestion that you’d stay where I put you. Not now, not now there’s rolling to be done.  Just don’t eat too much of the grass ok sweetheart.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/250, f/2.8, ISO 100)

 

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  Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Joining in with {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single of 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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Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Once upon a time I sat down at the computer, opened up a page and wrote the very first post in my blogging career.  Nine years later I still find that every evening after the little ones are tucked up in bed, and sometimes when they aren’t, I sit down at the computer to tell stories.  Stories of our extraordinary ordinary life, of creating masterpieces and the craft-projects-which-shall-not-be-named, of cooking and sometimes the things about motherhood that make me pause and ponder. In all those years I’ve never not wanted to write. There were times when real life got in the way, and the first three months of my pregnancy with Kitty where I just looked at the computer as I crashed asleep on the sofa at 7 o’clock (I’m told that was a pretty big giveaway about what might be going on!), but never a day when I thought, I’ll just jack this in, I really can’t be bothered.
 
Blogging has brought me some great treats, some fun days out and most of all it’s brought me a sense of being among friends, of being in a community of soul sisters who get what I’m trying to achieve in parenting (and sometimes know why it isn’t working), or know just why I have cupboards of yarn and fabric stuffed into the corners of my house, or why I never leave home without my camera.  You are the people who come up with some wonderfully well thought out responses to my posts on the challenges facing us all in raising our girls or boys or both, the people who lift me up when life is heavy going and laugh along in the happy times and I’m thankful every day for the friends that I’ve made through this window into my world.
 
And thats why I think I can be entirely unashamed in casting aside my stereotypically English reticence and saying please vote for me.
 
BritMums BritMums
 
The BiBs are BritMums awards for UK parenting blogs, they’re one of the highlights of the blogging social calendar and last year’s winners included some of my most favourite reads.  I would love to be shortlisted in the Writer or Family categories, although I’m well aware that they’re probably the most hotly contested given that everyone who publishes a blog is by definition a writer, and everyone who is eligible for the BiBs has a family. Oh well.  If you don’t ask, the answer can only be no.
 
And if you would like to cast a little vote in my direction you don’t need to be a blogger, or a parent, or British, you just need to go to the nomination form here: http://www.britmums.com/bibs-2015-categories/ and fill in as much or as little as you like.  There are many many amazing blogs out there that would fit into all of the other categories and the ones I like too.  If you’re curious I’ve included Lets Talk Mommy, Capture by Lucy, The Ordinary Lovely, Mummy Daddy Me, Dear Beautiful, Along Came Cherry so far and I’m still trying to decide my final few.
 
To vote for me you will need my blog URL: http://www.spaceforthebutterflies.com
Twitter ID: @CariemayMakes
 
and if you have a particular post that you’ve enjoyed you can add that in too!
 
And because there’s only so much self promotion I can manage before I start to worry that I’ve got to the grovelling stage I shall leave you with a very very persuasive message from some people who would definitely cast a vote or two if only their parents would let them have an email address:
 
 

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This week we bring you not one, not two, or even three, but forty stories.  In truth we haven’t read all of them this week, and I suspect that there may even be one or two that we haven’t yet read at all. But the pages are well thumbed and the book falls open in a couple of places to mark out our favourites.  It’s my favourite book to pull off the shelf for a in the mid afternoon lull when one of the girls asks for a story and a firm favourite with everyone at bedtime.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

There are plenty of books around that talk children through the bedtime routine and we’ve got a few of them, bunny brushes his teeth and goes to bed or the little ducklings who want to stay up all night, but this isn’t one of them.  Instead, the Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book     is a collection of the sort of stories to lie back and listen to, stories of wonder, magic and mystery.  Bob Hartman collected folk stories from all over the world, from Puerto Rico to Japan and a good handful from nearer to home to, and just as with the Lion Storyteller Bible, he’s taken those stories and retold them for little ones, writing in a way designed to roll off the tongue. Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

They’re short stories, most are only a couple of pages, and the longest only stretches to four, so they’re perfect for reading at bedtime with sleepy little ones snuggling down into bed; the plots wrap up before anyone has fallen asleep (me included) and both Kitty and Elma can follow what’s going on without it being over simplified or entirely lacking in lovely language to wrap my tongue around.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And Krisztina Kallai Nagy has again produced the most beautiful illustrations to match, she’s one of my all time favourite children’s book illustrators, her artwork is always gentle on the eye (perfect for bedtime) but full of really rich colour and bring the story to life in a way that kickstarts your imagination but leaves you to do the rest.  Actually one of the things that I like best about this book is that the illustrations are fairly minimal.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the pictures and we love sitting all piled up on the sofa really drinking in some good illustrations but when I want two little girls to lie down and start to feel sleepy it’s definitely a plus that they can look at the picture and then just let the words fuel their imaginations.  

Kitty’s favourite by far is Silly Jack, a story I remember from my own childhood. Poor Jack goes off to work somewhere new each day, the first day he earns a penny but drops it, and his mother scolds him and tells him to put it in his pocket, so the next day he duly puts his wages in his pocket. There’s just one tiny hitch, it’s not a penny, it’s a jug of milk, and his mother tells him he should have put it on his head, and so the tale continues all the way through the week.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

My favourite, and accordingly the story that we’ve read most often is The girl who played with the Stars, a beautiful story of fairies, giant fish and gulls making a stairway to the stars for a little girl who wanted to dance.  It inspired the cover art and it’s as lovely a story as the illustration. Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

All in all they are stories that are the gateway to the land of dreams, stories that you could read a hundred times and never be tired of them, and the sort of stories that wriggle into your mind so that when a little voice in the back of the car asks for “a story from your head” you know just what comes after “once upon a time”.

 

 
Space for the Butterflies: What We're Reading
 

If you have read something lovely recently, please do put your link in the comments section and shout to the world – and we’ll all come and have a read!  Last week Jess and Rosalie were reading Are You My Mummy, which just looks so adorably cute – Jess is going to be responsible for Pip getting a pile of books taller than him for his birthday in the summer! And Christina joined in on Instagram; I’m going to have to look for Ten Little Monkeys, it seems like it might be rather apt for my girls!

What We’re Reading is a weekly round up of posts about children’s books.  That’s about as far as the ‘rules’ go; it can be picture books, baby books, books for older children or even young adult if you like; just come and join us to tell us what you’ve been reading recently.  The linky is always open for a week so there’s plenty of time to join in, or if you’d rather join in on Instagram or Twitter that would be wonderful too, just use the hashtag #whatweread and tag me (@cariemay on Instagram and @cariemaymakes on Twitter) and then we can all come and say hi.

It was just an ordinary shoe box to begin with. A little tiny box, purple patterns on brown cardboard that once held a pair of bright pink shoes with lights in the heels now scuffed and battered and tucked away at the back of a drawer. But as we sat eating pancakes for a circle-themed breakfast on Friday morning H cut and cut again, carving little squares out of the side with a stanley knife and adding tin foil and white card to the ends.  When that was done he turned his attention to an empty beer box rescued from our recycling and before we knew it, and before half past eight, Kitty and Elma were the proud owners of two pinhole cameras.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I spent all of last week stalking at least three different weather forecasts desperately hoping it would be clear and sunny on Friday morning, getting my hopes up when the 9am symbol showed pure sunshine and having them dashed again when it turned back to cloudy an hour or so later.  The day itself dawned misty, but hanging out of the bedroom window and peering upwards it did seem like there was some blue sky behind the fuzzy white.

If willpower alone could burn of early morning haze it would have been gone in seconds but slowly and surely the cloud did seem to be lifting.  We headed out into the garden with our boxes and pointed them at the sun.  H found the sun first and then I found the angle and there on the inside of a shoe box, was a tiny white circle, with a tiny dark bite missing from the bottom left hand corner. The start of the very first eclipse I’ve ever seen.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

(this picture was taken shooting into the pinhole camera just before we got to 90% cover)

I was 19 in 1999, and H and I and some of our friends were all at my parents house so excited for the chance to see a total eclipse on British shores.  And on the day itself the cloud rolled in and a very English sort of an August day presented itself for inspection.  I witnessed a total eclipse, I have been under a total eclipse but I have not seen one with my own eyes, all we saw was the sky getting darker from the wrong direction and as the moment of totality came, the navigation lights on the hundreds and hundreds of boats in the bay below sparkling like jewels in a bowl of water as camera flashes twinkled as far as we could see, and out on the far horizon the band of light that marked the edge of the moon’s shadow.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I wanted to watch it for me because we missed out last time, and I wanted the children to see it, to get even the tiniest understanding of an eclipse, of how the sun works, and of just how important it is to our existence.  In all honesty I think Kitty was the only one who had some awareness of what was going on, Elma dutifully looked in the pinhole camera and she saw the crescent shrinking as the sun became more obscured but she was mostly just excited to be out in the garden playing with everyone and thrilled when a huge hot air balloon appeared almost out of nowhere and floated right over our heads.  And Pip, my lovely boy if you’re reading this in years to come, for the record we held up the shoebox so you could see, you looked, you nuzzled your head into my shoulder, and you tried very hard to capture and eat the box.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But Kitty got it.  We spend a bit of time on Thursday making a mock up of first the sun and the planets and then the sun, moon and earth and acting out all of the rotations and then mocking up an eclipse hiding under a quilt and using the light on my phone as the sun and some of it sank in; when H came home she asked him what our planet was called,

“Earth” he said,

“No that’s not it – what are the other ones?”

“Umm, Venus, Mercury, Mars?”

“Mercury! That’s it!”

Which is admittedly a significant improvement on her answer to me earlier in the afternoon which was “cervix” (I have no idea!!).

And it was Kitty who kept coming back for another look, and Kitty who was captivated by the diamond ring and the total eclipse when we nipped inside to watch it on the telly after our darkest point had passed.  She noticed that the sun was getting darker, but like bedtime, not like a rainy day, and that it got colder as we got nearer and nearer to our 90% ish cover.

Watching the moon cover our sun, our source of warmth and light and all things that make life possible makes you feel very little, so very very tiny compared to these giant orbiting spheres.

 And when you sit and think about that scale, the fact that I can show just a little of that mystery to my daughter with the aid of a shoebox becomes really rather remarkable, a privilege and something I hope she will remember, at least until 2026 when we can set H going with the stanley knife again.

  Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life     

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