A casual observer visiting this little corner of the Internet for the first time might conceivably be forgiven for thinking that I have recently refined my photography and now only take pictures of my children on the swings.

It’s not intentional I promise, just a happy side effect of a lot of afternoons spent at the park recently. I’ve made it a bit of a mission to try to get outside for a good part of every day this winter and we’ve been doing pretty well so far, save for a couple of days this week where the rain swept in just after lunch and even I’m not that committed to fresh air to want to go out into a torrential downpour – we went to the library instead on one day and I took my sanity into my own hands and braved soft play on the other (braving soft play, even the mini soft play, on a wet November morning with all three children by myself I’m certain should earn me some sort of medal – or perhaps just a survivors t-shirt).

But apart from the days on which only a full on dry-suit could be deemed appropriate clothing it’s been great, and it’s even more fun when H can come too – mostly I suspect because he can push the girls a lot higher and faster in the swings than I can ever manage.

He is their first choice by a country mile.  Well, who are we kidding, if he’s there, he’s their only choice.  And because they are one and four and therefore required by some unspoken law of childhood to choose the two swings furthest apart from one another, that generally means that they have to take it in turns to be pushed.

As Elma sailed back and forth and H turned to go down the line to Kitty I stepped into the gap and prepared to do my best, but:

“No Mummeee! No! Not Mummee! Juss Daddeee!”

Every ounce of her almost two year old self was determined that Mummy would not do and Mummy was not going to push her on the swing.  It was Daddy or nothing.

And Kitty was the same; she’d rather wait for Daddy than suffer the indignity of being pushed at anything less than mach 2.

I don’t think it’s anything personal, at least I hope not, and I suspect they’ve both clever enough to have worked out that whoever accepts Mummy as a pusher isn’t going to get Daddy back!

And I’m not complaining anyway, it gives me ample opportunity to perch up on a picnic bench and have a chat to Pip curled up in the sling and take a whole series of photos that I think should probably be titled “Kitty waiting; occasionally patiently”:

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

Little imp! Fortunately the wind remained in its usual direction and she seemed to be having rather a lot of mischievous fun pulling as many extraordinary faces as she could manage while still holding on to her swing.

We stayed and played until it was all but dark, swinging and running and having scooter/bike races and enjoying having the park almost entirely to ourselves.  It’s definitely more effort to get us all out of doors at this time of year but for all the cold fingers and masses of buttons, I think it might just be worth it.  Whether I’m still saying that come February is another matter of course!

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6am on a Sunday morning, with the gap in the curtain showing only the slightest glimmerings of the dawn is not a time i would usually willingly embrace.  I don’t think it’s a time that anyone willingly embraces to be honest, its more the time when you hear one of the children wake up and from the depths of a cosy deep sleep think “really? are you sure you don’t just want to give me another half hour?” (for the record the answer is always no).

But last week we got up at six, we woke the children, fed them, cleaned them, dressed them, popped them in the car and set off for the north on a day trip to Yorkshire to introduce Pip to as much of his extended family as hadn’t met him yet.

His Aunts and Uncle were home for the occasion too and it was great to catch up and watch the girls very evident pleasure at being reunited with some more of their favourite people and even better, the very special toys that live at Grandma and Grandad’s house; the contents of my parents in law’s garage having been pretty much the little ones’ sole topic of conversation all the way up the M1.

We chatted with H’s aunts and uncles who came around for tea, caught up on the family news, and one of his cousins played the guitar and sang and it all started to feel, dare I say it, rather Christmassy; especially when the cream cakes came out for tea.

But the highlight, and perhaps the chief reason for our trip was for Pip to meet his Great-Gran.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

The oldest and the youngest – and one from the middle just for good measure!

I love that our girls and now Pip have had the chance to get to know their Great-Gran and Pip was certainly very happy to have lots of cuddles and lullabies, snuggling in to the same tunes sung to his Daddy thirty-something years before him.

My family has always been more spaced out, and there was never even a hint of a chance of my meeting any of my great grandparents, or for my children to meet theirs which I think makes that relationship all the more special to see.  And Great-Gran is very special in her own right.  She’s a proper old school Scottish Granny, she sings lullabies I don’t know the words to while wrapping up the babies in tartan shawls, she has the recipe for the most amazing Millionaire’s Shortbread you’ve ever tasted (and back in the day she used to send him off to university with a big tin of it) and it is utterly impossible to visit her at home without being offered (and by offered we generally mean ‘be forcibly presented with’ a cup of tea and a biscuit or a slice of cake regardless of time of day, vicinity of latest meal or in my case that fact that for the last 16 years my boyfriend then fiance now husband has drunk every single cup!

I’d had plans of taking some family photos while we were up north but the weather was wetter than wet and we never quite managed to have all of our more immediate family in the same room at the same time for long enough to take a photo, but even with the light dwindling away to nothing and the girls running around in their vests while they and their aunt explored the painting possibilities of her make up bag I knew I wanted to capture at least two generations together.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

So yes, they aren’t the best photos I’ve ever taken; the light was lousy, my ISO was ramped up ridiculously hight to compensate, Pip was winding up for a squeak for milk, and in half of the ones I took at least one person is looking at someone down the other end of the room and possibly having a chat with them too.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But it doesn’t matter. It would be nice to be able to tweak don’t get me wrong, but as always I’d rather have these photos than none at all.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And so I find that when I look at the pictures I stop seeing the faults, I just see the happy smiles, the comfortable companionship and the joy that we all share in being together. It’s a little record of Great-Gran with all of her Great-Grandchildren around her and it’s perfect.

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Once upon a time two little monkeys spotted an open door.  A door that is usually kept closed.  A door that if it doesn’t have an actual “Mummy and Daddy only” sign on it, lacks one only because the other occupants of the household can’t read yet.  It is the door to the studio and it’s long been a household rule that you only go into the studio under supervision.  It has big things in it and heavy things and sharp things and pointy things and messy things and right now it also has partially constructed Christmas presents in it.

But one day the door was open. The monkeys had been inside earlier that day to do a little painting and so they knew what treasures might await.  They knew that if they just tiptoed over the threshold they would be within touching distance of ‘the white box’, a veritable Pandora’s box of excitement.  For while the monkeys have constant and unrestricted access to paper and crayons and pencils and stamps and ink pads and all sorts of moderately messy things in the boxes in the bottom of the cupboard in the lounge, they remembered the glimpses they had caught of treasures beyond imagination whenever the big craft box was brought out for a particular project.  There were paper plates, and gold sticky stars, lots of glue sticks, scissors, a whole tub of jingle bells and beads and pipe cleaners and what seemed to the monkeys to be mound upon mound of endless glimmering glories.

The monkeys stepped through the door, and all was quiet.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It was the quiet that gave them away.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Quiet is always a dangerous sign that should not be ignored.  And so Mummy and Daddy came to investigate and found the monkeys peacefully occupied in creating pompom masterpieces on paper plates with lashings of gold paint and a couple of loo roll inners for good measure.  The content of the craft box was strewn about, tissue paper clouds gathered around paper stars in a very retro 50’s sort of celestial backdrop and a series of small gold fingerprints along the edge of the kitchen worktop evidenced that at least one small person had come in search of their drink, and it probably wasn’t Pip.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

H and I paused on the threshold.  On the one hand, there are very excellent reasons why the girls are not allowed in the studio by themselves (scissors, needles, sewing machine, iron, full size floor easel and the small matter or a number of paints and pigments that come with warning labels to name but a few) but something just held us back for that moment.  After all they were already going to get the ‘why going in the studio without us is not OK’ talk and the ‘now help me clear up this mess’ talk, so why not let them finish their projects first.  I’d like to claim it was all part of some deep rooted soulful logic, a respect for their artistic process and recognition of the value of their work or something along those lines (if perhaps a little less hippy-crunchy earth mother in the expression) but no, I’m afraid it was much simpler than that.

It was the quiet.  Peaceful, beautiful, restful quiet, in which to do the washing up and have an actual conversation with my husband, to play peepo with Pip and watch for his smiles, or possibly even just to sit down with a sigh.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And so we stepped back into the kitchen.

Kitty finished a veritable masterpiece of tissue paper, fluffy pompoms, glitter and goodness knows what else she found rifling through the box, though it is sadly now a lost work of art thanks to some enthusiastic hugging of said masterpiece and her need to cart it around the house shedding twinkles in her wake.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And Elma? Well Elma’s creation was a little less intricate due both to her more limited motor skills and the sudden end of her artistic endeavours when she found herself being whisked away for a mid afternoon bath and intensive hair wash after inadvertently wandering underneath a stream of PVA glue that her sister was drizzling from great height down onto a piece of card in what I must presume was some sort of an attempt to play at being Jackson Pollock.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Now that’s what I call suffering for your art.

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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.

To see more, check out the comments to Soulemama

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

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I write this sitting on the lounge floor while Pip kicks and wriggles and snuffles next to me and upstairs Elma snoozes the day away in my bed and I tuck into the nourishing chicken pasta and sweet corn soup I made to try to encourage her back to health. It’s delicious. She on the other hand is feeling decidedly below par with the double whammy of ear infection (both ears) and tonisilitis.

Yes, this, this twelfth week of Pip’s life was the one when all our hopes and our chain eating of satsumas came to count for naught in the face of two little people doing germ warfare at nursery on a twice weekly basis. H has a sore throat, I’ve got a sniffle, Kitty has a very impressive cough, Elma is currently working her way through her first ever course of antibiotics and Pip has a little snuffly nose but the happiest smile in the whole world.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It is also the week when with a little sigh of regret I put the last of the 3-6 month babygros into the grown out of bag; Pip’s officially a 6-9 month sized baby now – in penguin babygros no less – at not quite three months old.

And not quite three months old is clearly an age he’s starting to enjoy; we’re getting more and more giggles and chuckles every day that the moment.  He loves to be propped up on my knees while I hold his hands and dance them around; he loves to have his head stroked; and he loves it if you make a muslin or a play silk fly around just above his head.

With all the inquisitiveness is coming better and better head control; he really likes to have a good look around when he’s in the sling so for the first few minutes he’ll pop his head in and out of the outer cover just to see what’s going on and then go back to his favourite occupation of snoozing. Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I think he might also be trying to find his thumb.  Both of the girls suck their thumbs, though I suspect Kitty will start to grow out of it in the next year or so, and it’s so sweet to see them sat together mirroring each other.  The three of them together would definitely be one of those photos that you save to bring out when they’re all grown up to present to their future spouse.  For now Pip’s mostly trying to chew his fingers and knuckles; he’s not hungry if I try to offer him milk, he just wants to chew and well, your fingers are a lot more readily available than Daddy’s nose, Daddy’s upper arm or (and most impressively) the corner of a pillow, all of which have been thoroughly tested both for chewing and the possibility of milk in the last few days.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

He’s definitely got more hair than a couple of weeks ago, and even longer eyelashes if such a thing were possible; every now and then I get a flash of a look of the future Pip and wonder how he’s growing up so fast!

This week we took him on a flying visit to Yorkshire to see some of the family who hadn’t met him yet and I think he wooed every last one of them, all beautiful big eyes and killer smiles, in a way that made it totally worth all the service station hopping up the motorway to get there. Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But apart from that these weeks have just been of the simple stay at home variety; days of just being tucked up in the sling as we do the laundry or go to the shops; days of being tickled by his sisters or snuggling up with H; days of the sort of perfect ordinariness that make it feel like he has always been here.  And I’m loving every one of them.

 

I’m not sure that I would describe this week’s book as a book that I picked up and fell wholeheartedly and unreservedly in love with, but it is a book that I find fascinating and intriguing in equal measure.

It’s also nye on impossible to photograph which of course makes it a sure fire winner; well I always like a challenge.

Because The Black Book of Colours is what it says it is: black. All the way through. It’s a book of colours without a colour in sight.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But it is also a book packed full of colour, just in a way that uses senses other than your eyes.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

They’re how the colours appear to Thomas, he hears them and smells them and touches them and tastes them. He just doesn’t see them.

Red is “sour like unripe strawberries”, “sweet as watermelon” and hurts when you find it on a scraped knee. Blue is the sky when kites are flying and you can feel the sun on your head, but when the rain pours down then it’s white.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

All of the descriptions are very evocative, reading it you know exactly what shade of blue he sees for the sky, or the precise green of a freshly mown lawn, though my favourite has to be the description of black;

“as soft as silk when his mother hugs him and her hair falls in his face.”

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And to go with the words every image, including the ones on the covers are embossed in black, so that as you read you can trace your fingers across the leaves or feathers or strawberries, to find the images that make up the rainbow or just the falling rain.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And finally above all of the written words are those same words spelled out in braille.  I’m fascinated by braille, I’ve a fondness for any kind of code or a language that uses different characters which would explain both the ancient greek GCSE and the fact that I taught myself to write in viking runes when I was in my early teens (a skill sadly long since departed from my memory). Braille just seems so delicate and intricate; I can run my fingers over the dots but I really struggle to tell one letter apart from the others without individually counting the dots, or having a quick peek.

There’s a braille alphabet in the back of the book too which is a big help in trying to figure it out, and has been fun for the girls to trace with their fingers.

I’m sure that just as reading the written word gets easier and easier the more you do it, if you had to learn to read in braille the repeated practice would make you a lot faster but I’m still wildly impressed by anyone who can master it.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But perhaps that thing I like the most about this book is that it just is; it doesn’t come with a little explanation, or a moral, or a lesson plan, or anything else, it simply presents the world as it appears to its narrator and lets you explore it at whatever level you choose.  I’ve tried to resist the temptation to explain it to Kitty, just answer her questions as they come, and enjoy the fact that it is making her think.

 

Space for the Butterflies: What We're Reading

If you have a favourite, or just something fun your little or not so 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!



I may just perhaps just possibly have mentioned that little Miss Elma is slightly partial to the swings at the play park. Only a little bit of course!

It’s the first place she heads to when we get near to the gate, the lure of flying through the air propelling her as fast as little legs wrapped up in waterproofs and wellies can possibly go (“I run-en Mummee!”).

She’ll stand in front of the object of her desire and with earnest expression turn to me: “this one Mummee! This one!”

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And so we lift her in, pull her back and let go and she’s off, soaring through the air with a ribbon of laughter pealing out behind her.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

We go to one of the parks almost every day, it’s part of the rhythm of our days, a habit picked up in the days when it didn’t take 30 minutes to dress everyone in sufficient layers to leave the house that I’m trying to cling to even through the rainiest of days, and every day we start with the swings. Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Plural.

It’s not that it’s one swing for Elma and one for Kitty, for one thing Miss Kitty is now so very tall that her feet scrape the ground in the little girl swings and has accordingly been banished to the big swings for fear of catching her toes and being catapulted across the playground, and for another, well did I mention that Elma loves swings.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Just at the moment that I feel my arm start to be in serious danger of falling off she’ll want out of the first swing, but as soon as those wellies hit the floor she’ll take all of three steps across and turn around:

“Now this one Mummee!”

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

You’d have thought they would be exactly the same, but it turns out she might just be on to something – after much scientific study I can tell you that one of the swings is a smidgen higher and the other one swings a little faster; and of course that must be the reason she needs to have a go on both! Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

living arrows

Once upon a time I had a little shadow and her name was Kitty.  In some respects it seems like a lifetime ago that it was just Kitty, H and me, though in reality it was less than a couple of years ago.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

She and I were inseparable; wherever Mummy was, that was where Kitty wanted to be, to have a bumped knee kissed better, to snuggle up for a story, or to be gently lulled to sleep in my arms.  She enjoyed playing with H don’t get me wrong, but if there was a choice it was all about Mummy.

And I loved it.  I loved being able to pour all of my focus and energy into her happiness; playing silly games for hours, dancing around the room with her in my arms, or sitting watching her sleep marvelling at the miracle that made her my little girl.

She’s still and always will be my best biggest girl but I think the intense closeness of early babyhood will always dissipate a little as our babies grow.  For one thing, as they develop and grow they begin to be able to do more and more for themselves and become less dependant on us, and at the same time the ability to question and test and challenge kicks in.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And then in our case Elma arrived and our relationship had to stretch and grow to encompass another little girl, and now a little brother too.

It means that in our daily life we’re balancing the needs of three little people; that there are times when everyone has to wait; that sometimes I can’t give Kitty or Elma or Pip my full undivided attention, or do something that appeals to them and them alone.  Sometimes it’s easy to accept that that’s just how it is, and remember the benefits that we gave them in having siblings, and not just that I have to share myself out, and sometimes, as I launch another futile effort at dividing myself into three, I wonder whether our choice to have more children pushed her affection from me to H, and took more away from our relationship than can simply be attributed to Kitty’s growing independence.

And then every now and then I catch a glimmer that reminds me of those early days; a little moment shared just between us that tells me that however big or tall my biggest girl has got that relationship is still there and still just as strong and close as ever, just stretched to encompass all our love for her siblings.

I saw it in her eyes this week, and the peals of laughter that followed.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

We were learning a few new wintery action songs, and settled on I’m a Little Snowman (to the tune of I’m a Little Teapot)

I’m a Little Snowman, short and fat
Here’s my broomstick, here’s my hat
When the sun comes up I’ll melt away
Down, down, down, down
Whoops, I’m a puddle!

Pip was snoozing; Elma thought it funny when we all wibbled and wobbled down to the floor but isn’t old enough to either memorise or truly understand the words; and that left Kitty and me.

We sang and ‘melted’ and sang again, and giggled and laughed until it got to the point that we were both lying on the lounge floor next to each other, trying not to smile until the other would just say “whoops, I’m a puddle” or even just “whoops!” and the giggles would start up again; laughing until our sides ached. Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It’s hardly ground breaking is it; ‘mother of three makes daughter laugh’, and even for Kitty I suspect it was just one moment of a bit of fun in amongst a whole heap of happy memories for that day but I treasure it; a memory of shared laughter and happiness, of finding a way to make that connection and keep that closeness alive in the middle of our busy family day.
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I know what you’re thinking; that my self professed project monogamy has turned out to be remarkably short lived even for me.

And certainly there is a weight of evidence that would seem to support that verdict, not least the presence of slightly less yarn sat on the end of the sofa, and what I am in no doubt would be the prosecution’s Exhibit A, a finished hat.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Well mostly finished. Technically it still needs a giant pompom on the end but that’s not going to get me off the hook.

But back to the quilt. I have finished all of the embroideries, and given them a little steam press face down into a fluffy towel to get rid of their creases and prepare for patchworking, and then I ironed the printed patches to get rid of the creases cased by years of sitting in a bag in my cupboard, and then I sat and looked at the two piles.

And looked. And looked again. And got the tape measure out.

The printed patches are 9 1/2 inch squares to give a 9′ finished block. The embroideries are 9 1/2 inches tall, no problem there, but they’re also 8 1/2 inches wide. Which is a problem.

This would be what happens when you try to combine two different sets of patches wouldn’t it. So far I’ve toyed with the idea of putting little plain white borders around the embroideries (fiddly and annoying), using spare red spotty backing to add little borders (fiddly and the red spot is too wide a repeat to get more than one row of spots and has every potential to be incredibly unforgiving if my cutting if a nano-metre less than perfect), or cutting everything down to be 8 1/2 inch squares.

I think that’s what I’m going with, it’s just that if I do that then I’ll want to make it a 6×6 quilt and that means I need some peace, some time, and some serious consultation with the tape measure to see whether I’ve got enough fabric to do that.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And while I was thinking, a couple of balls of yarn might just have fallen into my lap. I’m claiming it helps me think. Well that’s the excuse for Elma’s Christmas hat, I’m just not quite sure what I can say to justify casting on for Kitty’s.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Wool fumes – and too much time spent looking at people’s pictures of first snow!

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