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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Way back when Pip was still just a giant bump I wrote about feeding a toddler, feeding through pregnancy and our plans for the future.  Well now it’s the future, and as Elma showed no signs of wanting to even consider weaning before Pip arrived I’ve been tandem nursing ever since. Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And as we’re rapidly approaching four months in I thought I’d share a little about the realities of nursing two babies, what worked for us, and the challenges along the way.

When Pip was first born he was basically feeding around the clock, and Elma was nursing morning, nap time and to go to bed, plus a little extra here and there whenever she asked. I think I spent the first couple of weeks solidly nursing.  And to start off with at least I was nursing just one baby at a time. Pip always got first ‘go’, and I had to pay attention to make sure that he was getting enough hindmilk as well as the foremilk but as my milk came in that became easier and having a toddler around is very helpful for sorting out engorgement issues!

Pip grew and grew and thrived and thrived and for a couple of weeks Elma became gorgeously solid and plump on her share of newborn milk before turning it all into another upwards growth spurt. And while there was someone else on hand to cuddle and rock Pip while I fed Elma, or vice versa it was all OK, albeit a little stressful sat up nursing one, desperately willing them to sleep because I could hear the other starting to ramp up into a full on protest.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But after a couple of weeks H had to go back to work and we had to figure out nap times and bedtimes with just Mummy around.  To start off with I tried having both of them in a rugby ball hold, heads supported by my arms and hands (and a lot of cushions) and their bodies down to either side of me.  It worked, in that the babies got fed, but I never really found it easy or clicked with it; it just wasn’t that comfortable for me, no matter how many cushions we used, I couldn’t really move if one of them needed adjusting or Pip needed burping, and I pretty much needed H’s help to get everyone and everything into position.

And at the same time we hit a road bump with Elma.  For her bedtime meant bath, story time while tucked into Kitty’s bed and then curling up in the nursery rocking chair for her milk and cuddles, and at 20 months it was as much about the cuddles and Mummy time as it was the milk. Suddenly she found herself moved to Mummy’s bed, and expected to go to sleep in this new and exciting place, with the light on, and with her new brother there too. There wasn’t a chance she was going to sleep if she didn’t really really have too and the resultant gymnastics were both painful and left me feeling horribly touched-out. I started to wonder whether it was all a horrible mistake, whether I should wean her now, whether I should have weaned her when I was pregnant, all the niggling worries that itch away at your subconscious.

I took to the internet certain that I was doing something wrong but the common consensus seemed to be that bedtimes are hard with two, and it does just take time to figure out.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But just before I hit crunch point it got better. So what helped? Well firstly Pip grew.  He stopped being that teeny tiny fragile newborn and became a little baby with a bit of heft to him, and I stopped worrying that the occasional wildly thwacking arm from his little big sister would really hurt him and that meant that they could be nearer each other, or possibly overlapping and so I got to change our tandem feeding position.

Now I feed Pip on one side with what is essentially a cross cradle hold on a bit of a diagonal  (his head resting on my forearm, bottom across my tummy and legs dangling down to the other side, while Elma sits up snuggled to my other side with my arm around her and then turns and latches herself on. I know this would be much easier to explain with a picture but there are limits to what I’m prepared to put out there on the internet which is why all the pictures are of Pip instead!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And at the same time Elma became more settled with all the changes, she got used to sharing milk with Pip, and she’s started to move away from nursing until she falls completely asleep.  She’ll nurse until she’s had enough and then quite happily snuggle down and go to sleep in my bed until we move her over to her bed after Pip is settled too.

It’s never going to be my most favourite thing to do, and I’ll still try to nurse each baby separately but I think we’ve found our groove, and I’m glad we persevered.  And as for when I’ll wean Elma, well at the moment it’s still up to her. I know that she can and has done just fine without milk on the days and couple of nights I’ve been away. If she gets to three still nursing I might give her a little prod in the right direction but for now I’m happy to keep feeding her as long as she likes.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And the same goes for her brother.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And on a slightly different note, because the issue of nursing in public has come up in the news again, I wanted to say that in my four and a bit years of near constant nursing I’ve fed my babies wherever we’ve been; cafes, restaurants, the library, walking around the supermarket, walking around a reservoir, in numerous play parks and in church more times than I can remember.  I’m discreet and most of the time I think the only people who know what I’m doing are other nursing mummies, but if you really stare at me you probably will see more than I’d be wholly comfortable with you seeing, just as if you stare down someone’s low cut top in the summer you’ll see more than they would like you to. But I’m happy to report that I’ve never been tutted at or asked to cover up and if someone’s given me the stink eye I’ve been too busy feeding my baby to notice.  I’ve also never fed my babies in the toilet unless you count the times I’ve tucked the babies into the bath with me rather than get out of my haven of bubbles! And more than I hate the fact that this is still a discussion that the media feels we need to have in 2014, I would hate that the publicity it’s attracting would put mummies off feeding their babies for fear of judgement and condemnation. Just remember everyone is far too interested in themselves to be really paying attention to what you’re doing!

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Have you ever met one of your heroes?

At age four I’m pretty sure Kitty’s heroes are mostly Daddy, and she sees him every day, but if I were going to hazard a guess at her “when I grow up I want to be …” list, I think Chris Hadfield might just make the top of the list.  She is fascinated with the Canadian Space Agency’s YouTube videos, she’ll tell you all about crying in space, or how to make a sandwich, and how everything just floats; and we’ve had a whole heap of conversations that start with “when I’m in space…”

So when we realised that far from spending a quiet December appreciating the beauty of a lot of Canadian snow, Cmdr Hadfield was in fact doing a whistle stop tour of the UK to promote his new book, and that one of the stops was our favourite just-a-little-bit-down-the-road bookshop we knew that we had to take the chance to take Kitty (and Elma and Pip) to Blackwell’s in Oxford to meet a man who knows what the world looks like from the outside.

And that’s exactly what we did. We took the girls for lunch, we may perhaps have had a slight detour to the Blackwell’s children’s department and come away a little less empty handed than we had originally arrived, but before too long we were standing in the queue that ran the length of the Norrington Room plus a few squiggles down into the medicine section trying to keep the family relatively well behaved (with a little extra help from my very dear friend and Elma’s godmother who came to catch up with us while we queued) and not to be too distracted by the gorgeous books being showcased by the travel section (nice marketing technique there by Blackwells; though I can’t decide whether they had the signing in the law section to (a) shift more law books (b) because no one would actually want to be there for textbooks and therefore it would be quiet or (c) just to give me flashbacks to my undergraduate days!).

And then with my eyes firmly averted from Megarry & Wade (it’s a textbook, it will never ever feature in What We’re Reading) we turned the corner and reached the front of the queue.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Of course in my dreams of this moment my girls were both friendly, confident, shining examples of ‘perfect’ children, and probably if I’d thought about it, wearing their shoes, but this is real life.  In the event Pip was asleep in the sling and Kitty was so overcome with the reality of meeting someone she usually sees on the computer that she became uncharacteristically shy and could barely be persuaded to do more than peek out from behind H’s legs.  Elma though was fascinated, pulling up on tip-toes to see this spaceman, and to look at a brilliant picture of a maple tree biscuit floating in the middle of the ISS. I think she might also have asked him to sign her copy of Slinky Malinki but we’re not quite sure.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And we did manage to ask the chief question concerning Kitty at the moment; do they ever see Father Christmas and Rudolf from the ISS. I can tell you that I now have it on excellent authority that they have a Christmas tree on board, on Christmas Eve they all hang out their stockings, and on Christmas morning the stockings were filled – what more answer could you need.

It was truly an honour to meet Chris Hadfield; he is someone who had a huge dream, but he pursued it, and kept at it, and worked for it to become a reality.  If he is inspiring my children, I couldn’t ask for more, whether that leads them to want to take up space travel or not.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And I also know that despite her shyness in the moment, my Kitty is always going to treasure her signed copy of You Are Here; she hasn’t stopped carrying it around with her since and has barely stopped talking about it either!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I also wanted to say that I thought Blackwell’s were wonderful; they had a very slick operation to make sure that you weren’t queuing for too long, but that you also got to spend a little time having a chat, and it’s the Blackwells staff that took these photos.  They were also unfailingly kind to the girls, as was the chap behind us in the queue who very sweetly said he’d been having parenting 101 while we waited and that he very much meant it as a compliment – phew!

And do you want to know a secret? Well it’s not much of a secret if I’m about to share it with the internet – I’m so very excited about looking through Kitty’s gorgeous new book with her that I might just not quite be able to wait until she wakes up!

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I’ve always said there are no real rules to What We’re Reading, it’s just about sharing the love of a good story and passing on our children’s favourites (as well as the ones that really I bought because I loved them and then imposed them on my tiny audience until they loved them too – not that I’d do that of course, no not at all!). And it’s probably a good job too because if I had any rules I think I’d be in very grave danger of breaking them all; but with good cause.

Because for starters this week’s What We’re Reading is what you’d be reading if you came around to our house, or what you could read if you keep a sharp lookout in a charity shop because I have a horrid suspicion that it’s out of print, and secondly, I’m not sure whether it can actually count as a book, given that there are only two pages in the entire thing.

But bear with me, because The Ultimate Christmas Pop-Up is worth it.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

The first page is a really lovely retelling of the Christmas story; starting with the Nazareth scenes that are so often missed out of children’s abridged versions and going all the way through to the visits of the Wise Men. Gabriel appears to Mary, and then to Joseph, Caesar Augustus makes his proclamation and they set off for Bethlehem, the baby is born in a stable, and shepherds, summoned by hosts of angels, come to worship.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It’s a really great length to be able to get through the whole story before Elma looses interest and wanders off, but has all the detail you could want for Kitty, and all the potential for a little reader embellishment along the way.

And then you turn the page, and there it is:

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Well they did promise the Ultimate pop-up, and there’s no lack of competition for pop-up children’s books, but I think it’s safe to say that this has some serious engineering going on behind it!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Bethlehem, or a very little bit of it; with hills and houses and steps up and down, and there at the very centre Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus and a good smattering of sheep and cattle (lowing noises to be provided by the reader).

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

There’s so much detail tucked away in all the different ups and downs too, from squirrels in the trees to the dogs sleeping on the terrace and a goat eating weeds.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Elma is particularly fond of this one this year and she’ll happily sit there with the pop up spread across her lap running her fingers up and down the stairs; luckily it’s fairly robust and I’ve not had to do too much sticking and gluing repair work!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But it’s extra special to us for another reason too.  Just after Kitty’s first Christmas we were given a big bag of Christmas story books by another family at church.  Their two had long grown out of them, they were having a bit of a sort out and so they handed them down to us.  This was one of those stories, and I very much hope that in time, when all of my children have grown past the joys of pop up books (though I’m not sure that’s really possible) there will be a family in our church that we can hand them on to in turn; a sort of travelling library of really awesome Christmas books!

 

Space for the Butterflies: What We're Reading

Last week Jess continued her Christmassy reading with the very sweet Baby Sees Christmas which looks perfect for the littlest ones, especially those winding up for a very first Christmas! And Sally (who I swear has more creativity in her little finger than I’ll ever manage) introduced me to a book that Kitty will absolutely love, Ten in the Bed – and more than that, has made a little bed and all the little characters to go with it for her daughter- it’s incredibly cute and please see my previous comments re creativity and little fingers!

And if you have a favourite, or just something fun your little or not so little ones have enjoyed reading lately please do join us.  Alternatively if you’re after ideas for Christmas presents, I’m going to suggest the What We’re Reading Booklist, for a few ideas; it has every book anyone has ever recommended on it and is therefore very dangerous to my credit card!



There are so many magical moments in birthdays.  There’s the magic of watching a little one open a parcel, when they realise just what’s inside;

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

there’s the moments of anticipation; when it’s just all so exciting and their fingers just can’t move fast enough to open it and find out what lovely treasure has been wrapped inside;

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

 

and then there’s the cake.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Birthday candles are special at any time of year but especially when your birthday falls in the deep depths of winter, when the glow of that little light draws us all in, to sit and celebrate our little girl.

Elma spent most of her birthday smiling fit to burst; she loved her presents, she loved having her Grandpa to play and speaking to all of the family over FaceTime and listening them sing her Happy Birthday. And I love all of the photos I have from that day; little vignettes of our darling girl starting out on the very exciting journey of being two.

But my favourites are by candlelight; my little two year old and her four year old sister sat watching that flickering flame – and then blowing it out.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It was everything that birthdays should be made of, and it was perfect.

living arrows

Kitty was running around the lounge at high speed.  She’d already brought me the invitation off the fridge at least twice and the directions to get to her friend N’s pirate birthday party a further three.

“It says please dress up – do you want to?” I asked. “You can be a pirate or it says you can be a princess if you’d rather?”

The bouncing stopped for a mere fraction of a second.

“Umm … I want to wear a dressing up dress!”

And following a detailed dissertation on the merits of the Snow White dress versus Cinderella, she made her decision; Cinderella has short sleeves but they’re scratchy although on the plus side Cinders could be an Elsa dress (her current dearest wish which may or may not be about to be fulfilled in about 10 days time), while Snow White has non scratchy sleeves, and a cape.

The cape won.  And duly dressed in all her princess finery I started to look for the matching hairband.  But Kitty had other ideas.  Oh no, not for her the mere flim-flammery of a red bow for her hair.  She was a princess, yes, but not the meek, mild and rather disappointingly passive Snow White of Disney’s classic, oh no. Kitty’s princess carries a sword. Pirates beware.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

She went running into that party, blond hair and cape trailing behind her with barely a pause to wave as Pip and I joined the group of Mummies to chat about all things children and childcare for a couple of hours.

When I next saw her she’d acquired a faceprint pirate scar down one cheek, glittery sparkles about the eyes, a drawing of a pirate ship, and a half eaten chocolate coin, and was sat at the party tea table, hat askew, tucking into cucumber sticks and cream cheese and discussing sandwiches with the birthday boy.

How deep we go into the princess phase, and quite what life looks like when we come out the other side of it is one of those questions that run through my mind from time to time; are we letting the girls be over-exposed to influences that we don’t think make appropriat role models? Or are we overly restricting them and not trusting their own good sense?  It’s a perpetual balancing act; I want to give them choice, I want to arm them now with tools to make good choices that will stand them in good stead when they’re older, and I also want to give them the freedom that comes naturally to childhood, without spoiling their enjoyment of playing dress up because they perceive a negative association with anything that’s overtly feminine and don’t want to be ‘girly’, or because they pick up too much on a correlation between worth and beauty.

But looking at my incredibly sugar-fuelled pirate princess twirling her sword at her balloon as we crossed the car park I’m certain that we’re going to be more than OK.  If we can encourage and nurture that self confidence that has her take the best of both genres (I think that would be glitter from one and swords from the other) and mash it together into the fiercest fairest of the seven seas, she’ll do anything she wants to do, and be whoever she want to be.

Look out Nancy Blackett!

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Yesterday morning a newly two-year old Elma sat on the sofa under the shadow of a giant balloon that’s bigger than she is; the rest of the family gathered around her to watch as she tackled the little mountain of cards and presents that awaited.  And on top of the pile was a big flat squishy square in princess wrapping paper.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Elma pulled, and tore the paper, and tugged at her present and finally it was free and spread out across her knees;

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

“It my new duvet!” said a very happy little voice.

Yes, I finished Elma’s quilt – and even with some time to spare. Most uncharacteristic. And here it is in all its glory:

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Il Était Une Fois ; a little mixture of  Les Manoues and Part à la Mer .

In the end I opted to cut the blocks down to the size of the embroideries rather than try to add borders and happily I had enough fabric to cut a few extra squares to make it a 6×6 block quilt of 8″ squares (finished size).

I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that there are two very different but equally lovely types of quilts; the ones with detailed intricate piecing, where the fabric is lovely, possibly even stunning, but the real appeal is the geometry in the block, and the second sort where the piecing is incredibly simple, but which showcase the fabric to it’s very best.  This is one of the latter.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

In patchwork terms it is really easy, and certainly once I’d finished my embroideries, cut the filler blocks, squared up the other printed blocks and spent a good half hour laying it all out on the lounge floor and balancing precariously on the footstool to get a different perspective, it came together very quickly.

The quilting too is pretty basic; I used my walking foot to quilt some nice straight lines 1/4″ either side of the seams in the same variegated thread that I used for Kitty’s quilts (YLI in Mango, a red/pink/yellow combination).

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But I think when you’re using picture blocks that’s all you really need, it’s all about the story that the pictures tell, stories of the beach, a lighthouse, a little girl knitting (I can never resist that one) or picking apples and baking them into a pie.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It’s also achievable quilting.  I’m mostly a process creator in the things I make, but I really do like the end product too; I like to see things finished and being worn or snuggled under around the house.

I’m under no illusions about how much crafty time I get at the moment, or that that’s not likely to change over the next few years.  Unlike knitting, I can’t really pick up a quilt, sew two stitches and put it down again, or at least only sometimes, like when I’m sewing down the binding so while I might gaze in adoring wonder at the really intricate designs, I know that right now I need to keep it uncomplicated.  The fussy cutting teeny tiny pieces sorts of patterns will still be there in years to come.

But most importantly, Elma likes it.  She snuggled up under it to finish opening her presents, and later when she and Kitty were curled up with their teddies just before bedtime I found them both tucked in nicely.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And when this tiny little two year old of mine is all big and grown I love that she’ll never be too big to curl up under a quilt that says it was made for her second birthday.

 

 

 

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To my lovely younger daughter,

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Two years ago today you arrived, a tiny mewling bundle of baby with a shock of dark brown hair that made you look like a baby penguin, in the nicest possible way of course. In your first year you learned so much, all that wriggling, crawlings, drinking, eating, well sort of eating, and lots of giggling,cuddles and enormous smiles along the way. I think we always expect the first year to be full of massive changes and growing, but your second year seems to have been just as busy. It’s crazy to me to think that this time last year you hadn’t started walking; right now you and your sister are running around the footstool in the lounge at top speed singing and dancing to the Frozen soundtrack.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

You’ve become so chatty too; every now and then you have another little language leap and we get a little flurry of new words. Most of the time we know what you’re saying though I suspect at least some of that is insider information about your point of reference; if we can’t work it out straight away it’s usually something to do with Frozen or it’s whatever you’re pointing at (at least I really hope that when you pointed to your cutlery last week the words coming from your mouth were “fork there!”).

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And of course you’re taller.  I think you probably are catching up to Kitty a little bit, but as she’s spent her year having growth spurt after growth spurt it isn’t too noticeable when you’re next to each other, it’s just that you’re wearing clothes that I remember her wearing recently, and wearing as a big girl, not a baby too.

And as you become more and more alike in looks the older you both get, there are moments and more than a few photos that can make you do a double take just to check which little girl is which.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

In personality though you’re showing your differences.  You are my little miss independent; there is nothing you don’t think you can do if Mummy would only please get out of the way and let you have at it and anything you don’t want to do is met with a very firm look, occasionally a stamping foot, and a determined “No tank you!”

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

You love to draw, with anything and on anything, and it’s even better if you get left to dump the crayon bucket out onto the floor when you can continue your quest to take the lids off all the felt tips in the house and hide them somewhere secret and unknown to either your parents or your siblings.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

In the last year you’ve started to join in when your sister sings action songs; right now your favourites are Twinkle Twinkle, Incy Wincy and just the one line from Frozen “for the first time in forever” which you’ll happily belt out on all appropriate occasions, and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it at least once during a hymn on a Sunday morning.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But I think most of all you love to be outside. I might just have mentioned before how much you adore the swings, and then there’s the joy of face planting off the roundabout, playing on the rocking lion and zipping down the slide at top speed and that’s all before we’ve so much as mentioned walking to the park and stopping to check the grass by the side of the road, or the promise of teatime that has you hurrying home again.

You are sweet and you are fierce. You are loving, gentle with your little brother and so protective when any of your nursery friends come near him, incredibly caring to your big sister and just as determined not to be bossed around. You are my little baby and at the same time all toddler, and I wouldn’t have you any other way.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Happy Birthday sweetheart, I love you, and I’m so glad I get to be your Mum.

love Mummy x

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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It seems only moments since I was putting together my birthday video for Kitty but now it’s Elma’s turn.  Tomorrow she turns two.  We have a balloon, we have finished presents (albeit ones that need wrapping!) and with a bit of luck and a following wind we will have a cake.

But for now it’s time to have a little look at the year when my little girl was one:

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