Me and Mine {February 2017}

February is quick, right? I mean, I know I’m not just imagining it, but it is only a few days shorter than the other months and yet, seems to whizz by in a blur. This is always the case when a school holiday falls in a month, I think. It makes time so funny. You have the wind down week, when it feels as though we are limping towards the holiday, the holiday itself and then the first week back, when it feels that we’ve forgotten our routine and it’s all a bit of struggle.

We were all ill, basically for most, if not all of the month. Just a horrible niggling cold that would not budge. My children are pretty awesome when they are ill, they kind of battle on and really just get on with it, but still it often involves disturbed sleep and plenty of grumpiness. Mini Mck is the most stoical and for the last week of term, he really did look like a pale husk of himself. I even offered him a day off, but he does love school.

I feel like I properly started work in February. I got my child care ducks in a row, found a routine and really got stuck in. I am doing some work for a yarn company! If you are a regular reader, you will know what am absolute thrill that is for me and I am absolutely LOVING it. I never imagined my tentative return to the workplace would be such a great fit and so exciting. I am very lucky.

We packed so much into half-term, without doing much at all and those are my favourite kinds of break. I hate the feeling of going back to the routine and thinking we have wasted our precious time. We decorated with the children at home, which was a first and went surprisingly well. You can see more of that on my Instagram feed. Dan worked a day, while I took the boys to the forest and had a great day with them. I worked a day and left the childcare to Dan, which was nice for everyone and then we spent the rest of the week doing fun stuff. A pyjama day, Lego Batman, lunch out, some time for Dan  and I to do stuff we wanted, while the other amused the kids and lots of playing.


Last month’s photos were a great start to the Me and Mine project. Everyone behaved and I managed to have make up on. This month, they are actually much more us. Messy hair, messy allotment, wellies, no make up, children removing their shoes and refusing to sit still, or pulling a ‘hilarious’ face. However, I love them. They were taken on a beautiful morning at the allotment, right at the beginning of the month. Our first bonfire of the year. You know what they say. The family who burns stuff together, stays together. Probably.

My Dad loves a bonfire. He simply could not resist the opportunity to join us, despite the fact that he’d returned from two months in Spain just the night before. I love the shots of him and Mini Mck running the fire. MM is now at an age where is is real help at the allotment, when he wants to be, of course. Watching him chop sticks and throw stuff on was ace, with much vocal guidance from Grandad, of course. Dan was busy cutting raspberry canes and dismantelling a rundown metal and glass greenhouse, the little ones dug holes and me? Honestly, I didn’t do much except chuck some stuff on the fire and take photos, but I don’t think anyone noticed.



This last shot was really the only sensible one of the whole lot, but that’s the thing with kids, you get one chance and it last about thirty seconds. I like to think it adds an extra challenge to the photography side of things.

This post is linked up with the Me and Mine project – hosted by Dear Beautiful, Bump to Baby, Capture By Lucy, Let’s Talk Mommy, Mummy Daddy Me, Our Life As We See It and Tigerlilly Quinn – where you take a photograph a month of your family all together.

Small Things {The Autumn Edition}

In the spirit of wanting less and being happpier with what we already have, I have been thinking of the small things that make these dark, blustery autumn months feed our soul. This week, I could so easily have written a post on the many things that irritate me, that everyone else seems to love, but I’ll strive to keep the internet a positive place and if you want that post, you’ll have to ask for it! Despite an attack of the grumps, there is still more to November than dark nights and soggy school runs. 

Finally having the chimney swept and building the first fire of the year, Bonfire season at the allotment, National Sausage Week. Having dinner bubbling in the Slow Cooker. Toddlers kicking through ankle-deep leaves. A crisp start to autumn that makes the tress put on such a show when the leaves are ready to fall. Discovering a child friendly cafe.

Treating yourself to a new herbal tea and finding that it is absolutely gorgeous and soothing. Paying off your library fines and so redisvering the joy of browsing the shelves and choosing some new books. Taking library books back, not only on time, but read and on time. Discovering a fresh, decaffienated coffee that actually tastes nice. Buying posh yoghurts simply because you know the glass jars will make nice candle holders and finding the yoghurt is delicious too. Closing the curtains at dusk, turning the lights on and knowing you don’t have to go out again for the rest of the day, putting your comfies on. Remembering to put a hot water bottle in your bed before you get in it. Good Autumn Tele (have you seen The Crown on Netflix? SU-blime!) New episodes of Gilmore Girls (FOUR DAYS PEOPLE)


Finding a new podcast that you love and can binge listen to. Baking a cake that you haven’t done before and knowing that it’s not quite right but that your’re going to keep trying until it’s perfect. Tate & Lyle’s Halloween Treacle tin. Cats who like to curl up next to you and purr very loudly. Starting a big knitting project, especially for yourself. Instagram, before the trail of Christmas trees arrive on December 1st. An evening of no TV after school, where the children all sit together, near enough for me to see and speak to them, all happy doing this own drawing/puzzles/homework. Making a fresh batch of Granola. 

Going to bed early to read a really good book. Staying up too late, reading your book and not caring that you’re going to be tired tomorrow, because it really is a good book. Finding a long forgotten piece of clothing and feeling like you’ve been shopping, even though you haven’t. Two hours child free time, to go Christmas Shopping with your partner and spending nearly all of it buying books for people. Finishing off homemade Christmas presents. Getting donations in for the school fair a week before the deadline. Parent’s Evening. Putting the children to bed on your own and getting it all done by half past seven. Going out with new friends. Staying in. Still getting the occasional day when you can hang your washing out. 


So, you see, there are in fact many good things about this dark and damp month. I guess we all just need to look for them. What is keeping you smiling this week? 

Bye Bye Baby

Everyone seems to have differing views as to when a baby becomes a toddler. Some seem to class their baby days as being over as soon as that first year is done, others when a child actually starts toddling or perhaps when they turn two. For me, it’s the absence of certain things. At two, Lady Mck was still feeding and in nappies and in a cot. I still kept the pushchair in the boot. In my mind I still thought of her as the baby.

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Six months later it has become clear to me that we are no longer a household with a baby. She stopped feeding three months ago and a month later was out of nappies. I found an old bib in a bag the other day and went to put it in the wash and it suddenly occurred to me that she hasn’t worn a bib for months and so I binned it, with a whimsical sigh.

I felt the lasts from the moment she was born. I can remember, as my uterus painfully shrunk back to it’s ‘no baby’ size that I would never experience childbirth again, that I would never have that feeling of a person moving inside of me. An odd and unusual feeling and something that is hard to remember after the fact.

It’s a little bittersweet, but mostly I find the prospect of no more babies is something I feel fine about. As I edited thousands of old photos a few weeks ago, I found myself wondering where the time has gone and yearning to hold them all as tiny babies, once more. I find it so hard to hold on to this stuff in my memory. I guess that early time goes so fast, because we are gripped in a rollercoaster of love and transition, hormones and tiredness. It takes on a dreamlike state as I look back. I have become that woman who overly coos at random newborns and their parents and I really must get a a grip on that.

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However, mostly, I find that I am loving this new stage of our family. By the time the boys were the age that Lady Mck is now, they had a younger sibling, or one was imminent. I have never had an older toddler at home by themselves and it is a real treat. We no longer have to think about pushchairs and changing facilities and the lack of the buggy in my car means we can actually fit the shopping in now! Lady Mck is able to play and learn and she is soaking up life. During school hours I don’t feel I am corralling a herd of children, it’s just she and I. When we wait for Nano to finish his drama class, she will happily do a sticker book, or play with a quiet, small toy. Stacking, threading, sorting, drawing and sticking can all amuse her for longer now. I am just holding out for the colouring stage and hoping she gets the bug, like her eldest brother did.

Despite, the odd yearning for a tiny new life, I know in my head and in my heart that we are done. Three is enough. In fact, I’ll be honest and say that three is hard, much harder than I imagined, but it is the right number for us. A few weeks ago, Nano was asking for more babies and Mckdad cruelly played along. My reaction to the idea of a fourth was telling and enfatic. It was a big NO from me.

And so, when those yearning come, I know that they are really just yearnings for time to slow down a bit, they are not real. What is happening now is what is real.

What I did this summer…..

Hello friends! Long time, no speak. How are you all? How was your summer? My blog break went on a little longer than I intended, mainly because I had lots of good intentions to write and finish off posts ready for publishing in September and do you know what I did instead? NOTHING! Not a word escaped my keyboard or pen and I switched off completely. It was a nice break, but the thing I missed the most was the connections. I miss my ‘people’. I found that by switching off my blog brain, it also switched off my social media brain and in the whole of August I posted only nine pictures to Instagram. I missed hearing about your lives and reading your blogs and I missed sharing the details of mine. It began to feel I would never want to write in this space again, but then, just as quickly as I needed a break, I suddenly felt ideas seeping into my brain and quickly wrote them down and then it just seemed easy to sit in front of the screen again. 

So, if I wasn’t noodling my time away on-line, what did I do this summer? And, as I’ve missed you all so much, what did you do? 

This summer I camped……

We kept our holiday low key this year. We’d really like to get a trailer for our camping stuff in time for next summer and take the plunge with a nice, long European trip, so this year we wanted to keep costs low and we couldn’t all fit in one car anyway. So, we took ourselves off to our favourite campsite, which is only 45 minutes away. We are so lucky to live where we do. As you will probably guess from my Instagram, I love living in Norwich, but we are so fortunate to be so close to the beautiful North Norfolk coast as well. We went twice for five days at a time. The first time with some lovely friends from school. A gaggle of crazy boys and our girl, who adored them all and we had a fabulous time. Then, we returned for some time with just the five of us. We were treated to the most glorious weather and truly felt there had been no need for us to venture further a field. 



This summer I watched a lot of Gilmore Girls…….and I mean a lot….

I had never watched a whole episode of Gilmore Girls until this summer. I had seen the odd bit on E4 over the years and had always found it deeply irritating. The quirky, fast, wise cracking way of talking seemed so contrived and I just never got it. However, so many people who I love, love it. People who definitely share my taste in TV and I just kept thinking that if they love it, surely I should. So, much like some unwelcome homework project, I decided I needed to give it a proper chance and watch some, from the beginning on Netflix. I am now totally hooked and was so after the first few episodes. I am no embarking on the last series. Yes, that’s right, I have watched six series of twenty two episodes! See, I told you, I watched a lot of Gilmore Girls.

This summer I crossed things of our big list…..

Last summer was the summer of painting after our loft conversions. What felt like acres of bare plastered wall that needed to be covered. This summer, we didn’t have a huge project. I’m not sure quite how I feel about that. There’s still so much we need to do in our house. I would love to wave a magic wand and have it all done, but sadly that’s not going to happen. However, this summer, we didn’t feel up for a big decorating project and so we made a effort to do some finishing off. We put things on the wall, we put up bookshelves, Mckdad made some more progress on his office, with shelves and lighting to make it a workable space. We tidied our shed…..a huge job and tidied the toy cupboard again. As a result of all this I bought lots of house plants. In fact, buying house plants should almost have a section to itself! 



This summer I pootled and pottered….

Six lovely weeks of mostly dry, sunny weather and very little in the way of plans was just what we all needed to recharge ourselves. We spent lots of those days pooling around at home, with some members of the family (Nano) deciding on these days that wearing clothes is so last year. We planned small, close to home activities. Mornings in the park, bike rides into the city, chips from the market, a morning at the allotment. We reminded ourselves that our children don’t need and we don’t want, great, expensive excursions and to be entertained every day they are not at school. We put the TV away and the lack of temptation meant that they all found other things to fill their time. We arranged for grandparents to have one or two of them and these changes in our family dynamic for a few hours were like a breath of fresh air. 

When I look back at our summer break, it’s hard to put my finger on what we really did do. In fact, it makes me a little sad that I didn’t take more photos. I know it was a good one, but in years to come, it’ll be the photos that remind me of why. You see, regardless of it’s bad reputation, social media has it’s place, at least it does for me and I imagine for you too? 


The truth about siblings

This post has been rattling around in my head for so many years I can’t even remember when I first wanted to write it.  Possibly when MM was three and had stopped smacking Nano indiscriminately as he walked past him. This was after the slightly humourous habit he had of giving his ‘only just learnt to sit’ baby brother a gentle shove as he walked past, hence toppling him over, like a skittle. Humourous now, at the time, very very annoying. When we look at Social Media lives, the things that grate with us are more to do with us than anyone else and the thing that always bothers me are the super sweet Instagram posts that only mention the lovely side of siblings. It always made me wonder why it was only my children who would fight and argue and bicker, but I’ve come to realise that my children have perfectly normal, healthy sibling relationships.

 

Both the boys were two when a younger sibling arrived in their lives for the first time and they both reacted in very similar ways. Fascinated by the new arrival, keen to interact with them, occasionally beautifully affectionate, but mostly irritated by the time their new sibling took up, unable to really interact with them, confused about the new family dynamic and too young to recognise these feelings or react to them in any way, other than physically or acting out in a general way.

It’s extremely hard to be faced with the prospect of your baby getting a shove or a poke. We immediately go on the defensive when we feel our children are being threatened. It’s even harder when the person dolling out this behaviour is your, previously passive and adorable, toddler, who you also want to defend. Add to this that you are probably exhausted and that things always seem to explode when your baby is finally happy and content and you have your hands free for a moment, it’s no surprise that emotions run high for everyone, adults included.

I like to think that I was and am fairly relaxed about these sibling squabbles. I really did get why my two year old would want to hug his baby sibling in a manner that wasn’t really a hug. It wasn’t that their behaviour didn’t make me mad or exasperated and frustrated, but I always thought it was normal and that as they got older, it would change and be easier, until, of course, someone raised their eyebrow or I saw the Insta-life of someone declaring that their small children were devoted to one another. Then, I would question myself. Question whether we were doing the right thing by keeping our reactions low key and not making a huge fuss.

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Fast forward a few years and it turns out I was right. Their behaviour was normal. The dynamics of having three children aged 6, 4 and 2 is actually really interesting and watching their relationships with each other wax and wane is fascinating. Mini Mck is pretty much devoted to the his sister. The almost five year age gap showed me a very different sibling relationship. He’s never physical with her, always amazingly patient with her and is able to express what upsets him pretty well. He understands that if he doesn’t want her to eat his sweets, or break his Lego he needs to get it out of her way. He is completely different to how he was when his brother was born.

The ones that are closer in age also have nice relationships, but they can be equally as challenging and difficult to navigate. Nano seems like great fun to his sister and they can enjoy the same things more easily, just as he also has things in common with his older brother, but in both of these relationships there is friction. Perfectly normal friction. There is jealously, frustration, occasional hitting, definitely shouting and lots and lots of laughter.

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But here’s the truth about siblings, they FIGHT, they ARGUE and sometimes they hit. It’s horrible, but they learn to be better and here’s the other truth, it’s all NORMAL. Imagine having to live with the same people all the time. People that you didn’t choose to live with. I mean, let’s face it, living with people we have chosen to live with is hard enough. I love Mckdaddy with everything I have and yet sometimes he can be the most annoying person on the planet, but I am an adult (most of the time) and can recognise my emotions, take a step back and maybe spend some time away from him, or just take a breath. That’s not always possible when you are 6 or 4 or 2 or even older.

The thing that finally made me write this post was a little spate of new siblings in my blog and Instagram and some of the older siblings struggling to adjust, so this post is for all those Mamas living it at the moment. My message to you is: Don’t fret, give lots of cuddles to everyone and just know that this bit gets easier, at least it does for now.

I love…..{for a 2nd birthday}

Last month saw a birthday in our house. Once that I let go unmarked here and I want to put that right. So many of the post I like to re-read are ones that capture my children in a moment of time. They may not be the most read or shared, but they are some of my favourites and so they can sit along side the other bits of my life that make it here. Here are some of the things I love…..

I love that your hair curls at the ends. I love that it is long enough for teeny tiny cute bunches. I love that each day your speech is growing, new words and full sentences tumble from your mouth and never fail to astound me. I love that you tidy up, you put things in the bin when you are finished, you take your shoes off and very carefully line them up in the shoe cupboard, you hang up your coat. Of course, you also empty the Tupperware drawer and mix all the food in the larder drawer. I’ll be honest, I don’t love that so much.

I love that you talk about your day when we sit in the rocking chair at the end of the day. I love that you can ask for a cuddle, when you’ve had enough milk. I love that you try and hold all your stuffed toys at bedtime, until you realise that you won’t be able to reach me to have your milk and you quickly reject all, except your precious Felix Bear. I love that you tell me what you need to fall asleep “Sing Mummy” or just as common “NO sing Mummy!”. I love that you try to sing along with me, tunelessly.

I love that you want to choose the clothes to wear or even which pyjamas you want to wear. I love that you will try to dress yourself and can definitely undress yourself. I love that you put your brothers pants on over the top of your own trousers and try to sit on the toilet, even though you’ve already filled your nappy.

I love that you smile, almost all the time. You are either extremely happy or extremely sad and upset. There is little in between. I love that you want to climb and jump and be held upside down. You are fearless and will find yourself of any surface into your biggest brother’s arms. I love that you try to climb the doorframe, just as they do. “MY TURN MY TURN”

I love that you make sure everyone in the family is OK and that we have all kissed and cuddled each other at the end of the day or when your Daddy leaves each morning. I love that you follow your brothers and allow them to lead you in play, but are also not shy in bossing them around.

I love that you want to solve problems, you like to work things out and sometimes will even take some guidance in how to do things. You will try again and get it right. I love that you want to play rough, big games. You love to jump of high things into people’s arms and be held upside down for as long as possible. I love that when we have had enough and want to stop the game, you say “Last time. Last time”

Caring for a two year old is hard work, especially one who still needs so much touch time, but I love watching the person that you are becoming. I love watching you change from a baby into a child.

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A very late, but very big Happy Birthday to my littlest love.

Delightful

I love a newborn. That bunched up little bundle who fits neatly in the crook of your arm and weighs nothing. Snuffly, yawny little creature who smell like milk and sleep most of the day. That time is just a heartbeat in the scheme of thugs and it rushes by so fast it’s hard to grasp hold of. It makes me a little sad, but as I’m mourned those precious days as they zoomed by I forgot what was to come. I forgot how delightful older babies are.

Lady Mck is in that delicious older baby time now. All my babies have been happy souls, even the ones that didn’t sleep so well. At this lovely age she is just so delighted with the world and everybody in it. She gives out smiles and twinkles freely and I often find her giggling at something that has taken her fancy, often when we are all laughing but sometimes just because she thinks it’s funny. They are suddenly doing so much, changing so much. Waving, crawling, standing, working out how the world works and emptying boxes, bags and baskets is the extent of their naughtiness.

I don’t want to overstate this blissful time. She is still a girl who likes to be held and particularly likes to be near me, but when she isn’t tired or hungry or poorly, she’s quite happy to charm everyone around her and show off her latest tricks.

I’ve seen people in the past thinking their baby is no longer a baby once they reach one, but they still are absolutely 100% baby, just an older, different kind of baby. None of the head banging frustration that parenting a toddler brings. Like the newborn stage it lasts such a short time though. It’s over in a blink. Before we know it, she’ll be starting to walk and the baby will start to be replaced by a toddler, so I’m marking this time and holding on to the delightfulness of the older baby.

 

Please excuse Nano spitting out food purely for the entertainment of his sister, BUT she finds it so entertaining, I just couldn’t resist.