30 April 2013

Daybook with Hama beads, cupcake chaos, and a broken washing machine

Outside my window the children are playing in the garden. Two are dressed as superheroes, and one is a mermaid. The garden is in its usual disarray, with children's hand tools, toys, and empty flower pots around the place. I have just recycled an old toy box into another raised bed and weeded all the areas of my garden soon to receive the tender little seedlings from my kitchen window sill. 

It's a warm bright day in spite of the clouds, and the willow tree is almost fluorescent yellow with catkins. The hint of pink frills at the tip of one or two buds on the apple tree promise a shower of blossom any day now.

I am thinking that I will miss the warm heavy weight of this baby on my arm when she no longer falls asleep on me. :)

I am thankful for the warm fresh earth, dirty finger nails and naughty toddler footprints in the middle of my vegetable bed, the deep resonance of the wind chimes in the kitchen, the fuzzy blonde fluff of this baby's hair, and the chaos and peace of family life.

In the kitchen the floor has an array of muddy footprints, and the surfaces show evidence of an eight year old having made chocolate cup cakes all by herself - I can see dirty pans stacked up, a bowl with traces of luminescent yellow icing, and a good sprinkling of pink edible glitter. 


I have a pan of boiled eggs cooling to make sandwiches, as the children are still apparently hungry after their lunch of vegetable soup. All of this fresh air is not helping the food budget!

I have the ingredients for mixed pepper veggie fajitas and I am SO looking forwards to it - I finally found a way my children like to eat peppers cooked. :)

I am wearing my favourite yellow tshirt, and unfortunately, pink PJ bottoms with lace around the hems. I have four pairs of trousers, and all of them have been child-ed, and our washing machine is broken. We have had to go four days without doing any laundry (except what we can carry over to my brother's house to use his machine) because it took us that long to get money together and find a machine within budget. My brother is helping us pick the new one up tonight hopefully, and I will have clean trousers, yay!

I am creating a huge cream shawl (for me), a small ribbed beanie (for the gorgeous Jo of Journey's Way Photography), and a yellow bonnet for my shop. Oh, and the children have had the Hama beads out today, though I'm not so much creating with those as constantly finding stray beads and picking them up...

I am wondering what Rowan is saying, talking in a funny voice to her Octonauts in the big wooden dolls house. Her sweet chatter is rather endearing when not directed at me in a stream of requests for more food (she is definitely having a growth spurt again)!

I am reading Mirror Dreams by Catherine Webb - written when she was just fourteen and really very inventive and fun, but unfortunately I am just not getting anywhere with it as I've only had reading time this week very late at night when I'm too tired to concentrate!

I am hoping for good news from one or more of the applications Martin has been feverishly filling in. He is struggling with rejection and not feeling useful. (Prayers welcome!)

I am looking forward to getting a backdated payment from working tax credits from the short period when both Martin and I were working long hours. I have no idea how much it will be, but it will be something, and when you have broken appliances and close to zero income, the prospect of a one off payment for *anything* is a relief.

I am learning how to make easy skirts from large tshirts, how to properly clean beeswax crayons, more lace knitting skills, and as usual I am learning how much easier it is to manage the garden if I work it all year round rather than April to September. ;)

Around the house I have a lot of laundry. Four days without a washing machine will do that when there are six in the house and one in cloth nappies and one who still veery occasionally wets the bed (and of course did so, on the day the machine broke). *sigh*
Oh, on the other hand, I did finally manage to hang (in my bedroom) the beautiful shell garland I made when Talia was born - from shells sent to me all the way from the very far North.

One of my favourite things is the joyful creativity of a group of children with a cardboard box.

A few plans for the rest of the week: well I will hopefully have some new shop yarn arrive soon for dyeing. And we'll be at the museum session on Friday. And that's about it. Next week it's Martin's birthday. :)

A peek into my day...

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Simple Woman's Daybook

28 April 2013

Week in Pictures - Ordinary Messy Beauty

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1. Evening view
2. Garden chaos
3. Paperclip necklaces
4. Spring journalling
5. Clean tidy cupboards!
6. Shawl progress
7. Hippy mama outfit

26 April 2013

Smiling, anyway

We're in that funny place again where it's suddenly hitting us that Martin might not find work right away. And then where does the money come from, and how do we balance everything, and how do we keep working at creating a warm, safe, peaceful home when all the grown-up stuff is stressful and confusing?

I'm working away, trying to make sales and build my little dye business. And I'm smiling, and anchoring myself to the future in which we're thriving and I'm thriving and creating beautiful things and actually getting paid for it. He's searching away, and writing letters, and applying for courses. And he's smiling, and enjoying the precious extra time with his children, and cleaning out the kitchen cupboards and putting laundry through and other things that are usually my special privilege what with being at home more...

And she, well, she's always smiling.
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I long for a more self-sufficient lifestyle. I long for the feeling that I am on top of the household chaos. I long for a glimpse of certainty that I'm not messing everything up for my children, and the silencing of the constant chatter of self-doubt and self-criticism in my head. And so we believe, and we work, and we plan, and we strive, and we wait. And smile in spite of everything threatening to overwhelm us.

24 April 2013

Yarn Along - in which I display a stunning lack of wisdom by knitting cream lace

Yeah you heard me. ;)
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Cream lace. In a house full of rough and tumble muddy daughters.  (It's the Summer Love Wrap by Katherine Fagan, in the gorgeous organic merino I dye for my customers.)

Hush now, I'm sure it will be *fiiine*. And if it gets stained quickly, I shall dye it rainbow. So there.

I'm reading lots of snippets. Fire Thief and Harry Potter to Jenna, an abridged translation of The Odyssey to all of the girls, Fantastic Mr Fox to Morgan, re-reading Protecting the Gift to share snippets with friends.

I just finished the Midnight Mayor series (Kate Griffin) and decided on the whole it was more awesome than annoying, and also read the last Earth's Children book (Land of Painted Caves) in one week flat, and decided on the whole it was simply more annoying. How many times do I need to be reminded that a) she has an unusual accent, b) the wolf is fond of children and c) she is preparing the same plants in the same way as described in laborious detail in the last chapter? I have loved this series, and I want to love this story, and yet the sheer amount of repetition is causing me to skim read now. I can't decide if I hope there's more, or if I hope that this was the last.

Yes, lots of reading. I have been sitting a lot this week, as the SPD pain flared up again and I ran the usual gauntlet of friends and relations telling me to go to the doctors. (I know, I know.)

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My spot under the willow tree, watching the drawing and chasing and noise, as my baby sleeps safe in my arms in that green butterfly tshirt that has been battered with hand-me-down wear. The sky is pale but the sun is warming us. I pick up the Odyssey, put it down, pick up my knitting pattern, put it down. Pop inside to make cheese on toast for lunch. Stop a moment to lay down the heavy sleeping baby weight and put on some music. This is my day.

Joining in with Ginny and friends.

23 April 2013

In the Garden

We are all experiencing the familiar pull into outdoor routines, seedlings and sitting knitting under the willow tree and den-building and picnic blankets. I don't see myself as an outdoorsy person - I *want* to be, feel it is something admirable even, but quite honestly I don't love gardening and my idea of "a nice walk" is an extremely lazy meander.

I do love the freshness of the Spring sunshine, and taking my usual favourite things out into the garden (crafting, reading, watching the children create wildly inventive games and role plays, cooking and eating with friends, and staying up late into the night discussing the oddly philosophical questions that overtake us when we probably ought to be heading to bed instead).

Jenna ran around with the camera today. I think they were pretending to be stranded somewhere; they certainly built shelters and made a fire, coupled with the usual "pretending to be stuck places and then getting annoyed when parents try to help because they really ought to know it's just part of the game".
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I love that the contorted willow has grown so fast. I remember planting a tiny bit of stick in a pot when Jenna was a tiny baby, and speculating that perhaps by the time she started climbing trees it would be sturdy enough to climb. It was. And now it towers, and they all climb up and perch there together like a row of birds on a telephone wire. Blissfully sweet.

This is what Jenna packed in her survival kit. I admit, I snorted with somewhat-unmaternal laughter that she packed a whole lot of tweeny girly stuff and photographs *of herself*!
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As a child I always felt strongly in warm weather that there were just not enough hours available for being outside. I used to walk to school looking at the sharp outlines of shadow on sun-warmed pavement and feel like something was being stolen from me with those hours I had to be indoors. These four seem to feel the same need: the TV has certainly been rarely so much as glanced at in a fortnight and I have to bring in baskets of toys and books from the garden each evening.

Once again I'm telling myself firmly that *this* year I'll make the most of the growing season, take better care of the garden space, put right the little jobs that need doing, dig over the back border, keep the nettle patch a little more under control. Well, I *might*.
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The rest of our days are the usual mix of children pretending to be animals, reading aloud (mostly The Odyssey), job-hunting, paper everywhere from fits of drawing/painting, and a house that badly needs me to spend more time tidying up and less time procrastinating/crafting/playing with the children. Ha! I think I'll go and sit under the willow tree with my book instead...

Coffee with Grandma and Juggling a Toddler

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At the weekend we headed into town to meet my mum for a drink and a walk. We all love those times when Grandma Rhoda can do lots of visiting and regular dates. And I managed to get what I think is my first picture of all four of them together this year! Nobody pulling faces! I have to also share the first attempt, though, because this is Talia's constant cheeky expression at the moment:

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Oh the sun! I've had a few nights in a row of not-enough-sleep this past week, with Talia just hitting that point where she is sleeping longer and therefore fully waking me when she gets up early in the morning to feed. At least this whole body exhaustion has coincided with warmer days, beautiful sunshine, and busy contented children who are actively pursuing their own interests. We are spending a lot of time right now reading in the garden, and I'm providing very easy low-supervision crafts and sensory play in the afternoons. It feels, well, easy and peaceful. There is hardly any bickering. (Of course, now that I've said all this, we will probably be back to constant fights and whining...)

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We didn't walk far, just along the river and up to the Cathedral where we spotted one of the Peregrines and lost Rowan when the children played hide and seek behind the trees. Heart-in-stomach moment when she doesn't respond to our calls. Martin was frantic, and Jenna burst into tears when Rowan appeared, telling us indignantly that she was only picking daisies!

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This baby of ours is not easy to take anywhere at the moment. She is sweet and generous-natured, beautifully gentle, and acts much older than her brief sixteen months. And she is also incredibly stubborn and a properly self-directed determined toddler already. Her current trick of choice in town is to refuse to hold hands with Martin and I, and to regularly stop and sit down on the floor for ten minutes or so at a time. If we put her in the sling or carry her she flings herself around and cries as if we were hurting her! It makes the going very slow. Of course, she angelically offers to hold hands with *other* adults. Just not us.

Like all the others at this age, she loves to stop and touch Every Single new texture, piece of plant growth, interesting bit of rubbish, small stone, fallen leaf... When I can breathe and stay in the moment with her, it's charming and peaceful to go at her pace. When I'm on my own with all four of them, and can't stay in the moment because I have to be responsible for the others too, it feels like torture!

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Every day is a balancing act. I'm never quite sure if I'm getting it right, or at least meeting most of the needs most of the time, or at least putting some of the priorities in an order that mostly works for our family. Then again, I have four healthy happy bright daughters, and right now it's not too difficult to put a pause on my over-thinking and just enjoy being with them - in the sunshine (and the sudden random hail storms), and the every day peace and activity.

21 April 2013

Seven Days - quiet, calm, ordinary, sweet

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1. Twirling
2. Fluorescent milkshake
3. "Hotels" by Morgan
4. Jenna crafting (again)
5. Mischief
6. Sensory tub
7. Box house

16 April 2013

Birthdaying with Rowan

A very early morning!
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Rowan's birthday was fairly quiet this year, just peaceful and lovely.  We took the long walk up the hill to Sainsbury's cafe, because that was all Rowan wanted to do.
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She got her requested chocolate cake with strawberries, and birthday tea was chicken pancakes followed by apple pie (she is an odd little duckling, but she was delighted to find that the requested tea duly appeared)!
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Apple pie carefully and lovingly made by Jenna.  It was the perfect apple pie in every way.
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Mostly, Rowan spent the day having baths and playing Octonauts (mostly both at once).  :)
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And now she's four.  I know it's a clique, but it only feels like yesterday that I birthed her...

14 April 2013

Ruby Doodle

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Oh Rowan, happy birthday sweet little crazy creature.  I love love love the fun and liveliness you bring to our home, your bright eyes and constant stream of chatter.  You are funny, sensitive, generous, cuddly, bouncy and cute!  You squeal with delight any number of times a day.  The whole world is an adventure to you.

Yesterday you stood with your hands clasped behind your back and explained The Octonauts to your grandad, telling him all about your favourite sea creatures and their habitats and grinning proudly when he laughed at you saying "humu humu nuku nuku apua'a".

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Keep that bright curiosity, those wide sparkling eyes, and that ready joy.  I'm looking forwards to the next year and all it may bring us.  I hope you are too.

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13 April 2013

Seven Days - my quirky daughters

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1. Favourite outfits
2. Outlines
3. Museum activities
4. Pirates
5. Making gifts (and my awesome Jenna home again!)
6. Rowan's birthday blanket
7. Boxes!

10 April 2013

Yarn Along - a trying-not-to-wallow post

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My biggest baby is away this week, and I'm missing her company very much.  We have settled back in to friendship after some months of uneasy boundary-pushing, figuring out how we relate as she gets more independent, working out our roles as we dance the give-and-take of learning together.  It's strange not having her here suddenly, just for a week though it feels longer.  We're not used to being apart much and I think it's good for us now and again.  Before she left I quickly crocheted her up a cowl as defence against the coastal breezes, in yarn that she dyed with me.  :)

This week my knitting has mostly been whipping up two of these leafy hats (which I really will write down the pattern for, some day) for the shop; I love these hats, but getting Talia to sit still for one second to get a good photograph is just asking too much!

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Look at that cheeky little creature!  She finally has four teeth on the bottom row now, I noticed this morning. She's the only one of us not stressed out about the Mister losing his job (and the attendant despair over our finances just as we were finally back in control of our money).  We don't even know how my little fledgeling business will impact on welfare payments and how that is all going to work under the ill-explained new system.  Somehow, we'll figure things out.  I don't want to apply for outside work, but at least Talia doesn't much mind me being away from her if I do need to.

Not much time for reading in all of that, but I did finish the Percy Jackson series (annoying) and read another of The Mysterious Benedict Society books (nerdy and awesome) which I was checking out for Jenna.  I have some Kate Griffin novels (the Matthew Swift series) which I'm enjoying but finding slow going and slightly self-absorbed but not *entirely* undeserving of the comparison with Neverwhere (which is high praise, so perhaps almost cancels out my complaints about them)!

Joining in with Ginny and friends.

7 April 2013

Week in Pictures - the end of the frost

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1. Cake making
2. Season Table
3. Spring silks
4. Park sunshine
5. Sweet eldest
6. Narcissus (and a tiny plastic pony)

I know, I know, I am not keeping up with a picture a day (already)!  Still, in case you can't tell, the first day or two of sun has been so very welcome!