Saturday, 26 January 2013

On Saturday January 26th

Wearing mismatched pjs.
Lounging in bed.
Hearing the girl cooing & moving in her cot.
Loving my husband & the boy downstairs chatting.
Grieving the eye patches we started yesterday.

Hoping the boy continues to be an absolute star about them. They're making his eye big and strong! So he tells me.
Thinking it might be time to get up soon.
Considering banana pancakes for breakfast.
Wondering if the snow is coming back.

Discovering new family bloggers.
Wrestling with the realities of faith.
Breathing in & out this quiet space.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, 24 January 2013

On bedtime for baby

Isaac starting sleeping through the night at about 6 weeks old, but getting him down in the first place continues to vex and distress all of us.  I can clearly remember sitting on the floor in his darkened nursery, sobbing, bouncing him wildly up and down while he screamed and screamed and screamed.  And I did this every night.  For at least 45 minutes.  Until he was so exhausted he fell asleep in my arms.  I can remember giving him his last feed of the day, as he fell asleep on my lap, then lifting him gently into his cot so he wouldn't wake.  I can remember giving him milk in a cup, reading a story then slowly rocking back and forth while he drifted off and moving him into his cot just on the verge of sleep.  And I can remember the nights we tried controlled crying.  The hysterical child, standing in his cot, quietened each time one of us went in to comfort him, only to lay him down again and start the screaming all over again.  He used to stand, swaying with impending sleep, fighting it until he could finally lay his head on my shoulder and fall asleep from exhaustion.  Each night was as bad as the last, my heart being torn in two as my confused and frightened child wailed.

I'd forgotten what I knew of my beautiful, independent and determined son.  I had trained him to fall asleep on one of his parents.  And now I was ripping away that comforting presence.

From birth, Isaac never wanted to bed-share, he's too independent for that.  He decided his Moses basket was too small at 3 months, moved into his cot in his nursery and slept through for nearly 12 hours.  He moved on from breast-feeding without a second glance.  I've left him in creche at church from the day they would take him, without a single tear.  I think we had a period of stranger fear, I might have blinked and missed it.  He loves his mum and dad, prefers us to everyone else, but we have done an excellent job of fostering his innate self-confidence, providing him a secure platform to reach out into the world.

I missed every single cue that my independent, determined infant was screaming at me.

I truly believe that babies cannot manipulate their parents.  That when a newborn cries it is to express a need.  That you cannot spoil a child by giving them love.  And in my inexperience, I thought that meant that every cry was a request for me to intervene.  We're pretty laid-back parents; we trust our children to explore the world around them, that it is a safe place for them to be and that our job as parents is to provide safe boundaries that they can grow within.  So if you come to our home, you will see Isaac climbing on the sofa, wandering the garden while I stay in the kitchen and climbing the stairs unsupervised.  But for some reason, that didn't extend to bedtime.  So from birth, I trained Isaac to need someone to fall asleep.  And then I forgot that I knew him better than anyone else and followed advice from a book, from an online forum, from my friends.  Instead of trusting my instincts and doing what was best for my son.

Monday, 21 January 2013

On knitting to infinity

After all my blanket-making last year, I found myself unexpectedly with nothing on my needles shortly after Christmas.  A crafty friend had just cast on the 'My Favourite Things' scarf (free pattern available at but you need to sign up for an account first) and her first two stripes got me itching to start my own.  The pattern is completely custom, no two scarves will be the same.  There are some motif ideas on the pattern page and some links to other motifs from the website.  Otherwise, it's entirely up to you.
I'm using up my leftover Stylecraft DK in about 20 assorted colours on a 4mm circular needle so I cast on 96 stitches.  I initially used double-ended pins (because I couldn't find my circular needle - it was half-way through a baby hat that I started when I was pregnant with Anna), which is something I hadn't done for a while so I was getting used to knitting in the round at the same time as I learned how to do a provisional cast-on (the video that the pattern links to is excellent).  Oh and I've never really done two stranded colourwork before.  So that was new too.
And just in case that wasn't enough technique for one project, I finally learned how to knit in the continental style (i.e. yarn in your left hand).  I'm finding it much quicker and it was fairly straightforward to adapt to two-handed kniting (i.e. one colour in each hand).
I'm having fun choosing motifs for this scarf, including hearts, sheep and elephants.  I've added a few plain stripes to separate out all the different patterns, I just like the way that looks.  And that chevron-y stripe in blue and purple?  I made that up.  Just saying.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

On 5th and Frolic

I wasn't sure about Dear Lizzy's last collection when it came first came out but, as usual, as soon as I saw it being used, particularly those B sides, I decided it was too pretty to pass up.  I bought 11 of the papers and cut into it almost immediately (I'm such a brave girl!)  The pink, turquoise and white went so well with a couple of photos from last year that I loved.  And I had plenty of bits of white and bright pink to embellish them with.  I even pulled out my Slice (still learning how much I love that machine!) and die-cut a couple of shapes for that right hand page.  I was experimenting with confetti and sparkle at the time, can you tell?!
And then I put the papers away, probably to work on my Project Life album, and moved on to other things. I was musing over the Christmas period about how to make the most of my scrapbooking time and I realised that I spend a lot of time thinking about and choosing the right combinations.  I'm also a very visual person, if I can't see something, I rarely remember to use it.  So a couple of weeks ago, I pulled out those pretty pinks, green, turquoise and yellow and raided my stash to create a kit that I could make several pages from.  I kept to just the 5th and Frolic papers but added 3 different small alphabets, 4 or 5 sets of thickers (and another packet to finish the last page), some border stickers, label stickers, co-ordinating washi tape and ribbon, journalling cards, baker's twine and a couple of mists (really, I just picked those up when I felt they would work, I only have 3 different colours!).  Oh, and sequins, gems and enamel dots.  I think that's everything.
I store my prints by month in individual paper wallets so I knew I could find some photos to suit the colours from different time periods to stop my albums looking too matchy-matchy (thanks Shimelle for that great piece of advice, I think it was in the Cover to Cover class).

I've made 7 more pages so far and to be honest, there's only scraps of paper left so I think that'll be it unless I make some cards.  Looking at them all together, I've realised that they're almost all about Anna but I guess that's inevitable given how pretty and girly they are!  I'll show them to you in order of making, it works better in my head.
Beach Bum is a scraplift of a lovely monchromatic page by Jennifer Johner, I heard about her on the Paperclipping Roundtable podcast.  It is completely not my style but I thought it was so pretty and delicate.  I found the process a little bit uncomfortable and it took flipping ages!  But I'm pleased with it, and it definitely inspired me to try some different things on some of the other pages I made.  After all that thinking, I needed something simple and straightforward.  I love this photo of Sally and Leanne at Sally's daughter's 3rd birthday party.  That Nigella cheesecake was delicious!  This one came together quickly, though I'm not sure about that yellow tape even now.  I love other people's long titles, so I thought I'd try one myself.  That ledger paper had a lovely yellow print on the other side so I purposefully trimmed it down to about 8x10 and the rest of the page grew from there.

One thing I love about the newer American Crafts collections is that the branding strip has a pattern on the back of it.  The green arrows in Hugs, the green and white stripe in Beach Bum and the narrow green/white stripe in Scrapbookers are all branding strips.

I love this picture of Anna, taken on her first birthday by my Mum.  This page was super simple.  I stuck down a doily (Sainsburys own brand!), added a few blocks of flowery paper and stitched around the photo with yellow thread.  Add a title, a prima flower and a piece of ribbon and it's done.  This will mark the start of Anna's birthday pages in her album, similar to Isaac's with all those die-cut stars.
I started Cupcakes with that great big slab of green floral paper.  It's really pretty but quite different to the other papers I bought so I was struggling to use it.  I started layering other blocks on top, added a journalling card, some washi and another branding strip.  That stripe and the multi-coloured floral have all the other colours in them so they draw the different elements together nicely.
That baker's twine is attached with Glossy Accents, a liquid glue; I just allow it to dry slightly before curling the twine into it using some craft tweezers.  And the cupcakes were delicious - there's a page yet to be made with photos of Anna stuffing her face!

Ready, Steady, Go! was almost titled Ready, Set, Go! until I remembered I wasn't American.  It's similar in style to Beach Bum and loosely based on layouts by people like Marcy Penner and Lisa Trusdell.  And you can see the similarities with Cuddle Monkey too.   Isn't the green/blue bird paper beautiful?!  This is actually the B side, I debated which side to use or whether to cut it up for ages before finally deciding to just buy another sheet.  It has a clean arrow design on the A side which would be great for a more masculine page.  I'm also planning to buy another of the giant chevron from Now for the house print on the other side.  The ledger strips at the top and bottom were, you guessed it, branding strips from two different papers.
I love that silver glittery ribbon; it came on a gift from a friend and I've nearly used it all now.  Must ask her where she got it!  I'm really keen to have the date of the photo visible on each page, it not only gives the reader a sense of time passing, it helps me sort them into albums more easily too!

And the last one, a really sweet picture of Isaac's first friends.  These kids were born within 6 weeks of each other and we've been meeting regularly for coffee and cake since they were a couple of months old.  I have photos of them all lying on a playmat in February 2011 and I can't believe how much they've grown!
I had one large piece of paper left - that bright pink vertical stripe - so I used it as a base to layer some horizontal block.  It wasn't quite big enough for two 4x6 photos but a single one looked a bit lost so I trimmed the photos down to 3.5x5, losing much of the background but thankfully none of the babies.  And then I just added some strips of this and that over the top until it felt down.  The yellow scallop at the bottom and the friends flashcard are a bit more cream-toned than the rest but I think it works.  Little secret?  The hot pink ribbon, the thin striped strip and the green chevron washi don't go all the way under the photos.  I added them later and there wasn't enough of the striped bit so I just cut it and put one piece just under the photo on each side.  So now you know!

Friday, 18 January 2013

On the second day of Christmas

We have a lovely purple artificial tree that we bought when we were first married.  Most of our decorations date from around the same time.  There's no real theme or pattern, just a mishmash of colours and patterns that I love.  I really like how pretty it looked with simple white lights.  Can you tell I'm not a fan of tinsel?!
Some of the ornaments have come from a tree my sister and I used to have in our bedroom at home when we were teenagers.  Others were made this year by Isaac at his childminders.  We have a beautiful turtledoves bauble that was a gift a few years ago.  I spent ages trying to find a star for the top of our tree.  I wanted something simple but not too small.  Definitely not a fairy, and not an olde-style angel.  I found this one 2 or 3 years ago and it's almost perfect.
We had a wreath on our front door last year but it's become worn and damaged over the years.  I looked around for one to replace it this year but couldn't find anything quite right.  Andy favours something with pine branches, whereas I'm all for small neon baubles.  Maybe next year we'll find something that suits us both!
Our stockings are handmade, though not by me.  I bought stockings for Andy and I years ago from a seller on and ordered a matching one for Isaac's first Christmas.  Sadly, she wasn't accepting new orders by the time I tried after having Anna last year and I can't find her or her stockings anywhere online.  So I found a similar-sized personalised stocking on the same site from a different seller this year.
I love nativity scenes and I love the idea of having them scattered around the house in the run-up to Christmas.  This little crocheted set came from Just, a fairtrade shop in St Martins Square, Leicester.  The wise men's gifts are folded crisp packets!

Monday, 14 January 2013

On the first day of Christmas

This has been the first year that Isaac has been able to understand the concept of numbers and time, the counting down of Advent, waiting for Christmas to come.  We explained to him that Christmas is Jesus' birthday and so there would be presents and yummy food and lots of family time.
Andy's aunt has made advent wall hangings for both our children and I found a great Playmobil nativity set to put in the little pockets.
Over the course of 20 days (I was a little late getting started and we finished before Christmas Day - the logistics of transporting the whole thing to my parents' overwhelmed me), Isaac had great fun finding the number for each day and picking out a new little character or creature.
Is it just us or does baby Jesus look a lot like Luke Skywalker?!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

On a typical morning at home

I mentally started this post yesterday morning in a cloud of smugness.  We were stuck at home after Andy got a puncture in his car on Wednesday evening.  As I meandered through my lazy morning with the children, I was musing about the fact that it's been a while since we were just at home, with no timetable and nowhere to be.  I'd forgotten how lovely it can be to do things at a slower speed.  I was planning a short post on the importance of taking time at home to relax.  And then it all went to pieces.
It started with an accidental head-butt during a fake sneeze (that's toddlers for you) and escalated when he wouldn't come back to finished getting dressed.  Isaac's going through a particularly irritating and uncooperative phase at the moment, characterised by his tendency to answer every question with a definite "no"!  With my nose throbbing, (seriously it still hurts now, I thought it was going to bleed!) I lost my temper with him.  There was shouting, forced removal to his bedroom and a mummy-delivered dressing, followed by lots of crying, an apology from the boy and from the mummy and a rational explanation of exactly what he'd done wrong (the opposition, not the head-butt).

And isn't that exactly how parenthood works?  The moment you're thinking how lovely things are, they throw something else at you.

As it happened, the rest of our day pretty much followed the same pattern.  Once we were all dressed, we headed out in the buggy to pick up some icing sugar and had a lovely time at the park on our way home.  But before we left, someone ended up on the naughty step for refusing to put his coat and shoes on.  We ate lunch together and Anna tootled happily off to bed.  Isaac followed a little while later, kicking and screaming all the way.
We had a noisy, chaotic, fabulous afternoon when my mummies and their babies came over to celebrate one little boy's birthday.  I love these women; the only thing we had in common when we met was our health visiting team.  But over the last 2 years, we've spent so much time together that we used to joke about co-parenting our children.  Now most of us are back at work, things have changed again but we still get together once or twice a month on a Friday afternoon to drink coffee, eat cake and enjoy each other's company.  And that's the answer to the unpredictability of raising children.  Good friends doing the same things you are. People you trust with your worries and frustrations as well as the achievements and delights.  I'm so grateful for my little tribe.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

On January 6th 2013

Right now, I'm...
 watching Food Network UK on freeview, being inspired by all the healthy cooking and yummy-looking meals
reading The Sacred Romance, again
discovering Douwe Egberts instant coffee with smooth caramel flavour
listening to Caro Emerald's Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor, over and over and over again.  We love a bit of do-do-do in the car!
remembering a fantastic 2 weeks back home with my family
drinking water to try and stay hydrated at work
wearing boyfriend jeans from Next with jersey tops and purple Converse All Stars
feeling slightly snotty
wanting to cook proper, healthy, filling food with loads of yummy veggies
wishing life were simpler and Texas weren't so far away
planning the things I want to accomplish in 2013
thinking about this morning's sermon and finishing well
enjoying a quiet weekend at home with my wonderful husband and beautiful children