One beautiful year ago, my little girl was born. I still think of her as a baby, but look how she’s grown. Crawling, standing but not walking; saying mama and dad but not really talking. Laughing when she’s not crying; happy most of the time she’s awake. Good at sleeping. Very much a part of our family with her own expressions and her own voice. Today we celebrated with family and it was fun to have everyone here for a feast. I remember the relief I felt after when my other two turned one and I started to get a little more sleep and feel a little less exhausted and more of myself again. The peonies and poppies in our garden are blooming, just as they were this time a year ago when our little girl was born.
Its only in Britain that we would have a primetime TV slot dedicated to sheep farming. I’m glad we do: there was certainly something wonderful about our own visit to a live lambing shed this morning. The little lambs are very pretty, clean and sweet. The mothers are not pretty but their care for their new offspring is beautiful and fierce. D was delighted to tell us he saw two being born. The smell of sheep and straw in the shed was rich and warm. The talk is of births and mothering and care. What a great place to be.
Some how, in the new routine that our family life is falling into this January, I have had more moments of making things with my little K. I realise with a new sense of clarity, just how much she loves creating, drawing, sticking, cutting and making. Without a doubt its when I see her at her happiest: she laughs, smiles, chats and glows with pleasure. She applies herself to these activities with a remarkable level of concentration, patience and care.
This is in total contrast to D: for him art (drawing, colouring, sticking, painting) has never been something he would choose to do. I can count on the fingers of one hand the pieces of art he brought home from playgroup at the same stage. In the past, I have been tempted to blame this difference on gender (girls like colouring, boys don’t) but I think it goes further than that with these two children of mine: this is about recognising who they are individually, how they are function and what energises and excites them.
In the last couple of weeks, K and I have made stained glass windows with book film; used fabric paint to stamp designs onto white t-shirts; and painted pottery at Ferry Potty. I am so grateful for this point of connection with my daughter and I am relishing the prospect of some lovely times with K where we can make, create and draw together.
I like to think that I will make my children a present for birthdays and Christmas. Last year, I made K two little mice from Martha Stewart. This year, I decided on felt lollipops, sweets and ice-cream. I drew round some ice-lolly moulds, cut out two pieces, sewed them together, stuck the ice-lolly sticks in and stuffed them. Ta da! Ice-cream cones were made from a semi-circle of felt sewed onto a piece of card-board to stiffen them then simply stuck together into a cone shape. Large pompoms make ice-cream. Sweets I simply made from two strips of felt glued and rolled up. (I could have sewn where I used glue but I was making this late at night before K’s birthday.)
We also bought Kirsten a cash register. So we were all set for a play shop. Beads wrapped in tissue paper, plasticine lollipops, bars of chocolate (wooden bricks wrapped in foil and paper wrappers) and some cupcakes we already had completed the stock. Buttons seem to make the best money. A bag for shopping and “What would you like from my shop today, Mrs Bey?” (That’s what my kids say when we’re playing shops.)
So little K’s birthday party happened last Saturday. I imagine that it involved everything that a little girl could want: wings, a treasure hunt, cake, pink heart biscuits (thank you, Sarah!), bubbles, friends and family and lots of butterflies. We even had a Tinkerbell cake, complete with glitter (thank you, Great!). The guests were sweet: lovely and enthusiastic about all the activities. The sun shone and our tent in the garden was pretty and warm (thank you for putting it up, the two Mr M’s – it was the canvas from our gazebo, draped over our washing line). I think the tent was an inspiration: it looked pretty and gave the girls a place to play. We did face-painting there (thank you, Hannah!) and butterfly tattoos (thank you, Han-Marie!). We even read a story there at the end of the morning.
The party started with decorating their wings with sparkly stickers and ribbons. Next, looking suitably pretty, it was out to the garden to hunt for butterflies (thank you granny) and marbles (they sparkled beautifully in the wet grass). We only played a three games: musical statues, sleeping butterflies and pass the parcel. As they opened the parcel, each girl got a packet of beads and some elastic to make a bracelet. We blew bubbles and played on the climbing frame. We ate the cake half way through. The party finished with sausages and sausage rolls and jelly. There were plenty of adults around to help (granny, grandpa, two uncles, two aunties, one great-granny and a couple of mums). I couldn’t help but notice that, unlike at my boys party last month, there were moments of complete quiet. The girls were busy sticking or making or eating or sleeping (yes, in our equivalent of sleeping lions). Ahhhhhhh… lovely.
Apparently this week is World Breast Feeding week so it seems appropriate to celebrate our beautiful, bouncing one hundred percent breast-fed baby. She really is plump and perfect and I do love to think that at the moment I am able to provide everything she needs to grow and prosper. Amazing.
Breast feeding is amazing but its hard work. Even third time round, I still found the first few weeks difficult. E was so good at feeding right from the start that at least I did not need to worry about her putting on weight. But it was painful, exhausting and awkward. If I hadn’t successfully breast-fed both my other children, I would have been tempted to give up. It is terribly hard for new mothers to persevere when its so difficult to start with and society still seems to make bottle feeding seem simpler. (And I know bottle feeding is a great solution for many.)
But now, almost three months later, breast feeding is so obviously the easiest option for us both: she gets exactly what she needs and the only thing I need to remember is the baby: as long as she’s with me, she’s never going to go hungry. Amazing.
As we approach another birthday for little K, I realise that I didn’t blog much about her actual birthday celebrations last year. I didn’t post anything about this birthday bunting I made, now in its second year. The first half says “Happy’. The butterflies were pinned on specially for K.
On K’s actual birthday we had fun just us on the edge of Tentsmuir forest where we ate a picnic lunch, dug in the sand and blew bubbles over the mud then came home for tea and cake.
Later in the week, five little girls came round and decorated biscuits with sweets while the mummies ate a rather delicious sponge cake filled with cream and strawberries. I was too busy supervising that to take any pictures.
Now I am planning K’s third birthday. There will be a party; there will be butterflies, fairies and plenty of pink; there will be family: two uncles, two aunts, one granny, one grandpa and one great-grandmother. Its going to be a birthday to remember.
Tomorrow my little boy starts school. As I cradle his littlest sister in my arms I wonder where the last five years have gone. I want every moment with him back, when he was two months old and lay against my neck just like she does now; one year sleeping on his stomach; two years – strong and chubby; three years, four years, five years.
These are D’s first shoes, worn today by Esther for the first time. I bought them before D was born, for my husband on our third wedding anniversary which just happens to be leather. This week we picked up up his black school shoes in size 11. Yes, I’m happy to see him growing every day, but oh how I have loved these first five years with Daniel. After tomorrow, things will never be the same again. For him, though, the best is yet to come.
D has been playing a new game today. It started in the bathroom: “Ma, I think I heard a squeak. There must be a mouse in here.” After he had “found” the mouse he was busy finding it food. “Mice eat cheese,” he told his little sister. “Peas? Peas?” she replied, laughing at him. A little later he had made it a bed in a cardboard box that has been played with a great deal in the last week. “Do you want to see my mouse?” he asked me. “Come and see, its sleeping in the box. Shhhhh, don’t wake it up.”
Oh, I love it when life imitates art. Immediately I was seeing Antoine St Euxpery’s beautiful drawings and hearing his words:
“This is only his box. The sheep you asked for is inside.”
I was very surprised to see a light break over the face of my young judge:
“That is exactly the way I wanted it! Do you think that this sheep will have to have a great deal of grass?”
“Because where I live everything is very small . . .”
“There will surely be enough grass for him,” I said. “It is a very small sheep that I have given you.”
He bent his head over the drawing.
“Not so small that–Look! He has gone to sleep . . .”