Me and Mine - A Family Portrait Project December

I know it's embarrassingly late but I wanted to post about our Christmas even though by the time this finally sees the light of the internet people are starting to talk about spring. We had a surreal festive season. One minute we were deliriously excited, counting down the minutes until my sister and her family arrived for a whole week of fun and the next we were in bed, having just woken up and on the phone to my mother in law, with some bad news. 

You know when the phone rings unusually early or late and you get that panic feeling rise in your chest? Well I didn't really have it for the first few seconds it was only when I heard her say faintly as Rich held the phone to his ear "We are in hospital, it's Dad." and I gripped Rich's hand so tightly like we needed to brace ourselves for her next words. 

He'd had a terrible fall. Broken ribs, a broken bone in his neck and was incredibly badly bruised, not to mention cracking his head on a marble floor. And in an instant it felt like time had stopped. You know when the scale of a problem seems so huge you actually go completely blank. Like your mind can't process it and everything goes white for a few minutes. And then it goes into fast forward. Packing bags, frantic phone calls and everyone tearing around the house, Rich stuffing clothes into a bag, me trying to feel like I was helping making up snacks and the boys hurriedly making get well cards because there was no time to buy one and they wanted to make sure Grandad had one to open that day. 

My father in law is a remarkable man, he is the anchor in the family and in the weeks and now months that has passed since his accident he has shown the boys nothing but bravery, even though I am sure there must be days when being brave is too hard. His vulnerability has made them love and respect him more if that makes any sense at all. 

Sammy started crying the other day in the middle of a restaurant at dinner and left the table. We called to him thinking he was running off to the toilet and he turned around and said sheepishly, like he was in trouble, "I was just thinking about Grandad and it made me cry."

I sort of feel guilty posting these photos because in between these snapshots, the 6 minutes outside the front door on the mildest 25th of December morning I can ever remember and the 30 seconds before we raced into the pantomime, we were all so worried and could barely talk about anything else. The boys had an emotional rollercoaster as so did we all. We all work as one big unit, on birthdays and big occasions. Natty has known my in laws since she was 14. It's really a lifetime. But we did give Logi Bear a magical first Christmas and for a poorly boy he was on top form and gave us so many giggles and precious moments.

Seeing someone you love in pain is scary and grounding. Sammy in particular has had his first real heart breaking moment. We walked into the hospital on Boxing Day, and after giving them a pep talk in the car about not being too loud, not leaning on Grandad too much, they tip toed in, dressed in protective aprons and gloves and I couldn't have felt prouder. I knew they were nervous, seeing their Grandad lying in a neck brace, not able to properly talk, but they walked to each side of the bed, past their little Christmas tree stuffed with their homemade decorations they'd given to Rich to take in on Christmas Eve to cheer him up, and held his hands. 

We lifted Ollie up and over the bed, so he didn't lean on my father in law's chest and his broken ribs and he gave him a kiss, the boys held up each of his presents we'd brought from under the tree and they dived into their gift bags that we had kept back so my father in law got to see their reactions. Boys who were ecstatic with new dressing gowns and Minecraft caps. I don't think it's often that a hospital room is full of wrapping paper, a sea of recycling all over the floor but if it gave their Grandad even 2 minutes of joy in such a horrible week it was the right thing to do. 

We did have some wonderful moments, we tried to give my mother in law as lovely an evening on Boxing Day as possible, in between visiting hours. We played games half laughing half almost in tears at the severity of the situation and half at how surreal it felt, trying to give the children a lovely time while feeling so sad that he was lying there on his own all night.

But the most important thing is that he's here, lucky if you can think of it like that, that he only broke those bones. That in time they will heal and we will make Christmas 2017 the one he missed out on.

It doesn't really matter where you live, where you go on holiday, how fancy your clothes are, it's your health that matters most. And I look at these boys in this picture and feel so grateful for our little ox's. 

Now I know the link up closed... well last year... but if you have time pop over and see what all these other families got up to over the festive season. I adore seeing all the little ones dressed up, the lazy days in between Christmas and new year and all the big family group shots. It turns out that not only do most of the country eat exactly the same dinner at almost exactly the same time but we take exactly the same photos!

Christmas doesn't always go to plan but it's what you take from it into the new year that is most important. For us that's our family. And that's why however late I am with these posts I always want to publish them, my record of my now not so little boys!

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Photo Backdrops • The Edit - Grey Marble

Today I want to show you one of my first and favourite backdrops in the store. I found this marble topped table on eBay a couple of years ago and drove to Glastonbury to pick up it after I won it as the only bidder! Marble is beautiful, has depth and has a chameleon like quality depending on the light it is photographed in and for me, is a staple in my own repertoire. 

There are lots of cheaper marble alternatives available, sticky back plastic material you can roll onto a board but the marble is almost too perfect for me, a very bright white with harsh black or grey veins running through it. I am never convinced the patterns come from a real marble and I am forever on the hunt for interesting coloured marble, really I need to make friends with a stone mason ;)

For the last 18 months I have wheeled my preloved table through from the kitchen, over the step up to the conservatory door which we use as a playroom/work space for me. And boy is it an effort. It doesn't lend itself to being flung in the boot when I have a photo shoot on location. It's heavy, unwieldy and the now three wheeled table (I'm not quite sure what happened to the fourth) sometimes seems to have a mind of it's own and I end up huffing and puffing trying to manoeuvre it into the small area of good quality light in the house in the winter. 

The vinyl version was a revelation. And I haven't used the real deal since.

I pop it out of the tube, position it wherever I like, curl it up and over a box, or I think I used my typewriter for this shot, and when I am done I wipe it clean with a piece of kitchen roll and pop it back in it's tube. Without even one whisper of a puff. 

Marble is so versatile and you can create different looks depending on the white balance settings or the type of light you are shooting in. I wanted to show you how different it can feel and the atmosphere it can create by setting my camera to auto white balance, daylight, shade, cloudy and then editing one using my favourite A Beautiful Mess basic action set.

Which feels more like you? The warmer tones? The cooler bluer hue?

I love that this marble is perfectly imperfect. There are real marks, wear and tear, slight stains, but in an Instagram friendly way ;) The grey marble is in stock and in the backdrop store as is it's new sister. A whiter piece from the shop front of a local delicatessen in our nearest town.

Head on over and see which takes your fancy...

Me and Mine - A Family Portrait Project November

Now I know... this should read December in the title, but this past month has been even more of a whirlwind than ever and I am determined not to miss a month of capturing my little family. Even if it is exactly a month late and the next one will follow tomorrow! This project is about to enter it's fourth year, which is an amazing achievement by Lucy who founded this group of bloggers who host every month and all the families who stop for just a moment and snap their changing and growing sons and daughters. It's the blog post I most enjoy writing, it's the one that makes me realise just how quickly time is passing, how important capturing our family in a photo is and each month I rush to frame our Me and Mine.

November for me was all about preparations. For launching the backdrop store at long last, trying to squeeze in as many photo jobs as I could to be able to have the Christmas holidays off and desperately trying to get our house as straight as possible before my sister and her family arrived for a week long stay on the 23rd December. And we had a special event.

We all gathered around a font in a lovely church in Berkshire for my nephew Logan, our Logibear's christening. Celebrating this beautiful little boy who completed their family. My sister was totally in love with him from the moment the midwife passed him to her and Sammy was just the same, even before he was born. He'd longed for a boy cousin and almost a year on the novelty has absolutely not worn off and he shows this powerful (sometimes overwhelming!) love for Logan. When we are together he can't help but stroke his face, asking to hold him over and over again and when we are not with them he's constantly making cards and drawing pictures for him.

He's protective, proud and just wants to help look after him and it's a pleasure to watch. Little did he know that when my brother in law stood up and gathered everyone together at the party afterwards to toast and thank the godparents, that he would be getting a very special mention.

They talked about how there was an extra person in the room who has loved Logan from before he was born, someone who is so kind and is so special, and as he spoke I glanced to Sammy who looked back at me with the widest grin and the brightest eyes, half believing they there actually talking about him and half hoping he was right! 

They presented him with an honorary godfather sash and he was deliriously happy! A role he takes so seriously, asking to speak to his godson on FaceTime and telling him how much his godfather loves him when he holds him. Although it really was more of a gesture, I have no doubt that Sammy will be the big brother and protector to Logan, guide him through his future and we can't wait to watch their bond grow.

I don't know anything other than raising boys. Boisterous boys with a sensitive side and as much as I want the boys to excel, it's their characters that are most important to us. 

Everything shapes who they are going to be. Their school, their friends, their grandparents, their peers. We know we have one more natural sportsman and one showman. We have one who shows incredible promise in Maths and one who struggles. We don't have geniuses we have happy, hard working young boys.

Every term we get their school reports and this term they made me want to cry. Not for the attainment grades but for the words right at the end. In fact I went straight to the last page before I read how they were doing in English and Science. Because that's the bit that matters to us the most. Whether school sees what we see. I think it's a wonderful thing that we have social media to share how proud we are of our children, not just for the photos of them coming first in a race on sports day or holding up a certificate, for the little things, the acts of kindness, the friendships they are making and the achievements that have nothing to do with how clever they are. 

And this is what they said. "Sammy has embraced life in Year 3 with great enthusiasm and energy. I am delighted with his attitude and wonderful, steady progress. He has made the most of every opportunity both with friendships, activities and lessons. I admire his positivity and the way in which he approaches every task by looking to make things more interesting, giving his very best. Sammy is the first to help a friend, lending equipment or leading them somewhere. He is a charming, happy child who has consistently given 100% to all he has encountered this term. He is a delight to teach!"

"Ollie is a happy, sociable little boy, with a gentle, easy-going nature and he is eager to please. He is an extremely polite, co-operative member of the group and enjoys the responsibility of helping in the classroom. He is very relaxed in the company of his friends and shows kindness and generosity towards them. I really appreciate his patient, tolerant approach to life and the way he is able to share and compromise in his dealings with his classmates. He is such a lovely little boy who enjoys playing with his friends and is kind and caring towards others. He is interested in all that is going on, is very well motivated and always gives of his best."

They may not be top of the class but this is all we want for our boys. Kind boys who are good friends to someone. Our big boys, our mini mes, in big boys suits. 

This project isn't a weight around my neck, it's the one photo I take each month that is the most precious. Thank you to everyone who joins in and to my cohosts Lucy, Katie, Alex, Jenny and Fritha who put up with my terrible lateness!

Happy New Year everyone! I'll be back with my festive photo for December asap! :)

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