Me and Mine - A Family Portrait Project • Catch Up
We are all friends here right? I hope good friends. Friends who stick with you even when you have gone a little awol. I'm hoping that by starting off talking about Christmas I might be able to distract you from the date of this post and the photos that will follow. Now you might think think I am about to pedal some Christmas in July event, a sponsored post full of baubles but no, I am mentioning Christmas because every year we do the same thing. We watch the Queens speech all sat around together and then we stand for the national anthem.
I remember one particular speech she made where she referred to her year as their "annus horribilis" and that feels a very appropriate start to this long over due Me and Mine post. Because for all the wonderful things that have happened over the last 6 months and all the exciting days out, birthdays, holidays and surprises still to come this year, it has been, quite frankly, one of the most emotionally difficult years for both our families.
We rang in the new year with my father in law seriously unwell in hospital, recovering from a terrible fall that left him with a broken neck and several fractured ribs that took months and months and months to heal. And just as he was feeling back to his good self, my mum was rushed to hospital with two blood clots on her lungs. You know that phrase "drop everything and go" well that's been the story of the last few months while she recovered from her first stint in hospital. We had thought it was her first and last but unbeknown to everyone, there was another problem lurking in the background, something just as, if not, more serious.
I speak to my mum pretty much on a daily basis and it has never occurred to me that she would FaceTime one day last month, her voice all wobbly with tears, and tell me she had a problem with her heart. My niece Yazzy bought her a cuddly soft heart from Ikea for her birthday - a new one to replace "Granny's broken heart". It was a surreal couple of weeks. Frantic calls with my sister, group messages with my brother, feeling as far away as humanely possible in America, tag teaming hospital visits and I know the drive into central London to the Royal Brompton Heart Hospital like the back of my hand.
It's almost like we were living in The Truman Show and someone had pressed a giant pause button on our lives. We couldn't think of anything else, talk about anything else, barely do anything else! I naively thought I would have hours in hospital to edit a big photo shoot from a week before that dreaded call but the minutes raced by in a blur of knock knocks at the door, blood pressure checks, heart monitor assessments and pots of tea.
So the lead up to the summer was a case of holding onto our businesses and jobs by our finger nails, dropping as few of the spinning plates as possible, feeling that ticking clock chime louder and louder with end of term events, sports days and then bing, it was time for the boys to break up.
It may sound like a ridiculous statement but I am working to not work. Trying to juggle lots of hats as a consultant, a photographer and small creative business during term time, to set up enough work to let me have time off when the boys are at home. I remember emailing Fiona one late July weekend after I'd read her new book and found her out of office almost more inspiring than the book pages themselves. It read something like this. "I am now on school holidays with my children and will be back at work in September." Almost two months away. And I thought right, that is my goal!
I guess I don't mean not working at all, I mean not working frantically, not taking on commitments I cannot squeeze in the the boys with us and ending up being late on deadlines like I have been. Thanking my lucky stars my clients are in the same positions, doing their best to survive 6 weeks or more of Moscow State Circus standard juggling.
I decided that this summer was going to be all or nothing. And I went for all. After the upset, the relief that Reg and Mum were getting better and all the nights I had been away from the boys, we set out to give them an incredible adventure. Bouncing from one place to the next, staying with best friends, family and ending the holidays in our favourite resort in Kos. There were still emails, calls and editing, but we fitted around them rather than the other way. They slept in in Spain, I got up earlier and caught up. My sister took over at backdrops HQ and drove to my house to pack orders and now is on first name terms with our lovely post office!
We spent almost everyday of the school holidays together as a four, sometimes with extras but 99% of the time together. Me and mine.
So here we are, heading into autumn, still a little sun kissed, definitely a little rounder, but happy. I look back at these snapshots and think wow. Stories still to tell on this blog but the absolute adventure I so desperately wanted for the boys. Parties, a trip to London to see The Diary of a Wimpey Kid film at the 20th Century Fox offices with Joules, the best family day out we have ever genuinely had day at Legoland, back and forth to Southbourne, musical beds with family and friends, a whirlwind 24 hours in London to visit the Google offices for the launch of the Google Home device, plane rides and iPad afternoons. We feel so incredibly lucky. We've worked hard and played hard!
They ran back into school, both wrapped in bear hugs by their friends and the drop off was a stream of cuddles and kisses with friends I have missed that I hadn't seen all summer. It's wonderful to be away but it's also really good to be home. We made lists of plans for our house, created endless spreadsheets and feel like we are focussed on the next three months and making progress in every area of life. Like in the film Inside Out. Looking at each island and making them better. Friendships, work, hobbies and most importantly family.
The trouble with being an all or nothing person is the times when it has to be nothing. But the Me and Mine Project is a brilliant thing and I am so happy to be back with my three boys.