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Family Me and Mine Photography

Me and Mine: February 2018

28/02/2018

Hello? It’s been a little while hasn’t it.  It’s nice to be back.  Even if it does feel a little bit strange.  So then, let’s cover off the elephant in the corner before we get started.  I’d love to come up with some fantastical story for my internet disappearance; I was the Pyongchang mascot? the real life job sent me to somewhere deeply exotic but with no internet connection? we had so much snow I made myself an igloo and moved in?  Nope, I’m not sick, not pregnant, not sworn off technology and gone to live off grid, or been abducted by aliens.   The truth is that in the middle of January my real life job got insanely crazy busy again, weeks went by when I couldn’t remember not working, I bust my wrist and elbow with a combination of over-laptop and over-crochet (an injury from the car accident we had the summer before last that’s now horribly easy to aggravate) and something had to give.

What went was my blog and my social media and a lot of things I really truly love.  When we got to the end of January and I started to think about rounding the family up for a Me and Mine shoot and it just felt like too much pressure and too much hard work and the antithesis of everything that it ought to be, I simply stopped, and found that once I had stopped it was horribly hard to find the motivation to push myself to get going again.

I love my blog, I love taking pictures and telling stories, but they are not the heart of my family, only a distillation of a tiny moment or two; savoured, treasured, but ultimately never a replacement for the real thing, and so it was time to step away, if even for a little bit.

Truth be told, I sometimes feel a little lost in this great big world of blogging; I’ve always flitted between niches, not quite fish nor fowl nor good red herring, and there have been times of very obvious change as real life moves into another season, and the blog has an uncomfortable wriggle or two before I can quite catch up with where I want to be and I’m definitely in a wrigglish frame of mind at the moment.

I do know that I don’t want to entirely abandon the habit of keeping this space as my online version of a baby book for the whole family, but not to the point that it becomes a source of stress; back to the good old days of blogging where stats was simply a module from my maths A-level.  For this year’s Me and Mine, if I have a picture then I have a post, but if I don’t have a picture then we’ll just wait for another month, and for someone who is usually very motivated even by voluntary rules, I’ve surprised myself by how relaxed that decision made me feel.

Anyway; this month, I have a picture.  Well I have several, and they’re all just as wonderfully silly as each other.

Over half term the mother of one of the girls’ school friends ran a pop-up yoga class, and as I’ve taken a yoga class with her before and loved it, it sounded like the perfect way to get everyone out of the house and off for a little exercise and stretching, and with John’s lovely cousin come to visit we had enough adults to make it achievable.

Pip was, quite frankly, rather baffled by yoga.  He’d never seen it or done it before, but he definitely liked the bits where Mama laid down so that he could climb up on me and have another cuddle.

We worked through a few basic positions, many of which I still can’t do, but he and the girls came alive when we started to try paired up yoga poses – more excuses to climb on Mama and Daddy.

The final challenge was to find a way to Yoga pose the entire family group, with, varied degrees of success. None of us is a natural yogi, except possibly the incredibly bendy Elma, but for me it was one of the highlights of half term; all of us together, filling the sunshine with laughter.

Me and Mine, in February:

 

 

 

Family Me and Mine

Me and Mine 2017: December

31/12/2017

I know that I am no longer a mother to babies, or even toddlers, because on Christmas morning, it wasn’t until 7.30 that the first of my fully fledged children woke up and came tottering into our bedroom, sleepily rubbing at his eyes.  As he climbed onto my back and snuggled down again between my shoulder blades I murmured a “Merry Christmas” in his general direction and, after a small but audible yawn, a voice replied:

“Merry Christmas to you too Mummy!”

As I said, not even my baby boy is even the slightest bit baby anymore.

And while I might have the occasional minor lament about the fact that not one of them fits into even the biggest of the baby clothes departments any more (why oh why did John Lewis stop the adorable yellow puffin jumpers at age 3?) it feels fitting that this year has been such a universal step forward into the next part of our family adventure.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine 2017: January

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a family portrait project - February 2017

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine photo project, March 2017

This year we sold our house, we asked my aunt and uncle if we could move into a tent at their farm for ‘a couple of weeks’, we moved into our tent at their farm for eight weeks, and then we moved into something that is pretty near enough close to our dream house that we are never ever ever moving again. Ever.

The house is a bit of a fixer upper – and I promise that there’ll be a blog post about the before and tiny bits of after that we’ve put in sometime in the new year – but it’s a fixer upper that has a good 10 year plan attached to it, if not more, so there will be plenty of stories to tell along the way.

Space for the Butterflies - Me and Mine, a monthly family portrait

And for my little trio this September marked Kitty’s step up into Lower School (with an assembly that I could easily have sobbed my way through – but just about managed to hold it together), and with Elma in Kindergarten and Pip starting and eventually coming to love his Nursery mornings we’ve had that first sense of the children all being off on their own adventures together that will be the hallmark of many years to come.

Even though we moved into the house in August it still feels as if we’ve only just got started, and I have so many plans for what we’re going to achieve in 2018 I’m really excited for the months ahead. After a fair amount of upheaval this year it will be nice to be doing things at our own pace and on our own timescale – we hope.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, because it isn’t 2018 yet, it’s still 2017 for a few more hours and that means that it’s time to complete the set and add December’s pictures to my collection of Me and Mine in 2017.  Which of course means Christmas.

Unusually for me I didn’t take many photos at Christmas this year; by the time that we’d come back from church and I’d got the Christmas dinner under control I didn’t have the heart to ask the children to sit for more than a couple of shots before we could get on with the all important task of opening the pile of presents you can’t see behind us.

This year, more than ever, it felt so important to me to be living Christmas not just documenting it; for all that I love having a record of our family life, and I love taking photos, I didn’t want to be fussing over ISO or focus, I just wanted to be sat on the floor underneath that gorgeous 8 foot high tree watching the children open up the little bits and bobs we’d bought for them.

Magical is a horribly overused cliche for this time of year, but it’s how Christmas felt to me this year; a break, finally, from a long autumn and early winter when my workload just kept building and we all suffered for it, a chance to draw breath and to just be, here in our dream house, with these three incredible little people who are hilarious and grown up and challenging and sweet and everything in between, and who are the heart and soul of our home.

We’ve spent our days eating leftover turkey, doing colouring and stickers and all sorts of craft projects both new and unearthed from the cupboard, playing make believe with the every growing collection of Sylvanians, and heading out for an afternoon walk in the sunshine.  We drove up into the hills and found ankle deep wonderful snow, and met up with friends to explore the footpaths out of our village.  I’ve read new books, squished new yarn and John and I became so addicted to our jigsaw map of Oxford (a Christmas present from my Dad) that we could both see map imprinted on our retinas whenever we closed our eyes.  It’s a 1000 piece puzzle and we finished it in 24 hours; it was awesome.

Looking back across the whole year of pictures I can see the changes in the kids (and in us!), and while I know that I don’t (yet?) have the skills or, on occasion, the camera to take the kind of stunning portraits that would make every one a calendar shot, I love that I’ve pushed myself even in the months when we were hot or tired or stressed to get everyone rounded up to take pictures and process them and post them here; our 2017 in all its crazy blurry wonderfulness.

So from my little family to yours we wish you a very Happy New Year as 2018 rolls in; crazy faces and all!

 

Family Me and Mine

Me and Mine 2017: November

30/11/2017

Ever since my first Me and Mine photo, with a bemused baby Elma under the shade of a giant sycamore, a one and a bit year old Kitty and not even the tiniest twinkle of a Pip I’ve loved how the photos document our family of four and then five.  We’re family in the most traditional sense, Mummy, Daddy and a parade of tiny feet that follow and I love the consistency of a series of snaps that has seen the children grow and John and I grow more tired.  I joined because I thought it would be a bit of fun, and I could never have imagined how long we’d keep it up, or that they would come to be some of my most treasured pictures, even the dodgy slightly out of focus ones where Kitty’s sticking her tongue out or Pip refuses to have anything to do with the camera.  Every photo, from the time we dressed up in Halloween costumes and climbed up to the Windmill, to the shots we’ve taken curled up in our house tells the story of the five of us.

 

We’ve snuck in a few extras along the way too; there have been plenty of months where we’ve been visiting John’s parents, or met up with my sister and my Dad, or added a cousin or two into the mix and for this month, bookended by my nephew’s christening at the beginning and a big family get together at the end, it seems only appropriate that November be all about an extended Me and Mine.

John grew up surrounded by uncles and aunts and cousins but until very recently I’ve never had that experience of living near to family.  When I was little my aunts and uncles lived all over the country, and occasionally all over the world.  My grandparents lived in the next village but my Grannie didn’t drive and so it was always about us going to see her rather than being able to meet up or just pop round and now that we have it, and I know that my cousins are just up the road one way, and my aunt and uncle no more than five minutes the other, it is for me one of the absolute stand out highlights of our cross country move.

The local cohort were well represented at the tiny nephew’s christening; we overtook my aunt and uncle just before we got to the M25, to the great delight of three small people in the back of our car and so the tiny man of the hour was feted, adored and cuddled to within an inch of his life by aunts (of both the great and the generally awesome variety), uncles, grandpa and one very smitten biggest cousin.  We all wrote in a book of wishes; our hopes and dreams for him as he grows up, and mine was that he always knows that he is so loved; despite the funny faces (thanks my kids), despite the giggles and the fact that someone is almost inevitably moving and yes sweetie, Auntie Carie did make you be outside for all of the photos, this picture is the proof of that wish.

Full of love and laughter and pure happiness.

Grandpa and all five grandchildren

It’s that feeling of being immersed in family; it was the same last weekend when we squished twelve of us around our dining room table; the five of us, my cousins and their girls, my Dad and my aunt and uncle.  We were all elbow to elbow, the table was groaning with food in the best possible way and we spent the afternoon pottering between the lounge and the dining room as John rolled out his magic tricks for the kids and the rest of us had a good catch up and a chance to just enjoy being all together.  It’s the very best thing about being part of a big family.

Me and lots of mine, in November:

Family Me and Mine

Me and Mine 2017: October

31/10/2017

Every half term of my childhood we’d back up the car, head home and escape from the bubble of life on the inside of a school, even if only for a week.  We’d go to the beach, explore up on the moor, spend rainy days reading a never ending stack of favourites, and almost always go to Hembry Woods to tramp along the river bank, and then more often than not end up in the pub up the road for hot soup and a chance to warm up by their fire.  The leaves would be all the colours of green and gold and fiercely burnt orange, and when the wind blew they would scatter around us like confetti.  the mud underfoot was dark and soft, decades of leaf mould producing a very satisfying squelch, and down in the valley the river would call our names in the roar of the rapids.

It hasn’t changed.  You still have to turn off from the main path to get there, down a little track, just wide enough for one at a time, over a fallen tree still wrapped in ivy vines and then down the final slope to see the river there before you.

The Dart, a lot smaller than down in the harbour , but ferocious through the rapids that carve islands into the centre of the stream.  When I was little I could imagine all sorts of secret adventures happening on those islands, and in the summer when the river was lower we could paddle and rock hop out to them, wading through cool peaty water, clear enough to see all the way down to our toes.

In the autumn they’re definitely more for looking at from afar, unless you travel by canoe, but being back in the woods was the highlight of my half term, and a definitely highlight of the month as we headed south to spend the final weekend of half term with my Dad.  The children were fascinated by the river; the sea is their familiar friend, and they’ve seen the harbour and big tidal estuaries, but this little moorland stream was something completely new.  They hurled sticks into the water and watched them get jumbled up in the rapids, and tried to stir the flotillas of beech leaves that amass in the calms, gently swirling, oblivious to the tumult behind them.

We saw a golden retriever swimming after a stick, and for all that they’re not that keen on dogs, we waited to see her come safely ashore, prize between her teeth.  On sandy beaches they dipped the toes of their boots, and starred down into the water as it shelved steeply away, or hung over the edge of the bank to count the fish, no bigger than a little finger, that darted across the shallows, brown against the white stone on the riverbed below.

Elma planted acorns along the path, heaping them under sandy soil and planting a feather or a twig in the top of each one to mark where the new tree will be.

And then we climbed a tree.

And I think these might be my favourite Me and Mine photos yet.  It seems to sum up so many things that we value as a family and that John and I try to build into our days; being together, being outside in nature, and doing something ever so slightly crazy.

So often so much of our months are characterised by the complete opposite, by being apart because of work and school, by being inside because I’ve not yet convinced anyone that I could be productive working outside in the churchyard near my office, and by the everyday ordinary, rather than the adventures, it made for a truly wonderful weekend to dive right in, to recreate a memory of my own and pass the tradition on.

But my last photo this month comes from a more recent tradition.  When I was a child the cafe was entirely washed away by a storm one winter; I can remember going down the next day and dancing hopscotch on the tiles that had been enclosed by roof and walls.  When I was a teenager I worked on the counter and watched people squeeze in to the picnic benches to eat their pasties.  Now, breakfast at the cafe on the beach is more of a tradition than fish and chips at the pub, and it’s completely delicious so we wouldn’t be without it for the world.

Me and Mine, in October:

Family Me and Mine Photography

Me and Mine 2017: September

30/09/2017

Oh this wonderful crazy family of mine.  What a wonderful crazy busy month we’ve had to match.  I thought we hadn’t done very much this month, just settled into life in the new house and the new back to school routine, but as soon as I stopped to start to think about it the more I realised just how much we’d been here there and everywhere in a near constant whirlwind.  It’s been a good sort of whirlwind though, the sort that softly breezes you along, and it’s meant that our month has been full of some of our favourite things; time spent together, and just the occasional adventure.

Some of them were near at hand, Pip’s Mummy morning on the day both his sisters were at school and Daddy was playing golf, and Kitty’s school expedition to harvest sweetcorn didn’t take us very far afield, and some were further flung (and I maintain it may actually be quicker to get to Majorca (for golf) than to Skipton (for Yarndale)).  What is certain is that they were both well worth the effort, and I suspect we both came back knowing that we’re going again next year.

 

On the house front we continue to unpack.  I fear I may be saying that for many many many more months to come; proof, not that it was ever needed, that we were right to have other people come to pack for us.  We’re trying to unpack gently; actually thinking about what we need rather than just bunging everything in a cupboard, but a random filing cabinet still stuck in the middle of my study says we’re not quite there yet.

And with September gone, we’re properly into autumn; the leaves are turning in the garden and the trains emerge from the mist each morning, audit’s hard not to start to get excited about what comes next, and what comes after that.  In the month to come we have half term; which seems crazy because we obviously only started term 30 seconds ago, and lots of plans to make, and still the occasional box to unpack.

John loves:

  • The golf trip to Majorca.
  • His brother and sister-in-law coming to visit.
  • Having built IKEA furniture for his studio, the actual building of it wasn’t so fun.
  • The start of the hockey season (and football and cricket on the telly)

Carie loves:

  • The trip to Yarndale
  • All the yarn that came home with her.
  • Seeing her first piece of published fiction appear in print
  • A long weekend pottering around with the children

Kitty loves:

  • Her birthday celebrations; many and ongoing
  • Learning to balance on her skateboard
  • the start of school.
  • rediscovering all her treasures as we put the craft cupboard to rights.

Elma loves:

  • getting to see her brother during school playtime.
  • being big enough to go hockey training.
  • magic tricks.
  • collecting huge bunches of autumn leaves.

Pip loves:

  • Mummy.
  • Climbing the Clent Hills.
  • Playing trains.
  • Waking up ridiculously early for his own private adventures while the rest of us are still asleep.

My little family, in September: