Advent and new traditions.

Wow it seems like such a long time since I last managed to write a post but I am very excited about this one. Now Junebug is a bit bigger I have been thinking of some Christmas traditions to start for our family. One I’ve seen floating around on Facebook and Pinterest is the Kindness Elves. They are cute little elves which appear on 1st December and suggest activities to do to make something or help someone out each day. What fun! I wanted something which would build the excitement of Christmas, especially as we aren’t ones for having the decorations up super early. These are perfect as they can be used to talk about the Christmas story as well as thinking about being kind and generous to others.

The trouble I’ve had is that Junebug, at 17 months, is still too young to join in a lot of the ideas I’ve seen suggested online for the Kindness Elves so I’ve had to try and think of simpler ones for us to do. Also she quite often would rather just play with the Elves than do the activity but I usually manage to get a bit of involvement from her.

Here are some pictures of the things we have been doing so far:

The Kindness Elves' first suggestion was for us to make decorations to send to Junebug's grandparents. We don't see them very often so we thought they would like a little surprise in the post.

The Kindness Elves’ first suggestion was for us to make decorations to send to Junebug’s grandparents. We don’t see them very often so we thought they would like a little surprise in the post.

Junebug trying to wander off with the elves to play.

Junebug trying to wander off with the elves to play.

Putting the elves in her pencil case so we could do some colouring.

Putting the elves in her pencil case so we could do some colouring.

Phoebe coloured the snowflakes (I helped) and then stuck shiny sequins onto dots of glue. I added a photo of her for the centre.

Junebug coloured the snowflakes (I helped) and then stuck shiny sequins onto dots of glue. I added a photo of her for the centre.

We lined the elves up on my knee to watch us finishing our craft.

We lined the elves up on my knee to watch us finishing our craft.

The finished product!

The finished product!

We put the little elves to bed in their basket. Junebug likes to make snoring noises while doing this and every time she spots the basket is on the mantelpiece.

We put the little elves to bed in their basket. Junebug likes to make snoring noises while doing this and every time she spots the basket on the mantelpiece.

The Christmas Elves found Junebug's instruments so we could practise the songs for her nativity with the childminder.

The Christmas Elves found Junebug’s instruments so we could practise the songs for her nativity with the childminder.

The Christmas Elves got some things out so we could make a tray of yummy and useful things for her babysitter while Daddy and I went to the cinema.

The Christmas Elves got some things out so we could make a tray of yummy and useful things for her babysitter while Daddy and I went to the cinema.

Junebug put the biscuits on the plate, found the remotes and drew on Mummy's letter.

Junebug put the biscuits on the plate, found the remotes and drew on Mummy’s l

The elves let Junebug have half a cookie for being so helpful putting the things on the tray.

The elves let Junebug have half a cookie for being so helpful putting the things on the tray.

Junebug was feeling rather poorly so dragged a blanket onto the sofa for a cuddle. The elves came too obviously.

Junebug was feeling rather poorly so dragged a blanket onto the sofa for a cuddle. The elves came too obviously.

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We are thoroughly enjoying the Kindness Elves and all their lovely Christmassy ideas. At the weekend we are going to make crispy cakes for the church stall and decorate our very own Christmas tree. Other ideas I’ve had for the coming days of advent are making cookies for all the children at the childminders, taking groceries and a treat round to one of her friends house and packing away some of the toys she is too grown up for (sob!) for a future sibling.

If you have any ideas which we could borrow we would be really grateful. Happy advent all!

31st October.

Ah the 31st October… a date I have dreaded ever since I moved into my own home. I hate Halloween ūüė¶ It genuinely upsets me to see children dressed up as devils and and celebrating demons and death. I know people see me as a killjoy and most think it’s all just a bit of fun but I can’t agree, especially after having my own child. Jesus is the light of the world he has saved, He has defeated hell and Satan and yet they now seem to have their own holiday I’m supposed to be OK with. Unfortunately the evil one has a very real grip on this world and tries to steal people away from the God who loves them. I worry that by trivialising all the darkness and dressing up as evil things we are inviting him to creep in. I want to teach Junebug to stay away from these things, to draw close to the God who loves her and promises all of us light and love in this world and in his heaven.

I have always ummed and ahhed about answering the door to trick or treaters on Halloween. I don’t want to condone this celebration but I don’t want to be the stuffy neighbour that doesn’t give out sweets, or miss the opportunity to reach out to my community. Every year it’s a big dilemma. Some years I’ve hidden in the dark, others given in and others I’ve made plans to go out to avoid it. However with the arrival of my own child this has become impossible and the need to make a long standing decision became more pressing.

Then a wonderful friend wrote a blog post which could have been from my own mind – she felt the same way about Halloween and her children. And she had an idea, Thanksgiving. In the UK we don’t celebrate this holiday, we don’t really share the history behind it, but a holiday where we count our blessings and are thankful for love and family and all God has given us? I’m in! My friend’s idea was to replace a Halloween party with a Thanksgiving one; decorations, games, food, everything.

Luckily I saw this post in just enough time to join in, I bought some lovely food, invited friends round and Junebug and I made decorations for the window.

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DSC06768DSC06794 Making stained glass leaves for the window and sticking decorations on our leaf wreath. Excellent fine motor skills practise too.

Unfortunately our family was struck down by a horrible sickness bug the day before Thanksgiving so the food, party and company part of our plans had to be cancelled. But we still gave sweets out to the children who knocked on our door and asked if they wanted to write on a leaf to go in the window; something they were thankful for. Several wrote sweets!

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Our window on Thanksgiving. The neighbourhood children added to the leaves saying what they were thankful for.

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DSC06811  Our window on Thanksgiving and the decorations Junebug helped make.

I am now really looking forward to the 31st of October each year. Especially as Junebug gets older and can understand more and make more decorations. It felt really nice to celebrate the goodness and blessings of which we have so many!

Branching out.

Life is busy and exciting at the moment. Not only is Junebug becoming more delightful and more trying as each new day comes, the weather changing and reminding us that Christmas is coming and usual family life stretching me in a million different directions. But I have been taking official bookings for ‘Photography by Helen’. I’ve decided to give it a go and share what I love doing with others. Starting up is fun; you get to design CDs, you get to offer bargain prices and you get to practise every shoot with your own child first so you get it right. It’s also scary; you have to big yourself up, you have to decide how much to charge people and you have to not act like a nervous wreck when it comes to shoot day. I’m struggling a lot with that last one.

We’re taking it slow, me and my new venture. I don’t want to race too fast and end up in a heap with unhappy customers and¬†a neglected¬†family. It amazes me how time consuming it can be researching locations and planning set up, getting together props and equipment and don’t even ask me about the editing! But I really love being creative in this way and hope the lovely families I work with will love it too.

Here are a few of the practise photos of Junebug before a fun family shoot in a nearby park. I think autumnal outdoor settings are my favourite, I could do some everyday. Junebug does not agree and got quite grumpy when she couldn’t just play with the bricks.

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I am looking forward to some winter snow too – imagine the possibilities! Watch this space.

I’ll do anything…

Over the past few days I have been constantly humming “I’ll do anything, for you dear anything…” to myself. If you don’t know that song you should watch Oliver, immediately. It’s a bit annoying really but it’s one of those songs that really gets stuck in your mind, and any little thing can make you think of it and gets you singing again.

“I’ll do anything,
For you dear anything,
For you mean everything to me.”

I’ve been singing it to Junebug, and you know what – I mean it. There is such a strong protective force which comes from being a parent. I sometimes think I gained super powers when I gave birth. I’ve been known to catch toys which are rolling away when I sure didn’t have the spacial awareness to do that before. I’ve reached across whole rooms to stop her from falling and wiped away snot and tears with my bare hands. It’s love compelling me to be there for her.

“I know that
I’ll go anywhere
For your smile, anywhere
For your smile, ev’rywhere¬†I’d see.”

Unfortunately the reason the song came into my head is that I came across something I can not do.

We were playing in the garden and Junebug merrily led me up towards her swing, which she loves. Seeing some cobwebs I went to find a stick to brush them off with, I cannot stand cobwebs so I found a long stick. However as I went back closer to the swing I saw there was not just the cobwebs to contend with but actual, living, moving, eight-legged, able to dangle and come and get me spiders. Trying to put on a brave face I tentatively batted at a few but as soon as one descended on its web, quickly, I couldn’t handle it a moment longer. Discarding the stick and grabbing the toddler a made I swift beeline for the safer end of the garden. So there… I cannot face spiders for you Junebug and for that I am very sorry.

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How could I refuse that face anything? Sadly I had to and kept having to distract her from wandering back over to the spider-infested swing until it was time for tea, boy did I feel like a failure. Luckily she was quite happy throwing all the plastic animals I’d put on a towel to dry back into the water we’d washed them in.

“I’d risk ev’rything
For one kiss, everything,

Yes, I’d do anything¬†

Anything?!

Anything for you!!”

Being a tiny bit more serious I do mean it – I would, or at least I hope I could, fight off wild beasts, lift cars or jump from bridges for my little one. I’m sure other parents out there would agree to feeling a fierce need to defend and shelter our babies. And making her happy seems to be my life’s pursuit. I pull faces, sing songs, play fight and entertain like I have never had the patience to before. A kiss is her greatest reward but I often settle for a clap, a cuddle or one of her sweet laughs.

What emotional highs and lows we parents experience!

Orange Leaves and Graffiti.

I’ve been quiet recently… I knew I had this post to come and was saving my time for it. This weekend I was lucky enough to be able to invite myself along to a photo shoot with some other photographers from my city. It’s the first time I’d ever done something like this so I was quite nervous but once I found my feet I really enjoyed myself. Arranged by Andy¬†of Andy Douglas Photography there were 5 models, some vintage bikes and plenty of scenery to get my teeth into. And even more valuable… lots of other photographers to chat to, watch and get tips from.

All the photos were taken with my Sony A35; ISO 100, f/2.4-1.8 and varying shutter speeds due to the changing light and clouds, I set my wb to cloudy.

Urban feeling.

As soon as we arrived we were faced with a mega wall crammed with graffiti. Though colourful I like the extra urban feel from the black and white, especially with Jasmine and Lucy’s pale skin and dark hair. I also liked the juxtaposition of the trees and the wall.

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The wheels.

These electric bikes and scooters were a unique surprise very much appreciated, especially when I got to take one for a spin around the park.

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Embracing Autumn.

The shots I came for! I was so eager to do some photos with the fallen leaves and colour-changing trees. I love the results, Saffron’s auburn hair and striking dress added to the natural beauty of the trees.

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Hair of red.

More autumnal shots this time Amelia’s hair really stands out against the trees (I love the sweeping on either side of her face in the first picture).

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Sweet Innocence

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I just love the simple pureness of a baby’s eyes. This photo is my entry into the I heart faces¬†monthly competition. It’s my second time entering this and I’m so excited as it was loads of fun last time. I saw some wonderful photos and some new blogs/photographers to follow. This time the category is Beautiful Eyes. I think Junebug has beautiful eyes… she has her daddy’s eyes.¬†

She is standing near the window which allowed me to capture the catchlight in her eyes. It is shot on my Sony SLT-A35 at ISO 200,  f/1.8 and shutter speed 1/250 second. I edited it a little in photoshop elements, just evening out the shadow across her face. 

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Just look at those eyelashes! A thoughtful moment Рprobably wondering how she can create more mischief! 

Thanks for looking I hope you enjoyed the photos.

Check out other entries by clicking this button:

<a href=”http://www.iheartfaces.com/”><img title=”I Heart Faces Photo Challenge Submission” src=”http://www.iheartfaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/I-Heart-Faces-button.jpg&#8221; alt=”Photo Challenge Submission” /></a>
Read more at http://www.iheartfaces.com/how-it-works/grab-a-button/#pKK3KZfT5WjORw8K.99

Praha

I love photographing people, especially children and families, but sometimes places can be fun to capture too. I’m way more inspired to take photos of places when I’m travelling. Maybe because that’s quite a rare thing! A couple of years ago, just after we found out we were expecting, we took an autumn getaway to Prague. What a brilliant place and amazing holiday we had, with lots of sightseeing, good hearty food, photo taking for me and beer for Luke. The days usually consisted of getting up and heading into the city to do some touristy activities and grabbing some lunch, going back to the hotel for an afternoon nap (indulging first trimester needs) and then going back into town for a meal and evening festivities. I had not long had my DSLT, shot in jpeg and edited with GIMP so please forgive the amatuerish results, I wanted to share something a little different.

Lovelocks - the bridges all over Europe are often covered in padlocks which couples write their name on.

Lovelocks – the bridges all over Europe are often covered in padlocks which couples write their name on.

A beautiful hidden bridge.

A beautiful hidden bridge.

Charles Bridge #1

Charles Bridge #1

Charles Bridge #2 I made poor Luke stay out till 1am so I could get the bridge with as few people as possible.

Charles Bridge #2
I made poor Luke stay out till 1am so I could get the bridge with as few people as possible.

A memorial for the end of communism.

A memorial for the end of communism.

Inside the astronomical clock tower. The most interesting lift shaft I have ever seen.

Inside the astronomical clock tower. The most interesting lift shaft I have ever seen.

From the top of the astronomical clock tower.

From the top of the astronomical clock tower.

Charles Bridge #3

Charles Bridge #3

The John Lennon Wall

The John Lennon Wall

I couldn't resist including this one - one of my favourite photos of me and Luke!

I couldn’t resist including this one – one of my favourite photos of me and Luke!