21.12.14

DEAR JOSEPHINE...





This seems a fitting way to end the year; to write you and Coralie each a letter. I think this will be the beginning of a new tradition for me. A place to reflect on how much you've grown and on all the wonderful things you've done this year. And the end of 2014 seems to be a good time to start such a tradition, it being the biggest year of both our lives in so many ways.

The beginning of this year was so hard my darling, so so hard. When your beautiful Grandpa died on December 27, 2013, our hearts broke. You weren't even two, yet you sensed something was wrong, that something had changed forever. I'm sure in the years to come we'll talk about those first days, and this first year, after Grandpa left this world. You'd never seen me cry before and yet you weren't scared or worried, just sweet and concerned and so kind. Always so kind.

I will forever be thankful for your kindness, my darling girl. And one day, when you're older, I'll thank you properly. Because I will carry the words you asked me, and still ask me, almost everyday in my heart always. 'How you feeling, Mama?' Never prompted or forced, always genuine and quiet and soft. And always followed with the biggest cuddles, kisses and 'Love you, Mama.'

We talk about Grandpa everyday, happy memories of fun times you two shared, and stories of the fun I had with him before you were born, when I was small. I know we'll talk about him always, and it heals my heart to do so; with you especially. You two had a special bond that was only going to grow into the most wonderful friendship. I think my Daddy had found his calling being your Grandpa; it was a role he took to so easily. And, after missing out on spending so much time with him when I was small, I was so excited to be able to be part of the relationship you two would have. It is the saddest thing that you won't get to share those adventures, make stories of your own together, play and laugh like I thought you would; like you should have. I cry about that so often.

We talk right now about how Grandpa is in a very special place, a wonderful happy place, but a place where we can't go. That he will always hear us if we want to talk to him; he will always catch the kisses we blow to him, and that when we look at the stars and the moon, we should take comfort in the knowledge that he is looking down on all of us, and that he will always protect you.

And keep singing this little song, like you do right now. I will always sing it with you, whenever we see the moon. And I know you'll teach it to Coralie as she grows.

I see the moon, the moon sees me. The moon sees the somebody I long to see.
I love the moon, the moon loves me. The moon loves the somebody I long to see.”

Of course, 2014 has also bought us the most wonderful gift. Your little sister. Oh, how you love her! While my tummy got bigger and bigger, you were so excited to get ever closer to meeting your new little brother or sister; helping me sort the baby clothes was one of your favourite past times, and we must have gone through those tiny pieces nearly every day. You were sure she was a boy, and when you came in to meet her, and I told you she was a girl, for a moment I could see the disappointment in your face. Then Coralie sighed and she reached out her little hand, and I saw you fall in love. In that tiny moment, I saw the awe in your eyes. It is a moment I will remember forever.

Always wanting to hold her, cuddle her, kiss her. Your 'little one', your 'darling'. You are the best big sister Josephine, and Coralie adores you. It's clear to us all. You can make her chuckle like no-one else and her eyes light up the moment she sees you. They have from that very first meeting.

You have grown so much this year Phiney. In every way. You're so big and strong and you love doing your press ups, when Daddy does his. You can run so fast and so far, and you have energy that is boundless.

You speak beautifully. And say the most wonderful, hilarious, clever, honest things. I write them down on a piece of paper in the kitchen draw and will record them here, in our journal, one day soon. Daddy and I don't ever want to forget them.

Every night we put your bottle in your bed, with one of your 'guys' pretending to drink it, for you to find when you get out of the bath. You laugh every time.

I think, if I let you, you'd eat a whole punnit of cherry tomatoes or a whole packet of malt loaf every day.

You ask when we're going on holiday again at least five times a week. I think beside the sea, on the beach is your favourite place in the world. And I think you'd happily invite your best friend, Oliver, to live forever in your bedroom so you two can always play games. You talk about him constantly.

Our beautiful Josephine, you are the most spirited little girl. You're stubborn and strong-willed, yet kind and generous and thoughtful and so sweet. And you're completely crackers, which I adore. My little fruitcake.

Yes, this year has been such a big one for you. And you've handled it all magnificently my darling. What wonderful adventures await you next year. What lessons you have to learn, and what lessons you will teach me along the way.

Merry Christmas little one, and may the New Year bring you only the most magical and happy of times.

I am so proud of you; so proud to be your Mama.

I love you, forever and always xxxx

17.12.14

thankful


One week today it will be Christmas Eve. And on that day it will be exactly a year since the last time I ever spoke to my Dad, the last time I saw his face on Skype; the last laughs we shared and our last goodbyes.

As the anniversary of his death gets closer, the grief and longing to see him again is palpable. I have found over the last year that it's the days before a big anniversary or special occasion that I find the hardest.

I find it harder than usual to not relive certain moments over and over again in my head. I fall asleep thinking about them and during the (albeit rare) moments of quiet during the day, my mind quickly wanders to those hardest of days. To the moment I heard what had happened, to the deep, dark silence that filled my car as my brother, sister and I travelled to Cornwall that same day to be with my Grandparents and the rest of my family; to his funeral – standing, looking at his coffin, speaking the words of my eulogy for him.

Come the day itself, I find strength I didn't think I could muster. I can smile as I think of my Dad's beautiful face and jokes he would crack. I find the dread I had about how I would feel, melt away. I've realised that the complete sadness, the heartbreak, the amount I miss my Dad, isn't greater on those 'significant' days. It's that way every day; some days are easier than others, of course, but it's there always. I replay those moments all the time. It's hard not to. I think about my Dad all day, every day. Happy thoughts, sad thoughts; smiles and tears.

In the summer, when we were driving back to Cornwall for our summer holidays, I spoke to Ben about the last time I had driven those roads. And Ben told me about how, when I told him that Dad had died, he wondered what the next year would hold; how I'd cope, whether I'd even find the energy to get out of bed and carry on. That the strength I, and my family, had shown was incredible, inspiring. That my Dad would be so proud of us all. I think of Ben's words often too, they help me hold my head high when I want to look down and cry.

I'm looking forward to the New Year like I never have before. I'm ready for 2014 to be over. To begin a new chapter. It's been the hardest year of my life. Learning to live without my Dad here beside me, seeing my best friend be heartbroken, moving away and starting a new chapter in her life, how hard things are for my brother right now and knowing of the sadness my sweet friend has to endure after loosing her precious babies; my young sister in law cope with the diagnosis of cancer and watching Ben's beloved Grandad pass away leaving his wife of 60 years. The list seems endless. But it has also been so wonderful. Coralie's arrival has bought such joy, and the happiness and laughter Josephine has bought us is something I will forever be thankful for. Planning my sister's wedding and seeing how happy she is, the birth of my Godson and watching my best friend create a beautiful home for her boys and find strength that is so inspiring, my sister in law getting the all clear and showing such bravery.

At this time of year it's important to reflect on all we have to be thankful for, and despite the heartbreak I've suffered over the last 12 months, I know I have many beautiful things to be grateful for. And I plan to focus on those. I am thankful for my girls and for Ben, who has been so strong when he too has been so sad. For my family and such good friends. For a safe home, good health and yummy food on the table. Knowing that my Dad was so happy when he left this Earth, and being free of any anger that so many have to suffer when someone they love so much dies so suddenly.

This week has bought such sadness around the world. The tragedy is Sydney, which unfolded just round the corner from where my Dad was living this time last year, and the truly horrific and soul-wrenching events in Pakistan yesterday. When the world faces such hatred and heartbreak, we must focus on what is good.

Finally, I am thankful for you. The support I have received from my little online community, via my blog and IG, has been incredible. And whilst I've had some messages questioning sharing my grief and my feelings through this medium, I remain grateful for the opportunity to do so. To have some of you reach out with your own experiences, to have you all offer such kindness and happy thoughts.

With the New Year comes new plans for this space. I've barely held on to it this year, but that's ok. It has been a year to begin healing, to be quiet and to reflect. But I feel that now is time to start writing more. To take more pictures, and I'm looking forward to getting back to blogging more regularly after Christmas.

I am, as ever, inspired by my Dad and will keep moving forward, keep seizing the day and new opportunities.

Much love to you all, and thank you xxx

5.12.14

FIRST BABY SHOES






When Karolina from Polish brand First Baby Shoes contacted me about road-testing one of their shoe-making kits, I jumped at the chance. This sweet little bundle includes all the materials (natural leather, warm lamb's wool lining, cotton laces and soft, skid-resistant soles) you need to make your baby's first pair of shoes.
 
I chose Model Rie for Coralie, as the soft lamb's wool looked perfect for keeping her toes warm in the depths of winter, and I loved the beautiful green of this leather. The kit even includes needles and special thread, as well as instructions on how to stitch the boots together. I'm a sewer, but had never used the recommended stitch before and, whilst the paper instructions were easy to follow once you knew the stitch, it was the really helpful tutorial videos on the website that got me sewing in just a few minutes. With the help of these online guides, even a non-sewer would be able to make these boots very easily.

I couldn't believe how quickly the boots came together, and it was really lovely to have a little project again - my first since I had Coralie. My First Shoes would make such a lovely and unique gift to a new Mama, and are the ideal relaxing crafty task to fill those evenings while you're waiting for baby to arrive. If you're looking for a last-minute Christmas present, these would be perfect. Plus they have free worldwide shipping until Christmas Eve!

As Karolina wrote, "First Baby Shoes believe shoe-making can be a great way to express love. We are sure first steps in our shoes will be unforgettable and each unique pair will stay with the family forever."

We will certainly cherish ours forever, and I'm pretty sure these Mama-made boots will be gracing the feet of our grandchildren too.

I was sent these boots to review, and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

6.11.14

MONTHLY PORTRAIT




Finally posting Coralie's five month portrait. I took these photos a couple of weeks ago, but life right now is busy and time is zipping by like I've never known.

Better late than never though, I'm determined to keep the monthly portraits coming.

At five months our sweet Coralie has changed so much. She's sitting (mostly...some days she's really good, others she's all over the place!) and says 'Da' when she sees Ben. She's started doing this tiny little wave when we say hello and bye bye; she's started eating food. Avacado on wholemeal pita breads, banana porridge and spaghetti bolognaise being her current favourites. Oh, and yoghurt. The girl loves her yoghurt. Seeing her enjoy food as much as Josephine is a real joy. At some point I promise to write a post about our second journey into Baby Led Weaning. I'm so much more confident this time round and it really is so lovely to see our girls eating together and loving every mouthful.

Coralie still adores the water, and splashes her way through every bath time. She properly dances when she's in the door bouncer and Ben puts music on. It's so cute.

Her eyes light up when she sees Ben, and even in the middle of the night she cranes her head to see him in the dark. She gives me proper, big cuddles - arms round my neck, pulling me in - especially before I put her to bed. But mostly, mostly she is infatuated with her big sister. Josephine can make her chuckle a big, hearty chuckle, and it's the best sound. Coralie's gaze rarely leaves Josephine, and that girl is such a brilliant big sister. She talks to Coralie in a special voice and calls her 'little one'. These girls, we're so lucky.

During those first days after Coralie was born, I looked at our girls and wondered if they'd be like my sister and I when we were small. Me (just like Josephine) always on the go, pushing harder, impatient and Dora happy to sit and watch (things have changed a bit since then!) But I've been proved wrong. Coralie is so like Josephine. Shrieking with impatience at not being able to do things yet, always wanting to move; it's impossible to keep her still.

Our tiny little pixie. Making us all smile, everyday.

29.10.14

INSPIRED: amy & ivor

It's hard not to be impressed with the amazing success Alice at Amy and Ivor has had. I've written about her beautiful Moccasins here, and whilst Josephine spent the summer wearing hers everywhere (getting compliments and enquiries about where they're from wherever we went) Coralie's are taking her into the winter and look gorgeous. This tiny pair of the palest grey are now a little too small, but we have a cinnamon pair just waiting to be tried out, thank goodness.

As a newly launched businesswoman (that sounds kinda funny!), I'm so taken by how Alice has taken her company to the next level. She's a really lovely person and has a wonderful product, and is inspiring me so much right now.



23.10.14

40/52


"A portrait of our daughters, once a week every week in 2014".

Josephine: Reading a Dutch magazine that incudes some of my photographs! She was rather bemused to see herself in a magazine and hasn't stopped 'reading' it.  

 
Coralie: Grabbing, reaching, eating her toes. Always.  
 
Taking part in Jodi's 52 Project.
 

1.10.14

NELL MALLIA PHOTOGRAPHY

Last summer I attended Tim Coulson's workshop in London and it changed the way I thought about the pictures I was taking. A real passion for photography had grown inside me over the previous couple of years and, listening to Tim, I realised that this was something I'd love to do professionally. I decided on the way home from London that I was going to snap, snap, snap away and one day I'd launch my own business and see where it would take me.

Today is that day, and I'm so happy to be introducing Nell Mallia Photography.

Since that hot July day, my life has changed in ways I could never have anticipated. Not in a million years. The following month we found out we were pregnant again. Then my Dad died, and then Coralie arrived. It's been a year like no other I've experienced. The highest of highs and lowest of lows. But through it all I knew I wanted, at some point, to pursue this photography dream. And as the weeks after my Dad died turned to months, and the babymoon haze lifted, I started taking pictures again and made a start on my website.

Inspired, always, by my beautiful Dad. By his passion for life. And by wanting to make him proud. And by wanting to be as inspirational a parent for our girls, as he was for me.

As with any big step and new venture, it's exciting and terrifying all at the same time. I'd love to hear what you think, and would really appreciate it if you could hope over to Facebook and like my page.

Here's to seizing life, living it to the full and following your dreams.

30.9.14

39/52



"A portrait of our daughters, once a week every week in 2014".

Josephine: Sometimes an over-exposed shot is actually rather glorious. My girl in the sunshine.
 
Coralie: Already so used to having her photo taken - by me or Josephine!
 
Taking part in Jodi's 52 Project.
 

23.9.14

38/52


"A portrait of our daughters, once a week every week in 2014".

Josephine: Josephine in Autumn, 2014. Josephine in Autumn, 2013 here.

Coralie: Such a frowner. Just like her Mama.
 
Taking part in Jodi's 52 Project.

19.9.14

INSPIRED: robin & mould

My sweet friend Amy, half of the super cool Robin and Mould, gave the girls some of their awesome cushions when Coralie was born and they have become favourites in our household. Josephine takes her hedgehog cushion to bed every night, and Coralie's cat regularly takes part in tea parties, trips to the 'park' and boat journeys across the sea.

Just a little shout out for an awesome Mama (and Papa) doing such awesome things creatively. The beginning of a new series celebrating some of the brilliant designers, photographers and writers who are inspiring me right now.

Check out their shop here. Beautiful colours and prints and perfect presents for Christmas.