Author Archives: annielouise

About annielouise

Professional Photographer serving Hampshire, Dorset and Surrey

Cyber holiday meets actual holiday…

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Yesterday my ‘cyber holiday’ was introduced to my actual holiday. We loaded the car till there was barely room breath too deeply, we strapped in the kids whose excitement was beyond words and we left the cat and the fish in the safe hands of our neighbour, Mr Parrott (which was very kind of him indeed since their last holiday was sadly followed by an emergency trip to the vets and the demise of their much loved guinea pig who had been in our care for 5 days).

This particular holiday has been a long time coming for us, much needed time out after some very hard working months… We really need it! It is also much needed by the two families who have joined us and having their company is a real treat! Six adults, 5 children amongst us, 3 static caravans and the most beautiful part of Devon, happy days. The night however – not so great.

This is our first attempt at getting our 3 and 5 year old to share a room, going to bed two hours later than their usual 7-7 routine won’t have helped, tummy ache from too many treats On day 1 won’t have helped, and waking up in unfamiliar surroundings and wanting to ‘go home’ absolutely, definitely didn’t help. Much fuss and nonsense, cuddles, pep talks and calpol later the boy eventually slept on the sofa with me. Lucky boy. I did not sleep so much as drifted from one uncomfortable position to the other.

On the cyber holiday front it’s hard, really hard, to actually, truly disconnect. I’ve been ‘inactive’ on Facebook for a week now and it’s been truly refreshing. A friends therapist once told her ‘if you don’t want to hear about other people’s views, opinions, lives, then don’t feed the conversation’ I’ve interpreted this advice to include the Internet… We constantly feed others ability to change the way we feel by sharing ‘statuses’ and inviting their critique on our lives. We make statements about how we are currently feeling, behaving and acting in ways that are unprecedented… Pre World Wide Web would you ever have walked into a pub and said out loud any of your last 10 Facebook status?

Anyway back to the present. We are here. We are happy even if we are all a little tired. We are together.

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Cyber holiday… Almost

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On Sunday I deactivated my Facebook account, putting my personal and business page into some sort of suspended animation, frozen, switched off, silent. Triggered by a long overdue need to unplug, some challenges in my business, some stresses in my personal life, the time had come, in anticipation of our family holiday, to silence the social networking beast.

It possibly seems hypocritical to have switched Facebook off and then to be writing a blog about it but this is exactly my point. The endless hours I wasted checking my Facebook page for notifications, messages, tags, @ mentions and new posts in the groups and pages I like, life was passing me by!

My children, if asked to draw a picture of me would probably draw the apple logo on my nose for wherever we are I’ve been hooked into the Facebook matrix via the apps on my phone and iPad. It’s a sorry state of affairs when your brain starts interpreting every situation, task, trial or experience as a Facebook status, check-in or photo comment. My reaction to the boy pulling some awesome new stunts on his scooter should be to applaud, congratulate, encourage and hug him, not check it in with some catchy status like “Annie Smith…’is watching the boy perfect new tricks on the super scooter’ at St James Park” he won’t remember the check-ins but he will remember his amazing achievements being ignored whilst Mummy tip taps away on her technology AGAIN!

I’ve justified it to myself all this time because I have a business page on there, I must always be available in case a potential client needs to contact me, simply not true. I have a website, an email address, a phone number and a contact form, they can contact me 24/7 if they want to, they don’t need me to be on Facebook to do it and in fact it causes more issues if I am on there… Heaven help me if I update my status to say I’m having a glass of red and a take out when someone is waiting for their gallery to be uploaded…. Bring on the messages headed ‘I see you’re online, is my gallery ready yet!’

So for now I’m out of it. I’m going to try and stay out of it at least till the end of half term, and if/when I do go back it will be on a very limited basis!

White feathers, dreams and things…

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I’m not a religious person, I used to be, I was raised catholic but that’s not what I want to write about today, the point is I’m not religious but I do believe in the human spirit and that it is more than just the human being it exists in at any one time.

My mum died on 12th November 2010 (12/11/10 interesting number sequence!) after a lengthy battle with multiple sclerosis, before her death I used to dream about it. For as much as a decade before it actually happen I would dream of her dying, it was never in horrific circumstances but it was always very real and very, very sad, I often woke up literally sobbing.

At some point in the last decade I was also told that some people believe that time is a very human concept, evolved by man to make sense of things but that past, present and future may not exist in the same context on the, for want of a better word, spiritual plane.

Somewhere in my head I bought that belief together with the dreams and developed the idea that somehow, on some level the dreams were my mums way of preparing me for the inevitable, for the absolute certainty that my Mum would die and that I couldn’t stop it. I have never really concluded whether it was my subconscious creating that idea of whether I believed somehow that my mum was influencing those dreams on some spiritual level but I didn’t matter as they served their purpose and when her time came it was a peaceful and loving time for our family.

The reason for writing this post however is because I don’t dream of her very often these days but I did last night, in the dream she was alive and not as sick as she had been the last decade of her life but was still frail and the MS still made her vulnerable. Aside from a weird start to the dream that involved my dad, some bats (the flying kind!) and the garage of our old house, it was a simple dreaming experience. I went into her room to find her falling out of bed (something that happened many times in real life), I caught her just in time and put her gently back into a comfortable position to rest and then I woke up.

I woke content to have spent time with my Mum albeit in a dream but also highly attuned to what day it was, you see today my husband, who I love enormously, had an operation to remove his gallbladder, he was very nervous, as was I and although very common he has had more than his fair share of medical problems and we both just wanted it over and done with.

I quickly moved on with getting us to the hospital only mentioning the dream in passing to him and we sat around and waited 4hrs until it was his turn, I was duly sent on my way and told the nurses would call me when he was out of theatre and so I headed to the car park to wait at home. As I got into the car I noticed something on the windscreen, a small, perfect, pure white feather. And I knew that everything was going to be alright.

As I said I’m not a religious person but I do believe in the human spirit and somehow, I am certain, my Mum looked after him for me today, thanks Mum x

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Internet friends, they’re real people you know!

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A long, long time ago, in the late summer of 2007, I joined an Internet forum for pregnant women, in particular I joined a thread call ‘Due March 2008′ at the time I was expecting my second baby, having lost the first following a miscarriage at 18 weeks it was with some hesitation that I plonked myself amongst this group of random women all expecting babies at the same time as me. If I’d been told then that I’d still be in touch with most of them almost 5 years later I would never have believed it, but believe it you must because the ‘Due March 2008′ mummies have become great friends!

Having guided each other haphazardly through our pregnancies we quite literally laboured together going online in the early hours to check whether our babies were actually on the way and immediately afterwards sharing our birth stories, some good, some traumatic, all different and each of us finding our lives changed forever!

Amongst us there was a miracle when one of the babies was born an astonishing 17 weeks early in the November of 2007, there have been a number of weddings in the years since, some of us have gone on to have more children, we have seen relationships break down and new loves found, some of us have moved from one end of the country to the other and some have started new businesses and our lives are unrecognisable from how they were when we first met in 2007!

Of course saying that we ‘met’ isn’t really true, you see we haven’t met, well not all of us, some of the girls met up when the March ’08 babies were still babies and others amongst us have met one to one with those in our local area but since we are spread to the furthest corners of the united kingdom getting us all together isn’t easy! Today however, I had the great pleasure of meeting one of them for the first time!

We’ve chatted online for so many years, I’ve talked to these girls about things I wouldn’t even mention to my best ‘real life’ friends and I’ve looked forward to meeting them all for a really long time! So today one of them stopped in to visit me in Southampton on her way to Portsmouth after a long drive from Llanelli in Wales, no sooner was the door open than our two girls, just weeks apart in age but never having met before, had scampered off to play on the trampoline together as if they had been friends for years!

My husband has always questioned the time I spend chatting online to what he calls ‘strangers’ but after today I am confident once again that Internet ‘friends’ are in fact just as special, valuable and real as those friends we see face to face and talk to every day!

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One of those perfect days… In words and pictures :)

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You know how in the summer holidays it can all get a bit much? Overly hectic, overly planned days with oodles of people, trying to please everyone but actually pleasing no one? Well today was NOTHING like that!

Here’s how today panned out… In our lounge we have this huge canvas made from a collage of iPhone images taken in instagram and hipstamatic (see pic below) and the kids love it so I asked them to point to where they wanted to go and after pointing to a few in achievable locations (4hr drives etc!) they unanimously settled on Lepe Beach in the New Forest!

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So I literally threw a picnic together, covered them in sun lotion, chucked some drinks, spare clothes and a picnic rug in the car and off we headed! Little did I know that Lepe was hosting a Hampshire and Isle f Wight wildlife trust roadshow today so on arrival we were met with a friend of small marquees and lots of fun activities! Within minutes the kids were making wands and drawing round sea creatures, diving into paddling pools filled with balls and sock worms (!)

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We went down to the cafe and had chips and ice cream which we gobbled up as a real treat since I’ve been doing the #myfitnesspal thing and have steered clear of treats for way too long, then we hit the beach, the tide was out so the kids loved that the rocks were swarming with tiny crabs and gorgeous shells, we collected bags full and the sea was so warm! We paddled our toes and dug in the sand!

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Once we headed up to the park the kids decided to join in the story time activity and I have to say that the amazing Michael O’leary was a fantastic story teller, with singing bowls, bag pipes, whistles, flutes and noise boxes! Oh it was so captivating! My 2 and 4 year old were utterly spell bound!

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You can imagine the kids were quite done in by this point and turning pink in the sun so laden with shells and empty picnic bag we headed home and spent the rest of the day painting the shells to make butterflies on ribbons which we hung from our tree, just blissful, a perfect day, making memories, smiling loads :) hope your day was great too! X

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Step back and let them play!

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So the short people that live upstairs have been arguing a little bit lately. She wants ALL her toys left alone and only played with when SHE wants to, SHE also wants access to all of HIS toys and refuses to understand that it works both ways. HE on the other hand wants to play with whatever she is playing whether it’s hers, his or the cats! Quite often they play nicely for 5 minutes then a fight ensues over the ‘best’ toy that they both want!

I’m tired of it to tell the truth and my response ranges from roaring with anger and telling them both of, to accusing whoever looks the guiltiest to ignoring them both in the hope that they will resolve it without loss of limb or life!

Being outdoors helps, I can sit in my office and watch from a distance and they often play better if I’m not there to go running to with tall tales about who started what but I still have to be close by otherwise he hits her with a golf {toy} club and she pushed him over. When it’s raining they drive me nuts, I encouraging them playing together and his two year old imagination is just starting to take shape but as she wonders off into the world of fairies and princesses he wants to battle dragons as a superhero. Boys and girls are SO different!

So the lesson for her at the moment is to respect his spaces, his things and the need for him to be allowed to learn to play on his own. The lesson for his is that his sister is not a boy, she doesn’t want to be a knight or fight or climb. The lesson for me…. Know when to step in and know when to step out… I’m still learning!

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Graduating aged 4… Am I ready for her to start school?

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Ok so she graduated from preschool Friday, it was VERY cute, they all looked super in their royal blue cap and gowns, they smiled, giggled, collected their ‘Diplomas’ and sang a few songs for the adoring parents and carers gathered around, there was a local press photographer there and every adult present had either a camera or camera phone pointed at their child, me included!

She has loved preschool and has transformed from a shy and quiet nearly 3 year old who I often had to leave in tears, to a confident and cheeky 4 year old with a gaggle of girlfriends and repertoire of kids songs and silly games, I’m proud of her, she’s amazing, she starts big (infants) school in 8 weeks!

Am I ready for her to start school? I find myself looking way back to my own childhood at times like these, my own Mum was struggling with multiple sclerosis when I was 4 and I had 3 older sisters and a workaholic Dad. My mum didn’t (couldn’t) take me to my first day at school, a friends mum did, I distinctly remember that day, my parents also we’re the kind who never got round to labelling my clothes (I’ve already ordered hundreds of iron in clothes tags and labels for books, bags and lunch boxes!) and I hated the teachers reminding me that they should! I never missed school, my sister was the sickly one so I went everyday because whatever was wrong with me was never as bad as what was wrong with her…. I even had to go in at lunch time on my 8th birthday after spending the morning in hospital having a retainer removed following a dreadful bike accident 2 months earlier!

So I plan on being all the things I think she needs me to be and I hope that I can get organised enough to not be the one whose child ALWAYS forgets their PE kit, I want to help her with homework and not let her leave it till the last minute like I used to, I want her to make new friends and understand that having one best friend isn’t necessary!

I know, of course, that she won’t actually need me as much as I think she will, she’s clever and she won’t struggle academically but I want her to always be happy, am I the only one going into this stage remembering how cruel children can be? Perhaps I’m over thinking it, I normally do! So anyway, enough rambling, better get some activities and play dates sorted for the summer otherwise we won’t survive the next 8 weeks!

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Time flies….

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My daughter is 4, she graduate from preschool next week… Graduates…. What’s that all about? Since when did 4 year olds get so tangled up in pomp and ceremony? She’s thrilled and excited of course, choosing what to wear under her gown and mortar board thingy… She’s practicing songs but it’s all a bit secretive ready for the big reveal! Me…. Well I just keep getting a big lump in my throat, no idea why, it seems ridiculous, we knew this would happen, our becoming a toddler then a little girl, wise beyond her years! Oh hear I go again again, welling up at the thought of it… What am I like! Oh and sorry for not blogging for the last few months!

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Creating a timeline for our children

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Facebook timeline, it’s occurred to me that my children will grow up to find that their Mum has kept a detailed chronological record of their lives from their birth (my status March 08 reads: Willow Heidi Smith, 1hr 24 min old, she arrived 6th March at 1.55am, she’s amazing) through to other major events (when my Mum passed away in November 2010 I wrote: few people have the privilege of being able to hold their loved ones as they gently pass from this world into the next, we love you Mum and we are all so grateful to have been together today, my heart is aching, such a beautiful and gentle mother, watch over us x x x x)

I’m starting to weigh up the pros and cons of this, on the plus side it means they will have a detailed window into their Mum and Dads lives, where we went (through all the ‘check-in’s) to how they behaved as infants but then I started to worry! If this is going to be there for them to read do I celebrate the positives enough or do I spend too much time moaning about sleepless nights and teething? Do I share things they will be mortified to read as young adults or am I recording memories that would otherwise slip away into the past?

As I mentioned above I lost my own Mum in 2010 and one of the overwhelming feelings I have is that I didn’t know her well enough, I mean I did obviously know her very well but I find myself wondering what she was like as a child, I can only guess at the things she would have ‘liked’ on Facebook, though to be fair she wasn’t much interested in technology so probably would never have used it even if she’d been able to (she had progressive MS for 32 years!).

So when my own children look back on my timeline, either with me or after I’m gone what will they be gaining from it? Will it reveal the real me or will it only show the version of me I choose to portray online? We all do a bit of a PR job on ourselves online… Some write with such melodrama that you’d never recognise their calm exterior on the street, others with charisma that far outperforms their face to face contact, I’ve known friends describe themselves in ways that are completely alien to me, but is this perception or reality?

My children will never know a world without touch screen, social networking, wireless technology, they will be different adults because of this… Make no mistake this is changing all the rules of social interaction! I’m sure some much smarter people are already studying these ideas and writing about them so I won’t claim to be an expert on human nature or psychology but I do know that relationships are built and developed based on trust, knowledge of one another and shared interests… On the one hand social networking has all the potential to accelerate the way humans form bonds and develop friendships, on the other it is so wide open for abuse it’s frightening!

My husband doesn’t do social networking (yet! He didn’t ‘do’ mobile phones until about 2008!) and doesn’t suffer for it, he is still happy to actually talk to people face to face or on the telephone (oh that’s what those little smart boxes are we all carry!) whereas I never have time for that nonsense and arrange what I call my ‘real life’ though a range of tweets, direct messages and status updates. I’m going to make a mental note to revisit this post each year to see how things have developed!

As always I would love to know your thoughts?

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10 on Tuesday 21st February

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1. Seriously? It’s February 21st? Thanks goodness it’s a leap year because this 2012 lark is just flying by and we need all the extra days we can get! I swear they just went back to school after Christmas like yesterday but no, we’ve had half term already!

2. Our new porch is still not finished. The walls and door are up and the roof is getting their but it’s soooo slooooow! Our roofer lives next door, he makes great roofs, he makes them slooooowly! Oh well at least I have a dry dumping ground for the buggy, shoes and coats.

3. We have all been poorly again this week, hubby has the kind of flu symptoms that require play station 3 therapy (!) 3yr old is recovering from a tummy bug, the 1yr old is still teething (will it ever end! There should be a grown up tooth fairy to reward adults when their children get new teeth!) and I still have a sore throat which has never left since I had flu over a month ago!

4. In happier news, we have a holiday booked and I am so excited, if you like holidaying in this country then I cannot recommend south Devon highly enough, we are returning to Ladram Bay, my husband has holidayed their since he was a child and our own kids think its heaven on earth! Having a holiday booked is essential to my state of mind, I cling onto having something to look forward to!

5. The children’s birthday party is coming together, invitations have gone out to preschool friends today, husband has announced the party bag budget and I’ve been Pinteresting cake ideas! If you aren’t on Pinterest yet you must try it it’s sooooo addictive!

6. I need to find time to write a business plan, a proper one, not an overgrown to-do list! My photography business is steadily building up, much to my delight, but I have so many ideas and they will each take planning and preparation, if only I had a spare week to get it all written out properly?

7. Yesterday I ate utter rubbish ALL day! I must be premenstrual or something because I ate more cake, pastry and chocolate than any human reasonable should, I just couldn’t stop, a total carb craving all day! I am proud to say that I have NEVER been on a diet in my life and I am not about to start now but bloody hell do I need to stop and think about the sheer volume of junk I consume followed by days of not having time for breakfast or lunch, it’s just not sustainable!

8. I have felt the warmth of the sun on my back he last few days! Isn’t it amazing how that feeling is like an injection of endorphins or whatever those feel good critters inside us are called! Sunshine makes me happy. I may have to move our little family to warmer lands! Great that the sun stays up longer though, blue skies and sunshine at 5:15pm yesterday so not sure why all the cars felt the need to have their lights on?

9. The 3yr old is getting interested in writing, she loves to copy letters and words and trace dots so I found a dotty font on the computer and have printed a load of sheets with words and sentences for her, it got me thinking though what level they are supposed to be at when they start school? She starts in September and will be 4 and a half by then, hopefully writing her name and some other words confidently… Is that good enough… Is that something they’d rather we didn’t bother teaching them yet? She has a hunger for learning!

10. I need To find a hairstyle that actually suits me and doesn’t require hours of styling, I had planned on a trip to the salon yesterday but time ran away with me again and I didn’t get round to it, which is probably a good thing as I had planned to ask for ‘something shaggy, that looks ok if I just flop out of bed and out the door!’ my standards have slipped way too far… I need to put a little glamour back in my life…. Lip gloss and red knickers just aren’t enough!

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