2/52 {on the edge}

I probably need to put in a disclaimer that I love and adore my children. I really do. But I am tired. Physically, emotionally and spiritually drained from being their 24/7 beck-and-call girl for the past two months. I know that going back to school will just be a slightly different version of hard work, and I’ll miss the big boys when they are away each day, but I am also very aware that this mother is at breaking point and needs a little space right now. Just a little.

Oh, I don’t have high standards. I don’t expect to be achieving any of that elusive ‘me-time’ or such craziness while everyone is at home with me, but being able to unpack the whole dishwasher at one time or put on a load of washing downstairs without drama ensuing upstairs, or keeping one small area of the house clean and tidy? Oh, that sounds so dreamy right now.

Maybe it’s partly because Sam hasn’t been 100% the past few weeks and I overthink everything, perhaps it’s due to our first ever headlice infestation (and, hopefully, our very last – it totally tipped me over the edge), or maybe I’m just not doing it right, but lately this parenting gig has felt very very hard. Or maybe that’s just parenting.

But I’m trying to take deep breaths and enjoy little moments and embrace the mess. As Gretchen Rubin says, the days are long but the years are so short.

Seeing these beautiful faces on the screen while I know they are sleeping peacefully upstairs definitely helps.

52-2-1charlie: My little home body was so happy to have his special friend, Mikey, over to play while Sam went off to play with our Mikey’s brothers. Home Body and Social Butterfly both happy = win. 

52-2-2nicholas: We know from past experience that, for you, a new skill takes time to develop. While you are now able to walk independently, you still choose when and where you want to do it and some days you are braver than others. We know that you will do it in your own good time, but we are proud of how determined you are. We love watching your proud face when you show off your cleverness.

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of my boys every week in 2015.

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1/52 {new beginnings}

Oh, I do love new beginnings.

A thousand thoughts have been swirling around my head about the new year, but little people at my feet, asking for a million different things, have meant those thoughts and dreams will stay chattering in my head a little longer before making it onto the blog.

In the meantime, I want to get started and up to date with the 2015 version of the 52 Project before the weeks get away from me. I’ve decided not to include Sam in the portraits this year ~ I’ll still be taking photographs of him, but just not sharing them here. I’m sure you’ll still see him from time to time, but our biggest boy is growing up and needs his space.

I am kicking off the 52 Project by comparing the first portrait of 2014 with the first of 2015. I feel like both boys have grown so much over the past year but, while Charlie’s two images appear quite different, Nicholas seems to look exactly the same! Perhaps his growing up is more evident in demeanour and the long limbs not captured in a close-up shot.

2015-01-111charlie: Oh my, how you have grown over the past year, and not just in the length of your hair. That almost-four year old of 2014 will soon be off to school and turning five. You delight us with your antics, your way with words, your boundless imagination, and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store for you. So much adventure awaits.

2015-01-11nicholas: Between the new big bed, the walking, the bike riding, trying new foods and demonstrating new skills and independence, I feel like you’re having a big burst of growing lately, and getting ready to turn three in March. I feel so blessed to be part of this adventure with you.

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of my boys every week in 2015.

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52/52 {a project’s end}

Today, I picked up the Nikon again for the first time in weeks. It felt good. Comfortable and familiar. I like taking photographs when it feels good, when I feel relaxed and the moment seems right. It’s funny how across the festive season, when it would seem important to capture memories with a more sophisticated camera, it’s the furtherest thing from my mind. I think that has been the case across this year – that so many of the photographs I captured week to week were from the minutiae of our life, rather than any particularly significant events.

Despite managing to commit for the first 50 weeks of the 52 Project, I appear to have fallen off the wagon in the last few weeks. Such is life. My final shots in a well documented year are just from my iPhone, but still important little moments to treasure, however they were captured.

I have loved taking photographs each week in the 52 project and sharing them with you.

I have loved watching the faces of my beloved boys grow and change with the weeks across the year.

I have loved learning how to better utilise the camera, how to be a little more creative each week so that all the shots don’t look the same.

I have loved having a reason to be in this little Mummalove space more regularly, and interested to see how the images and words and thoughts flow more easily in some weeks than others.

I love that I now have a visual record of 2014, from random moments shared and enjoyed across 52 little weeks that seem to fly by.

Thank you for sharing this little heartspace with me, for your kind words and encouragement across 2014, for being part of my tribe. It means the world.

Annie x

PS. If you’re interested in being part of the 52 Project in 2015, head on over to Practising Simplicity for the details x

52-52-2charlie: We had a rare moment of just-the-two-of-us amidst weeks of all being together 24/7, and it was so lovely to hang out with my middle boy. The girls at the homewares store whispered when they saw the celebrity superhero (Iron-Man) walk through the doors, but you confidently told them that superheroes weren’t actually real ;) We snuck in a rare ice-cream treat before returning home. 

52-52-1sam: Oh, my nurturing little soul, how you love babies. You were such a proud big cousin, holding your newest baby Polly so carefully when you met her for the first time. You are so good with the little ones.

52-52-3nicholas:  I love this photo of you and I, my little blonde, blue-eyed twin. I love the twinkle in your eye and how grown up you look and how much we adore each other. 

51/52 {christmas love}

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Amidst the busyness and shopping and food preparation and family dynamics, there is a certain magic about Christmas time. When all the presents are wrapped and labelled and under the tree, I can’t help but think about all the Christmases of my childhood and get a little buzz anticipating how excited my boys will be as they wake up on Christmas day.

IMG_0507Two days before we celebrated Christmas, I had the honour of accompanying my beautiful youngest sister and her husband as they welcomed their first child into the world. To say it was pretty amazing to play even a small part in such an incredible moment would be an understatement. I am very proud of the new parents, who made a formidable team throughout the birth, and was very excited to meet their new daughter, and the 20th grandchild for our family, Polly Anne Louise. Such a special Christmas delivery.

I love Christmas, but I am also aware of how tired we are this time of year and the need to keep things simple. We decorated our real Christmas tree with a collection of decorations made and gathered over the years, and topped it off with a star that Sam and I made out of a Huggies nappy box when he was little. I think I managed to write on two Christmas cards. We went to Mass on Christmas Eve, but spent most of our time outside with restless, noisy children, and drove the long way home to see some sparkly Christmas lights along the way. We enjoyed time with all sides of the family, and ate and drank far more than we ever needed to. We delighted in the giggles when the boys found ‘Matt’, our Elf on the Shelf, in a new spot each morning, and made up stories for the days he was obviously far too tired to have moved. We wrapped and opened and played with so many presents. We may feel oh so tired after at least a week of festivities, but we are blessed in so many ways.

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Just for a bit of fun, we took a time-lapse video of us on the iPhone 6 as we were putting up the decorations on our Christmas tree…

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Wherever you are, whoever you celebrated with, we hope you had a beautiful Christmas, filled with love, laughter and a little magic. An extra special blessing is going out to those who aren’t able to celebrate with their loved ones this year. Sending so much love to you all from the Loves xx

DSC_3861sam: Some days you seem so grown up, but I love witnessing your joy and innocence as you embrace the Christmas celebrations. You were so excited about opening presents with your cousins on Christmas morning, and loved ‘playing Santa’ at your other Grandma’s house and handing out the gifts to everyone. You patiently waited as Daddy constructed your new desk and there was a definite twinkle in your eye as you proudly set it up just the way you wanted it. 

DSC_3817charlie: You discovered some forgotten toys in our bag of Christmas decorations and decided a ‘Christmas helicopter’, complete with sound effects, was in order. I loved seeing your face and jumps for joy as you discovered that Daddy and I had given you the long-wished-for Ninja Turtle lair on Christmas morning and, of course, nothing else was allowed to happen until it was successfully assembled. 

DSC_3850nicholas:  While you may not have had the same anticipation as your big brothers in the leadup to Christmas, you certainly enjoyed the opening of presents and the celebrating of festivities with the best of them. You happily chatted with Santa at the shops, carefully investigated the Christmas tree and knew exactly how to unwrap all those special gifts. I loved watching your little legs move as you quickly mastered your new three-wheel Wishbone bike. 

50/52 {beach holiday}

IMG_0073There is something special about going on holiday before Christmas.

The rest of the world isn’t quite ready to slow down by mid-December, so it can be difficult to extricate ourselves from all the work and busy-ness and it feels like a lot of effort to get ready for holidays, as well as prepare for the Christmas that will inevitably be on our doorstep the moment we return. We madly organise Christmas presents, attend end-of-year events, do laundry and pack bags, jam everything into the car, cajole and feed tired and restless kids, and tear our hair out whilst travelling with three small children who poke and prod each other in the back seat. But then we arrive. We breathe in the ocean air, feel the sand beneath our toes and all that real-world busy-ness fades away for a little while and we can escape from some of the pre-Christmas craziness.

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Each year, my extended family try to get away for a week together before Christmas. It’s fondly known to us as ‘Mitchell Week’, and is a great opportunity for my parents, six siblings and their partners, and all the (now almost 20…any day now) grandchildren to spend some quality time together. While some years we manage to find a house big enough to accommodate all 30-something of us, this year, we escaped to a holiday park at Fingal Head, spreading out between a few cabins, caravans and tent sites. Sadly not all the family members were able to attend the recent holiday so it was a ‘small’ gathering of 25 of us. However, we had an added bonus of friends camping at the same spot for our first weekend away, so it was nice to catch up with them at the same time.

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Holidaying with children isn’t always easy, and this week was no exception. As usual, it was difficult to get our excited children to bed when we arrived and no one ever seems to sleep particularly well on the first night away. We also had a bit of a rough start to our holiday, in that Sam had to have a course of steroids (as part of his scheduled treatment) while we were away. While it’s never particularly fun when he’s on steroids, this month was particularly bad in terms of side-effects and we found ourselves doing things like going for a drive at 2am to help him sleep. Poor Sam was so agitated and distressed and it meant that we really couldn’t go far from our cabin. When it reached the point of being unmanageable, our Oncologist gave us instructions to cease the drug mid-course, thankfully, so we were all able to relax a little more and hang out with the rest of the family as the week progressed. We are ever-thankful for the presence of grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins who embrace the ‘takes a village to raise a child’ theory and were happy swimming and surfing, playing with and distracting our cherubs at various times throughout the week. Oh, how we love our village.

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As cameras, water and sand aren’t particularly great friends, I chose to be in the moment rather than photograph it, so you’ll have to trust me when I tell you about the squeals of delight and the beaming smiles on the faces of my children as they jumped over waves, swam in the crystal clear surf and learned how to ride the waves on boogie boards. They created beach houses out of sticks, crafted sandcastles and collected jellyfish with their cousins. I lost count of how often we applied sunscreen, showered sandy bodies and rinsed and hung out swimwear, but it makes me smile just thinking about how much they loved their beach time.

From swimming in the surf to playing handball with cousins, cruising around the holiday park saying hello to the people they met along the way (or giving their mothers heart-attacks riding down hills), going ‘ghost-crabbing’ on the beach at night, sharing meals together and making up dances for a concert to mark the end of the week… these are all the things childhood memories are made of. It may not mean a week of relaxing with a good book and a cocktail for their parents (although, admittedly, the daddies did sneak out for the annual Mitchell Mens Lunch, and the ladies followed suit the following day), but I feel so thankful my boys are able to share such special holidays with the people they love.

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I love being away, but I also love coming home and seeing things with fresh eyes. As we arrived home after a fun, busy beach holiday, our little house felt almost palatial after living in a one-bedroom cabin with three children and all their Lego. And, after having to brush a layer of sand off the bed in the cabin every night before sleeping in it, every surface at home felt luxuriously smooth ;)

Now with just a few days left until Christmas Day, I’m trying to harness any remaining beach zen and not get too caught up in the madness of the ‘silly season’. After all the recent tragedies that have occurred throughout the world, we don’t need to look far to be reminded of the fragility of life. I am counting my blessings, cuddling my four boys, and saying an extra prayer for those missing their loved ones at this time of year.

I’m going to cheat a little and make this my post for week 50, which is also a week late. And I’ve used an iPhone 6 for all the photos, instead of the Nikon. Breaking so many rules this week!

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49/52

52-49-4nicholas: You have such a beautiful sense of humour and a smile or a giggle is rarely far from your face. I love how you laugh along with the big boys, always getting in on the (usually toilet-related) jokes. I think you’re going to love having those big brothers at home more over the holidays.

52-49-5sam: My biggest boy, you have now finished Prep, your first year of school, and seem to be growing up before our very eyes. As I celebrated at my youngest sister’s baby shower today, it felt like only yesterday I was at my own baby shower and excitedly awaiting the arrival of our first baby (that’s you!). I’m so proud of all you have achieved in your first year of school. Now let the holidays begin.

52-49-1charlie: Pyjamas was the uniform for your home-based weekend. And you decided it would be a great idea to play rodeo with the hose that you’d turned on so that we all got wet. Lucky it was a hot day. Watching your kindy Christmas concert this week, I was so proud seeing you sing and do the actions to the songs. I know you don’t always feel like entertaining the crowd, but it made my heart sing to watch you be part of the celebrations with your kindy friends.

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of each of my boys every week in 2014.

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48/52

52-48-1 sam: You have perfected the art of cheeky at the moment. I think my biggest boy might be overdue for a summer holiday.

52-48-2charlie: Emotionally wounded by your Chief Antagoniser brother, as well as wet and cold, you retreated to the arms of your mumma to be dressed and cuddled. 

52-48-3nicholas: You’re just slightly flexible. And a lot cute ;) 

Photography by Daddalove this week.

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of each of my boys every week in 2014.

 

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