We survived the first week back at school after the half term holidays.

It was actually a pretty good week all round.  Both the children were happy to head back to school and see all their friends again.  Rhys went on a class trip to the national botanic garden of Wales, and came home saying he’d had an amazing day.  And on Saturday we popped over to Cwmbran to see my sister and her family for the day.

We’d actually not seen each other since before Christmas, so the children were all really excited about not only seeing each other but getting to finally exchange Christmas presents.  And Nerys had the extra bonus of birthday presents from her cousins too.

So this week’s living arrows photos are of a very happy little girl with her first fingerling, and a boy full of beans and raring to get jumping on his cousins’ trampoline again.

Living arrows

 

I always love it when I manage to get together with my siblings and their children, it makes me so happy to see the cousins all play together.  They always seem to get on so well.  And this time around I got to spend some one on one time with my oldest niece which was so lovely.

I’d bought her a cushion for her bedroom for Christmas so she took me up to show me how well it would go with the star theme she’s got going on.  Then she showed me box after box of her bits and pieces.  It just made me smile so much, thinking how young me would’ve loved pretty much everything she showed me.  And feeling really quite touched that she wanted to spend that time with me.

Seeing her now, seeming so much more grown up than even a year ago, it seems so crazy to think of her at just a week old at my wedding.

It’s a real privilege really, isn’t it.  Getting to see any child in your life grow and change and show more and more of the amazing people they are.

 

Living Arrows

For the fifth year in a row I’m doing a personal photography project this month.  Basically for the whole of March I’m planning on taking a photo of me, of some kind or another, every day.

I first started this challenge in 2015, back before I started my Instagram community #ShowYouWereThere.  Back then I called it my ‘mummy was there‘ project, because that was (still is) what it was all about.  Taking the photos with me in for the children, to show that that I was there too.  I wasn’t always just stuck behind the camera recording their childhood, I was part of it too.

Here are the photos from the first week and a bit of this year’s project.  A mixed bag of windswept outdoor photos, pictures that don’t show my face but still show me pretty well, and photos of me with my family.

Show you were there 2019 week 1

 

I’ve always found this project to be quite hard at times, trying to come up with different ideas for photos to take, and getting a balance between simple ‘photos of me’ and photos that capture a bit more of my life as it is right now.

I think I’m off to a pretty good start so far this year though, although it is a bit harder to get photos of me with the children now they’re both in school all day long.  It’s good though, it forces me to think a bit more creatively and focus on the moments and activities I want to record this year.


If you’d like to read a bit more about this challenge that I set myself every year, and see how much the children have changed, then go and check out all my photos from 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

If I were to pick up my camera and ask if I could take a photo of you, how would you feel?

If you’re anything like me you’d probably feel a bit uncomfortable, worrying about what you’re wearing or how your hair looks.  And then there’s the fear of just not knowing what to do with yourself in front of the camera; how should I sit? What should I do with my hands?

Given half the chance we can all come up with loads of reasons why we don’t want to have our photo taken.  But if you know me at all you’ll know how important I think it is for us all to basically get over ourselves and get in more photos.

If you really don’t like people taking your photo, then here are my best bits of advice on how to start feeling more comfortable in front of the camera.

How to feel more comfortable in front of the camera

 

The first thing you need to do is face your fear.  

If you keep just avoiding having your photo taken you’ll never get used to it and one day you and your children will look back and be so upset to find that there are no photos of you to be found.

So take a deep breath and prepare to get familiar with your face.

Start by sitting in front of a mirror and spend some time slowing moving your face around to see what angle you like best.  It might be that you like the way you look straight on, or maybe you prefer having your right side a little bit more towards the mirror.

Just have a bit of fun, posing it up and trying out different angles.

Yes you might feel really silly to start with, but no one is looking, no one can see what you’re up to and once you get past that ‘I feel silly’ feeling you should be able to start to relax and have some fun with it.

 

The next step is to move on from the mirror to getting in front of an actual camera.

This is baby steps though so no need to worry too much.

Just grab your phone and start snapping a few selfies.  Try out the angles that you liked in front of the mirror and see if you still like the way you look at that angle in a photo.

The beauty of digital cameras is that you can take hundreds and hundreds of photos and it doesn’t matter.  It’s not like the days of film cameras where you were limited to 24 photos per roll.  So take photo after photo of yourself, have fun, experiment with the phone at different heights and distances away from you.  Try all sorts of different angles again to learn the way to position yourself so that you’re happy with how you look.

Doing this means that next time you have your photo taken you know which angle to go for and the way to pose so that you’ll be happy with the end result.

 

The other big reason for all this practising is that it’s like with anything that’s scary or that we’re not really comfortable with; you have to keep exposing yourself to it until those feelings of fear and unease get less and less.

Basically, feel the fear and do it anyway.

I don’t particularly love having my photo taken, but I am much more comfortable with it now than I was a few years ago.  And I think a big part of that is down to me challenging myself to get in a photo every day for a month each year.

I’ve done this every March since 2015, and it is a challenge every time but I am so pleased that I push myself to do it each time.  I really do believe that it’s one of those things where the more you do it, the more you get used to it and the more comfortable you get with it.  Or the less you care about all the little fears that bother you at the start.

 

The thing for me that pushed me to start doing this every year, and to start my little Instagram community #ShowYouWereThere, is the thought that one day my children will want photos of me from when they were little and I want them to be able to find plenty.

I don’t take the photos for me, although when I look back at them later I’m always grateful that I took them.  The photos are really for my children though.  One day they’ll be all they’ll have, and I want them to have a pile of them to look through.

Tips to feel more comfortable in photos

 

This thought though, that it’s not for me and not about me, has really helped me basically get over myself. 

I don’t always like the way I look in photos.  I’m not as slim as I’d like to be.  But that doesn’t matter.  When my children look at photos of me they just see me.  The mum that they love.

So if you need a push to get started with being in more photos, let that thought be it.

If you don’t want to do it for you, that’s fine.

Do it for your children instead.

They deserve to have photos of you.

 

On a more practical note, here are some other things you can do to help you feel more comfortable in front of the camera:

  • Give yourself something to hold.  Having a prop of some kind, even if it’s just your sunglasses or your bag, gives you something to do with your hands so you’re not worrying about where to place them or if they look awkward hanging by your sides.

 

  • Have photos taken while you’re busy doing something.  This is taking the first point one step further.  You’ll feel much more relaxed if you’re doing something than if you’re just standing stiill having your picture taken.  Try walking towards the camera, hugging your child, or even telling a joke to someone standing behind the camera.

 

  • Take photos in natural light as much as possible.  It’s just much more flattering.

 

  • Have someone you’re comfortable with take the photos.  I know that my favourite photos of me are taken by my husband, because I am completely relaxed with him and can just be myself.  If you’re hiring a photographer to take some family photos then see if you can spend a bit of time just chatting with them before you start taking pictures so you can get to know them a bit.

 

There is no simple step to magically becoming more comfortable and confident in front of the camera I’m afraid. 

You need to push yourself to do it even though it feels uncomfortable, or even scary at times.  The more you do it though, the easier it gets and the more relaxed you’ll feel about it.

And it is so worth it to make sure you exist in photos for your family.

 

London is such a diverse city with all sorts of things to do. You can spend your trip looking around all of the tourist attractions like Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Dungeons.

If that doesn’t take your fancy, you can take a historical tour and visit places like the HMS Belfast museum or maybe take a history walk. Maybe none of that interests you and what you’re really looking for is a great cultural experience.

The good news is, you can find that in London as well. These are some of the best cultural attractions that the city has to offer.

Ideas for a cultural weekend away in London

Galleries

London is packed full of some amazing art galleries showcasing work from some of the best artists around the world. If your tastes are more traditional, the Tate is the perfect place to start. You can also visit the Tate Modern if you’re interested in something more contemporary.

Both of those galleries are completely free so they’re ideal for a budget trip. Galleries are a great place to go with the family so you can give your kids a new experience in London. There are some other great galleries like the Saatchi but you do have to pay admission and it’s not ideal for kids because some of the exhibits are a bit out there.

 

Theatres

Seeing a show in London is a brilliant experience and if you’ve never done it before, you should absolutely make it a priority on your next trip. There is such a huge range from family friendly musicals to classic Shakespeare so whatever your tastes, you should be able to find something that suits you. The only problem is, the tickets are quite pricey sometimes.

However, if you look for last minute theatre tickets, London shows don’t have to be that expensive. You can usually get cheap seats from as little as £15 which is a lot less than you’d pay if you booked through the normal sites.

 

Museums

There are plenty of interesting museums in London and the great thing is, most of them are completely free. The biggest and best known is the British Museum and you could spend days lost in there. They’ve got some great exhibitions that span all different periods of history and the artefacts that they’ve got on show there are incredible. The Rosetta Stone, the Lycurgus Cup and the real life mummies that they’ve got in there are some of the best highlights.

You’ve got the Natural History Museum as well where you can see a giant T-Rex skeleton which is sure to be a hit if you’re visiting with the kids. There are loads of other exhibitions on all sorts of different animals so if you and the family love wildlife, this is the best museum for you.

If you’re interested in science, you should definitely visit the London Science Museum while you’re there. It’s great for kids because there are lots of interactive exhibitions that they can get stuck into, as well as an interesting display on the future of space travel.

 

If you’re looking for a cultural weekend away in London, these are some of the best attractions to visit.

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

People, in general, are creatures of habit.

Our brains like to use shortcuts to work as efficiently as possible, and this often means we do the same activities in the same way over and over again.  Because they’re easy and familiar and comfortable.  These habits make our lives easier and let our brains focus on other things.

The thing is, it can be so hard to get a habit established in the first place.

If there’s a new habit you’d like to start then try this little trick to help it stick.

Try this one little trick to help a new habit stick

 

Commit to the new habit for 30 days.

It will take some effort but if you can push yourself to do your new thing every day for about 30 days that should be enough for it to stick and start becoming easier and more automatic.

That first month of conscious effort is all about retraining your brain, forming new neural pathways and conditioning yourself to the new habit.

 

The trick here is the same as the one I wrote about for getting started with a new exercise routine.  You need to make it as easy as possible for yourself to do the new thing every single day for that first month.

So say, for example, you want to start taking multivitamins.  If you’re not in the habit of taking them it can be really easy to forget to do it.  But if you put the bottle next to the kettle you’ll see it each morning when you go to make a cuppa and be reminded to take one.

 

Or if you want to drink more water then, again, make it as easy as possible on yourself.

Set a reminder on your phone to go off at regular intervals throughout the day, prompting you to drink a glass of water.  Get one of these water bottles that helps you track how much you’ve drunk so far that day.  If you have a bullet journal then use that to keep a record of how much you’re drinking.  Put a glass or a bottle next to the kettle so if you go to make a coffee you’ll be prompted to have a glass of water first/instead.

 

It might be a different type of habit that you want to create.

It could be that you want to start painting after years of hiding your creative side.  Again, make a point of drawing or painting something, no matter how small, every day for a month.

You can quite often find challenges on Instagram that will help push you with this one.  And doing it every day will remind you how much you love it, how great it feels to be in the flow of creating.

 

Chances are once you’ve made it through that tricky first month of establishing a new habit it should start to become easier, and almost second nature.  If it’s a habit you’ve started for the right reasons then you’ll probably find you miss it if you do stop for some reason after a month of doing it every day.

 

What new habit would you like to introduce to your life? 

Have you tried committing to it every day for at least a month to give it time to stick and really become part of your routine?

 

First things first, before anyone starts feeling defensive, I’m not actually suggesting that your marriage is ‘a show’ by any definition of the word.

But in the planning of a wedding, it can be easy to fall into this kind of worrisome feeling. You might realise after a long planning process that actually, most of the decisions you’ve made have been to compromise for something. Perhaps you want it to be so all of your family can attend, or you are opting for something too traditional despite your tastes because you simply want to please your parents.

This is what I mean by a ‘show’; you might be making all the ‘right’ choices, but none of those you and your partner actually want.

Are you planning your wedding for love or a show

 

But for what other purpose are you supposed to plan a wedding? This is quite a vastly ceremonial day after all, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be that simple. With this guide, you might be able to craft an event, but also ensure that it’s a celebration of hearts, not simply something chosen out of compulsion.

 

There’s no need to go massive

A wedding can be an all-day event, with hundreds of family members in attendance, a long convoy of cars from place to place, a fantastic church or cathedral as the main space, enough food to feed a small army and perhaps the booking of a range of entertainers. But there’s no need to go this massive for your wedding to be worthwhile.

What do you actually want? Have you asked that of yourself and your partner, or are you simply opting for those suggested to your by your wedding planners? Might it be that keeping the wedding a little more tight, a little more humble and a little more engaging could help you enjoy it more?

There’s only so much you can do and only so many people you can meet at your wedding, and sometimes keeping it comfortable can help you feel more like yourself. For example, while the Royal wedding that took place last year was wonderful to watch and beautiful from every angle, it likely felt as more of a show and less of a personable, comfortable event for both bride and groom. Of course, if you enjoy spectacle and size that’s absolutely fine. But be sure it’s something you want, and do not fall into it out of obligation.

 

Compromising

It can be hard to come to hard and fast decisions that both you and your partner agree on. From excellent bands you might pick to the catering you might choose, it can be hard to define decisions. This is where exercising your ability to make compromises and to level the playing field can help you both come to an arrangement you are happy with, as not all couples share the same tastes. This means you needn’t simply ‘accept’ a decision out of your control. This will give you the tools to enjoy a wedding much more.

 

Give Yourself Time

Don’t feel as if you have to rush from one place to the next during your wedding.  Speak to people, smell the flower arrangements, savour your food and dance with your partner.  Give yourself time to enjoy all of these things. If you want to walk the grounds, you can. Give yourself to the experience.

 

With these simple titbits of advice, your wedding is sure to be one of the best days of your life.

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

So we’re back to the school routine this morning after a really lovely week off for half term.

We had some absolutely glorious weather at the start of the week which meant we could get out to three different parks in as many days.  We met up with friends on Monday afternoon, then spent Tuesday morning at another park before heading home to bake a birthday cake for Nerys in the afternoon.

Her birthday was spent excitedly opening presents and cards, eating cake and playing and enjoying a little picnic in Singleton park.

At the start of the week I got her to lie down on her baby blanket so I could take a few photos, which she thought was really quite funny.  I showed her some photos that I’d taken last year and the year before of her doing the same thing so she understood why I wanted her to do it though.

The first year of her life I took a photo of her each month either wrapped in this blanket or lying on it.  I completely forgot to do it for her second birthday but every other birthday since we’ve taken photos like this and they really make me happy.

Living Arrows

 

I know it’s such a cliche to say it, but I really can’t quite get my head around the fact that this little baby is now 5 years old.

I can still remember so clearly the morning she was born, the song that was playing on repeat in my head all day long, how I spent that first day with her staring at her face and becoming more and more certain that her name would be Nerys.  A name we hadn’t given any thought to until the midwife introduced herself.  I can’t see her with any other name now, this one just seems to fit her so well.

She has brought us so much joy over the last 5 years.

I am absolutely loving getting to know her, figuring her out, trying to imagine the woman she’ll grow up to be.  At 5 years old she is determined and independent with a brilliantly silly sense of humour.  She loves pink and sparkles, lol dolls and my little ponies.  She is creative and loves playing with her playmobil sets and drawing pictures.  She is coming on so well with learning to read and is having great fun pushing herself with learning to swim.

I am just so excited to keep watching her grow, as bittersweet as it may be.

She said ‘basket’ the other day in the supermarket, after years of pronouncing it ‘bar-stick’.  Such a small thing, but Steve and I both heard it and felt that little pang of realisation that she is getting older.

And in a few months’ time I’ll have to deal with Rhys turning 8.  I’m not sure I’m ready for that one!

 

Living Arrows