Mark Warner Levante Beach Resort #mwmoment #mwmum

There's a reason we all love looking at holiday photos. Why we add them to our Facebook feeds and frame them for the grandparents at Christmas. When I think back to my favourite photos from my childhood they are all pretty much from the school holidays. Jumping through waves on the shore line with my cousins, making friends and starting a mass beach cricket game until the sun went down. I remember it as being idyllic. Meeting the same families year on year, crossing over on the same weeks on purpose, exchanging what was then landline numbers and addresses that now is swapping Instagram accounts and adding each other on Facebook. 

And I am so happy that history is repeating itself for our boys. A couple of years ago we discovered Mark Warner holidays and when I look at these photos from our summer week at the Levante Beach Resort I almost see different people. Sun kissed, relaxed, really happy people rather than the worn out wintry face that stares back at me from the bathroom mirror. 

Before the boys were born we were quite adventurous, long haul trips to Tokyo, America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and weekend city breaks in Europe. But we have come to the realisation that when we say we want the boys to travel, what we really mean is we want a holiday. A pack-up-their-matching-little-soldier-backpacks-for-the-aeroplane, smile-at-friendly-faces-in-the-check-in-queue, and-by-the-end-of-the-easy-coach-ride-to-a-resort-the-boys-had-made-new-friends kind of holiday.

Rich and I like to think we are spontaneous people but in truth we love routine, as do our boys. We like to settle into a familiar holiday itinerary, find a favourite table for lunch and make a base camp around the pool. It doesn't have to be exactly the same spot but we always seem to gravitate towards the same pair of loungers. Tell me you do the same!

If you ask any of our friends and family or pretty much anyone who even whispers that they are looking to book a family holiday, they will tell you that we are absolute Mark Warner converts and do our best to convince them to join the club. Because once you are in it you realise there's no going back. 

I am a Mark Warner mum, or rather I should say, we feel like we are a Mark Warner family.

We arrived at Heathrow on Ollie's birthday in July last year (dressed in Pee Wee Herman red bow ties, with bunting to hang on the back of the aeroplane seats - oh the things you do for the love of a 5 year old) and although we were heading to a different MW resort we knew we were in for the same holiday that we'd loved the year before. We may have underestimated the distance to the gate and raced like the scene out of Home Alone to join the last few passengers boarding the flight. Fortunately a family of five were in the same boat and we laughed as we ran helping each other navigate Terminal 5. By the end of the flight, baggage reclaim and the coach ride to the resort we'd exchange names, the kids had sussed out who would be in the same clubs and by the plane ride home, a week later, we all swapped seats as soon as the seat belt sign had been switched off. Mums in one row making the most of the British Airways complimentary Sauvignon Blanc and trying to persuade each other to book the same week again next year, with the kids all squeezed into 3 seats sharing games and iPad movies. 

If you know the resorts you'll agree that arriving at Levante is like stepping into modern luxury. An impressive large lounge and lobby area, contemporary furniture, a beautiful terrace overlooking the pool which adjoins the main restaurant and rooms that still felt to us brand spanking new. 

And just like the year before in Lakitra, we found most of the guests we chatted to on the walk to Mini Club, or at the breakfast buffet were second, third and fourth timers. Seasoned MW fans who had counted down to their holiday and the tried and tested routine of drop offs, early morning bike rides, Zumba classes overlooking the sea and precious time to yourself while your little and big ones have the time of their life on the water, in the pool and out on the pitches, which makes many of them book their holiday for the following summer before they've boarded the bis to the airport to take them home. 

In all honesty I probably didn't take advantage of everything on offer, because do you know, I really needed a rest. A rest from driving, haring about clocking up thousands of miles a month and in truth I relished those odd mornings over the week where we fed the boys breakfast among the hustle and bustle of all the families whisking them off for the 9am water activities and then after drop off, went back to join the quieter crowd, with older children who surfaced a little later before they headed to join the Indi club. The ones who exchanged knowing smiles with us as if to say "This will be you in a few years!"

You could spot the families whose children are so lucky to be growing up on Mark Warner Holidays. The ones who I would bet will be wearing a red uniform and part of the beach front team after they finish school. A staff team of helpful, enthusiastic bronzed gods and goddesses greeted us on the beach every morning, Sammy's favourite Dawn calling out "Sammy Heath is in the shack!" to him as we popped his bag on the pegs in the childcare den right on the beach. 

For us, the childcare staff should be awarded gold medals at the end of the season. Within minutes they seem to have learnt every new child's name, they suss out which are the shy ones that need to be comforted and which are going to lap up the end of the week show to all the parents. We saw how understanding they were with a child who required one to one care all week and couldn't have made him or his parent's feel more relaxed and special, while at the same time just being one of the gang, if they tried. 

I am not ashamed to say that there were tears from me, a few other mums and the staff on Friday evening when we all hugged and thanked them for giving us and our children an amazing week and to have a very well deserved day off on the Saturday! 

These holidays aren't about not spending time with your children, they have worked out a magic formula that gives everyone a holiday. Keeps everyone happy and entertained and wishing they could come back again the following year to see the friends they have made. We loved our next door neighbours and by the middle of the week the boys were scooting between patio doors, exchanging pool floats and asking to swap email addresses so we could keep in touch. They even asked when we flew back if we wanted to be neighbours again this year. And I said oh yes we would love to!

Our week fell into a pattern of mornings by the pool, sailing in the afternoon and a swim in the sea after lunch and then a last swim after high tea. Some days we could barely drag the boys out of the pool after they jumped in from childcare pick up and so one of us would mooch over to the pool bar, order a takeaway pizza or sandwich and drinks and wander back to our terrace. And we saw lots doing the same, having lunch on their balconies then heading for a nice snooze while it was so hot. 

This summer baby couldn't have been more in heaven. I crave the heat and warmth that is distinctive to Greece now. Not humid like the Middle East and not muggy like the Caribbean can be sometimes, just beautiful sunny hot weather! Even Rich who is a snow lover was in his element, sailing every day, determined to crack windsurfing by the end of the week as he felt a little rusty from his childhood Mark Warner holiday and took part in a boat race. It's a sight to see, whether you are out on the water or watching from the shore and everyone comes back in debating the conditions and winners must like they did on our holiday at Méribel after a day on the slopes.

It's like booking a holiday and being sent away with ready made friends. 

Rich scored some serious cool dad points with the boys when we sat in the speedboat pulling him along behind and they definitely were getting the sailing bug by the end of the week with Sammy asking why we hadn't booked him in for his RYA qualification like his friends Henry and Jovi! We want them to be respectful and comfortable on the sea. To find it exhilarating but also learn how to do it properly. 

Rich took them both out during the week and we went out together as a family and do you know what is so lovely? You just rock up to the tower, get your life jackets on and pick a boat. Any day of the week! 

mark warner levante beach resort 10.jpg

We didn't do much exploring out of the resort the year before but I had heard about the most picture perfect bay a cycle ride along the coastline and it was absolutely worth the 20km ride to get there. We headed off straight after we dropped the boys in the morning. One so we didn't feel under pressure leaving later in the morning to be back in time for lunchtime pick up and two because it was definitely a wee bit cooler in the morning compared with the Greek afternoons. It was nice to see a bit more of the island, people watch as we cycled by the public beaches with the stripy umbrellas and sun loungers and soak up a little of the Greek culture, laying out our towels on the pebbles and taking a dip. 

It's totally doable in a morning and there are some lovely other routes the bike centre manager talked us through to try another time. You don't have to push yourself if you don't want to and equally if you are a fanatic there's group cycles, longer rides and professional advice on offer from serious cyclers. 

Anthony Quinn Bay is breathtakingly beautiful. So much so we actually found a patch of 3G and FaceTimed our families! My sister kept saying "oh that's so so nice over and over", to each tale in our morning story and as we cycled back I thought just how nice it was to have some time on our own. Doing something. I adore sitting on loungers by the pool each with our nose in a book or magazine or ear plugs in listening to our own music. But it was really nice to discover something together.

We joked with others over drinks in the evening about what their other halves had got them doing - oh yes we got some of our evening on our own too! Giving the boys the choice of eating with us or eating between 5.15pm and 6pm at the children's "High Tea" among their friends and then heading to movie club at 7.30pm. Guess which they chose almost every night of our week?! And it was great to hear that lots of other couples with equally busy lives juggling work and children, had got out on a tennis court together, joined in the dance fitness class in the adult's pool or taken a kayak or paddle board out on the water. 

We went with boys and we came home with fish. They made up games that the main pool was a huge lagoon and each had to race to the other end one in a water melon, one on a donut and others in a dinghy. It's sounds a cliche but it was a joy to watch. Confident children from different parts of the country thick as thieves. The pool is graded gently so there's a shallow area at each end, effect for our games of bat and ball and younger ones who wanted to branch out from the dedicated toddler pool. Our room was right opposite the end next to the beach bar and the boys would run in to get diving sticks, and buckets we bought from the on site shop to share among their gang. 

As the sun went down each night the sky turned pink and cast the most beautiful glow over the resort. On one of the nights we could tempt the boys away from their pals we all got dressed for dinner (Am I the only one who loves packing a different outfit for each night and then forcing my family to pose for pictures?!) and headed down to the beach to soak up the last of the day before we went off for dinner in the main restaurant. 

The thing about a holiday is that it is a chance for everyone to have some time to themselves, some time together, to take a break from school runs, making breakfasts and making your beds. Well for me it is. To be looked after. 

To be blown away by the buffet three times a day without being bored, to banter with the spaghetti chef and befriend the maitre d'. To end up chinking glasses one minute and then wandering into dinner without needing a reservation every night and for the staff to make up a big table for the parents who hadn't finished swapping stories over cocktails. Each of the three times we have been on a Mark Warner holiday we have met the loveliest families and I hope they feel the same about us. People we are still in contact with, who I hope we cross over with again one day. People who know the MW resorts so well they can give you the lowdown on their favourites like they are unofficial staff!

We adored Levante for the size of the resort and the shininess of the facilities. But our hearts are torn between our love for Lakitira and it's smaller more intimate homely feel, the beach bar and the Greek evening entertainment that made the boys roar with laughter. Are you a Mark Warner fan? Which is your favourite?

And if you are a blogger reading this don't miss out on your chance to become one of this year's family Ambassadors. Entries close at 23.59 GMT 1st March 2017. We had the time of our lives in 2015 and can't wait to be back at a MW resort again soon. Good luck and apply here! You will regret it if you don't ;)

Check out the early season offers for summer 2017 with Mark Warner.

ps. I didn't have to share this but we can't speak more highly about their holidays. We love them!

Start Up Life • 3 months in

I can't really believe I am writing this. That after almost 2 years of muttering and whispering that I am actually able to write about my start up business.

Around this time of year in 2015 I went to a game changing course hosted by Fiona Humberstone. I met some incredibly like minded people, some who were further ahead than me, who knew their brand aesthetic and direction like the back of their hand but needed that final push, and some who were looking to gain a general sense of direction like me.

I remember telling people on the course that day about my backdrop idea. That I was frustrated at not being able to buy the ones I wanted. That the ones I had bought from America had funny lines in them and although I used them, they always bugged me and I spent more time editing out the imperfections than taking the photos themselves! 

Many of my peers have done incredible things. Workshops, e-courses, books and more but I've wanted to have a product of my own and a product that could become part of a collection. A physical thing that I could package and post, that someone might buy as a present for a birthday or under the Christmas tree and something that people might want more than one of.

As a blog grows into a career it becomes tricky to manage home life and work life because often the line between them starts to blur. Your life is so often your blog content and I see more and more bloggers finding it hard to get that balance right. Feeling burnt out, bickering with their partners (Hi!) and struggling to fit in photoshoots on weekends with school age children. 

And while I love getting the opportunity to speak at conferences and events, you have to be there in person. Whereas with the backdrop store idea I knew that in all seriousness the Post Office was on the way to school. Literally. My printer who has been with me every step of the way testing materials and trying out endless samples one the last 2 years is about an hour away in the South West and within spitting distance of one of my best friends and close to my hairdresser who I can't bear to leave since we moved! So I knew I could tie in stock pick ups with catch ups and hair cuts and if necessary I could get there and back between lunch and school pick up time. He has held my hand in so many ways through understanding and getting the balance of stock right for orders to flow smoothly and giving me general advice for continually improving the product. 

It was always a goal of mine to have something photography related, that I could develop to not only empower the home photographer but also something that would be taken seriously and used by professionals. If I showed you the scribbly list of products I would like to bring out one day you'd probably laugh. But I'm an all or nothing kind of girl and if you don't aim high then what's the point right?!

Maybe I'm naive but I really feel there's a gap in the market in the UK. Yes you can buy photography equipment on Amazon, or one of the big photographic sites but for me it's not an experience. I want to eventually develop a platform that feels like you are buying into a story and a community not just buying something with a one click and next day delivery and no one to contact when you have a problem because you are dealing with a monstrous warehouse. Don't get me wrong I love those sites for all sorts of reasons but I guess it's a bit like supermarkets. I want to offer people an experience not just a functional transaction. A site that can be a resource, a store and a source of inspiration all wrapped into one. Styled for the new generation of creative photographers who have both trained in their trade and who have found their passion. People who have developed hobbies into businesses and bring those people together. 

In a very simple way a hashtag does that and the #cblbackdrops gallery is filling up beautifully. I don't ask people to tag their photos and maybe I should but right now I am so happy with the word spreading across the internet from people who have chosen, unprompted, to highlight my store. 

You can buy backdrops all over the internet. Different sizes, different quality and finishes. It's not a new concept but I hope I am doing it in a new way. My way.

My photographs, my surfaces, textures I've spotted on my travels but I'm not so tunnelled in my vision for the backdrop store that I'm not open to other ideas. I want to bring out a block colour range (and also a ssh collaboration collection but no more on that yet) as well as a collection inspired by my favourite bloggers, photographers and instagrammers, but one step at a time.

It's so easy to get carried away when things appear to be going well. To race ahead with hair brain ideas that feel like lightbulb moments at that second but after a few days mulling them over disappear as quickly as they came. 

So here I am three months in, going to bed every night wondering if I will actually get another order overnight or in the morning. My heart skips a beat when I hear my laptop ping and we say the Andi Peters line from Toy Story 3 "There's another bag coming from the Terminal" which we've changed to "ooh there's another order coming from the Terminal!" And each time time Rich's phone bleeps with a Squarespace notification. I've told him he doesn't have to have them as alerts on his phone but he says he like it.

I get the boys to school and then start the routine I have slipped into, printing address labels and order invoices from the night before. I have a little system, my cardboard tubes to the side of the plan drawers and a wooden caddy with sections for end caps, air mail stickers and receipts. 

Ok so it's not perfect, squidged into the corner of the sitting room but for now it works. I am a kitchen table business and honestly I am rather proud of that. I can't store the backdrops in my office space above the garage because they need to be kept at a steady temperature. If it fluctuates between freezing at night and warm in the day they could suffer from condensation, and as I keep them flat on top of each other, I could run the risk of them sticking together! 

I guess I could roll them individually into tubes but then my mum would be sleeping in among postal tubes when she came to stay! I will at some point paint the drawers to match in with the grey tones in the room but for now it's keeping them safe, instead of all over the floor with the door permanently shut to keep boys sticky fingers and dogs dirty paws away from them. It's efficient and the table top is ideal for packing orders. So for now it's my production station!

It all sounds quite simple in a way and frankly it is. I pick them up from my printer, I lay them into their correct drawers and then I pack and go as orders come in. I'm not trying to bring to the market something revolutionary I am trying to revolutionise people's attitudes to their photography work. That there's an alternative to storing great huge pallets, boards that get dented, scratched and become trip hazards behind your sofa or desk. I know, I have them and curse them more than a couple of times a day!

I'd need a serious storage shed for all the tables, doors and pillars I have photographed to create these 2 initial collections and one of the reasons I started the idea was that Rich was fed up with the number of tables I crammed into the house.

I stop in the most random places, get out of the car knock on doors and ask old farmers if I can photograph their barn doors. I mentioned to my trusty Post Office clerk that I had spied a lovely painted blue set of doors outside the local print shop and he replied "Oh yes that's my friend's business I will ask him!" The next day when I blasted in on the way to school he said I'd been given the go ahead and that it was no problem if a random lady with a camera acted like the paparazzi over the weekend.

Other people see a delapadated old barn and bins. I see backdrops.

It's definitely been a launch and learn approach (thanks to Xanthe for the mantra). There are so many things I have learnt and still learn every day but I wanted to share a few if you are thinking of starting selling online.

• Invest in a label printer right from the start. I cringe at those first orders that went out on enormous labels I printed through our home printer. The compact labeller sounds silly and possibly extravagant but honestly it looks 100% more professional. Even the Post Office clerk said so.

• Make friends with your local Post Office and show them you love them. Mine are like my new best friends. I can ring them ten times a day and they still answer the phone bright and breezy. They are almost as emotionally invested in this backdrop store as I am. Every time I get a new international order they notice, they sometimes spot a repeat order and made me feel like I'd made it when they sent me home with my very own post bag! I think they took pity on me dragging a bin bag in and out but I felt so special. That and a handful of air mail stickers and customs labels and I honestly felt on top of the world. I've left a Google review telling them just how much they have encouraged and supported me and I hope they spot it at some point.

• Be thankful for people who do good deeds and never be afraid to ask. It's fair to say there is a learning curve around every corner when you launch a new business. And one of my first ones was when someone ordered a large number of backdrops. To be brutally honest I thought it must have been a mistake. And emailed a couple of times to subtly check! Then I went into a panic that the tubes I use to ship the orders couldn't actually fit that number of backdrops in them. I'm painfully one of those people who needs the instructions to put together a piece of Ikea furniture, rather than being able to visualise the end result in my mind and work backwards. And it's the same for backdrops. I look at the end of the rolled up backdrops and still I need to get my tape measure out to suss whether they can fit in each size tube! 

So that day I realised that living in the middle of the countryside was not so handy for emergency tube purchases and to drive to the nearest Staples would have meant a 3 hour round trip. For one tube. So I rang another local company I knew would use them for their orders and literally bribed the guy on the end of the phone to swap me a large tube for a bag of donuts! I could have kissed him when I met him in the car park (as they had closed 5 minutes before I got there) and I said to him how kind he was and how he had literally saved 3 hours of my life! 

And one good deed deserves another and I have had hilarious emails from panicking husbands who were sent links to the ones their other halves loved but left it too late, ordered the wrong ones and it's such a pleasure to know that little things like emailing back and forth late at night reassuring them their gifts will be there on time that make me feel like I am doing something right. 

• Never underestimate the power of social media. I thought that three months in I'd be starting to look at sponsored Facebook posts, Instagram adverts and Google ad words. But right now the best advert is when someone shares or tags me in a comment on Twitter, on a blog or website or on Instagram. Like this comment.

“I am seriously so impressed. I’d seen them on a few people’s IG, but they have a different style of photography than I do, so I wasn’t sure how it would transfer. I am all about texture and shadows and directional light, even many “real” backgrounds can look a bit flat. This is just perfect for what I was missing in my arsenal and is safely stowed and not a trip hazard. You should be so proud.”

— Kat Goldin, Textile Designer and Photographer

I keep thinking of this business like a balloon... ok stick with me. That if I try and blow it up too quickly it will burst, but if I blow it up slowly it will expand so much bigger and hopefully stay afloat longer. I have people tagging me overnight who are in Australia and America who are recommending them because they've heard something good from someone else they follow. It's a ripple effect that sometimes feels like a tidal wave when my emails are pinging with orders. Organic growth is what I want. Slow and steady and consistent. When you are building a business you want it to flow throughout the year, not huge peaks and troughs that leave you worrying how you will pay your mortgage or an unexpected house repair bill that month. Blogging as a business can be seasonal by nature, a flurry of sponsored activity at Christmas and a quieter spring leading into summer campaigns and conference season. I wanted to go into this consciously aiming for repeat orders, loyal customers who champion the product without being asked to because they are genuinely impressed and build a reputation in the same way melted chocolate drips from the centre and down the side of a cake. But sticks. 

• Know your postage. I live with the Royal Mail leaflet by my side at all times and it's covered in notes and annotations. But yet I still haven't quite got the master spreadsheet of international rates uploaded to allow for sales to go through the website. And I know that's a problem. Oh the abandoned checkout stats are painful to look at! But that's one of the things I had to let go when I launched and for now processing orders individually by email is working it's just not as slick as I would like it to be. 

• When you are about to do something hard that pushes you outside your comfort zone you need someone to give you a final push. That might be a friend, a partner, a mentor or someone who just has your back and wants you to succeed. Mine was Kat. If it hadn't been for Blogtacular and Sara's photography session I may not be sitting here with my dream business online. Kat gave me an opportunity that came with a definite deadline and that forced me to get my samples printed (as unpolished at the time as they were) to use in the practical workshop and firmly stamp myself on a product I'd just talked about for too long. My advice - find yourself a Kat. 

Now I'm moving into my 13th week and even though it's such early days I feel I have something to be proud of. I haven't skimped on the material. I pay extra for a high quality vinyl and I'd rather make less profit and have more positive feedback. Because as loud as people shout that they like something they often shout a little louder when they don't. And that ripple becomes a tidal wave of the bad kind! And I know not every single person will love them like I do but so far I have had nothing but positive feedback and I am so grateful.I have a good reliable packaging supplier, I have my set up in a corner of the house and my Post Office runs fit in with family life. There's nothing I want to change about the product itself, I've toyed with printing the logo on the front of them but know how irritating it is from a photographer's point of view to have to edit it out of a shot, so will stick to my stickers.

I have new samples to create two new collections with and something exciting up my sleeve. I know I am lucky to have built such a good relationship with my printer who I count as a friend first and it's honestly been nothing other than an exhilarating ride so far. I just hope that this little store continues to grow over the next 12 months so I can bring out new textures, larger sizes for bigger compositions and backdrops for vloggers wanting that professional screen type set up behind them. As well as a hundred other ideas that swirl around my mind just as my head hits the pillow. It's a challenge managing my minuscule budgets in comparison to the international photography sites but they feel big to me. I'm doing it all myself with no start up funding or Kickstarter project and even though I hold my breath when I ship each order wishing them to arrive safely and for the person to be impressed when they open it, I wouldn't have done it any other way. 

The best thing about creating this business from my blog is that I have a chance to reach out to all the people who buy them, people who might read this post and say a huge thank you. To the big brands whose design and marketing managers have bought them to the lady who bought one for her daughter to help her with her photography course at school. I am grateful for every single one.

There are going to be times when something doesn't go right or quite to plan and I know that I still have a huge learning curve ahead but I couldn't be more thankful to everyone who has ordered, shared the store on social media or taken the time to right a comment or give me constructive criticism and feedback to constantly improve the store experience. 

This quote is true. 

When you buy from a small business an actual person does a little happy dance - Fall For DIY
Me and Mine - A Family Portrait Project December

I know it's embarrassingly late but I wanted to post about our Christmas even though by the time this finally sees the light of the internet people are starting to talk about spring. We had a surreal festive season. One minute we were deliriously excited, counting down the minutes until my sister and her family arrived for a whole week of fun and the next we were in bed, having just woken up and on the phone to my mother in law, with some bad news. 

You know when the phone rings unusually early or late and you get that panic feeling rise in your chest? Well I didn't really have it for the first few seconds it was only when I heard her say faintly as Rich held the phone to his ear "We are in hospital, it's Dad." and I gripped Rich's hand so tightly like we needed to brace ourselves for her next words. 

He'd had a terrible fall. Broken ribs, a broken bone in his neck and was incredibly badly bruised, not to mention cracking his head on a marble floor. And in an instant it felt like time had stopped. You know when the scale of a problem seems so huge you actually go completely blank. Like your mind can't process it and everything goes white for a few minutes. And then it goes into fast forward. Packing bags, frantic phone calls and everyone tearing around the house, Rich stuffing clothes into a bag, me trying to feel like I was helping making up snacks and the boys hurriedly making get well cards because there was no time to buy one and they wanted to make sure Grandad had one to open that day. 

My father in law is a remarkable man, he is the anchor in the family and in the weeks and now months that has passed since his accident he has shown the boys nothing but bravery, even though I am sure there must be days when being brave is too hard. His vulnerability has made them love and respect him more if that makes any sense at all. 

Sammy started crying the other day in the middle of a restaurant at dinner and left the table. We called to him thinking he was running off to the toilet and he turned around and said sheepishly, like he was in trouble, "I was just thinking about Grandad and it made me cry."

I sort of feel guilty posting these photos because in between these snapshots, the 6 minutes outside the front door on the mildest 25th of December morning I can ever remember and the 30 seconds before we raced into the pantomime, we were all so worried and could barely talk about anything else. The boys had an emotional rollercoaster as so did we all. We all work as one big unit, on birthdays and big occasions. Natty has known my in laws since she was 14. It's really a lifetime. But we did give Logi Bear a magical first Christmas and for a poorly boy he was on top form and gave us so many giggles and precious moments.

Seeing someone you love in pain is scary and grounding. Sammy in particular has had his first real heart breaking moment. We walked into the hospital on Boxing Day, and after giving them a pep talk in the car about not being too loud, not leaning on Grandad too much, they tip toed in, dressed in protective aprons and gloves and I couldn't have felt prouder. I knew they were nervous, seeing their Grandad lying in a neck brace, not able to properly talk, but they walked to each side of the bed, past their little Christmas tree stuffed with their homemade decorations they'd given to Rich to take in on Christmas Eve to cheer him up, and held his hands. 

We lifted Ollie up and over the bed, so he didn't lean on my father in law's chest and his broken ribs and he gave him a kiss, the boys held up each of his presents we'd brought from under the tree and they dived into their gift bags that we had kept back so my father in law got to see their reactions. Boys who were ecstatic with new dressing gowns and Minecraft caps. I don't think it's often that a hospital room is full of wrapping paper, a sea of recycling all over the floor but if it gave their Grandad even 2 minutes of joy in such a horrible week it was the right thing to do. 

We did have some wonderful moments, we tried to give my mother in law as lovely an evening on Boxing Day as possible, in between visiting hours. We played games half laughing half almost in tears at the severity of the situation and half at how surreal it felt, trying to give the children a lovely time while feeling so sad that he was lying there on his own all night.

But the most important thing is that he's here, lucky if you can think of it like that, that he only broke those bones. That in time they will heal and we will make Christmas 2017 the one he missed out on.

It doesn't really matter where you live, where you go on holiday, how fancy your clothes are, it's your health that matters most. And I look at these boys in this picture and feel so grateful for our little ox's. 

Now I know the link up closed... well last year... but if you have time pop over and see what all these other families got up to over the festive season. I adore seeing all the little ones dressed up, the lazy days in between Christmas and new year and all the big family group shots. It turns out that not only do most of the country eat exactly the same dinner at almost exactly the same time but we take exactly the same photos!

Christmas doesn't always go to plan but it's what you take from it into the new year that is most important. For us that's our family. And that's why however late I am with these posts I always want to publish them, my record of my now not so little boys!