South London Photographer: Winding up the summer holidays

I promised the boys a trip to the Wonderlab at the Science Museum before the end of the holidays and today I kept my word. After picking up new uniforms in preparation for next week, we jumped on a bus and made our way over to South Kensington.  I was extremely grateful to my mum who had bought us annual tickets, as these things can be quite expensive, especially after a long summer. But goodness, it’s a photogenic venue so I hope she will know it was worth it for that at least. Oops, they had lots of fun as well, which I think is more the point! Either way, I have some lovely shots of the younger boys which will certainly be going into this year’s album. (I’m getting better at making sure I get those organised, and am very glad about it too – make sure you do, it would be awful to lose all your digital images and not have anything material to show for it.) Here are a handful of my favourite shots from today.

Do get in touch for information about family shoots in your home or at a favourite venue*. Autumn is around the corner and a great time for organising extra special Christmas presents for grandparents!

(c)SJField 2018

*Please be aware, some venues require prior permission for photoshoots

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South London Photographer: A change of tempo

This is the first time I’ve written here for a month. That may be the longest gap between posts since setting up this site, which I originally did to increase my SEO. For anyone lucky enough not to have to devote time spreading news about services they offer, in my case photography, across the internet, that means Search Engine Optimisation. I had no idea what it stood for to begin with. I know now it’s about making sure as many people as possible notice you. For someone who occasionally feels she might prefer to walk round with a pillow-slip over her head to hide the sense of embarrassment she quite often experiences, this hasn’t always been easy. But before I started posting a couple of years ago people insisted, YOU MUST HAVE A BLOG.  So that’s what I did. I got a myself a blog. Then I couldn’t work out what to write about. I didn’t feel able to talk about photography with any authority as I was and am still learning. But I do know about my own life, and I know about the feeling of inadequacy parents often have, and since I was trying to appeal to families (as a sort of vague marketing goal) I thought I’d write about kiddie related subjects which, of course, I do have experience of, like feeling really crap, or being judged, or wondering if everything I’m doing or failing to do is in some way damaging to my precious brood.  So what you see here is a digital record of an experiment as I tried to discover, a) how to get over myself and b) who I might be talking to. If you’ve followed me you will know I began to witter on about my boys, mixed in along the way with stories of learning about images. (It has turned out, for now, most of my work is corporate although I am employed by families occasionally as well.) I have really enjoyed writing about life and my boys.  And I’ve really loved it when people have come up to me to say they found something I wrote funny, or that I made them feel better about their own parenting, or just that they look forward to my ramblings. But for the last few months I have found it very difficult to know what to write about at all. And not because I haven’t got anything to say. As anyone who knows me will agree, I could probably talk the hind leg of someone or something, as the saying sort of goes… And I certainly have plenty of opinions. But the world is so fucking confusing at the moment that blathering on about how the boys were splashing too much water on the floor as we battled for space with imaginary Greek gods in the bath just doesn’t seem right (although reading that sentence back, it does sound kind of worthwhile in that particular case).

So what do I talk about? I just can’t bring myself to ignore what’s going on in the world and I feel wittering on about family life regardless would be a failure of some sort. I will mention something about my oldest here: that recently I was accused of taking too much notice of his political views. In fact, I was told I rely on my son for political opinions. Whatever unconscious motivating factor prompted the accusation is perhaps as irrelevant as it is absurd. What is important is that I am immensely proud of my son for being politically engaged even though we don’t share opinions on many things. You might say I’m more left-wing than he currently is, just as my father had more right-wing views than I held when I was growing up. Perhaps those distincitions matter less nowadays. But back in the 80s my dad used to moan,”Oh, I can’t believe what a Trotskyite you are!” I’m not by the way but I didn’t think Thatcher was up to much good and he felt deeply betrayed by my view. Although my dad was always a Conservative voter, and felt pained by the fact I wasn’t, I know he would have been appalled by much of what is happening in the UK today. He  told us the reason for not trusting socialism or anything that sounded vaguely related was because Hitler had headed the National Socialist German Worker’s Party. Whatever the merits or lack thereof in his understanding, the point is we were able to discuss it. I was encouraged to explore ideas and think about the way the world worked. And by choosing to engage in discussions with my 12 year old son about politics, even when his views appear to be unsound or uninformed (they’re often very well-informed actually) I hope to give him room to think, question, explore and form well founded opinions of his own, which I’d say is pretty important nowadays. Talking and valuing our discussions is a really good way of doing this. And avoiding the sort of ludicrous, not to mention abusive, name calling we see on social media is absolutely imperative.

Words themselves are also crucial right now as are the ever-changing meanings they might contain, especially since much of what is being said in the press has led to extraordinary outcomes in recent months. I believe some of the press are currently bandying words around in ways that are dangerous in the extreme. And my socialist-adverse father would have been truly horrified and frightened by what is going on. As such as I am not sure how I will continue this blog for now. I feel I need to choose my words very carefully. These are political times and to ignore that seems wrong. What I do know is that I don’t really care about SEO anymore. I have a blog because I have something to say. Often saying it makes me want to hide my face, but too late for that probably. I also know we should encourage and allow our children to have political views if they’re interested, and the best way of doing that is to take their thoughts and opinions seriously. They, after all, are the ones who will be left to sort out the mess our world is currently in. It behoves us to listen to what they are telling us. I’m not sure how often I will write. Perhaps only when I’m prompted to ask questions. Or when I’m truly shocked by events. Whatever else is true, we in the UK really need to think about how we’ve found ourselves here in this place where societal empathy has been turned down to very low indeed, or in some cases simply switched off altogether.

(c)SJField 2016

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Taken at Skipton Castle in October’s half term, a critical location during the English Civil War, 1642-1651. I wonder what sort of mess we are leaving for our children to sort out (c)SJField 2016

South London Photographer : By the seaside

I remember much of what I have written about in this post because of the photo albums which I avidly used to keep up to date, meticulously recording and documenting our lives. Two children and one early pregnancy later, everything got far too busy and crazy. My photo albums stop at that point and it’s harder to piece things together without the visual reminders. I’m pretty sure the last time I went to Brighton I was heavily pregnant with No 3. Hang on a minute, I can’t have been heavily pregnant because he was born in March and we went in the summer. Oh yes, I remember, I looked heavily pregnant from about day 2 of that pregnancy, so that by the time I was just 3 months gone, I looked like I was about to pop. I do know for sure I ate a family pack of Wotsits and felt sick in the car going down – aaah, you might think, therein lies a possible reason for having been so incredibly big. In fact, it’s impossible to forget just how very sick I felt for most of those 9 months, and I suspect the salt in the Wotsits probably helped keep the nausea at bay. I also recall flooding my bag with a broken bottle of water and destroying my phone on the way home. But I wouldn’t have taken any photographs during that visit because just holding my phone, or a camera, significantly and palpably added to the feeling of nausea. Most people reminisce about how they couldn’t drink tea, alcohol or orange juice when pregnant. I remember I simply couldn’t take a photograph. It just made me want to hurl. Which, as you might image, is a truly depressing way to spend your time when you once loved taking pictures of your kids.

It was a weird aversion and I never experienced it during my other pregnancies. But thanks to the albums, I know for certain that we had a lovely day out in Brighton during my pregnancy with No 2 too. I like looking at those pictures. No 1 is still very young. I have a short gamine hair style, which suits me and my large belly well, and we all look really happy sitting in a fish restaurant, and then later on the beach, throwing stones into the sea. (Here’s an image from that visit.  I photographed a picture from the album, using my phone, and uploaded it to Instagram a while ago – so a great combination of old and new technology.)

Thankfully, the pregnancy hormones have long gone, No 3 is running around outside my belly causing chaos, and the aversion to technology has dissipated. I started thinking about lenses again when No 3 was roughly 4 months old, so I knew then that me and my photography would be OK. When we recently visited Brighton again (sans any pregnancy) during half term to see old friends whom we’d not seen in years and years, I was able to really enjoy my love of photography and record our day out with my usual enthusiasm.  No 1 was very keen to recreate the image I’d posted to Instagram, which I’d taken when he was 3 years old. We had a play and eventually he told me he’d rather wait until he was 18 to do that but he did very patiently let me continue trying out new scenarios.

Here’s a selection from our day. I used my Fuji X100s which is the camera I tend to carry around because it’s light and easy. I really must get back to albums of one sort or another because they’re great for holding and looking through when you have a spare moment, and terrific for future generations to have.

Get in touch for family photography sessions, mentioning this post and I’ll include 5 A4 prints to your booking for free*.  That way you can also think about creating old fashioned albums for you and your children to look at in years to come.

Incidentally, I was recently introduced to Light, a camera company that is aiming to change the way photographs are taken with a new compact camera that has DSLR quality in a lighter and more convenient form! One of my photos will be submitted as part of their Vantage Point project.

Back to school tomorrow.  And onwards with work in a slightly less disruptive manner (and breath….)! SJ x

Images (c)SJField 2016, *T&C apply – see website for details

 

South London Photographer: Dealing with my little apes

I’m very lucky to have such nice neighbours. They’re very understanding. I should think it’s like living next door to a group of howling monkeys for them. Mornings can be fairly frantic in this house, as they are all around the world where young children are concerned. But on Saturday mornings my lot really do take the almighty piss. We have a club to get to by 11am so not too onerous time-wise, you would think. Only, No 2 likes to languish in bed for as long as possible, by default refusing to get dressed. He favours reading, which is hard to be discouraging about, or watching someone with an incredibly loud and annoying voice play games on YouTube, which is best to stay as far away as possible from; and No 3 is just ornery about getting dressed whatever the day, time, or mood he is in.

Son no 1 does not have the patience of a saint. In fact, he might have the exact opposite amount of patience. So he can be more than a little disgruntled when 10 O Clock passes and the small ones still haven’t bothered to put any clothes on, despite having been asked several times by then. If we don’t leave by 10.15 then we can’t walk and No 1 likes to walk. At which point he goes, well, I think the phrase might be ‘ape-shit’. I do tell him his tempestuous encouragement towards the small people is not actually terribly helpful, but he’s usually too far-gone to hear me, bearing his teeth aggressively and howling like a proper monstrous primate from the deepest unconscious depths of our collective evolutionary past. And that obviously sets the small ones off. From the safety of my own screen, where I might be trying to get some work finished, I try in my ineffectual way (‘come on, boys!’) to calm it all down but I seem only to make things worse. (Yes, I do hear the voices out there suggesting that perhaps I shouldn’t be trying to get some work done at that particular moment and therein lies the problem… but … a woman’s gotta do what a … and all that….)

After some grunting and pushing and shoving, whilst attempting to drag his brothers to the pile of clothes I’ve left out for them, No 1 eventually recovers access to language and I get told, “It’s all your fault! You don’t bring us up to be normal! Why can’t you parent like other people? They’re psychotic and it’s because of you!” It’s quite hard to hear though because of the crying and yelling behind him.

Mmmm… Is now the right time, I wonder, to discuss the word ‘normal’ – what is normal anyway? Do you really think your friend’s parents are normal?  Ha! You just wait….I decide now is probably not the best moment but mentally log the philosophical debate for later.

“They need more rules! I had more rules when I was their age…” he continues to rant at me while his younger brothers run round howling and beating each-other up in a confused and pointless act of retribution aimed in entirely the wrong direction, although for them it would seem, any direction will do. But they don’t get dressed.

“We discussed rules last week,” I tell him, “but you said the rule about no food outside the kitchen was a dumb one. And have you bought that collection of cups and bowls down from your room, while we’re about it?” I ask.

“That is a dumb rule. And I don’t mean those sorts of rules…”

“Oh… how about a rule saying you must help me with the dishwasher every day instead of randomly every few weeks or so. Or you must bring your own washing pile down and put it in the washing machine, and change your own sheets? They sound like good rules to implement.”

He grunts. But by now we are far too late to walk and must drive to the activity, which annoys me too. So it becomes hard not to sympathise with No 1 even though he’s clearly being selective about what sort of rules we should have and who should be required to follow them.

I manage to get all of my various sized simians into the car; more yelling, more howling, more gnashing of teeth from all of us. And on our journey No 1 declares we should have a chart that clearly identifies the rules he thinks we should start following. I dreamily imagine what I would write:

‘No fucker will grow up in this house to become an imbecile who can’t take care of themselves as an adult….’

No, that ‘s not right… I know exactly what the oh, so sensible No 1 will say…

“Mum, children whose parent’s swear at them are more likely to grow up depressed!” He keeps telling me.

“No, no – that, my love, is likely to be down to a genetic predisposition… sorry.” But he’d be quite right to chastise me, not because I shouldn’t swear at them, which of course I shouldn’t. But because we’re meant to be thinking about a set of rules, not a manifesto. And in any case a manifesto is a pointless thing because one of us is bound to creep in during the night, alla Napolean the Dictator Pig along with his helpers, and cross out bits or add words to suit whatever changing relationship we have with the rules anyway. In the end I don’t think a set of rules up on the wall will suit us.

And anyway, it’s not all bad because No 2 isn’t always howling like a deranged primate. Sometimes he’s wandering around with a pigeon-feather tucked behind his ear like Haiwatha and laughing hysterically at the thought of ‘mature’ cheddar. “Is it really called mature cheddar? Oh, I’m such a mature cheese, I’m so very, very, very mature! Hahahahahah!” I loved that moment. And when No 3 isn’t screeching like an absolutely maniacal and outraged mini-ape, he’s hugging me and telling me I’m the best mummy in the world. And as for No 1, he’s really being amazingly mature most of the time right now, although not in the same way as the cheese thankfully. I do just feel for the neighbours though. Because really, all they get to hear are the howling animals we’re all so good at impersonating.

On the work front, my iPhone photography session for children is full but I’ve been asked to do one for adults too. I will probably hold one on the 10th of June from 6pm for 1.5 to 2 hours.  More details to follow this week.

SJ x

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Son No 1 wants some rules implemented… (c)SJField 2016

 

 

 

South London Photographer: Phone photography sessions for 8-12 year olds

Phone photography sessions for children aged 8-12, £8 per child, Tuesday 31st May, 2016, 5.30pm.  Get in touch for more details on 07581 694 934 or via photo@sarahjanefield.co.uk

Advertising over…. I have been a bit quieter than usual on social networking the last couple of weeks or so.  Several reasons and actually, a good thing for my relationship with the non-digital world, but maybe not ideal for my business.  It’s tricky to get the balance right.  You read all this stuff saying you must be Tweeting/Instagramming/Facebooking constantly to get your social media marketing statistics up, aiming always, of course, to result in bookings, and you should be regularly engaging with others too otherwise it doesn’t work – obviously, and don’t what ever you do, disappear from the digital airwaves.  Geez… so many rules! When’s a person meant to do some actual work? And when did all those terms become verbs, anyway?  Language, heh…. fluid, in flux and developing always; so interesting.

Anyway the reason I am quieter than usual is because a couple of projects I am working on are taking up a great deal of my time, energy and internal resources.  So much so, that I am often surprised by how quickly time passes; especially when I turn around and notice that it’s 6pm instead of 3pm, which is what I assumed it must be on Sunday evening, having finally remembered I needed to tell a friend I wouldn’t in fact be turning up … admittedly that was quite a large amount of time to be wrong by, and thankfully it’s not always so dramatic.  Sunday, however, utterly disappeared and before I knew it the kids hadn’t been fed properly or even put to bed, and I had a meeting online with fellow students, which to be honest proved slightly tricky, but all we got there in the end, wherever there might have been.  Bed and asleep for those small people, thankfully.

The whole creative process is incredibly fulfilling, even though it means being on a bit of an emotional roller coaster…”that’s what I mean… shit, no it isn’t,… yes, this works,…oh, my god, I’m awful, I can’t do anything right!… yes! No! Maybe! Try that … help! try this… back that way, where did I put the thing that I need now?..Aaaaargh!!!” It’s quite tiring too, actually, but most of the time I love it a lot.   And, despite the current political debate within the education sector, where it appears that some quarters are attempting to limit and thwart creativity in our schools nowadays, children are thankfully still very much up for exploring the world in a creative and artistic way. Which is a good thing.

And is probably why I’ve been asked to do some photography sessions aimed at kids.  I’ve had a think about the best way to go about this, and decided to initially offer an hour in a local park and to concentrate on using a phone/tablet or iPod, and see how that goes. All participants will need an electronic device like a phone that has a camera on it.  We’ll have a chat about taking images, how to edit, the merits of apps, whether or not to use effects, and where to share them. Get in touch and I’ll give you further details as there are a couple of apps that your child will benefit from having access to.

Right, that’s it – must get on with some admin whilst I’m taking a quick break from one of the projects that’s absorbing so much of my being.  Here are some pictures I have taken on my phone recently, which are the sort of thing we’ll be aiming to do in the kid’s session. (Mmmm… wonder if the social media gurus will be satisfied with today’s efforts…)

Have fun! SJ

(c)SJField 2016

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South London Photographer: Celebrating Mothers Day with a Special Offer!

I wasn’t quite woken up with a cup of tea in bed, since the oldest child who is capable of making such a thing happen has reached that teenaged habit of wanting to sleep in for as long as he can at the weekends.  Instead, my 4 year old ended my night’s sleep with a beautiful rendition of a song about a spring chicken and some chicks hatching – “heh! let me out!” the little chicks yelled at the end of each numbered verse.  It was a beautiful, stirring, passionate and loud performance sung right into my ear as he lay on top of me, trying to get his hands up my top.  There are worse ways to be woken, of course.

Yes – Mothers day may be a commercial celebration driven by conglomerates in order to commercialise yet another part of our lives.  But…ignore that aspect of it. Instead lets celebrate mothers, young and old; those still with us and all the many that no longer are.  We all begin our lives inside the belly of of our mum.  It’s a profound relationship.

Motherhood is at the same time both wonderful and challenging, life affirming and desperately difficult, exciting and then tedious as hell, extraordinary and dreadfully normal too.  And what other relationship entails so much bottom-wiping?

No, it’s not all an idealised fantasy by any means! And we in the West have gravitated away from communal living and instead exist in small units that support our economic social structure. Where once we had aunties, grannies, cousins and other community members all working together to bring up the children, now mothers are more isolated.  The saying ‘it takes a village to bring up a child’ really resonates with me.  Us mums need to remember this when we’re desperately furious with our little ones, and subsequently disappointed in our own failings.  It isn’t easy.  Luckily, neither is it always trying – there are times when it’s absolutely wonderful being a mum.  Sometimes I just love the simple sound of “Mum!”

And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a working or stay at home mum, old or young, have single or many children; from the moment we become mothers, our lives are no longer our own.  But they are enriched and we are given the opportunity to love in a unique and important way; a love like no other.  And that is a very precious.

So mark Mothers Day in which ever way works best for you.  But make sure you do!

Yay – lucky me! I’ve just received vouchers for a massage – one of the best presents I could hope for.  I really could do with a bit of pampering.  I hope you get what you want. And a message for any husbands or people out there who haven’t bothered…. What are you thinking? It’s not too late!  Do something small or big.  But make sure you do something.  It matters and will be so appreciated.

Gotta run – been called to wipe someone’s bottom!

SPECIAL OFFER:  Mini shoot – £145 for a 1 hour session at your home or in a park local.  8 prints and edited jpgs which you can print and share online as often as you like.  Call or message me on FB/Twitter/Instagram/LinkedIn for more details. Terms&Conditions apply.  Vouchers available. http://www.sarahjanefield.co.uk SHARE THIS POST FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A MINI SHOOT – WINNER ANNOUNCED 3RD APRIL 2016.  (Please let me know if you’ve shared this post by emailing/messaging as not all FB shares are registering). Offer ends 3 April 2016.

Below are a collection of images of mothers with their children or grandchildren, including one of my own mum and there’s even a sneaky picture of me and my son in hidden there!  (c)SJField 2014/15/16 (and one that’s very old – see if you can spot it!)

 

South London Photographer: a move coming up

I’m sitting here staring at my books and the kid’s toys willing them to pack themselves. I should be concerned by this peculiar delusional conviction of mine; that if I stare hard enough it will eventually and spontaneously happen. I’m clearly not wholly aware of the total disconnect with reality my delusion must surely represent otherwise I’d have started doing something physical by now like actually getting on with the business of putting things inside boxes. Of course, if you know you’re mad you aren’t actually all that mad, so the theory goes, which is good to remember while I ponder my reluctance, ok let’s be honest – hopeful sloth …

I do hope the truth hits me before the movers actually turn up on their appointed morning and ask where all the packed and ready to go items are.

The previous movers I’d hired when we moved in here a couple of years ago were very sweet indeed, offering boxes which they never charged me for and helping to sweep up the last of the Lego bits, broken action figures, random books and other detritus just moments before shutting the door on that place for the last time. What are the odds of the next lot being equally as understanding? Well, I do find that the vast majority of people I come across in life are helpful and kind, but even so, it will probably be best to snap out of this limbo, or do I really mean denial, and dig those folded cardboard packages out and start the tedious process of sorting what I need and want to take forward, and discarding all the junk I no longer have room for in my life?

“Are we taking Grandad?” asks Son No 1.

“Where’s Grandad?” asks the littlest one.

“In that box,” No 1 replies pointing to a plain brown cardboard package on the very top of our bookshelf.

Son No 3 looks very confused. Son No 1 helpfully explains that granddad lives in an urn inside that box until we figure out where his final resting place should be. Obviously the top of my bookshelf is not ideal.

Once son No 3 has listened to his older brother explain some of the facts of life, or rather death, my delightful small person helpfully suggests that we take Grandad to Italy next time we go since there is a cemetery at the beginning of the dirt track that leads to my mother’s house. He refers to the cemetery as ‘that place with the flowers’.  I don’t tell them that my mother rejected ‘that place with the flowers’ as a final resting place for her second husband because it was filled with dead people.

“Yes, for now we’re taking Grandad,” I reassure everyone, as I silently thank providence that we are no longer still the guardians of someone else’s parent’s ashes too. That particular lady was quite well to do in life, apparently dressed always in Chanel twin sets, and so she might have been more than a little disappointed, perhaps even disgruntled, to find herself living out eternity on top of my bookshelf, alongside the ashes of my late father, looking down at the scattered broken toys and chaos that exists in my living room.  Well, not eternity, obviously – clearly, I will be arranging a more dignified last resting place for Dad. (Although how I achieve that when his final wishes were to be scattered on a race course so that his beloved horses can pound what’s left of him into obliteration along the grassy furlong – in a weird way mirroring what his gambling habits did metaphorically in life – I’m not sure!)

So now you know why my blog has been quieter than usual of late. Not because I’m busy doing things (but yes, that is true too), rather because I’m in a state of utter paralysed shock at the thought of how very much I’ve got to do.

Presumably after I’ve moved normal business will resume. And hopefully not before too long.

Lastly, before I go – do remember I am doing a special offer right now of 5 free A4 prints included in all family shoots until the 28th February 2016. (Conditions apply – please see the prices page of my website for details).

Image (c)SJField 2015

 

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Chaotic, natural and somewhat wild growth – maybe a little like me! Taken on my iPhone6 and edited in Snapseed and Stackables

 

South London Photographer: Staying in control of the list. Or with a list. Or something like that. I think.

It’s only just gone 11am and I’ve completed a ridiculous number of tasks already. From putting away 3 week’s worth of washing (“3 weeks!” you may well say), to cleaning the whole flat, writing some ad copy and providing images to the advertiser, as well as a bit of filing and some invoicing; and I’ve even confirmed a selection of images I’ll be displaying in the new year, which incidentally will be for sale, of course (more info soon). And now here I am again, jabbering away about life with three kids, a job and whole load of studying to get through too.

Maybe someone put some rocket fuel somewhere unmentionable because I can tell you, I’m not normally this focused and capable of achieving quite so much in so short a time. Of course, with three kids, the youngest of which is 3, you can understand why life often feels a little like I’m wading through syrup. Although I don’t think it’s the number that does it. I suspect it’s like that for anyone with small children – they’re just so demanding sometimes.

Without a doubt, I really felt very sorry for Son No 3 who kept me awake for 2 nights in a row with his truly dreadful cold and cough. Especially when I clambered out of bed at 3 in the morning to find the Calpol and he looked at me with wide open eyes and said apologetically, “I don’t know why I feel like this, Mum.” Oh, my poor little boy! “It’s not your fault, silly.  You’ve got a cold!”, I assured him as I scooped him up. But the person I felt most sorry for the next day as he watched Spiderman happily while I tried to concentrate on work was me. Yes, everything feels like such hard work when you’ve not had any sleep and you have a list as long as your arm to get through looming in your mind’s eye, threatening to bash you over your tired and sleepy head at any moment. And it never ends, so just as you think you’re on top of everything you check your list and it seems to have grown even longer – not shrunk at all.

I keep my real list, as opposed to the imaginary head-bashing personified one, in the Notes section of my phone. There I scribble down what I need to do, jot down articles I might use for college work and sometimes I record stuff the kids have said which has made me laugh, and which I might include here. Such, as the other day when the sickly small person told me I didn’t look like me after I’d clipped my hair up. “Oh, and who do I look like?” I replied. “A man,” he told me! A man!? How’s that for a thank you after I’d stayed awake most of the night while he climbed all over me with his germs and snot, foot in my mouth at one moment, and then when he finally did fall asleep, his small body managed to take up the whole bed, so I clung to the edge too afraid to move in case he woke again. A man!?!

What was much cuter and seemingly less offensive was when shortly after saying I looked like a man, he kept repeating, “The greatest weapon of all is imagination”. It was really very sweet indeed, so absolutely, I wrote that one down. However, when I realised he’d heard it on YouTube in a truly irritating ten-minute advert for junk, it kind of lost its appeal. And then when he kept saying it over and over again for about half an hour I think it really died a death in the cuteness stakes. Especially as by then I’d given up trying to work and was no longer fighting my body’s desire to catch up on some of the sleep I’d lost out on the night before.

Lists are just so important. Without them I’ve forget everything I need to do and instead of starting this blog as I did, I’d have had to say, I haven’t done much today, but I’m sure there was something…. But sometimes I find things on my list I don’t understand at all and that really confuses me – such as when I found the following statement at the end of my most up to date list page: “You eat shit!”

“Kids!!!” I yelled. “Who’s been writing inappropriate things on my phone and why?” As I studied the possible culprits’ faces for signs of abject lying, I couldn’t fail to believe them when they both categorically denied it, and showed no hints of dishonesty whatsoever. And then from somewhere deep in the back storerooms of my hormone battered brain I recalled having written it down myself. But I have absolutely no idea why. Did someone say it? Did I say it? Did I think it? And if so why did I write it down? Was it a message to myself from myself, although why I would choose to be so horrible to little ol’ me, I have no idea?  Or was it the imaginary personalised list that threatens to bash me over the head actually getting in on the action by beginning to write stuff down itself?  “MY list!  Do you hear that head-bashing list-thingymajiggy!!! MINE!”

So even though I keep a list, various lists actually – it’s far from failsafe (especially if it starts adding things itself). Having had plenty of chats with mums in similar situations I am well aware that this is what is to be a mother of small children whilst also trying to do a million other things too. You know, as well as feed, clothe, clean and house the little buggers. We are never on top of things, we are always catching up, constantly forgetting, cocking up and finding ways to make amends to children, family and friends; always running, always in a hurry. And sometimes it really does takes 3 weeks to put away the clean laundry.

So even though the beginning of the week was frustrating because I couldn’t get on with my chores and work, having had so little sleep, I really ought to thank my son for forcing me to have a break because obviously I must have needed it. Considering how much I’ve got through today before lunch, the relatively restful two days I’ve just had seems to have done me the world of good.

And who on earth knows why I wrote, “You eat shit”? But I can safely say from the self who read it to the self that jotted it down, “No, I bloody well don’t!”

Have fun! SJ x

PS.  If you’re after a shoot for  Christmas presents, do get it booked sooner rather than later.  Time’s a marching on!

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This image is available as an A3 framed print.  See my website for details.

South London Photographer: Shopping or not as the case may be

Christmas, commercialism, and consumerism.  They’re all tied up together and I can’t help feeling disappointed that Christmas is more about shopping than anything else nowadays.  Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the mid-winter festivities, feasting, imbibing, socialising and gift-giving.  Not to mention the sense of bittersweet nostalgia that these weeks bring with them.  It’s lots of fun.  Or it ought to be.  But I’m really not keen on the intense shopping aspect to it all.   So I tend to ignore it for as long as possible.  However, I wouldn’t advise anyone else to follow my lead.  Since I leave everything until the last minute, I quite often can’t get hold of the gifts I know people in my family would like.  A few years ago my mother had to do with a promise of a Kindle on Christmas morning which wasn’t due back in stock until mid January.

This year I have told the boys I am not able to spend lots of money on presents although I’m pretty sure I say that every year and then a sense of guilt sets in and somehow I forget my intentions and still manage to get out in time and buy a whole load of ‘stuff’.  But I’m going to be strong this year and try to stick to my guns.  Perhaps it can be a sort of old year’s resolution and unlike a new year’s resolution, where you have a full 365 days ahead of you in which to fail, there are only a few weeks left, so surely I can do it.  Not only do I want to avoid buying lots of junk, I’d really much rather give experiential presents.

Even before I mentioned this Son No 1, he totally surprised me when said for Christmas he would like a photography shoot of us all in Richmond park.  He has decided he’d like a framed print to put on the wall of his room when we move.  Obviously he’d also like a TV, sofa, sound system and coffee table, because at the tender age of 11 he is fantasising about turning his room into some sort of bachelor pad.  But thankfully he knows there isn’t a chance in hell of getting any of that stuff from me for Christmas, so not only is he being delightfully unmaterialistic by asking for something so personal, he’s also being a realist, which is an impressive development, I must say. I was, nevertheless, quite gobsmacked.

“What?” I said, “You want a picture of your family?  And you want me to take it?” Wow  – all those anger-fuelled insults during the last couple of years about my photography being rubbish and how much he hates his brothers and me suddenly dissolved in a moment on uncharacteristic familial appreciation.  I’m not sure it will last and I suspect he’d be rather disappointed on the morning of the 25th December if there wasn’t any junk at all to unwrap.  Oh, no!  I suddenly feel so full of love, awe and motherly pride, prompted by his wanting one my photographs on his wall that I’m starting to feel compelled to go out and buy him lots of expensive stuff which I can’t afford, such as a special fruitily named watch I know he’d be extraordinarily pleased with …. goodness, what a slippery slope that could so easily be.  And how short my old year’s resolution nearly lasted.  Yikes, it’s hard to resist the pull of commercialism.

Son No 2 has not yet learned the art of subtle manipulation so there are plenty of straightforward “I wants” coming from his direction.  To be fair to him he has said he is perfectly prepared to pay for the plastic arsenal he is so keen on acquiring with his pocket money savings. Sadly for him his concept of what £20 can buy has yet to reach anything approaching reality so it’s a constant circular discussion right now.  Thankfully, the youngest still doesn’t really know what any of it’s about so his needs and wants are more immediate and often easier to satisfy.  I want a funny yogurt he’ll wail from time to time.  By that he means the ones that are half pink and half yellow for anyone wondering how yoghurts ever get to be humorous.  Easily sorted though!  Although it does require actually remembering to order a shop from the supermarket occasionally.  My poor kids – in fact it seems, all they might really want is a mother who can get it together to make sure there is milk for breakfast in the morning! (I’m not that bad really – all in the name of hyperbole, honest!)

I know this whole present buying conundrum is felt by most parents nowadays.  Kids have so much stuff it’s often quite difficult to work out what to buy them; how much to spend; what if anything do any of them even need.  I’m not sure how everyone else goes about solving it. If you have any ideas, do let me know!

This week I’m posting some images from a family shoot that was given as a Christmas gift last year.  If that’s the sort of thing you might be interested in then do get in touch and I can arrange a voucher.  Alternatively, there is still a little time left to organise a shoot and print photographs before Christmas.  I also have framed prints of images ready to go or which can ordered in the next couple of weeks.  Check out my website for details.

Have a  good weekend all.  I’m looking forward to a PTA organised quiz at the kids’ school!

SJ x

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South London Photographer: Empathy, children & me

“Mum,” said the big child who for most of his life has been up at roughly 5.30am, “Why is it, the moment I enjoy sleeping in in the morning I have to start waking up really early to get to school on time?”

“One of life’s hilarious ironic jokes, my sweet,” I answer with perhaps less empathy than I might have shown.

The thing is I’m tired too. It’s not only him who has to get up earlier than we’re used to every day. I feel it’s only right to be there with him, making encouraging sounds and offering support where necessary, struggling together through the dark, sleep-deprived morning, but it’s a bit bloody exhausting.

Today shortly after 6am I made something called coffee-tea. It’s exactly what it says on the tin – coffee with some tea in it.  Either I’m so sleepy that mistakes like that are inevitable or somewhere in my preconscious mind I think I need the caffeine from not one but two different milky beverages in the morning and was trying to get it in fast.

Nevertheless, despite the earlier-than-we’re-used-to-mornings, I am finding this whole new paradigm we have all stepped into pretty good most of the time. Son No 1 has taken this giant step towards independence and in the main seems to be revelling in it, although as I point out later, sometimes needs to remind me he’s still very much a little boy.

The middle one has just about gotten over a slight crisis of confidence about who his friends are after the summer holidays. And the littlest one has taken to full-time nursery with gusto. Although, I should add that this Monday, at the beginning of his second week, he said to me,

“I don’t want to go to school today.”

“Oh? Well, you don’t’ really have a choice,” again with perhaps less empathy than I might have had.

“Why?” he asked, looking genuinely perplexed and even dismayed, evidently only just beginning to glimpse the very outer corners of a new reality.

“Because that’s how it is. School every day from Monday to Friday except in the holidays. Which is great, isn’t it? Because you love it there!” I added hopefully.

“But I want to go the park…”

“Maybe later, after school.” I suggested. Mmmmm – I could see him thinking – I’ve been tucked up right and proper up here!

A friend of mine must also be adjusting to earlier-than-she’s-used-to-mornings. Not long after I’d discarded my coffee-tea when it was still quite dark, I received an email from her inviting me to join her at a gentle-parenting seminar later this year. “I know it’s preaching to the converted,” she said, “but I think it will be interesting”. I can’t help feeling she’s deluded about my parenting skills. Converted? Yes, I do and have read much about gentle parenting, and I do my best to follow many of the principles. I have read about how to model empathetic and open behaviour, point out the good moments, use communal rather than individualistic language which can come across as accusatory (so say we and us rather than I and you when attempting to correct unhelpful behaviour), encourage everyone to apologise and make up with each-other following arguments, rather than simply fighting and then ignoring the damage done, and above all listen to what they are telling me and take their concerns seriously.

But I am very much a normal mother with normal failings. So, and perhaps it’s down to tiredness or just the general stresses of life, last night for instance, when they were yelling and refusing to sit down on their bums at supper time for longer than thirty seconds, I totally lost it and flounced out the kitchen like some mad prima-donna, but not before slamming down the banana I was slicing for a fruit salad and screaming, “If you’re not going to listen to me, make your own bloody pudding and clean up afterwards! Brats!!”

A while later the smaller two people came upstairs with ice-creams which I’m glad they found because if your mum is going to yell at you and abandon pudding mid-way through making it, the least you can expect is a sneaky Nobbly Bobbly. They asked me why I had been so cross.

“Well, because you guys never listen and you’re so loud at supper and I just want you to stay seated throughout a meal without me having to keep saying ‘sit down!’ But it was wrong of me to lose my temper and shout and I’m sorry,” I added.

Then they both hugged me, which I always love, and apologised most sincerely too. (Yay – evidence of empathy, as well as making up properly after an argument.) Afterwards they went downstairs and dragged their older brother to the kitchen, where they emptied the dishwasher and cleaned up the plates. I followed and we all repacked the dishwasher together, finished making the fruit salad and laughed a lot when No 3 said that he liked the ‘garlics’ in Doctor Who the best of all. Then No 1 decided to make apple turn overs; he’s become much more confident about baking since starting secondary school and cooking lessons.

So, I was feeling very smug and pleased with my little family, but this morning when Son No 1 told me was ill in order to stay off school when he clearly wasn’t, I just felt weary and annoyed by the fact that the feeling should have lasted for so short a time.

“You’re not ill,” I said with a lot less empathy than I might have had, “You’re just tired!”

“Of course I’m tired, getting up at this time every day! And I am ill. You just don’t love me.”

“You’re not ill! I’m not having you lying around in your pants all day feeling sorry for yourself when you should be at school.”

“It’s not fair! I’m one of only four people in my class who hasn’t had a day off sick this term…” he wailed.

I knew he wasn’t ill and was probably just feeling overwhelmed so I held my ground and eventually he sloped off to school but not before I called after him,

“I love you, little boy!”

He responded by blurting out, “No one loves you, no one even likes you!”

Okaaay – I thought to myself. Maybe I could afford to work a little harder on the whole empathy thing with my belligerent pre-teen, although, I do think if you’re going to say such nasty things then that’s about the right age for those kinds of insults.

I replied to my friend’s email inviting me to the gentle-parenting seminar, “Sure,” I said, “I’ll come along!”

In the meantime, lots to do; photos to edit, essays to write, books to read. Lots of wedding pics in next week’s blog. It’s a good job I’m not full time with weddings; I keep blubbing as I edit them – it’s so lovely! I’d be a wreck. SJ

(c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015

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Photograph taken in Son No 1’s new secondary school which has just been renovated and looks fantastic – of course he wants to go there instead of lying around here all day.  He just didn’t know it at the time.