You are awesome! I have watched a lot of dads at work during newborn or family sessions and at weddings. And we’d be lost without them. From making sure they don’t fall off a climbing frame to jumping on a trampoline with them. From giving smushy newborn kisses to changing nappies that should have a health and safety warning attached! From walking daughters down the aisle to welcoming new sons and daughters into the family. There isn’t much I haven’t seen.

In honour of day of the dads, I thought it would be nice to share some of my favourite images of dads with their kids of various ages from the last number of years.

Dads, you really are amazing!

  • June 18, 2017 - 9:46 am

    Jo Boland - Aw, that’s a lovely collection of photos xxReplyCancel

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After going through the AQE transfer process for the second time, I thought it worth sharing some of what I learnt from the whole experience.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with AQE, let me explain in brief. AQE stands for Association of Quality Education. It is used to refer to the transfer tests that P7 pupils in Northern Ireland take to gain a place in our local grammar schools, and when I refer to it here, I am also including the GL tests which many children also take. We used to have an 11+ exam which all schools used and most children sat and whilst it wasn’t ideal, many would agree it was better than this system we now have. Each November, 10 and 11 year olds across the country sit 3-5 tests, then wait for 2 months for a score before applying for school places and waiting 4 months to find out their educational future. It’s been a rollercoaster and I am thankful we are finally done with it!

Today we finally found out which school Conor will get to attend next year, and while we are delighted that he was happy when the letter was opened, I can’t help but feel something else that I can’t quite put my finger on. It hovers somewhere between anxiety, anger, frustration, disappointment, hopefulness and helplessness. I know I’m not the only one feeling this way today. And I know of many others who are still in that place, hoping that things will work out when the transition takes place. Praying for new friends for their child who won’t get to transfer with their friends. And generally just wondering how on earth we got to a place that puts our 10 and 11 year olds under so much unnecessary (unacceptable?) stress and strain.

So what exactly did AQE teach me?

Well firstly, it taught me that our children are not defined by a score. Obviously no one ever defines their kids by a score, but it’s amazing the power those numbers on the results letter in January had. We had tears as we processed higher scores as well as for friends who had scored lower. For weeks our children seemed to refer to these numbers as if they were the be all and end all. But I ask  you, how can a number add meaning to this?

It will come as no surprise to anyone that another valuable lesson I learnt through this second time round is the value of friendships. I could not have come through this last few months without the incredible support of my friends, whether that support came in a text, a hug or a gin! And I know that the one thing that has sustained Conor has been his friendships, particularly with those who love him just for who he is. So thank you to all of you – you are truly angels sent from the Lord.

The transfer process is truly awful for any child, but I don’t really have the words to describe my experience of being an anxious parent trying to guide an anxious child through the last year. Maybe if you can just imagine feeling constantly on edge, waiting for the next meltdown and trying to be prepared to remain calm and not let your own insecurities come to the forefront, you might be able to begin to understand. And I know categorically that this is how so many other friends of mine have felt too. So I’ve learnt that we need to be gentle with ourselves and with our kids. My mum and sister will be howling at this, as this lesson is a serious case of don’t do as I do, do as I say! Anyway, it has been the little things that have reassured us during these months. A kind word, a gentle hand of encouragement and taking comfort where we can find it are treasures to store in our hearts.

Of all the observations I’ve made recently, perhaps none has resonated more with me than the need for each of us to embrace who we are and be ok with that. I have long ago accepted my own weirdness as a good thing! I no longer care what others think about my iMusic playlists and I have embraced my love of paranormal teen fiction (along with several of my closest friends, might I add!) That I choose to wear yellow shoes that look like I’m undergoing some sort of foot treatment bothers me not a jot! And I will keep trying to encourage both of my sons to do the same. You love cricket? You go play cricket. You want to make your own Lego WWI soldiers? You go for it! You want to dance along to the beat of your own drum? Be my guest!

But if there is one thing that AQE has taught me more than anything else, it is this.

Family. Is. Everything.

The end. Beyond the people we love and live with there is little else that matters. It is these people who push us through when we are scared, and catch us when we stumble. They share our successes and failures without judgement. They couldn’t care less what numbers are on a piece of paper or really what school we go to. They only care about us. Worries, warts and war wounds.

So if you’ve been in the same boat as us this past year and have finally closed the door on possibly the worst experience imaginable for our children, then I salute you. That’s a job well done!

To those of you who have just started the process, maybe you’ll take some comfort from this post and remember over the next year that your child is unique and amazing and that’s all that matters. Because my son is this…

But he is also this…

…and this.

The beat he is dancing to is his and his alone. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

PS:: The family photo and those portraits of Conor at the end are by Gather & Tides – they are amazing at celebrating their own family and I am so glad they captured ours last summer.

  • May 20, 2017 - 10:03 pm

    Jo Boland - So pleased that the process is over for you and that in the end you received the outcome you all hoped for. Pleasure to be counted among your friends who gave you support and thrilled to be able to congratulate Conor when you text me the news this morning. Thank goodness that’s all over for both of us now, hurrah! xxxReplyCancel

  • May 21, 2017 - 11:01 am

    Sheila - I am tremendously excited to be one of Janine’s angels! 😇 So glad it’s all over for us all! Now just to get them through the last 5 weeks of term!ReplyCancel

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One of the best bits of photographing a couple’s wedding, is that sometimes you get a call a year or two down the line to share the amazing news of a new addition to the family and the need for some new photos. I was had the best time second shooting with Aly Harte at Pamela and Andy’s wedding several years ago, and as Aly has decided to focus full time on her art and wellbeing blog (and sold me most of her equipment!) it was me who got to document the new family of 3.

Now we all know I’m a sucker for a baby session, but the cuteness of this and Eva’s facial expressions for one so young literally tipped me over the edge. Also, is there anything more beautiful to watch than new parents who are in love with their baby? I think not.

 

I have some space for family sessions through the summer, so if you would more information I would love you to fill in the contact form at the top of this post. I promise you won’t regret it!

 

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It’s such a miserable night here – rain is pelting down, the wind is blowing the bins all over the place, and we’ve the fire lit for some comfort inside. Somehow it just doesn’t feel like spring has sprung, even though the Google logos are trying to convince us otherwise! So in the name of encouraging spring along, I thought I’d share some photos I took of my friend Zoë teaching a group of fabulous women how to make a floral crown. Zoë is the owner of Zoë Conville Design House, based here in Bangor, and we’re doing a little mutual Mother’s Day giveaway on our Facebook pages which you might want to check out. Her floral creations are completely stunning yet she manages to make it all look so easy. I’ve had a go at it and I can tell you it’s not!

These images were taken at a party organised by another creative and talented friend, Janice of Gathered Threads, and the combination of creative women, sunshine and maybe just a little bubbly made for a wonderful evening all round. I highly recommend a nosey at the websites and Facebook pages of these two, as well as making sure you’re all signed up to the giveaways. You can enter Zoë’s via her Facebook page and mine by making sure you’re on my newsletter list before Friday 23 March at midday. You’ll find the link for that here. For now I shall leave you with these gloriously sunny photos and head back off to the fire, and maybe a wee gin!

Don’t forget you can sign up to my newsletter here for news, offers and general chit chat delivered right to your inbox!

 

  • March 23, 2017 - 12:53 am

    Sandra Boyle - Well, that looks like wee buns!! I`ll knock up a couple for the girls in time for Easter!! However, the colours are just so pretty & spring like!!ReplyCancel

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