Part two - My own family photos whilst having cancer treatment

The Reason…

People have family photos taken for lots of different reasons. Some simply just want professional photos for their walls. Some want to document the age of their children and their development. I have personally had professional photos taken for both those reasons. But this time it was different.

Three days after moving back home to Arawata, I went into surgery to get my breast removed and a whole stack of lymph nodes. There was no time to think, just time to plough through what needed to be done.

Once I was home and the cancer was removed, it wasn’t the feeling I suspected. Instead of being elated that I was now cancer free, I was in despair with the thought that it would come back and it would become a terminal diagnosis.

I spent many hard days with the thoughts that I might not be here to help my family navigate the place I have taken them to. Maybe I wouldn’t have enough time to show them all the things I had loved doing growing up. My children are young, what if they grew up in this house and had no recollection of me being with them here? It was hard, it was real, but that really is the reality of a serious cancer diagnosis.

So I needed a plan to make sure that my children did have memories of me here. I reached out to our family photographer Bec and told her exactly why I needed to hire her to come out to our property and capture some memories for us.

Being the caring, humble beautiful soul she is, she offered to come out and shoot us for free. Travelling 1.5 hours to our home, spending a few hours with us and gifting us with the most incredible images.

A gift to my girls…

I had just started radiation treatment. I had a film all over my chest with lines drawn all over it. My hair had just started growing back. When you have lost it because of chemo, it grows back soft and fluffy and grey until the real hair starts to come through. Thank fully it is no longer grey! I looked like death, but this was going to be a gift to my girls - nothing else mattered.

Bec documented everything we loved doing here as a family. We spent time in each bed room. Char loves reading to us, so we did that. Holly loves her horsey song, so she captured that for us too. We also chose to make the session about documenting my fight. So we took some ‘mastectomy’ images as well. I wanted the girls to remember that yes times were hard, but they were also filled with love and light.

Campbell our fur baby was included and so was the family pony Al. I was lucky to grow up with horses when I was younger, Holly loves horses as much as I do, teaching her to ride fills me with so much joy.

The fight continues…

When I first wrote part one about my diagnosis, I had intended to follow up with Part two the following week. However only a few days later, I found yet again another lump. My suspicions were confirmed, the cancer had returned in my lymph nodes right next to where it originally was. Again waiting for the tests to see if I was terminal was excruciating. But thankfully for now, I’m not. I had more surgery to remove it and am now on 6mths worth of oral chemo.

The Reasons are underlined in your legacy…

The main reason I wanted to share this with you is this…

None of us know what is around the corner. Each day we wake up without sickness or dread, is an absolute blessing. Something I have to remind myself everyday — we are all dying. Some of us will go before they should. Some of us will live on to be 100 and pass in their sleep. But most of us wont. Don’t wait until you receive some news that you have a terminal illness to consider this… how do you want your children to remember you? What have you put into place to ensure your children will remember you? Do us adults like being in photos - not really. Especially not when you don’t think you look your best. But the images are not about that thought. They are a gift to your children. So they will have images to remember you by and take them straight back to those times you sang to them, read with them, cuddled and kissed them. When they begin to forget you, those photos will ensure they wont.

When my Dad died, I remember thinking - what should I take? My dad was a hunter, a gun was the only thing I could think of - but what was I going to do with that! Then I found a photo in his top draw. It was an image of him and I on the beach. I had my eyes closed because I was embarrassed because I had my undies on and didn’t want my photo taken. I had forgotten that moment, until I saw the photo. I was 7 when that photo was taken. I then remembered the entire day and how much fun it was. So what did I take - I took the photos, nothing else, because nothing else could help me remember those moments.

Don’t wait until it is too late, get in that frame Mum and Dad. Gift your kids images of you both with them. I promise you when you are gone, they will be the most precious things they own.

Thank you isn’t really enough for the gift that Bec gave us. She is so incredibly talented and is an absolute beautiful human. You can find her work here…http://becstewart.com/

Love Mel x






My own diagnosis and battle with this breast cancer Mother f*$%ker!!! Part 1.

So life was pretty damn great. I have a great circle of friends and supportive family. I had finally decided to put all my eggs into the photography basket, after having them half full for far too long. I was leaving a 15 year teaching career and trying my hand at photography full time. Our babies were thriving in health and happiness, but in all honestly, I knew something dark was on the horizon.

Creatives will tell you, they produce what they feel. And I was having a massive urge to document everything about myself and my family. I hate getting in front of the lens. I have very few photos with myself in them. But for some reason, I needed to have photos that documented my life. Even if the images on my hard drive stayed there. It was just what I felt the need to do.

So I started with some family portraits in Summer 2018, taking the family out on a school night much after their bed time, documenting everything us and chasing that perfect sun.

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We had also just spent a couple of days at Wilson’s Prom, I went to the spot I had scattered my Dad’s ashes 15 years ago. And for anyone who has lost someone close, you might relate when I tell you, I could feel him with me everywhere. I don’t often get those moments anymore. But they were so strong, almost like he was trying to tell me something.

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And then came the massive urge to document my body and the feeling of unease. I look back on these and get chills, I had no signs of cancer, I have had lumpy breasts all my life, I recently got them checked by a doctor after loosing a friend to breast cancer at the age of 29. I was always checking!! Always cautious, I was doing all the right things, but something just didn’t feel right and deep down I knew I was about to step into a world of darkness.

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It was June/July school holidays 2018 and I was in the shower, checking religiously like I do and I found a lump under my arm. Dr Google to the rescue made me release that this could be really shit. So I booked into see a different doctor this time. She was a lady doctor and it was the first time I had seen her.

She said it might just be a virus. But she was going to send me for a Mammogram and Ultrasound straight away.

I went for the tests, they don’t tell you a thing, but I had my suspicions, after noticing the quiet presence wash over my sonographer as he went over the area of concern. The next day I got the call to go and see the doctor for my results. Still - stupidly, I was in denial and in such a rush because I had the kids at home, I went alone. First piece of advice -NEVER GO TO THESE THINGS ALONE!!!

Honestly the next two weeks were a blur. After the doctor confirmed it was most likely breast cancer, I was rushed in for a biopsy and 3 days later I was meeting the oncologist and touring the chemo ward. They were the darkest most horrific days of my life.

I spent them curled up in a fetal position whaling as soon as my children were out of sight. My body shook so much, I couldn’t control it and once it finally settled down, my jaw took 2 weeks to stop aching from all the shaking it was doing.

I was told I had triple negative breast cancer. It was in my lymph nodes and it was stage 3. I would immediately start with chemo as this was my best and really the only chance of survival. All breast cancers are a bitch, but triple negative is the beast of all breast cancers as it’s more aggressive and their are less treatment options.

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The plan was 5mths of chemotherapy, including 4 known as the red devil - as its red and can literally stop your heart. Followed by 12 weekly cycles or a different type. Mastectomy and radiation would follow.

I had test after test to see if the cancer had spread - thank god it hadn’t and also to see if my heart was strong enough to cope with the chemo.

So begun the chemo journey - even though I just wanted to start with surgery to chop this shit out of me, I had to put my trust into my team - which for me after being let down with a misdiagnosis was bloody hard to do. I strangely, immediately felt better once treatment started, the out of control hell I was experiencing was now under control and for the meantime I was going to stay alive.

I was put in contact with some ladies who had just walked the same path as me and god did that help. I tried the scalp cooling to prevent the hair loss as they had recommended to me.

I was put in contact with some ladies who had just walked the same path as me and god did that help. I tried the scalp cooling to prevent the hair loss as they had recommended to me.

But chunks of hair were falling out after each treatment on the hour and each time I would get a new handful, I would cry. It was a constant reminder of all I was about to lose and the depths of despair I was facing. It was consuming my mind and body.

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I visited a wig shop and purchased one - as I was so not prepared for the bald cancer look. Then I gave permission for my girls to shave my head. Hardest and best decision I made.

Whilst one was in her destruction element, the other went from crying and hiding, to coming over and wanting to help. It was emotional, but I’m glad I let them have control over the process.

Whilst one was in her destruction element, the other went from crying and hiding, to coming over and wanting to help. It was emotional, but I’m glad I let them have control over the process.

I remember the first thing my husband said to me as he looked at me with no hair. He said it was empowering and inspiring and honestly that’s actually what it ended up being. Every inch of my superficial self was now shaved off. It was the last thing I needed to worry about. It gave me the chance to look this shit in the face and acknowledge that it was here and I was indeed going to have to fight with everything I had if I wanted to survive and be here for my family.

I then embraced the bald cancer look, well not entirely, at home I pranced around with a shaved head. In public I got great at wrapping some cool scarves or wearing a beanie. One silver lining to having chemo in winter!

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I wont lie, chemo was the hardest of all treatments I have had so far. There is such a long list of shitty side effects that go with it. But all you can do is mind numb the bad days with bad reality TV and make the most of the good days which is what I did with my family, friends and my amazing clients with their squishy newborns!

I’m also not exaggerating when I say I had the most incredible team of support. I knew I had great friends, but gosh you guys, I was blown away. I immediately had a freezer full of food, a house full of cards and flowers of support and vouchers and gifts to support my family in every way shape and form. I reluctantly let my beautiful friends come and clean my home and help me when I couldn’t string two words together, let alone get out of bed.

My husband somehow managed to do it all. He would work full time, lay down beside me in my darkest of moments and let me cry on him. He made sure I never was alone at one horrible appointment or treatment ever again. When suffering horribly himself, he would then put on a brave face and be the rock star dad that the girls needed. I thank god for him every single day.

In the midst of all of this cancer crap, we decided to sell our house and move to back to the country!

See cancer is dark, horrific and fucking terrifying. But it also paints a coloured, highly contrasted paintbrush on the world. It strips away the shit that would bother you before and rids of it. It makes you notice each and every inch of this planet and how bloody lucky we are to call it home. It also makes you look at the people that make living worthwhile and appreciate the shit out of them.

So there was no better place to help us see that everyday than home amongst the hills ….

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Three days after our move, back to South Gippsland, where I grew up, I went back to Melbourne to finally once and for all have this cancer mother f*$ker cut out of me and finally after 6mths from first diagnosis I was able to call myself cancer free.

Part two will showcase the family photographs I got done for all the morbid reasons at our beautiful home. Right smack bang in the middle of my final treatment phase - radiation. They were taken by a truly gifted incredible, giving photographer Bec Stewart who travelled all the way out to us just so I could have some images with our babies and my husband in our new home.

If you have read this far - thank you. It’s taken awhile to know how to write this. But hopefully it will make those that know my story understand how grateful I am that you are in my life and for those who don’t know me - to listen to your instincts. And ladies - check your bloody boobs! Like tonight - in the shower because you deserve a hot one if you live in Melb - as its freezing!


Love Mel xx




















The documentary of birth on the Mornington Peninsula

A documentary tail of the birth of Claude at Frankston Hospital.

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This little spunk is the first baby for Kathleen and Ryan. From the first contraction in early labour to the time he arrived it took a whopping 36 hours! Kathleen was surrounded with the support of not only her hubby, but also her sister and Mum.

Kathleen did everything humanly possible to have a natural, drug free birth. However as most Mother’s will tell you, babies tend to write their own script of how they will arrive, no matter how much planning and preparation you do. The most important element is the safety of baby and Mum and fortunately even after a long enduring labour, Claude arrived perfectly safe and healthy.

Congratulations Kathleen and Ryan on the arrival of your little ball of perfection.


Welcoming Ethan and Harvey - South Gippsland Newborn photographer

Maternity Session on the Mornington Peninsula

The cliffs of the Mornington Peninsula did not disappoint on this balmy night. The golden like seeped through and created the most perfect backdrop for Jess and Joe’s Maternity session.

Jess hired her stunning dress from Two Wild Hearts. It was just absolutely perfect and it was difficult to imagine that she was growing two boys in that perfect round tummy!

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It wasn’t long before their two perfect little boys were born. They were so placid throughout the entire session. I can’t even imagine the juggle of having more than one newborn, but boy did this family make it look easy.


Melbourne Maternity and Newborn Session for the Burk Family

It is always extra special when I get to meet and photograph expecting clients and then follow them through to document the arrival of their little person.

Krissy and Adam love spending time at the beach, so we decided to head down to the cliffs of Mount Martha for their maternity shoot and were blessed with a perfect Melbourne night.

Then a month and a bit later, it was time to document the story of welcoming baby Dallas into their world. He is a gorgeous, placid little man who clearly has inherited his parents love for the water too.

Elroy -their photogenic Golden Retriever, also stole the show in many of the photos. We have our own one too, so I have an extra soft spot for this breed:)

Elsie - Melbourne newborn photographer

Lilah Pattinson - Melbourne Newborn Photography

Meet Lilah Pattinson

It’s probably just as well Australian cricket legend James Pattinson is currently recovering from injury as he and his beautiful wife Kayla, had a little surprise coming their way. Lilah was born 5 weeks early due to complications in pregnancy. But their are no signs of her scary, unplanned early entry into the world. She is strong and just as perfect as can be. Now the family of three plus two fur babies Ghost and Archie, get to enjoy their newborn love bubble. Just in time before James is back fighting fit and ready to go on tour with Australia with his two gorgeous girls by his side I’m sure.

Port Melbourne Newborn Lifestyle session for Miss Evie.

 

It was a drive into the city to photograph this gorgeous button and her family for a newborn session at their home in Port Melbourne.

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Tracey and Joel welcomed Evie into the world on May 11th. Placid she remained the entire duration of the shoot and we got to see lots of those beautiful huge possum eyes. I'm often amazed at how well new parents adapt to having their little person at home. When I stepped into the Sahayam apartment it was as though Evie had always been there.

It was a little while into the session that I came across another little lady of the house, who sat very eloquently on top of her Mum and Dad's bed, not even approaching for a sniff - fur baby Chloe would have to be the most well behaved dog I have ever come across. Tracey spoke about how she would go into the office with her to work every day - even attending meetings!

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The photo shoot involved lots of snuggles and kisses...

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Story time..

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Feeding...

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Sleep...

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Play...

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And my favourite part... bath time! 

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Thank you Tracey and Joel for inviting me into your home and trusting me to capture these precious moments for you. I loved every single minute of it!

Mel xo

 

In home newborn lifestyle session to welcome Flynn Wigmore

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It was a drive across the Westgate and off to the suburb of Seddon for an... 

In home newborn lifestyle session in Melbourne's West. 

I photographed this little man and his very lovely parents Josie and Luke and their rescue dog Sadie. I spent the morning into the early afternoon capturing 6 week old Flynn's little personality. He was quite the camera fan, watching and studying my every move.

I got to photograph snuggles and those adoring looks from loved up, doting Mum and Dad...

...Some very sweet puppy love. Sadie was very much in love with Flynn too!

Those feeding moments (note those beautiful stare bear eyes, studying my every move). 

And a newborn in home story wouldn't be complete without a bubba bath:) 

Josie is a very savvy business woman and an entrepreneur in her own right. She has her own lifestyle blog - 'By Barber,' and you can find all of her tips from interiors, to lifestyle products and those essential goodies for first time parents @www.bybarber.com.au

Until June 18th mention the code 'JOSIEBARBER' and receive 20% off ALL of my packages!!! That's over a $100 saving! You can book your session in for any time during the year, all I need is a deposit to secure the discount and the date. 

Mel xx

 

In home newborn session for Bobby Barba

In Home Newborn Sessions are Here!

As time goes on, my role as a photographer becomes more defined. I began my passion for photography, loving all of it! The posed and unposed. Lifestyle, Documentary, Portrait, Fine Art, Marco, Landscape - you name it I love it. However the importance of finding my place in the photography world comes from peeling back the layers of who I am as person and bringing those aspects out through my art. 

My role as a Mother is forefront the driving force behind what I do. My children are the reason I see the world as I do. They are my muse and daily inspiration. Motherhood has taught me to find complete solace in the raw, imperfect, messiness and craziness of life. Which is why 'in home' sessions seem like the perfect fit for my business. 

And to launch this new element to our business I had the perfect models to showcase exactly what it is all about...

Ella and Billy welcome home their beautiful baby boy Bobby. 

'In home' newborn sessions are for those wanting to capture life exactly how it is when your baby first enters your world. It's about photographing that little love bubble that you find yourself in. Doting, adoring parents admiring every tiny detail of their new bub. Mum and baby learning the art of feeding. The details of the space you have created just for them and the overwhelming joy and love you feel for your new family.  

Until May the 7th I'm offering a..

$100 discount for my 'in home' sessions.

I just require a deposit to pencil in your due date. After that we wait for this little person to arrive and lock in an exact date. 

 To chat further about package inclusions contact me here.. 

Family Photography with the Scott Family

Hidden gems for family photography on the Mornington Peninsula 

I've been busting to have a moment to share this session with you all. It was one of those typical Melbourne days where we had a bit of every weather pattern possible. It's days like this I watch the radar very carefully, because if we are lucky enough to have the rain clear at sunset, it can produce picturesque skies and perfect golden light. Which is exactly what we were blessed with. 

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This was also the first time I've photographed at this location on the Mornington Peninsula and I must say - it's a new favourite. At sunset the golden light illuminates the red rock cliffs, giving a glow against the ocean. It is such a stunning backdrop and a great one to explore with families. 

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I knew from the first moments spent I would have fun with this gorgeous family. They were full of energy, cheekiness, connection and loved to explore.

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We headed straight down to the beach where we found treasures and watched the huge waves as they rolled in against the rocks. We attacked Mum and Dad with seaweed - which may have or have not been provoked by me;) and carefully crossed the little waterfall. 

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As the sun was about to set, we headed up to the cliffs, walking along the path of long sea grass. We played some more games and even found some dandelions to blow away. 

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As you probably all know by now, I ask my family clients to tell me a little about themselves as a family. This helps me get to know each individual personality so I can help showcase that during the shoot. It also helps me to know the deep connections you have as a family. It is usually the Mums that give me the info, but I do love it so much when Dads get involved too. And Tige won me over straight away with his beautiful words about his stunning wife. 

Here is some of what the Scott family shared with me..

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For myself I always knew I wanted to be a mum and have a family, my husband fell in love with my niece when she was born and was eager to have kids after that. Once they were born he asked me why we waited so long. As you know its challenging and tough each and every day but the rewards far outweigh the hard times.

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We have our own business (my husband has trucks and he works interstate a lot) so we are very busy and time with our family is very precious. When my husband is home we try and do our best to always spend time together as a family and enjoy whatever time to have. Through all our challenges and struggles we always seem to come through them stronger and we are very blessed because we are a good team together and on most things we are always on the same page and work together to achieve the same goals in life. We struggled having children and Chase was an IVF baby but even though we had 3 miscarriages we managed to conceive Spencer and Sienna naturally so we feel very blessed and lucky to have 3 amazing and healthy children. Sure they drive us mad sometimes but it's our family and we love them so much and we really are happy in our lives. 

We have a holiday home in Ocean Grove so we spend a lot of time there and we also try and get out on our sky boat when we can, not as often as my husband would like though. We live busy lives but we try to keep them active and exploring outdoors. We don’t have gadgets for our kids even though they ask constantly but we want them to be active and engage in other activities. We love parks and playgrounds, beach and water and when in Ocean Grove we take them to Adventure Park as often as we can. We look forward to travelling more and being able to take them overseas to experience the world and other cultures.

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'Chase is 6 and the oldest, he is very artistic and creative, he enjoys jokes and anything that challenges his mind and creative side. , I love watching him happy and engaged in something he is passionate about, which is usually drawing and construction.'

Natural Melbourne family photography - Berwick Photographer - family connection - outdoors - beach
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'Spencer is 4 and our free spirit. He is loving, caring and considerate. He has a really cheeky side and loves to giggle.'

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'Sienna is 2 (3 in April) and she is our perfect little princess, loves all things girly and sweet but having 2 older boisterous brothers she is very head strong and capable. Sienna to me is just perfect, she is loving and happy and I just love everything about her!'

Melbourne family photographer - Berwick family photography - Mornington Peninsula - father and daughter
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'Tige is very loving and affectionate with not only me but the kids, he is a very hands on with our kids and tries very hard to engage with them. He is a hard worked and very passionate. He is masculine yet very kind hearted and considerate of others. I’m very lucky to have someone that loves me so much!'

What Tige says about Caroline... 'What I love most about you is that you are the most kind and warm hearted lady. You are the love of my life. I am honoured and privileged to have you as the mother of my children and my partner in crime. We work so well together and you make me a much better person. With you by my side I believe we can achieve anything.'

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Thank you Scott Family - it was a privilage to be chosen to document your family. And please thank the kids for me again for the invitation to dinner - hehe xoxo

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Dizon Family Photos - Dandenong Ranges

 

 

Photographing in Sherbrooke Forest with this gorgeous family...

Kathryn, Earl and their two girls Ava and Zoe

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When working out a location for family photography, I begin by asking clients their favourite places to visit as a family. From there I refer to my list of locations and find one that matches the places they usually explore as a family. So for this gorgeous lot, the Dandenongs was the perfect place to head out to for some photos. 

As soon I met the girls, I knew we were going to have lots of fun! They were bubbly, full of excitement and loved to explore. Their love for their Mum and Dad was evident right from the get go, lots of non prompting kisses and cuddles. Honestly the four of them were a dream to photograph and the hardest part from the whole experience, was culling their photos. 

Here is what Kathryn had to say about her beautiful fam...

Earl & I met at high school, we started dating when we were 18 years old and have been together ever since (18 years). This year we are celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary. Throughout our 18 years together, like other couples we have shared many highs and some lows but we have supported each other throughout the entire way. We have purchased 2 houses together, experienced holidays overseas and in Australia, attended music festivals and watched our favourite bands, eaten at fabulous restaurants,  and enjoyed so many fun and exciting times together. We have grown so much as individuals and as a couple and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for our little family. 

We haven’t had any professional photos taken for over 3 years; when our youngest daughter was a newborn so I felt it was definitely time to do it again. 

Having children was something we both always wanted. I always knew that I would be a mum and am so happy that we have been blessed with our two gorgeous girls. 

These words come to mind when thinking about our daughter’s personalities: 

Ava (6 years old) – Confident, energetic, funny, determined, clever, fearless, opinionated, enthusiastic, loveable

Zoe (3 years old) – Cheeky, sensitive, clever, cautious, strong-willed, inquisitive, talkative, loveable

Ava, our beautiful firstborn. I love so many things about Ava; she is enthusiastic, outgoing and has a great sense of humour. I love the way she loves her little sister, she has a very caring nature and is keen to help others.  Ava is cheeky but can be very serious and she always gives things a go. I love Ava’s creative side, the way she sings and dances and her passion for performing. I love Ava’s eagerness to learn, she is very intelligent and it was amazing watching her grow so much in her first year of school. I love Ava’s long brown wavy locks, her light brown eyes and beautiful tanned coloured skin.  I am so proud of our Ava and feel blessed that she picked me to be her mummy. 

Zoe, who we call our Zozo. I love her cheekiness, her giggle is infectious and her smile is amazing. Zoe has a very sensitive side to her and can be shy at times but once she is comfortable in her surroundings, her beautiful personality shines through. Zoe is a little pocket rocket, on the go all the time and I feel like she has energy that can last for days! She started talking very early on and is such a chatterbox, we have great conversations. I love Zoe’s quirkiness and her quick witted nature. I love Zoe’s curly dark brown hair, her big deep brown coloured eyes and her beautiful tanned skin.  I am so proud of our Zozo and feel so blessed that she also picked me to be her mummy. 

I secretly hoped for another daughter when I was pregnant with Zoe as I have a sister. I have a close relationship with my sister so I wanted that for my girls, a best friend for life. 

Zoe adores her big sister, don’t get me wrong they have their moments together but overall there is definitely a lot of love there! 

 

Earl...My best friend, the person who I have shared so many milestones with and the person who really truly just gets me. I love the way Earl loves his girls – they are his everything, he is such a wonderful dad and will do anything for his family. I love Earl’s passion for life, he is so caring, loving, sensitive and is such a hard worker. I love Earl’s outgoing personality, I think I am a bit more reserved and shy so we definitely complement/balance each other. Earl is my soul mate and I love the life we have created together.