Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Couch Diving

Now I am one of those Mama's who believe in house-proofing the child, not child-proofing the house. There are a stack of things that the kids can't touch or do in our home. Rules aplenty which they learn through consistency and abide by pretty well. I want them to respect our home and I find through this they also learn to respect other's homes and possessions too. But I try to make sure there is a good motivation for the rules- and if it doesn't bother me, then I don't want to bother them.

Said all that to say - somersaults on the couch?? Well, why not!

No shoes of course, and they know they can't jump on couches in other people's homes. There will come a time when this will no longer be ok (sixteen??) but for now... I love it!

Just look at her fly!

Hmmm, these photos remind me I simply must get the painter soon to do those walls and especially ceilings after we got them repinned before our kitchen reno in November - argh! Anyway, ignore those and focus on the little ray of sunshine diving off the couch!!

Does this make me a bad parent, to allow such antics??!! ;)

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Drawing Rainbows, Feeling Thankful

It might be pouring rain allllll week around here, but we have already got some beautiful rainbows appearing in our home, thanks to my little lady. It was a misty grey day with the rain in a continual peaceful shower. Eli went down for a nap in the morning, which is when Lily and I have some one-on-one time (sans wriggly little brother), usually doing Learning Time (an activity, lesson, craft etc). It was ever so grey, so starting off with a cosy snuggle on the couch seemed the right way to go.

Then Lily jumped up - I have an idea Mummy!

She busied herself preparing the loungeroom - a tray of (fake) snacks, a glass of (real) water, two plates filled with crayons (one each!), and a notebook opened to a nice big double page.

Let's draw rainbows together!

Yes, let's!

So side by side we sat, snuggled inside on a rainy day, enjoying some quiet time together. Just me and my girl, some crayons and some (fake) snacks.... what more could we need? Yes, folks, this is what I quit my job for and I could not be more grateful for moments like these...

I like drawing rainbows with you, I said to my sweet girl as we worked away on our artistic endeavours.

I smiled as Lily scrawled and talked to herself, 'Now where is the indigo? Now I just need some violet... ' Yes, she is very familiar with the Rainbow song! Oh and I realise her pen grip is ideal but although I've shown her how to hold it the 'correct' way, this is what she prefers and I've read at this age not to force it? Anyone with thoughts otherwise, feel free to advise!

So rain - keep on pouring if you must - and we will keep delighting in the little rainbows God is already sending to our little family home. Promises of His blessings and faithfulness are assured, indeed.

Later in the day, Lily hugged me and said 'I love you Mummy, because I love drawing rainbows with you'. Love you too, little Monkey, thanks for organising  such a special moment for us to share!


Monday, 27 February 2012

Helping me, Helping you

Today I got to hang out with Lily at school! Each term her playschool asks for parents to volunteer for a day of being the teacher's assistant and today was my lucky day. It was a sweet opportunity to see how the whole morning is structured, see my little sweetie in action and get a chance to know her little buddies better too. As it was a rainy day, it was a day full of craft and it was gorgeous to see how her amazing teachers kept the kids busy, entertained and having fun the whole time.

I even got time to play with my girl. She was the Mummy and I was the visitor coming to meet her new baby. (!!) She was such a busy multi-tasking Mummy, she even had to put all the bedding into the washing machine during my visit. What a woman, huh!

My heart swelled as I helped set out all the lunch boxes at the tables. These oh-so-big little kids, upwrapping their own lunches, disposing of the rubbish and so on, ever so independent and capable now. I was so touched to see my little Missy in this environment, three weeks in and already so confident in her new routine - putting things away, sitting on the rug, following the teacher's instructions ever so faithfully - growing up, stepping out and fitting in so easily into her new little world. So proud of my little lady!

Blue stained hands were evidence of a morning well-spent. I felt so lucky to get this special time with my girl, witnessing her growing confidence as she makes her own first steps into the world, taking it in stride and doing it in her own happy, cheery, friendly way. Love her!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Whistling while we work

After several very busy weekends, the house was in a state and we spent much of the weekend trying to get on top of the 'house and garden', which, far from appearing to be anything that would appear in a magazine of similar name, was instead going to wrack and ruin! Argh.... homes sure take a lot of upkeep, don't they? Although I try and often do have a better attitude to such realities, I admit this weekend my feelings were: overwhelmed, exhausted, over the neverendingness! Nevertheless, we ploughed on in getting the house back into some semblance of order (oh, the floors, ugh!), and hacking away at our jungle of a garden! In the midst of my blahness, my little lady gave me some well-needed rays of sunshine...

It's a sweet time when your child is old enough to play and amuse herself along side you, to be working with a little companion by your side. As I was pruning back some shrubs, I told Lily she could pick the leaves and flowers off the cuttings if she wanted to, to do with as she wished. She was thrilled to pick flowers at will (normally verboten) and for some reason today she was either acting out a story in her head or just running her own commentary in third person, because as she played she chattered aloud in the most charming fashion! I didn't interrupt but instead listened with a smile on my face while I worked, as streams of her chirpy little voice filled the backyard...

Here is just a snippet -

'And so the little girl sat down next to her plastic bag, and picked some lovely flowers to make a collage. The little girl loved to pick flowers and it made her so happy. She didn't see any spiders. It was very sunny. She got so many beautiful flowers in lots of colours, and then she wanted to make a collage so she decided to go inside, and she ran and ran and ran...'

Off she disappeared inside as the artist's muse hit.... leaving pools of sunshine and perspective in her wake. Love her!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Dining out with my Delights...

We went out to our favourite Thai restaurant on Saturday night to celebrate an Auntie's birthday with the rest of the local extended family. It has been a while since we dined out at a semi-nice restaurant with the kids at night... mostly because, hey, as much as I love them, if I'm going to drop some serious cash on a meal, I would much prefer to do so sans-kids as there is a slightly higher chance I will get to properly relax and eat/taste/enjoy my meal! Know what I'm saying, fellow parents?! The thing about dining out with kids is, there is just no telling how it will pan out - could be awesome, could be a nightmare, you won't know till you're in it with a screeching child delighting your fellow diners as you scarf down a meal that you don't even have a chance to look at let alone taste! The risk factor is high, but I think it's still good to do on occasion, on the chance it will be a pleasure and to give the kids a chance to enjoy it and of course learn how to behave in such a setting too.

So - we went - and lo and behold - it was lovely! Of course, we were well stocked with books, snacks and activities, as well as various exit strategies and plans for melt downs, etc - forewarned is forearmed and all that. We also made sure to talk through the expectations and 'Restaurant Rules' with Lily on the way so she knew what to expect. Turns out we didn't need half of our supplies as the excitement of the venue and company kept the kids well entertained! Lily was thrilled to be in such a grown up setting and was a delight -continually remarking on how dark it was outside, and how it must be realllllly late! Eli did extremely well especially given the reservation was at 6.30pm and we didn't eat till well past 7pm! We find the key to eating out is taking our wriggliest family member (um, Eli!) for a quick walk in the foyer or outside in the gap between courses to burn off some energy, which kept him happy in his highchair the rest of the time (when he wasn't busy charming the extended family and waitresses with his smiles and kisses and cute words, of course.... geez can this kid work a crowd!!)

Lily's 10 year old cousin brought  (via his parents)  sweet little gifts for my two - a sparkly lady bug ring for Lily and a little wooden kangaroo for Eli. Well. The ring was a huge hit. Lily was shocked into blissed out silence upon its reception. She kept hugging her cousin and saying thankyou and simply could.not.stop.smiling - the kind of smile where you try to contain it because the joy within you seems just too good to be true. The girl loves her bling...and a sparkly ring (in light of recent wedding festivities) was just too good to be true. We could not stop laughing at her glee, she is such a funny little creature!

Restaurant colouring books are the best!

Post meal bliss (and ladybug ring display)
Dinner finished at 9pm and we went back to my Grandfather's house for coffee and birthday cake. The kids were still going strong so we decided the game plan would be to go (cos hey, we were out of the house, so let's make the most of it!) and put Eli down to sleep in the KinderKot (our beloved little pop-up baby travel tent) but as Lily was now ever so grown up at 3.5 years, we decided to let her stay up and have fun with her cousin and hanging out with the adults.... when she got tired or whingy, we would go home. Well, Little Miss Party Animal had the time of her life, having fun without getting crazy, chatting to the grown ups and doing her best to monitor her own behaviour to keep the fun going as long as possible... I was so proud of her efforts and her behaviour. We also had a lovely time celebrating and chatting with family and finally took our little crew home at 11pm cos we the parents were exhausted!

A delight to dine out with my handsome hubby too!

We are big believers in routine and protecting healthy sleep patterns for our kids, but I think part of that is then having the freedom and flexibility to break out of that routine every now and then for a bit of fun and adventure. Children are so variable but it's worth trying new things and giving them the opportunity to learn and grow and explore those exciting new settings, even with the risks involved! Yeah, sometimes it is a disaster but I guess we all live and learn, right?

And as it turns out - I was truly delighted with my two new little dinner companions!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Let's Go Visiting

Opening a sweet drawing from Grandma C

Today we went to visit a dear lady we know through our church, who we call Grandma C. She is an amazing woman who has endured pretty much everything life can throw at a person, and is now living with a chronic and debilitating illness, which leaves her in frequent awful pain and often house bound and bed-ridden, though she has good patches too, thankfully. We go to visit when we can, taking a meal and of course Artist Lily takes a drawing. Lily adores her and often suggests visiting, choosing to see Grandma C over going to the library or most other options. It's always an adventure at her house, with her amazing garden and many little treasures the kids just love to explore!

Snacks on the rug

We visit because I know God wants us to look out for the ill, the elderly and the lonely in our community. We visit because I want the kids to learn to think of others, to bless and to serve. Because the kids love to see her and I want them to also know we have outings that are not focused on them but on someone else for a change - and this is a good thing! But most of all? We visit because we love her, and we come away just as blessed and encouraged (if not more so!) from our time with her as she is thrilled to have some company and the sunshine that little kiddies tend to spread! In spite of her ups and downs, her pain and her ongoing struggles, this woman's faith is strong and inspiring. God is her comfort and her strength and the fact of that shines out in the midst of her suffering. She is open, honest, frank, funny, loving and wise. A woman of faith and friendship... a living treasure indeed. We love her!

Checking out the awesome fish pond!

Fun putting rocks into the water!

Always plenty of cuddles

So thankful that my kids get to know and spend time with Grandma C. Thankful that their relationship blesses them as well as her... and me! A tough lady with a fighting spirit, she has been a source of love, support and inspiration in my life - and couldn't we all use one of those? I am so grateful to sit at the feet of someone whose life has been tested and yet still clings to joy and faith... and so... we go visiting!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Independent Playtime

One of the most important and valuable portions of our usual daily routine is  Independent Playtime (IP). It has been such a blessing to my kids... and to me!

The general idea is allowing children to learn to play happily and - you guessed it - independently!

Starting at babyhood, you simply find a safe space (I find the cot/crib or playpen is the easiest for babies), pop in a variety of toys and books (some favourites, some different ones), and just let them explore! I find the key is out of sight, out of mind - if my kids could see me, they would want to escape or fuss, but if they are given their own space and peace, they played happily and contentedly.

I started with both my kids when they could sit independently and grab toys on their own (around 7-8 months) and start at just 5-10 minutes. As they could play happily for the entire time, I gradually increased it to a time that suited them, me and our day. For Eli at 19 months, it is about 45 minutes - yup, that entire time he plays happily and enthusiastically with just a handful of toys! It is one of the many (shocking) benefits we have found in IP - this little whirling dervish who is constantly on the move and usually flits from one toy to another (leaving them all in his wake!) can peacefully and intently play with just a limited selection for so long. It amazes me, but definitely says something about the idea that kids are often so overwhelmed with so much choice and space, it can actually be quite soothing to them to just have a little space and limited options every now and then.

What else do I love about IP?
  • Eli learns focusing skills and increased attention span.
  • He learns to entertain himself independently without needing to be constantly 'entertained' by someone else,
  • He learns creativity and problem solving (especially without me so quickly diving in to help!)
  • It calms and relaxes him on a fractious day,
  • He has time with different kinds of toys that he wouldn't usually bother with (as well as some faves of course!)
  • Mama gets some time to take care of different things - household chores, email, phonecalls, preparing meals, solo time with his sister, etc, all while knowing Eli is safe and happy - and best of all - he is occupied but not in front of the TV! I also love that getting this 'stuff' done during this time means it frees me up to focus more on the kids during the rest of the day.

Lily has always done it too since a little lass, but that deserves it's own post as she has her own charming approach and being older she safely plays in her bedroom for her Independent Playtime (for about an hour). She has gotten all the same benefits as Eli has and I have seen it been such a blessing to her as she has gotten older. I admit I often find myself listening outside the door as she plays in a more imaginative and engaged way then I usually see her when 'out in the world'. It is truly just magical hearing her chirpy little voice exploring and creating in her very own little space.

IP is part of our regular week day routine, usually after breakfast and before Eli's morning nap (which we are slowly currently weaning from). I use a kitchen timer set up on his dresser so he can see it (and hear it tick) and he knows when he is all done. After I set him and the timer up, he cheerfully waves me 'Bye Bye!' as I leave the room. Today I lingered a bit trying to take some snaps of him and he stood up and started saying 'BYE BYE!!! BYE BYE!!" - which I interepreted as 'Mum, how about you get going, I've got work to do here!!'. Ahem!

When the timer goes off, I hear him immediately start clapping and cheering 'All done!!! All done! Good job!'. Cracks me up every time, that boy is such a card!

This routine and skill (which I first picked up from the Growing Families parenting course and books), has been such a blessing to our household. I think I already said that but I guess it bears repeating 'cos I really mean it! I love to see them learning to enjoy their own company, entertain themselves and engage with play in a more focused and peaceful way. I read a great article by the amazing Janet Lansbury about Independent Play for babies and children and how we are so often 'told' not to use the TV as a babysitter but are at a loss of what else we can do that serves that all too legitimate need parents have of a little time in a long day just to breathe, or get things done. TV can certainly serve that purpose (at times) but IP is a much preferred tool in my parenting tool bag that not only gives them - and me - a little 'space' in our sweet days together, but is enjoyable, engaging, fun and character building. So yes, it gives me that time, but more than that I love to see how the kids embrace and flourish with it.

It works for us and for that I am so thankful!

So... all the babies who're independent, throw your hands up at me! (Sing it with me, haha!)

A lovely quote from Janet Lansbury to finish -

 'The love of inner-directed play, creative thought and solitude will be lifelong gifts that neither you nor your child will ever regret.'

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Laundry Boy

I am big on kid's learning responsibility in our little home - from an early age I really want them to understand that everyone in the family can do their part (no matter how small) to contribute. We are a team and we all pitch in! Alas, this requires much patience and consistency from me!! Which I admit is not always as present as I would like, especially when little hands take so much longer to get the job done. However, I am committed to plugging away and try to look at the ever-ongoing household chores not just as tasks to be done, but as part of our rhythm of our days and it's ok if they sometimes get done in very fragmented and messy sections!

Hopefully the long term benefits will be worth it and just as I am (slowly!) learning that it is a blessing to serve my family by taking care of the home, I want my kids to be part of that too! I try to keep tasks fun, simple and not onerous. Thankfully at this age kids usually love to help out and I figure it's worth capturing this enthusiasm while it's there! Like so much of parenting, I find the kids easily rise to consistent and calm expectations, any lacking usually comes from my own inability to be consistent with them on a day to day basis... ah well, we try, right?!

Eli's first 'chore' is helping distribute the clean laundry to the various rooms of the house (Lily started with this too). His current system is hilarious and I managed to capture it today....

He runs to the bedroom I tell him to take his sweet-little-arms-filled-with-clothes to.... being only 19 months he doesn't always get this right, so I sometimes find a pile of clothes placed thoughtfully on the couch or in the kitchen, but oh well!

Stop for a photo...'Cheeese!'

(Sidenote: the horrendously grubby open wardrobe mirror that is flashing in the background is so streaky because Eli likes to stand in front of it and kiss it/himself. Eeep!)

 Toss the clothes in the door way (as the Laundry Fairy/Mummy later puts them into the drawers)

Run through the house clapping and shrieking 'Good Job!!!! Good Job!!!!' (which sounds like 'Goo Jahhhhhhh!)

With Eli's prowess at the washing line, hopefully it's only a couple more years before I can hand over the entire laundry routine to him?! (Ha!)

Yes, it's a pretty messy and drawn out system, but it turns the ever revolving door of laundry into a fun and active game and hopefully a learning opportunities for the littlies! I want to lay foundations for the gift of service, being an active and contributing member of our family and of course the often-monotonous-but-ever-essential-skills required to run a home.

Babysteps, right??

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

easy revolving child's art display // a space for a crafty little girl

When we moved into our bigger home a year ago, one of the (many) things I was excited about was having the space to get Lily her own little table and chairs... we picked up some cheap from Ikea *pause for some Ikea love* and they have been a fantastic investment... pretty much every free moment in her day, Lily can be found here - a little artist busily working away on her latest creations.

I have been shocked and continually charmed at the time she spends at her little 'craft table', passionately drawing, cutting, glueing, sticking, tearing, folding and creating. The things she comes up with amaze and amuse... I just love it! Her very own little table is a space she can easily access at any time (when the muse strikes, of course) and I love that it doesnt need to be continually packed away. It is often horrendously messy as the little hoarder hates to part with any of her creations, and while we are working on strategies for keeping it tidy (along with learning responsibility and organising systems), for the most part I let her keep it in the fairly chaotic layout she seems to enjoy...

The artist at work...

I adore seeing her so diligently at work. I love seeing kids free to create and express. So much delight and determination in their little minds, unfolding and evolving day by day....

I made a little craft display wall for the ever increasing amount of artwork being churned out on a daily basis, at home, playschool and Bible class.... being the doting mama that I am, the hardest bit is trying to take something down in order to replace it with something else!! I used ribbon with little colourful craft pegs, with the ends tacked behind the adjacent book cases. I love that it can be used to display not just pictures but some of the more 3D creations too.. and Lily love to choose new works to go up there!

Although Lily likes to draw and colour like any kid, I have to admit she doesn't take too much interest in working on it in a huge amount of detail. When she is busy at her desk, she is usually working on some kind of multi-media sculptural creation... these creations are often animals, which she works on then nonchalently presents to me for inspection 'Look Mummy, I made a mouse'. She works fast and furiously, eager to bring forth the ideas from her fingers - not one for careful construction or painstaking detail. She wants to bring her ideas into fruition using as much sticky tape and scraps of paper as possible, then it's time to move onto the next project without lingering or finessing. She is no perfectionist, but she is a creater! Her sculptures are made in a bizarre fashion from anything she can gather from around the house. Any old boxes, scraps, containers or papers I am done with can be passed on to her or left on her craft table. She seizes them and I can see her little 'mad scientist' brain at work, imagining what animal or person it could become... and she always surprises me!

Here are just a small sample of her recent works. Yes, I am well aware these sculptures could be on sale in a New York gallery for thousands of dollars but I figure there is plenty of time to cash in on her brilliance, let's give the kid a childhood first! ;)

Mouse with tail, Tree Girl and Snail

Love my quirky little artist-in-residence! 

Monday, 20 February 2012

The Real Balloon Boy

Baby Boy loves to run around with his 'air boooon' (hot air balloon) - and I just love to watch him!

We got the balloons from Hen's Night festivities (gifted from the Bride!) and they have been a big source of fun and joy in our little home! A few balloons, a lot of delight!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Reading Place

After a very busy weekend and
a family struck with lingering colds,
this is just the kind of scene
that warms the heart and soothes the soul...

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Weddings, Elbows, Anything!

The big wedding day was here at last and yet after the night before's chilled out festivities, the indulging just continued! As the wedding was not until late afternoon, we had alllllll day just to get gorgeous and get dressed! Hmmm... not too hard a task, right?! We did our best! ;) So we strolled downstairs for a delicious buffet breakfast (mmm fresh pancakes, pastries, cappuccino, yummo!), then sat out on our room's balcony enjoying the mercifully clear blue sky and tree top view while wearing our robes (of course!) and sipping champagne with strawberries (well, I don't drink champagne but had to hold a glass for photos!). Yep.... BLISS! If anyone is getting the idea we are getting just a leeeeeeettle too used to this decadent celebrity lifestyle, errr.... you would be right!! ;)

The bride combs her hair and faces her wedding day!

A final drink to the single life, before the bride becomes a wife!

Mama knows how to chill when she gets a chance!

Cheers, ladies!

The talented Anna was doing the Bridesmaid's hair and we were spoilt in having the make up artist come to us, so Anna and I didn't have to leave the hotel all day - lucky us! Bel popped out for an hour to get her hair done but apart from that, got to just chill... it sure made the day less stressful not having to do any running around!

Hair and makeup done... and now for the dresses!

And then it was action time. The clouds had threatened to pour all day, but cleared and allowed the sun to shine through for the wedding - it was glorious. I made the nerve-wracking walk first down the steep grass aisle, I just had to keep reminding myself the focus was on the bride and not me, so I didn't get soooo nervous that I tripped over!! Obviously only have a few pics of the wedding as I was a little pre-occupied on my duties in tending to the bride. However there are plenty of stunning, whimsical, relaxed photos by the super lovely Belle Photography that you can check out here - much better than my amateur shots anyway!! It was a simple and sweet ceremony, which I'm sure passed in a total blur for the nervous bride and groom.... ahhh young love! :)

Of course, after all this indulgent pampering and swanning about, there had to be a moment of reality... a parent's reality, that is! Yes, the first rule of parenthood is to expect the unexpected. So... Lily. She had been excited beyond words about Bel getting married - yes, a real life 'Wedding Girl'! Mark and I had decided that, because she loves Bel and was dying to see a wedding (and had hopes Bel would have a tiara and wand like any good wedding princess!), Mark would bring her to the ceremony to see us all dolled up, then whisk her home to my parent's place, then he would return for the reception. It was magical seeing her beaming face as I walked down the aisle and I knew she was dying to come and hug me, as I was dying to hug her too! Yes, I did tear up a little seeing her.... my sweet girl.

Half way through the ceremony, during the signing of the marriage certificates when people were moving around a bit, I noticed Mark had her up the back of the lawn and she was crying. Oh dear. I thought she was just sad to not be able to come see us. My heart strings were pulled as I tried to focus on the task at hand (standing in front of 100 people!). After the ceremony ended and people mingled, Mark came towards me with a hysterically bawling Lily in his arms. She was holding her arm in a funny way.

She had dislocated her elbow during the ceremony.

Oh yes, really!!

She had been standing next to Mark, holding his hand and kinda twirling and dangling around as she loves to do when she must have twisted it the wrong way. She has unfortunately done it twice before (though not for a long time) so we knew the routine. Mark had to take her to the ER. Yup, this is parenthood, people! Cue wretched mix of emotions - concern for Lily, hating seeing her in pain, embarrassed at the scene at Bel's wedding, not wanting to bother Bel, not wanting to shirk my bridesmaid duties, not wanting Mark to spend the evening in the ER and miss the wedding, not wanting Lily to miss seeing Bel. As Lily sobbed, her first concern was the wedding - she bawled 'Mummy, after the hospital, can I come back to the wedding!?' !!! She really did not want to miss out. I knew she would be ok physically after they popped her elbow back in, and to be honest was more concerned of how she would cope if she was in the ER too long and couldn't come back and see Bel!

Ughhhhhh.... I felt rather stressed while trying to slap on my happy face for photo time. Oh, a heart can be torn into so many directions, can't it? Yet I realised that although I wanted to be in a dozen place at once to 'fix' everything, I could not and had to simply hand it over to God who could be and of course already was - so I was praying fervently that Lily would be ok and everything would turn out somehow.

Well, an hour later as the bridal party photos were wrapping, all of a sudden there was Mark and Lily, grins a mile wide. I just about burst into tears with relief! Hooray for our health care system, Lily was seen within 5 mins and either this time her elbow wasn't fully dislocated or had slipped back in itself by the time they got there, as when the Doctor saw her, though still sore, she could move her elbow again. Phew! Relieved hugs all around, Lily was in awe of Princess Bel and they got some lovely cuddles and kisses and even photos! I hated to have my family drama impinge on Bel's beautiful day, but she was so caring and understanding even with everything else she had going on, I was so touched. Yet I didn't want my child's drama to be the main thing she remembered from her wedding day!!

A sigh of relief so deep it came from my freshly painted toenails.....

And so... Lily was popped home to celebrate with Nana and an ice-cream, a happy little girl content to have seen her princess fantasties played out in real life before her! Mark came back and even got to sit at the bridal party table with me, thanks to the considerate bride. Soooooo relieved and with our official duties done, we were free to celebrate the newlywed couple!!

Lovely Anna - amazing friend, all-round talent and funnest co-bridesmaid ever!
In true fairytale form, the weather held clear for the photos and once we got inside for the reception it absolutely bucketed down - a wild and fierce downpour that we were glad to be inside to witness.... yup, everything came up roses for the loved-up newlyweds!

The only task left of the night was to do a speech - thankfully shared with Anna. We were super nervous but thankfully we both got through it without totally breaking down in tears or lost words!! 

True to her name, Bel the Bride was bella indeed, huh! Her dress was stunning and sophisticated - and how cute were our bridesmaid dresses? We loved these sunny little numbers and were so happy the Benevolent Bride wanted us to wear such genuinely nice dresses (that came from a regular dress shop, not Bridesmaids 'R' Us!)... and yes, I totally will be wearing mine again - can't wait to in fact!

I spent 4 hours 'hole punching' the table scatters!

A photo with my honey!

We danced the night away, celebrating a new commitment made to love and life together... which the sentimental among us (me!) always rejoice to see and remind us of our own blessings and relationships. A beautiful lead up to a beautiful day - cheers to the Bride and Groom!