Phoebe’s World: Resting on a Mushroom

For me, childhood was a time of dreams and fantasy. It was a time of fairytales and believing in magic. Nature was (and still is…) a wonderful thing. Gathering acorns, twigs, leaves, stones and shells was just what I did. A centipede. A mushroom. The clouds. A rainbow. All of these thrilled me. As they now thrill my daughter.

Because there is magic in not forgetting our childhood…I have decided to create a series of special portraits. This is Phoebe’s world. I hope you enjoy it with me.





5 Little Fairies Came to Tea…

Last week, my little fairy girl turned five. Four little fairies and one pirate-fairy came to celebrate. It was a WONDERFUL afternoon.  And for me, it was just a little bit emotional…not just because my little girl will soon need two hands to count her age….but because last year, due to her diet, I COULDN’T make her a birthday cake. How grateful I am that she is healing. And this year we had a very special chocolate-almond cake. Recipe here


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Beautiful Girl

Every once in a while, look back to the beginning and remember what it was that made you fall in love…Denise-Balyoz-Child-portraits-Berkshire-Surrey

Portraits on the First Day of School

The first day of school. I remember when that sounded so foreign to me…and so far away. And today here it is and she is ready. Perhaps it is obvious to her that I am not so much. Yesterday she said, ‘Don’t worry, Mama. Even when I’m 18, I’ll still be your baby.‘  I think she thinks that 18 is very far away. I suspect it will be here before we know it.

All that matters now, though, is that she went off happily and proudly. Here we go into the next chapter of growing up….

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Hallelujah – a Phoebe Update


As many of you know, just over one year ago, my daughter was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis…and shortly thereafter, uveitis (inflammation in the eyes…common in some children with JRA).

It has been a year of challenge and heartbreak. It has also been a year of determination, hope, change and learning.

Those of you who know me, know that I am holistic in my approach to health. Homeopathy, alternative medicine, diet and natural supplements are my first port of call.  And so, this is what I turned to  to help my daughter regain her health.

But, despite an immense expense of time and money, we never seemed to get any good news from our check-up visits.  The pressure on me to use Methotrexate, a strong immune-suppressant drug, was mounting….

FINALLY today, we had some good news. The pressure in Phoebe’s eyes are back in the normal range. And the inflammation is very, very minimal. What a massive relief. I cried, but I could have danced…and hugged Phoebe’s doctor (if he had looked at all comfortable with that. He didn’t, so I didn’t…)

What have we done to help Phoebe?

Well, firstly, Phoebe is on a what you might call a whole foods Paleo diet tailored to her. We eat lots and lots of vegetables, green juices and green smoothies, meat and a little fruit.  Occasionally we have some quinoa, millet and amaranth. We also stay away from nightshade (tomato, potato, pepper and eggplant) because they can irritate the joints. We also stay away from some eggs and a few fruit and vege that she has shown to be intolerant. All of her food is homemade, fresh and as organic as possible.

Phoebe is treated with homeopathy and food supplements, as determined by our homeopath-kinesiologist.  Phoebe also sees an osteopath and she responds well to this work. We are currently under the care of Great Ormond Street Hospital and we do use steroid eye drops twice a day (I’m hoping we’ll be able to reduce this soon.)

I don’t know where this next year will take us. But I do believe we will come back to health.

On our journey to and from Great Ormond Street today, we passed a busker with a guitar in Waterloo station.  I don’t remember what he was playing when we first went past. (Though Phoebe stopped and said she liked his music.)  On the way back, we passed just as he sang the chorus to Hallelujah.

Hallelujah indeed. Goosebumps on my arms.

And so much gratitude…

If you fancy a listen: Here you go

Mother’s Day

I love what I do…and even more, I love that, in what I do, I get to meet lots and lots and lots of mothers.

I love seeing mothers who are just brand-new at mothering.  And I love meeting mothers who are about to send their not-so-little ones out of the nest.

But I have noticed that something strange happens to us, women, when we become mothers.  We put our children first. (Of course, we’re there to care for them!) But we also pull ourselves out of the picture (literally!). Most of my mum’s tell me that their portrait session is all about the kids. Many of them are reluctant to step in front of my lens.

I can’t point any fingers. I am describing who I used to be.  I have hard drives full of images of my daughter. Only a handful of those include me.  My excuse: I’m the photographer. I’m behind the camera.

This year, I decided to take on a personal self-portrait project. This project is the best thing I have ever done. Yes, I’m capturing me. But more so, I’m capturing my daughter and I together.  She loves nothing more than getting involved when I set up the tripod and the remote….and I…well, I adore these pictures of us together.

Happy Mother’s day to my mom and to all the moms out there.

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis: Our Journey 9 Months On…

Nine months ago, my life changed.  Enormously.  My then bubbly, cheeky, active three-year old was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.  (I blogged about it here.)

Back then, I didn’t know JRA existed.  Today, I know a whole lot more…and my bubbly, cheeky, active four-year old girl still has JRA with the added dangerous complication of Uveitis (inflammation in her eyes.)

The last nine months of our journey have been so many things: emotional, challenging, time-intensive, educational, magical, all encompassing, full of gifts, full of sadness, full of growth.

In part, due to my belief in alternative as well as Western medicine, we now have a team of people working for my little girl.  We have a rheumatologist, an ophthalmologist, a functional doctor, a kinesiologist/homeopath, an osteopath and a pharmacist at Boots with whom I am now on a first-name basis. All of the teachers at school support us and help me to give her her meds when needed.  Friends and almost-strangers have sent me their encouragement, support and advice via Facebook.  For all of this, I am grateful.

I have learned so much…about the immune system, about food, about supplements.  I now cook regularly with coconut products that I never previously knew existed.  And because my daughter eats no wheat (along with a slew of other things), my own diet has changed for the better.

I had hoped, as every mother would, that our journey with JRA would be a simple one. Some children with this disease do heal and end up in remission. I had hoped that, through alternative medicine and lots of dietary care, this would be our story.  It may still be. But I now find myself having to strongly consider starting my daughter on Methotrexate, a serious drug with serious side effects. This is not an easy decision.  There are no easy answers.

Nine months ago, rather naively, I wrote:

1. In everything, there is always a gift.

2. Ask for help.  It will arrive…somehow.

3. Trust. And believe. Always for the best.

I still believe these three things are true.  But perhaps I might add a fourth….

4. Embrace your challenges. Make friends with them. In thanking them, you will find a way through.

I will let you know when we do.

Our Babies and their Schedules…

Time. Schedules. Being early. Being late.  How wonderful that our children have no concept of time…and how frustrating! Over and over, I hear myself saying to my daughter, ‘Hurry. We are late!’  And ‘Hurry!’ doesn’t make her move any faster.

With little ones, things take the time they take. Babies arrive on their own schedule. Children travel at their own speed in their own world. My daughter often takes 15 minutes to put on her shoes.

But then, every once in a while out of this slowness, I receive a gift.  Just last night, as I was hurrying her along, she stopped to look at a plant in a neighbour’s garden.  She reached out to touch the leaves.  ’Mama, come see,’ she said.  ’These are so soft.’

And they were.  A detail in a moment that I would have missed in my busy day.  Thank you, Phoebe.

Speaking of details and time…isn’t this little one gorgeous? He decided to arrive 6 weeks early and was 11 weeks when I had the chance to photograph him.

A Child’s Eyes…

The more I photograph, the more I am fascinated by eyes….their infinite expression, their constant state of change, their ability to catch and hold light.

Here is my girl, yesterday, after her nap. Operations and doctors are the theme of my week. We go to Oxford tomorrow for an operation to reduce the swelling in Phoebe’s knee. If I may ask again, please send us your thoughts, prayers and healing wishes….

ps. You will all be thrilled to hear that my father was released from hospital yesterday. Now its time for physio and a new diet to take care of his heart. Hoorah!


Four Tips for taking Great Summertime Photographs of your Kids

Yes, I’m a photographer mama. You would think that it would be easy for me to create magical portraits of my girl.  But actually the opposite is true.  It takes conscious effort to head out with all of my (heavy) gear.  It takes planning to get little Miss P dressed in something appropriate. And it takes a lot of cheerleading to get her into a cooperative mood.  (You may remember that she started scowling at the sight of a camera earlier this year.)

With all of our dreary weather and the drama in our lives, it had been waaay too long. Sunday with its bright sunshine changed all that and we headed to the Long Walk for a mini session.  If any of you Mama’s are looking to do the same, here are a few tips that may help with the bright light.

1. Give your child something to do.  The bright sun feels wonderful, but it is awful for photographs.  Harsh shadows, squinty eyes…yuck.  If your child is doing something, it won’t matter as much if she doesn’t look into the camera, or if those shadows appear.  In fact, Little Miss P started playing with her shadow as she scooted. :)

2. Find the shade…or wear shades.  Contrary to popular belief, one of the best place for summer portraits is in a solid bit of shade. On bright days, there is usually enough reflected light for most cameras.  Just beware of dappled light. If worse comes to worst, and you can’t find shade, pop on those shades.  Instant summertime cool and no more squinty eyes.

3.  Move around your child.  You may be surprised how much the shade light will change depending on your shooting angle.  Try lots of them to find the best result.

4.  Don’t forget those details.  Lastly, what about the small things that catch your child’s attention? A bug. A flower. The dog. Try to capture the little things that make up the story of your day. They will probably make you smile when you look back…

Good luck! Have fun….