Parenting, Photography

That time of year again

It’s that time of year again, Autumn is finally here. These two shots were both taken with my iPhone 6 Plus on a walk over the Lickey Hills, near Birmingham and edited in Snapseed, the free editing software from Google.

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The leaves are starting to turn some fantastic colours and I am rapidly running out of energy! I guess its the shorter days and having less sunlight, and I’ve previously suffered with seasonal affected disorder, or SAD as its often known, in previous years. Its a bit like hayfever, you don’t know when its going to strike or how bad it will be. It’ll pass though, and I’ve got plenty to distract me at the moment.

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Last weekend we had the christening of our friends daughter, which was a lovely afternoon. I’d been asked to take a few photos, and was happy to do so, but as a guest I had to find the right balance between getting some nice photos and taking some time to relax with the wife and daughter and be able to chat with my friends. I don’t think I did a bad job, as I managed to enjoy the day and still had a good selection of shots at the end of it. Its nice to be able to help friends out when I can, although I obviously can’t make a habit of this as its never going to make me any money if I just shoot for free!

One thing I have been doing recently is trying to take the “less is more” approach to capturing photos of my daughter. Its great getting lots of snapshots, they’re really important, and obviously great to look back on, but in my opinion they can encourage us to simply take too many photos. The more we take, the less they’re worth to us. We usually end up not printing them, and they just sit on our hard drives getting forgotten about, and that makes me sad. If we are going to take photos, it should be because we want them to be seen. Hundreds, if not thousands, of photos will get forgotten about when people just end up losing them in a sea of files, never to be seen again, because they haven’t the first clue on how to organise their images.

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This first shot is a perfect example of a snapshot, I just happened to have my camera upstairs at the time, and while I was in the bedroom our daughter came in and climbed onto the bed before deciding to jump up and down on it. I’m not even sure where she’d got this habit from! I quickly grabbed my camera and got a shot. Its slightly blurred, but its a lovely memory. Its all too easy to take 10 shots of this particular event, and then not delete any. Our generation are getting too trigger happy with their cameras in this digital age, and its just filling up phones and hard drives with hundreds of photos that all look the same.

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What I really want to be doing is start reigning in the excessive snapshots, and be taking more photos that actually count. Over the past few months I have started taking more portrait shots of Olivia, they could just be simple ones, shots where I either wait until she’s in the garden, or take her into the garden quickly, and get her to stand still and just look at me. She’s got a little way to go with posing, and now understands that when daddy gets the camera out, she needs to say cheese… although she normally says this while looking absolutely anywhere but at the camera! I know that with number two on the way, I could well end up getting carried away all over again. I just need to spend a bit of time organising ,y photos, and deleting those that I really don’t need to keep and printing some more of those I do want to keep, along that way. This second close-up shot of Olivia is exactly the kind of thing I am talking about, the sort of shot that would look nice hanging upon a wall.

So what else has been “in the news” this week? On Friday we went for our second 20 week antenatal scan, as the first 20 week scan hadn’t quite seen everything the nurses needed to see. So we were heading back to the hospital, only this time annoyingly on a Friday, meaning I had to take a couple of hours off work as previous scans had been on Saturdays. It was worth it though, after a 30 minute wait to be seen, we finally got in and the scan was underway. Sadly the guy doing the scan (nurse?) still couldn’t see all he needed to see, so the wife has to go back yet again for a third appointment, just to cross off this 20 week scan!

On the drive to the hospital we were still discussing our decision to find out the sex of the baby. Mrs V had gone all the way from “MUST find out!” to “Not sure if I want to know at all now!” in less than a week. We just couldn’t seem to decide between us, and tossed various reasons for and against backwards and forwards, so we even put the vote out to facebook and let our friends decide! The result from the facebook test was clear, most people were in favour of us finding out. We’d agreed to go by this, and so whatever facebook said we’d do, well we’d do it… and yet Mrs V still changes her mind! Yes, I know, its a womans right to change her mind, and all that! In the end we came to a joint decision that worked for both of us, and agreed that we WOULD find out the sex of the baby… but, we wouldn’t be telling anyone. It would be our little secret, and we’ll be doing the big reveal when JR actually gets here. s I did mention this on facebook and some people instantly seem convinced that because I used the word “Jr” to describe bump, that it is going to be a boy. Well, if only life was that easy! A bluff, a double bluff, or do I just think “Jr” is suitable for a boy or a girl? I guess there is only one way for everyone to find out… and that’ll be waiting!

Days until I am 40: 233

Photography

Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so!

If turning 40 doesn’t make you stop and realise that you are not immortal and the clock is endlessly ticking, its your younger sister who has a daughter that has just turned 18 years old! I am one of three, and I still remember carrying my youngest sister in my arms when she was born… yet last night she drove me home in her car! Not for the first time of course, but I don’t think I’ve been a passenger with her since she’d just passed her test, and suddenly she’s a natural, calm and relaxed driver. I suddenly realised quite how grown up everyone around me, that I’d watched growing up, had suddenly got to be!

The weekend wasn’t all just about birthdays of course, it started with a big day for us on Saturday, where we got to visit the hospital and have our 20 week baby scan. They’d do all their checks and measurements, and we’d get to figure out if we wanted to know what sex the baby was. Do we go and buy blue or pink clothes? Mrs V was, for some reason, hugely in favour of finding out, although I liked that we’d kept the first one a surprise and was keen to do the same this time around, especially as there was no benefit to knowing. We wouldn’t actually be buying much in advance of the birth, so coloured clothing could wait. All of the vests and baby grows we’d kept from when Olivia was born were neutral anyway, so they’d perfectly suit whatever we ended up having.

There was only three ways this debate was going to be won, firstly one of us nags and nags until the other gives in, but neither wanted to upset the other. Secondly we toss a coin for it, or thirdly we do something different and put it to a vote of our facebook friends… which is what we decided to do in the end, and when the votes stopped and we counted them, it came in at a majority of 25 votes for finding out against 15 votes for not finding out, which I guess is one way to end a debate! As expected, we arrived at the hospital perfectly on time, and yet ended up having to wait for ages to be seen (no surprise there!), only to be told once we’d had the scan that with Mrs V being 19 weeks, the baby was a bit small and in a difficult position to measure properly, as she really should have been 20 weeks pregnant, and apparently the week can make a big difference. We did ask about the sex, but apparently junior was quite comfy and contented being all scrunched up so that no-one could actually see and tell! The measurements and checks they do are quite important to make sure the development is progressing as it should, so we’ve had to rebook another scan for two weeks time so they can be completed. It also means a second chance for us to find out the sex of the baby, which is obviously still not guaranteed as they may not be able to see even if we ask. There are incidents (friends of friends etc) where they’ve actually got it wrong, and I know of one person that had to go back and return all the pink stuff they’d bought and replace it with blue!

We had a lovely surprise when this little madam was born, with both of us almost certain we were going to have a boy!

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I did change my mind two weeks before the birth, and genuinely thought it may actually be a girl, although I never told anyone in case it did turn out to be a boy and I looked pretty stupid for changing my mind! Trying to look ahead to the scan and finding out the sex, there are very few incidents of same sex children in either of our families, plus the pregnancy has been quite different to the last one, so we’re both actually thinking that there are some definite signs this could actually be a boy this time, rather than just basing our guesses on nothing in particular! Although in a shock statement this evening, Mrs V has now suddenly announced (2 days after we should have found out!) that she’s not sure if she actually wants to know any more!

Pfft! I give up!

So anyway, all in all it has been a lovely weekend, although it was gone in what literally seemed like the blink of any eye! We took Olivia out on Saturday night to support our friends charity evening for Cystic Fibrosis, with food and singing it was an aptly named “Curry-Oke”! So hopefully he’s made a bit of money out of that, although I don’t know how much yet. Olivia loved staying up late (we don’t let her often) and the freedom of an empty dance floor, we literally had to drag her out of there in the end! Sunday morning I was out looking after my friends little boy J, and in the afternoon we grabbed a bite to eat for my youngest sisters birthday, and had my niece over with my other sister in the evening when we got back, to celebrate her 18th birthday. It was all a bit hectic, but I got to see everyone I needed to, and catching up with the family is always a good way to spend a weekend! I’ve told my two sisters that we all need to be meeting up more often, we need to be getting some dates in that calendar, as waiting for opportunities can feel like waiting forever!

Next weekend is also going to be a busy one, but a lot of fun at the same time. A chilli festival, a take away with friends and a christening all to look forward to… is it Friday yet?

Personal, Weight Loss

The real problem with summer holidays

Autumn is pretty much here now, the weather is certainly beginning to reflect that, and its generally a pretty nice time of year, the weather is still fairly warm and dry, the leaves are all changing colours, and who doesn’t love kicking leaves about?! Its nice to look back over a lovely summer where I had over six weeks off work and lots of family time with the daughter and the wife, a summer we won’t get to repeat as obviously next year will be very different with the arrival of number two due in the new year. One of theĀ big reasons for looking back is that I am suddenly faced with a problem I haven’t really had before, in that all my current clothes, which were either loose fitting or a good fit, have very suddenly all begun to get tight at the same time! My six weeks off work has meant no cycling, as I haven’t been commuting anywhere by bike, and little running as I have had Olivia for most of the time. It has also meant being able to have a beer or three in the week as I haven’t had work the following morning, not helped by the number of lunchtimes I have popped into Greggs because I was too lazy to make a sandwich! The number of evening snacks whilst I have been watching late night films hasn’t done much to help my situation either!

Its time for a change! I’ve done it before, and I can do it again!

Back in 2012 I was lucky enough to marry my fantastic wife, but to make that even better we had an awesome honeymoon in California! I’d tried to lose a little weight before the wedding, but just couldn’t seem to shift it at any real rate. It was fine, we had a great day all the same! The honeymoon didn’t help the situation though, as anyone who loves their food like me, and has travelled to America knows how easy it is to get carried away there! I had two weeks of not caring, two weeks of “making the most of it”! I came home happy, but heavier than I’d even been.

Monday morning this week I weighed myself… I was even heavier! I had beaten my own record, and it wasn’t one I wanted to beat either. I was now heavier than I had ever been! Thankfully after the honeymoon, a good friend of mine introduced me to an app on his phone called myfitnesspal that he had used and had lots of success with, it was free and had a five star rating in the app store. I had nothing to lose giving it a go, but ended up losing a load of weight, it really worked! As it was going into winter by this point, I decided to give myself christmas off as a treat, to eat and drink what I wanted. Sure I put a little weight back on, but I felt more in control now.

Now the time has come to dig the app back out, dust it down, and start using it again. Already this week, by cutting out the crap, all the snacks, and the alcohol, I have already shifted a couple of pounds. It has already started working, so I just need to keep it up, consistency is the key!

As one of my 40 before 40 goals was to lose a stone, I made have to reconsider updating that to reflect this, and aim to lose a little more. Back in 2012 I peaked at 199lb after the honeymoon and managed to drop down to 176lb after I started using myfitnesspal, with my target being 165lb. I was pretty close before christmas got in the way and messed things up, it never truly recovered from there!

This week I maxed out at 200.3lb… and nearly fell off the scales! This morning I was pleased to weigh in at 196.6lb which was quite a pleasing drop to see from a few basic changes. As my friend said to me when he told me the secret behind myfitnesspal and his weight loss, it was a very basic formula of “eat less, move more”! So that’s exactly what I am going to do, and I am going to be posting my updates on here as a way of trying to keep myself going! Hopefully along the way I’ll get a bit of support and some motivation, especially as the winter creeps in! Can I get to 165lb before my 40th birthday? Its a big ask, but there is only one way to find out… lets do this!

Days until I turnĀ 40: 252

 

 

Photography

Sunshine and rain

Let’s be honest here, what has summer actually consisted of? Well, while its true there has been some sunshine, it hasn’t exactly panned out as we’d hoped. In fact those of us who jetted away to far off hot countries are probably feeling fully justified in the money they spent now. Is there anything more annoying than going on holiday, or coming back to a total heatwave and thinking “why did I even bother spending all that money when there was just as much sunshine here?!”, I know just how nice it feels to spend your hard earned money on a week in the sun and then sit smugly on the tarmac as your plane is ready to take off with the wind and rain battering everything. Anyway… we definitely didn’t have a heatwave, a bit of sun, yes, but certainly nothing worth writing home about! At best, if we add all the really nice days together, we probably had about a weeks worth of warm sunny days where we could get the flip flops on, and have a bbq out without fear of needing an umbrella or warm jumper at some point during cooking!

The one thing I did have this summer was six fantastic weeks with my daughter! It has been truly wonderful, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the time I was able to spend with her. We went swimming, did some painting, went walking in the woods, saw the grandparents on both sides, saw friends, cuddled on the sofa watching peppa pig and the gruffalo. Its quality time that you just can’t get back once they have grown up. As anyone with children will tell you, over and over again, they grow up so fast, right in front of your eyes, kind of the opposite of watching it in slow motion! Now our little one has turned two years old, and our plans for celebrating her birthday actually worked out in our favour. The summer has been lousy and miserable, and we have barely seen any sunshine. Grey clouds and rain showers have frequently been the order of the day, and it was looking like September was likely to see very similar weather to what we’d had throughout August. The dilemma then lay in what we were going to do for Olivia’s birthday. Last year we had fantastic weather and enjoyed a wonderful bbq in the garden with our family and close friends. It was something I was very keen to repeat, but the weather just wasn’t giving us any hope.

The family home we have built up around us is a lovely house on a lovely road, with pleasant neighbours and everything we need close by… the one thing we don’t have though, is a huge amount of space inside. It is what it is, we love where we live, and the don’t mind that we don’t have a three car garage or basketball court on the driveway. The one problem it does present though, is when we want to invite lots of family and friends over to celebrate our daughters birthday with us, but are forced to restrict how many we invite in case the miserable british weather we have been forced to endure decides to rain on our celebration and force everyone to head indoors and get awkwardly cosy with each other! We did consider other options, like renting somewhere like a social club or a soft play centre, but in the end decided against it and figured we’d roll the dice and take a chance on the weather… it turns out we got lucky and it paid off!

After a cold and slightly damp start to the day, we were very lucky to have some sunshine and blue sky meaning the bbq could be lit and the kids could play out in the garden with Olivia’s toys. To say I was relieved and overjoyed would be an understatement! Suddenly I was able to relax and enjoy the day without wondering where we were going to seat everyone indoors or what we could find for the kids to do! It was a fantastic day, Olivia loved having so many people round and other children to play with, and so we made sure to only open a couple of her presents so she wasn’t too distracted.

As childrens parties go, it was the usual feast of sausage rolls, chicken nuggets and general food of otherwise little or no nutritional benefit, but this is what kids like and expect at parties, and lets be realistic, its a 2 year olds birthday, I’m not about to go reinventing the childrens party with carrot sticks and falafel! The food was not surprisingly a big hit, leaving us to think that maybe we should have bought more, and its this kind of eating that has been causing us to grow a bit concerned with Olivia’s eating recently, as she seems to be so picky lately, and although she eats fruit, is flatly refusing any normal meals that we put in front of her, especially anything that may be remotely healthy or nutritional. I’ve done a little research and I am aware that there are large numbers of parents who regularly find it difficult when their children won’t eat, but its not always easy to see the bigger picture when you are just focussing on one meal at a time, especially when nursery tell us that she has eaten without any problems each time she is there! So what is the answer? What do you do with a child that doesn’t eat? We’ve tried many different techniques, but there are days when she appears to eat so little that we’re surprised she a) keeps going and b) hasn’t fallen ill. All we can do is step back and look at the bigger picture of what she is eating throughout the week, and not necessarily for that day. We need to try extra hard to fight our protective parenting instincts and not make a big deal about it. We’ve done plenty of online research, checked the forums and the baby websites, and everyone one that has commented online about this pretty much says its just a phase that passes with time, and so we just have to go with that and fight our urge to try and fuss, coax or bribe her, or get annoyed or upset by it. At least she is still having a good breakfast and drinking plenty!

 

Now September is here, and that means one thing (apart from Olivia’s birthday) that the six week summer holiday is finally over, and I am back into work like I’d never left! Its a sad time, and we start looking forward to colder events like halloween and bonfire night, or dare I say it, christmas! Some might say that its too early to be thinking about the festive season, but for me, I love christmas, so it doesn’t matter and I think that from September onwards its perfectly acceptable to begin discussing it. Then you have to consider the practicalities of thinking about christmas not in terms of weeks or months, but in terms of paydays! If you don’t want all your presents to be coming out of one monthly wage, then start spreading the cost by buying a bit each time you get paid! Makes sense, right? At least this weekend we have a significant distraction as we head back to the hospital for our second scan now that Mrs V is pretty much at 20 weeks. We still have to finish having the discussion about whether or not we discover the sex of the baby. I am thinking that we don’t need to find out, as it won’t change anything, and even if we did start shopping for blue or pink… what if they’re wrong?! Of course, the need for a discussion is based on the fact that Mrs V does not agree with me, and is very keen to find out. The other argument is, if we DO find out, then do we go telling people, or keep it to ourselves? Oh well, I guess this one is TBC!

So what do I do now then? Find out, or push to keep it a surprise?