The year behind and the year ahead

So that’s Christmas and the New Year done and out of the way, and like so many people, I like to reflect on the past 12 months, what we’ve got up to, what I can do better and to make sure I appreciate all that has gone on along the way. Like you’d expect, a house with a toddler in it is generally focused around the toddler for most of the time. Our little girl has had an amazing year and has learnt so much. This time last year she was just taking her first steps, now she is walking, running, jumping and climbing… oh, and having a bit of a dance here and there too. She’s feeding herself, the bedtime bottle has long since disappeared, and our latest challenge was potty training! I was feeling a little nervous about potty training, a sense of responsibility came over me, whereas kids learn to walk and talk pretty much on their own, toilet training is more of a skill that needs to be taught, and isn’t always straightforward. So I did my research, spoke to friends, and built up an idea of how I was going to attack it before we even began. My concerns really didn’t last long, as all our preparation began to fall easily into place, and by day 4 she was totally dry with no accidents, and has been ever since. Apart from bedtime, she hasn’t worn a nappy in two weeks, which leaves me feeling quite proud of my little achievement, feeling like a proper parent! I do wonder how much of the credit I can take though, as our little lady has made everything so easy for us since day one, sleeping through from nine weeks, rarely ill, rarely crying. We’ve literally had the perfect baby, and if anything it has left us totally unprepared for baby number two, which is now just a few weeks away! If number two gets here and doesn’t sleep, ends up being always ill and cries all the time, I’m not sure how we’ll cope, we literally won’t have a clue what to do! It will be like starting from scratch, and all the rather envious parents who glared at us for having such an easy time with Olivia, and pushed through the tough times with their little ones will all suddenly be feeling quite smug as they sit back and watch us pull our hair out with bloodshot, almost vacant eyes… and who’d blame them!?

Still, the year ahead is a journey into the great unknown, we won’t know what it’s going to throw at us until it actually happens, so we can’t go worrying too much about things that haven’t happened yet. All we can do at this point is reflect on the previous year, which to be fair, hasn’t been a bad one! 

One thing I am glad about is that I manage to keep up the blogging after my two back to back 365 projects finished, even if it has been a bit irregular since. It’s a good way to keep track of what has actually been happening, as it is often easy to forget things when you have a lot going on. 

  • I got to meet the legend that is Brian Blessed, and picked up a signed copy of his book, oh and I got a photo with him.
  • I got to meet my favourite and local author Mike Gayle, and got him to sign a book for me too, plus I got a photo with him too.
  • I attempted, and didn’t get to complete the three peaks challenge, thanks to part of our group getting lost!
  • Olivia got to meet Peppa Pig in the Bullring.
  •  We went on our first family holiday to Torquay.
  • I picked up my new iPhone 6 Plus, probably the best phone I have ever owned!
  • We got to visit Bath and Bourton On The Water  with friends.
  • I got to visit Liverpool with my friends for a 40th birthday!
  • I began looking after my friends little boy who has autism, it helps them out a bit, and helps me bring in a bit extra pocket money.
  • I got to see one of my favourite bands live, Neds Atomic Dustbin, after waiting twenty years!
  • We made a full shopping switch to Aldi, and have saved ourselves a lot of money in the process.
  • We announced our second pregnancy.
  • I started printing photos, just need to get them in an album now.
  • Ooh yeah, the new Star Wars film, got the see the midnight showing the day it came out.
  • Potty training, nailed in three days!

All in all, a pretty good year really. What didn’t go so well though? 

  • Well, my photography business has been slow, it needs a lot of care and attention, and it’s fair to say I have been neglecting it a bit. That needs to change. 
  • We had a couple of bumps in the car, that was annoying! 
  • I’m into the last year of my 30s. I can’t lie, it’s disturbing me a bit.
  • I found out that NowTV had been charging me twice a month, and refused to give me most of my money back. I still say that their customer service is amongst the worst! I cancelled.

I can’t let these few things bother me, I am not one of those people who complains about how unfair life is and how awful the last year has been and how next year is definitely going to be better… only to do nothing to actually make it better. I like to look around me and appreciate and be grateful for everything I have. I have my health, a loving wife and beautiful daughter, a car out front, money in the bank, a roof over my head and food in the cupboard. By these standards I already have more than over half the worlds population. I am grateful for every single one of those things, you have to be!

Looking forward, what is going to be happening in 2016? Well obviously our party of three is going to expand to four in a few weeks, that’s going to happen! I want to get a photography project going again, maybe another 365? It’s certainly going to be an interesting year to document. I’m pretty certain Olivia will move from a cot to a proper bed, we’ll be needing that cot! I need to finish sorting the garden out, and get it looking great. I’ve already reduced the flower beds along the borders to make it more manageable and less time consuming. I do enjoy getting my fingers a bit green when I get the chance.

Christmas is a time for…

What does Christmas mean to you? There are so many answers for different people, but one thing it means for me at the moment, aside from all the other really important stuff thats been going on, is updating the blog!

I do love writing, but seem to struggle to find the time lately. The lead up to Christmas feels like it has been particularly busy, I have been fairly organised and productive and seem to have been on top of most things this year. I say fairly organised, as buying the usual family Christmas cards, all the mom/sister/nan type cards, has been a complete failure which only became apparent at the last possible moment when it was far too late to do much about it! Oops!

It has been the usual scurry to buy last minute gifts, send cards out, and meet up with all the people we had planned to see, but yet again the build up to christmas has gone all too quickly and I have only got to see a small selection of the people I wanted to. The two weeks off work were always going to be difficult, as I had decided some months ago that there was a very strong chance I would be potty training my little girl, as she would potentially be at a perfect age to understand it. As I had two weeks off work, I knew it was going to be a great opportunity to get it done, as I could be fully committed to it, the only question was whether she would ready or not, which I couldn’t be certain of until much closer to the time. I know all children are ready at different ages, but as a parent you learn to go with your gut instinct most of the time, and it generally serves you well when you learn to trust it. As it turns out, she was perfectly ready and the week has been far better than I could ever have expected. She had pretty much nailed it in three days, and was not only using the potty, but also stayed dry through her afternoon nap and is now happily using a “big toilet” too! I just need to cement this in week two and I think I can safely say I have won this battle and actually taught my daughter something properly like a real parent. I can’t lie, it felt quite daunting before I started, I couldn’t tell you why, but it doesn’t feel quite so instinctual as eating or walking, and therefore something I could have easily made a complete mess of. Thankfully I didn’t and I’m still not even sure I deserve any credit for it, as my daughter seems to have pretty much mastered it herself!

So with all the potty training going on, we’ve been pretty much housebound for the last week, and so the only other newsworthy event was christmas day itself. The build up can be huge, almost leaving it seem like a bit of an anticlimax when the big day is all over, but what I try to remind people is that its not all about the one day. For me, Christmas isn’t a day, its a time of year. In fact, I pretty much count the whole of December as Christmas… our tree goes up, the decorations go up, the german market is in town, I’m writing and sending out cards, the Christmas biscuits/chocolate/nuts have already been opened (and probably finished within a few days too!), the Christmas tunes are on the radio and everyone is wrapping up for the cold weather… so why limit it to just one day? Enjoy Christmas for as long as you can, its a wonderful time of year. I love the coming together of friends and family, people forgiving others and putting differences behind them, the chance to catch up with people that you haven’t seen for far too long.

Sadly, the big day is now out of the way and it that strange lull between christmas and new year where no-one really knows what to do with themselves. I always loved making plans for new years eve at this point, but it looks like I am truly on my own there this year, the wife couldn’t be any less interested in new years eve at the best of times, but she she is now almost 8 months pregnant, will almost certainly be leaving me to see in the new year on my own as she disappears off to bed by 10pm. I think a lot of people take this time to reflect on the previous year and look forward to the new year, while they begin to plan their resolutions. I guess resolutions are fine when they are needed, but its always worth trying to keep them realistic if you’re going to bother. I only make them on the odd occasion, and like many I guess they tend to revolve around my post christmas food and drink recovery.

What will my resolutions be for this year? Well, I guess I’ll have to give it a little thought…

Suddenly it all becomes clear

My life seems to be one long to-do list, of varying priorities. Somethings have been on there days, some weeks, and some far longer. Some are more pressing and others have waited that long, well a little longer won’t hurt, will it?!

One of the things I have put off forever is registering with a dentist. I haven’t had one for years, and thankfully have been blessed with some great teeth and not really needed one. Another thing I have put off is going back to the opticians. Each time I go I am reminded that my eyes will need to be retested in two years… Well that never happened, did it?! My eyes haven’t been that bad at all, and it’s only since I hit my 30s that I actually needed glasses at all. My first pair helped, and after two years I did go back for a second test, and my prescription had barely changed, which is how it’s stayed for a number of years, until recently where I have found myself getting mild headaches throughout the day.

Finally I have booked myself an eye test, and have found some glasses online that I ike, and to be honest, I wish I’d done it sooner, new glasses can’t come quick enough, and a second pair would be a real bonus. To be fair, I really got my money’s worth out of my current pair, I got a free eye test with Tesco opticians, and found exactly the kind of frame I was after for only £20. They have been sat on, dropped, twisted and bent by the kids at work before being retwisted back into shape by me, my daughter has played with them, and still they are in one piece. They are literally bomb proof, but now it is time for some new ones. I have to face the facts and bid them farewell. It is time to move on.

In other news, the rather germs Vokes household appears to be on the mend in time for Christmas, but just how did December get here so quickly? We’ve had a snotty daughter, my wife has had shingles as well as a nasty cough and cold keeping her awake at night. I’ve had a cough and cold, which aren’t fading away in any kind of hurry, but, we’re getting there. I’d rather be ill now than the two weeks I have off work! 

Yes, Christmas is just around the corner, the Christmas shopping actually started a few weeks ago, the cards will be written soon, and the tree goes up along with the decorations at the weekend. My daughter has started her advent calendar, even though it’s difficult to explain toms two year old that they can only open one door and have one chocolate per day. Clearly hiding the advent calendar between door openings is the only way we’re going to pull this one off. Little miss independent is very much into helping herself to things at the moment, and naturally that includes things she shouldn’t be touching! 

We have even begun watching the Christmas films too, as I figured that with the number of decent Christmas films there are to watch, just trying to squeeze them all into one week is never going to work! Plus we are trying to fit all films and to viewing around a demanding two year olds daily rotation of Disneys Frozen, and Despicable Me 1 & 2. The words minions and snowman are probably the most spoken words in our house this week. With Santa bringing the minions DVD for Christmas, I’m sure we’re just setting ourselves up for even more trouble and less opportunities for Christmas films. 

The other thing I am looking forward to is the inevitable countdown lists they put out on tv at this time of year. Shortly after I met the wife (which surprisingly happens to be seven years ago next weekend!) we’d spend hours chatting online getting to know each other, and happened to have a good laugh over the top movies of the 80s countdown as it was around this time of year. It’s a silly little thing, but watching them now reminds me of the time we met. Now look where we are, seven years later, married, with a house and a toddler, and number two on the way! How my life has changed since then! 

Every day I am grateful for everything I have, I take none of it for granted!