Category Archives: Parenting
It has been a while since I last blogged. A whole year has passed since Casa Vokes got a turned upside down for a second time with the addition of the crazy little mini Vokes that stumbled into our household. The now not-quite-so-tiny-any-more Chloe has almost out of nowhere, somehow turned one year old, almost without us noticing! The whole child/baby thing caught us off guard a little bit, we were innocently enjoying the easy life of post honeymoon marital bliss, and suddenly a little person appears, feeling like only five minutes since we’d had the initial “should we or shouldn’t we” conversation.
After a while the dust inevitably settles and we begin to finally get our head around parenting, and soon become aware that we really have been blessed with one of those babies that everyone hopes for, and that every other couple hates you for having. She smiles, sleeps, never cries… its literally a winning lottery ticket in the grand scheme of parenting! It has literally made parenting so easy that we have to remember, it not necessarily about any great parenting skills that we may possess, but that we just got very lucky! Sometimes in groups of other parents, when the discussion about how to stop them crying, or how to get them to sleep all night has come up, we’ve just had to nod and say nothing for fear of being lynched for being a smug git! Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got to have done something right, we didn’t get this far just by winging it, but we haven’t faced a lot of the challenges that some of our friends have!
Eventually you become accustomed to not getting the Sunday morning lie in any more, and generally needing longer to prepare before you head out the front door, sometimes needing to abort just as you’re about to step outside and lock the front due to the distinct and obvious aroma of a dirty nappy. All this starts to seem a bit more normal and routine… then eventually comes the conversation about baby number two! We were well aware that things could be… no, scrap that, WOULD be completely different, but we also knew we were, by this point, fairly well rehearsed in how to look after a little one. We also have to be mindful of the fact that as I approach 40 I don’t have a lot of time to play with if I want to have had all my children before I am 40, so hanging around wasn’t really a concept that we wanted to consider too much.
Yes, the first year of having two children is challenging, something we only got through as a team. I take my hat off to single parents everywhere, the job you do is impressive! We pulled through, and had to relearn parenting, we had found the proverbial Yin to Olivia’s Yang, the day to her night. Chloe couldn’t have been any more different unless she was a boy! It became obvious very early on that these two were complete opposites! Suddenly the house is full of crying, suddenly we are no longer sleeping through the night, suddenly even the 7:30am that Olivia used to get us up at now feels like it was a total lie in, suddenly when you put the baby down it crawls off and disappears into the distance rather than just lying there smiling at you!
Parenting has now become fun again, Olivia has turned three years old and her funny little ways make us laugh all the time, and all signs of her ever being a baby or even a toddler have long since gone, and instead, before us stands a proper bona fide little person, complete with personality, teenager attitude and everything! Its funny listening to her talk, some days you can have a full on conversation with this tiny person, and sometimes think “where did she get THAT from?” when she starts coming out with things we haven’t heard before, or said in front of her. External influences in her life start to become more obvious and suddenly you realise that the baby you brought into the world, then started to learn how to do things for herself, is now becoming influenced more and more by those around her, friends, cousins, nursery workers. Our influence is still clearly there and will still be significant for a long time, but eventually will have less and less impact as the years go by. All we can do is hope we have laid sufficient groundwork for her to make the right choices in life and become a good person.
Her little sister, on the other hand, is more likely to become a professional wrestler and argue with people who push into queues! There is nothing delicate or dainty about this one. She’s like a little energy bomb that transports herself from one part of the house to another with such speed that if you didn’t see it happen, you’d believe that there was some form of magic involved… this now includes stairs! We couldn’t have had two more different children. I really couldn’t have imagined quite how much my life would change and how much I was going to enjoy it!
So now the 365 project is over, or 366 as it turned out to be, I have been less inclined to jump on the computer and create another blog post. As I mentioned in my previous post, I had the thought that I could bring together some of my favourite pictures from the 2016 project and talk about why I like them. I won’t lie, the thought process behind this was minimal, and the list is by no means exhaustive, the photos were chosen in a very small space of time, and I have not put these in any particular kind of order.
 I love autumn, its a beautiful colourful time of year, and with a beautiful daughter happy to pause and pose for a moment (only a moment mind, make sure that camera is ready and those settings are correct…) the elements come together and something fantastic appears.
 This was the day after I passed my Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) and went to collect my first ever motorbike. Feeling very proud and very nervous all at the same time. I had a 20 mile ride home from the dealers just one day after I’d first climbed on a motorbike! Oh well, nothing like being thrown in at the deep end!
 Its no secret that I am a sucker for a good sunset, and we had a few this year, as well as some very pretty sunrises, but this one stood out a bit as the clouds just went crazy! It was one of those moments where you just stand at the window in awe at the beauty of nature, just grateful that you were there to see it.
 Olivia’s 3rd birthday, and for me a bit one. Now whilst three years old doesn’t sound much, this was the first birthday after Olivia had become a big sister, and she really seems to have grown up. The toddler in her has disappeared, and a little girl has emerged, a little girl who can have a full conversation with you, reason with you, show compassion, and most of all make us laugh every day! On this day we were lucky to have both sets of grandparents visit on the same day, and a request from nursery for a family photo had forced me to pick up the camera and take a photo that I should have thought to take ages ago!
 It may not seem like much to a lot of people, but I do love watching the airplanes take off and land. When we discovered there was a park, with a cafe, and a farm area, where you could also walk up to the bottom of the runway, I was delighted! We have been a few times, but my one goal was to watch the airbus A380 taking off, and with a little research I could put myself in the right place at the right time!
 Our wedding anniversary, and the one sad thing about it is that we have never really been able to make a big deal about celebrate it, which saddens me a bit. I have found a wonderful woman who agreed to be my wife and I want to celebrate the anniversary of our big day. Now we are parents, there are very different priorities, but we must still remember who we are as people at the end of the day and not lose sight of what it is we like, what brought us together and how to be a couple, as one day the girls will be grown up, the house will be empty and it will just be the two of us again. For the moment, I can think of no better way of celebrating our special day than being with the three most important women in my life. There’s plenty of time for Vegas!!
 Waiting for a baby to arrive can feel like forever, when they are finally here you do all you can to slow things down and stop them growing up so fast. I was keen to photograph Chloe properly, and so while I had the chance one afternoon, out came the lights and the backdrop and I had a chance to use my newborn photography training for my own benefit.
 Of course, with one sleepy model photographed, I still had my lights up and had another beautiful model who would be willing to sit for a while. I was very pleased with the result, and it will be an image I will look back on fondly for many years to come!
 These shots are just as important to me, a reminder of how small and fragile this little lady was once. She currently is impossible to keep in one place and apparently has zero sense of danger, a far cry from being “fragile”! I love the contrast in size between my fingers and Chloes.
 After cycling to and from work for almost five years, you can get a bit bored of cycling, so I was glad I had the opportunity to take part in the London to Brighton bike ride in aid of the British Heart Foundation with my uncle. It was a lovely day, even after a super early start. The weather was perfect and it was a very well managed route. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride right up until we got to Ditchling Beacon, the third-highest point on the South Downs! At the top we were rewarded with some fantastic views.
 This was also the year I turned 40, and the one great idea my wife had was a tattoo of the girls names as a present for my birthday, and I am chuffed to bits with it, although it has reignited my passion to get more!
 Chloe’s first ever christmas, and with her on the move so much, and being such a nosey little devil we knew the tree was at serious risk of either being pulled over or having its decorations removed. Thankfully neither seemed to be the case, and apart from messing with the tree a little here and there, it was generally left alone and stayed upright and decorated over christmas.
 With Olivia seeming so much more grown up this year, it was no surprise that she really got into christmas, and for the first time really seemed to understand what was going on with the whole santa thing.
 Over the winter we looked out of the window and just gave in some days, the weather did not inspire us to go anywhere, although I still think I should have put more effort into putting on the waterproofs and just getting out there! Olivia loves being outside, even if its a bit cold and wet, but if she can’t get out then clearly she can find other ways to entertain herself. Finally she is finding a little bit more courage after being such a careful little toddler.
 Obviously, it goes without saying, the single biggest part of 2016 was the arrival of our beautiful daughter Chloe. This time it was a planned caesarian section, and although we’d been frustratingly made to wait all day, the little lady was finally airlifted out just before 7pm. It is such an honour and a privilege to become a parent, and holding your baby for the first time still knocks me sideways with emotion!
 After finally ditching the cot, Olivia moves up to a big girls bed. Its raised sides help, and we only had a couple of moments where she rolled out, although thankfully not falling far.
 As soon as the meningitis vaccine became available to children, Clare was keen to get Olivia in there. It was expensive, but Chloe had already been done in her first jabs, and so we didn’t want Olivia being left out. The chances of catching it may be extremely slim, but the consequences can be life changing, if not fatal! Olivia was very brave about it, and so we treated her to a ride into and out of town on the buses as she’d been asking to have a go for a while.
 Olivia has gone from toddler to little girl in what seems like no time at all, and has now progressed on to “big sister” and is loving the role, as she is keen to help Chloe where she can.
 After waiting all through the summer, we finally got Chloe christened in November, pretty much two years to the same weekend that we had Olivia done. She was really good an I was just a little sad that we could have the same priest who did Olivia and married me and Clare. The new priest, as pleasant as he is, actually forgot all about us and didn’t turn up until he was reminded!
 Up there as one of the best photos I think I have taken for personal use, this shot of my two girls together was not planned. We had gone out for a walk over Leasowes park to get some fresh air, and blow out a few cobwebs. The autumn leaves were still on the ground and some contrasting oranges and green made the season almost jump out of the photo. It comes as no surprise that this ended up on a canvas!
And so that is my top 20 photos of 2016, now just to decide on what to do next with the camera and the blog!
I seem to fall further and further behind with this, and now I have photos backing up. Rather than post all, I am going to put up a week of photos tonight, and the rest tomorrow. So here are days from 197 through the 200 mark and up to day 203.
197: Its a Thursday night and I feel like I have earned myself a beer as it is almost the end of term, and the last day of kids at work as the following day is a training day. This academic year has had its ups and downs, and I am not even thinking about next term, I have whole summer break to go yet! I thought I’d treat myself to a bottle of Sam Adams that was on offer this week, taking me back to memories of my honeymoon in California!
198: End of term, and I left the bike and car at home today so that I could catch up with some work colleagues for a few drinks at the end of the day, in particular this guy, Tim, who leaves in just a few days for a position in Abu Dhabi. It sounds like an amazing opportunity, and he will be missed, so we made the most of seeing him off. It was a long night and I barely remember the journey home, it didn’t feel quite so big and clever the next morning!
199: This was mostly a day of being hungover and not achieving much at all. Painkillers were the order of the day, but I did get out into the garden to enjoy a little sunshine and the beautiful flowers that are growing with some amazing colours on show!
200: The Hungarian GP race, and a bbq with the in-laws, its almost a perfect Sunday. This little lady was in a fantastic mood and has been for a while now, most of the whinging and complaining seems to have faded away, and we’re literally only getting any crying when she’s either tired or hungry, even the teething seems to have subsided a bit!
201: The first day of the holidays, and we are off to Jitterbugs soft play centre to check out whether its suitable for Olivia’s 3rd birthday party. We met up with a friend there and his little boy and had a nice few hours while the kids wore themselves out. Olivia took a few minutes to recharge her batteries on the driving machine, even though we hadn’t put any money in it!
202: Sometimes you have jobs to do that you put off for so long you become blind to them. We’ve had a door to get rid of for longer than I’d like to admit to, just sitting around in the back garden. Finally I got round to sawing it into small pieces and burning it! Nothing like fire and a beer in your hand to make you feel like a man!
203: Today is our 4th wedding anniversary. FOUR YEARS!! How did that happen? We’ve never been able to do much on our anniversary because of the kids, the wife was pregnant on our first anniversary and since then they’ve been too little for us to leave with anyone. So, after palming them off on the in-laws while we at least tucked into some Miller & Carter steaks for lunch, we took them out to the park for a walk and an ice cream. I took the opportunity to grab a portrait of my three fantastic ladies while we were out and enjoying the sunshine on our special day.
And so thats it for tonight as the 365 approaches the end of July and the summer holidays have finally kicked off! More to follow tomorrow!
Catch up time on the photos, one a day for a whole year, and here is another batch.
187: Time to cut out a few of the snacks and start eating sensibly, and I come home to find the wife being a bit creative and cooking something a bit different. Its easy to get into a bit of a routine and end up cooking the same things week in, week out, so its nice to try something new once in a while!
188: There is something that I find quite poetic about the sight of a wilting flower. This wasn;t my best shot, as the light was beginning to fade, but I still think its a nice shot. This week proves to be a bit of a busy one, and so its nice to slow down and take a moment to appreciate whats around you.
189: The first event that I had to photograph this week was the leavers prom at work. Some of the pupils have been at our school since a very young age, so its always sad to see them go. Whilst I was setting up my lights and backdrop I asked a colleague to step in for a test shot, but it was so good I decided to keep it!
190: The weather is starting to look up, and everything in the garden is growing at a real pace. last year I planted some onion seeds, and now we have some onions in their place, although I believe that they may not be any good once they’ve flowered. Oh well, we’ll find out soon enough!
191: Friday night is not exactly an early finish for me, as I have to race home from work, collect my photography gear and head off to cover another school leavers prom. I’m loving my new white vinyl backdrop, which I’ve had for months, now I’ve finally got some clamps big enough to hold it up. After the shoot its straight off to Solihull to catch up with some friends for yet another 40th birthday celebration.
192: And the birthdays continue, this time a 4th birthday for a friends boy at a local play activity centre that I had no idea even existed! It was a lovely place, and Olivia loved it, and even managed to get her face painted.
193: Yet more parties, this time a princess themed 5th birthday party for some friends that we don’t see very often. Olivia was in her element dressed up like a princess, and was over the moon to have her picture taken with some real princesses!
194: Bath time becomes family time now that we have a seat to help Chloe sit up, and the two sisters can bath together. Of course this means both me and the wife have to get involved to bath them both at the same time, as the little one can be a bit of a wriggler.
195: The summer sun has been blessing us for a few days now (unless you have hayfever, like me!) and I wanted to get a photo of Chloe, on her front, as she is spending so much of her time at the moment, and then figured I would try something different with the editing. Not sure I like it, it makes my baby look quite angry!
196: I’ve really not got on top of my growing this year, I do have some flowers in the garden and some tomatoes in the greenhouse, but its otherwise been a quiet year. The wife did buy a special flowerpot for olivia, shaped as some boots, and so we set about filling the pot up with compost and planting some seeds together. She may not even remember it when she’s older, but its time spent together like this that makes me happy!
Right, not letting the 365 slip away from me quite as much as it has recently! Must get stricter with myself and post this at least once a week, or I end up forgetting why I took some of the photos in the first place!
We now move into July, the longest day of the year has been and gone, and we have to start looking ahead. We have a 3rd birthday party to plan, a christening that clearly isn’t going to organise itself, and well… we’ve already got new years eve sorted!! Do I even mention Christmas yet??
At the moment life is fairly quiet, we have to start tightening the purse strings now we only have one regular income coming in, as the wife’s new official job title is “housewife”! A redundancy can seem terrifying at first, and it is very sad when people who have worked together for so long know that they will never get to again, so the wife has been attending various nights out and leaving parties. If a redundancy has to happen though, for us it has happened at possibly the best time it could. With the wife currently on maternity leave and due to be going back in a couple of months, at least now she can stay at home with the girls and a healthy payout will at least take care of the bills for a while, allowing us to spend more time together as a family, and give the wife a lot longer off than she could ever have hoped for! Obviously it won’t last forever, but we have a while before we have to start panicking about CVs and interviews!
In the meantime, the 365 isn’t going to reflect on a wild lifestyle and holidays in the sun, its going to be an honest look at life with one income!
180: Work doesn’t seem so bad when you realise how close you are to the summer holidays, even if your day does end up being a bit rough. Yes, working with children with special needs can be rewarding, but at the same time, coming home with scratches, bite marks and torn clothing, you don’t always appreciate it! Thankfully on Monday I was able to take to the streets with my friend and go for a bit of a run to forget all about it!
181: “Long day at work Daddy? Just cycled home Daddy? Most of it was uphill and cycling into the wind Daddy? Oh well, don’t sit down just yet, I want to play outside!”. No, my daughter isn’t quite that fluent in her language skills yet, but it feels like this is what must be going through her mind sometimes! I love that the girls love to be outdoors though, and want to do all I can to encourage it. Yes, they will become teenagers, and yes they will discover mobile phones and social media, but I don’t want that to be all that life is about. Learning to “unplug” and not rely on devices almost seems to be a skill in itself these days! “Yes, you’re right honey, Daddy is tired, but lets go outside and play anyway!”
182: Siblings don’t always get along, me and my sister were proof enough of that as we were growing up. I was already a teenager when my second sister arrived, so thankfully we had none of the fighting that I had with my other sister! One thing I do hope for though, is the fact that these two are going to get along and be fantastic friends to each other. Creating life is amazing, but creating two little beings that become friends seems like the ultimate blessing!
183: I guess everyone expects the photographer to have thousands of images of his children, its a bit of a cliche really. While I wouldn’t say I have thousands, I sure do have a few. Every now and again though, one jumps out at me, and I think to myself “you’ve just nailed it on that shot!”. There aren’t quite so many of those, and that’s what makes them that bit more special!
184: The wife does her best to entertain the girls on wet days, and on Friday afternoon I came home to find that there had been some baking going on, and Olivia was now in the process of decorating some home made biscuits. I have to say, they tasted GOOOOOD!
185: This was a day of several parts, it started with a 3 mile run in the rain. Usually I run much further than 3 miles, but I am helping a friend prepare for a 5km charity run, so there was no opportunity to duck out because of poor weather! After the run we were off to the shops to get feet measured and buy some new shoes for the little lady. The Mothercare shop we visit has its very own soft play area, where the kids can burn off a bit of steam. It came as no surprise that this little lady was asleep in the car before we even got home! The day ended with my sisters coming over for pizza and deadpool. Sadly it wasn’t the night I’d hoped for as a really bad stomach ache became a huge distraction, and Chloe’s teething kicked in and left us with a screaming baby that we couldn’t ignore!
186: Our only commitment for Sunday was to visit my mother, and for me to meet some friends in the evening to discuss their wedding plans. Sadly after a pretty rough nights sleep, my brain was unconcerned with decisions I needed to be making or conversations I needed to be having, and even simple questions resulted in my brain doing this… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsNaR6FRuO0
I don’t know where the days have gone! May has vanished in a flash and June doesn’t seem to be hanging around. I am falling well behind with updating these photos, but here goes!
127: One very pleased wife as our new double buggy arrives, meaning more freedom for her to get about during the day while I am at work. Olivia hasn’t used her buggy for months, but on some days, where a lot of walking is involved, sometimes she wants to be picked up and carried. Not so easy when you’re on your own, but now no longer a problem!
128: Upon losing our allotment last year I turned to growing some veg in the back garden. The broccoli flowered before I could pick it and it was no good then. As I didn’t remove it over the winter it has flowered again this year. It has to go at some point, but it does look very bright and its a lovely place for the bees to land until we get some proper flowers in the garden!
129: Olivia’s new fascination is having her nails painted. She is always watching mommy put her face on in the morning and likes to try a bit of it herself. The finger nails just weren’t enough, and so out came the jelly shoes when the toes were done too!
130: A bit of sunshine in the garden and the weeds are taking a firm hold, and it sometimes seems a shame to pull up some of the prettier ones, but they can be a nuisance. This one always looks pretty when you get close-up, and its always fun blowing them!
131: The year so far has seen a mix of weather, and not just sunshine and showers, but a frustrating mix of cold, grey, wet days and some absolute scorchers. Todays photo is just an appreciation of some blue sky when all we tend to see is clouds a lot of the time.
132: Its birthday eve, my last night of my 30s, a sad day for me. My sister in law came to visit with a card and a nice present. I can’t lie, it was opened before midnight! Bye bye 30s, you were very good to me!
133: Today I turned 40. I always enjoy birthdays, but still feel a bit sad that I am now into my 40s. Many of my friends already are, and they don’t seem to have gone grey and wrinkly overnight. I keep getting told that life begins at 40, and really just need to relax and appreciate everything that the last decade gave to me. The biggest thing about this day though, was not my birthday, but the great news that Chloe’s hip harness is finally off!!!
134: The harness is gone, and now our little girl can have proper cuddles again, and best of all enjoy a bath with her big sister!
135: Olivia has taken on the role of big sister so well, she really does love her little sister and often helps mommy to give her a clean. I think these two are going to get on just fine.
136: Its official, we have a thumb sucker! The dummy still rules, by a long way, but she’s worked out how to get that thumb in, so maybe the dummy has a limited shelf life?
137: Starting the day with a walk over Lickey Hills and making the most of the sunshine. I often take my friends little boy over here when I look after him, and need to remember to bring the family, its a great place for a walk!
138: This guy looks suspicious! Its a “got no photo, lets take a selfie” kinda day!
139: Usually the wife collects Olivia from nursery, but today its my turn. Its only a short walk, and made easy when there is a lovely sunset to look at. I grabbed this cheeky little weed growing out of the front garden wall as I went past.
140: There is definitely a distinct difference between bringing up a little boy and bringing up a little girl. All of my friends who have boys are run ragged by them, they have endless amounts of energy and don’t care about throwing themselves around or whether they injure themselves. In stark contrast bringing up a girl has been a walk in the park, and this little lady is often happy to take a little time out and just sit watching her favourite shows or films on tv.
141: What would you expect of a photographers daughter? To have her own camera of course! I found a bargain on ebay and was pestered daily until the damn thing arrived!
142: There’s something about clouds that appeal to the eye searching for a shot, when the sun hides behind and streams out, I am sold!
143: So now I am starting to accept having turned 40, I finally get to celebrate properly with a party thanks to my amazing wife. I picked an awful weekend with so many friends on holiday, but I was touched by all those who made it and helped me to have a fantastic night. It was even better to have some old school friends there too. I’ve known these guys for almost 30 years, as if I didn’t already have a reason to feel old!
144: After dinner we decided that a lovely way to spend a nice warm evening would just be to put our shoes on and head out for a walk together. This little lady doesn’t need much of an excuse, she may love her tv, but she’s even happier outdoors!
145: Bank holiday Monday, and rather than sit at home cursing the traditional bank holiday rain, we’re our celebrating the 40th birthday of another school friend who moved out to California a few years back and was home to celebrate with his friends and family. It was a lovely afternoon, and in a break of tradition it was actually sunny!
146: The birthday month is at an end, May is over, but we are lucky enough to see our friends, up for a few days from Devon. The girls love playing together and its a shame we don’t see them more often. We finished the day by heading out for food together at Cafe Rouge in the Mailbox. Hopefully we will see them again pretty soon!
So the final countdown begins for the big four zero. There’s a party to plan for and I intend to make it a week of celebrations! I can’t pretend I am looking forward to the day when I can no longer say that I am still in my 30s, but I may as well push through that barrier with some acceptance and embrace the positive of what I do actually have around me. I know its just another day, and I technically won’t wake up and feel any different, but that landmark just says to me “Nothing else significant, and no other special celebrations now until you’re 50!”. In fact the only way I can be considered young by anybody now is if I was dead! Oh joy!
Ah well, on with the photos, and I am now up to day 126! Mini celebration, kinda means I have this thing under control and theres a very real chance I will make it through until the end!
117: The May day bank holiday Monday is traditionally a rather wet affair, as if the rain clouds are pre-booked in advance every year. We decide to spend the day at home and have our friend coming to visit with her little boy, so decide to make the best of staying in and get the kids to make and decorate some biscuits, which kept them entertained for a while.
118: One of those days with very little to report, except for the fact that the scaffolding that went up for a small job fixing a window four weeks ago is still up. The window was done in an afternoon, but the scaffolding is still here and beginning to anoy me!
119: I was lucky enough to be invited to a bloggers only evening to help promote the launch of a new chocolate store in the jewellery quarter. If you check back a couple of posts you’ll find the article I posted on the evening. It was a lovely evening and I was grateful to be a part of it. I learnt a thing or two about chocolate, got to taste some fancy new ones and even got to make my own!
120: Olivia has become a fantastic big sister and really looks after her new little sister, giving her lots of kisses and cuddles, and now has taken to including her when it comes to playing with accessories, including headbands.
121: Its BBQ Friday! The weather forecast is looking up for the weekend, and so I get the BBQ cleaned and light it up, throwing on some of the food I’d thought ahead and purchased the day before. Friday night meant burgers and beers for me. What a way to spend a Friday evening, at home and with my ladies, cooking meat over fire… RAAHHHH!!
122: The wife can’t help herself while she’s off work, passing the time with online shopping! This time for our daughter, buying her a mini trampoline. I was planning on saving this for her birthday, but to be honest, anything that stops her jumping on the sofa and our bed at the moment, is a bonus! With the afternoon turning into a bit of a downpour, we had at least something to keep her entertained indoors too!
123: Sunday showers us with more sunshine, and although the forecast is for a thundershower at some point late in the afternoon, the day starts warm and bright and so we make the most of it. Out comes the BBQ (again!) and out comes the gazebo also, along with the paddling pool. It was a lovely afternoon in the sun, and to make things even better, no rain arrived whatsoever! Good old fashioned fun in the garden!
124: I figured it had been a few weeks since my last proper portrait of Olivia, and I like to keep these up regularly. My favourite portrait lens is the 85mm f/1.8 lens, very popular with portrait photographers. It takes a wonderful flattering picture, and a little bit of sunshine finishes the photo!
125: This little lady is becoming an absolute delight in the last few weeks. The days of screaming just because she’s awake seem to have completely vanished, now she is spending most of the day happy, smiling and even laughing, only having a whinge or a few tears when she’s hungry, needs a clean nappy or can’t get to sleep, all easily fixable! Its the smiles and the laughing that do it for me though, they are so heart warming!
126: The godo weather can’t last, but the rain does leave behind a certain fresh quality to the air. Sadly the big downside is that heavy rain gives the cherry blossom trees that line the road a real battering and they lose a lot of their petals. The cherry blossoms did seem to start flowering early this year, and normally the flowers are gone within a couple of weeks, although this year they seem to be hanging on and on!
As we approach the end of April, we look at heading into my birthday month and the imminent arrival of my 40th birthday, which continues to approach like a speeding train heading towards a car stranded on a level crossing! Still, on a plus note we are looking at Chloe finally having the harness off her legs, providing her hips are now as they should be, although the consultant, as nice as he is, seems very wishy washy in his diagnosis. I want to hear things like “Yes, this isn’t right, lets fix it with this” not things like “well, I’m not sure, would you like to try this just to be on the safe side?” The onus should not be on the parents to make a decision when you have been referred to, waited weeks for, and travelled to the childrens hospital for a specialist consultant to assess and diagnose. Still, if its coming off then the appointment is on my actual birthday, what a present that would be!
111: Its time for a change in the kitchen and the red that the wife initially thought was a terrible idea is now up and she loves it, and so do I. Sometimes you have to take a bit of a gamble!
112: An unscheduled Ofsted inspection at work causes the day to be a little stressful, but at least I have my girls to come home to. I loved this shot, our little angel is now 3 months old and growing at quite a rate, and getting noticeably heavier by the day too! All too soon those little hands won’t be so little any more!
113: The term April showers was part of the proverb “March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers”, first recorded in 1886. This year it has been more evident than ever, as most days have featured at least one or more showers. It makes taking the little ones out to the park a bit of a gamble!
114: April showers, as it suggests often means that between these rain showers there can be periods of beautiful sunshine, and with bluebells popping up all over the place its starting to get very colourful outside. The upcoming bank holiday weekend is the annual bluebell walk at a local farm, which we’re sadly unlikely to make.
115: Staying on the weather theme, we decided to stretch our legs and get some fresh air by taking a walk to the local supermarket. As Olivia decided she also wanted to head to the park, we opted to take the car instead. We hadn’t even finished strapping the girls into the car when some black, end-of-the-world type clouds drifted over, it started to go very dark and a giant rumble of thunder unleashed a 15 minute hail storm, making it look like it had been snowing outside. In my 39 years on this planet I’d never seen anything like this before. As quickly as it started, it was over, and out came the blue sky and sunshine!
116: Our quiet weekend at home was continuing, which suited me around lunchtime as it was the Russian F1 GP today. We did at least manage to make it out to the park today, although Olivia wasn’t really herself and so we didn’t stay long. After a film and a few drinks in the evening with the wife, we were both ready for bed, as those early mornings can take their toll, but we still had to stay up and make sure Chloe had her last bottle of the day. Its definitely worth leaving it as late as possible as she is starting to do really well at sleeping through until the morning now. We have been really lucky with these two, and we are so grateful for it.
A damp and windy April is beginning to draw to an end, and my birthday month is almost here, the big 4-0 is creeping closer and we have actually begun making plans for a party to celebrate it. I don’t know why i’m bothered about leaving my 30s behind and entering into my 40s, I didn’t have this concern on the transition from 29 to 30. I do have to put things into persepctive and appreciate that I have everything I could possibly hope for by the time I’d reached this age… a wonderful wife, two beautiful daughters, a house, a nice car a great circle of friends. I guess its just getting used to the mentality that for most of my life, like most people I guess, I have considered 40somethings to be “a bit old”. Yeah let’s face it, I am not 21 any more. While I can’t fool myself into believing I am still some kind of spring chicken or peter pan, the grey hair certainly removes any doubt about that!
So on with the 365 anyway, what have the last few days been about…?
102: The day after an unexpected mid-April snowfall, and I find myself out walking in the sun in just a t-shirt. The wife had suggested abandoning the idea a cooked Sunday lunch, and heading out for a carvery. Thankfully the closest is within walking distance, and so we took advantage of the sun, and left the car at home. One of the big attractions of living where we do, was the lines of cherry blossom trees running along the local roads, which look amazing for a few weeks each year.
103: After climbing off my bike at the end of a Monday, the thought of putting my feet up is a very tempting one, that is until my daughter runs at me with her arms open shouting “I do painting, I do painting!”. Its hard to say no, she loves it so much, its easy to clean up, and she’s usually done within 20 minutes. I like her to get her hands messy and feel the paint, and make the marks that can’t be undone with a delete button. There are so many apps for my iPad where she can paint, colour in, make pictures and not get in any mess, but its no subsitute for the real thing!
104: Charging up the helmet camera that has been a useful addition to my cycling. What I don’t want to become is part of the helmetcam vigilante brigade, a few who take it too far, and what most drivers think cyclists who wear cameras are! There are so many idiots on the road though, and so many who hold no regard whatsoever for the life of anyone who decides to climb onto two wheels instead of start the engine of four. Our lives seem to be worth significantly less when we climb onto our bikes, but this helmet camera has helped to give me a better chance of getting home alive to see my family. It has been useful in capturing bad and dangerous driving where a van driver was reported to their company, but primarily I want it to act as a deterrent. I’d rather people see it, and think better of a close pass, giving me more room to continue my journey safely.
105: There is something especially satisfying about riding home in the sunshine, knowing that the winter is well behind you and the weather can only get better. When I got home, I noticed how beautiful everything looked at the clouds parted once more and everything was covered in the light of the setting sun.
106: On returning from work, I find that the wife has been busy in the daughters room, with a new set of wall stickers, to which the daughter is delighted. Gone are the unisex animals and leaves, now replaced with fairy princesses and a castle. Even better than the satisfaction she gets from it is the beautiful portrait it makes.
107: Gotta love that Friday feeling, the end of the working week. Its even nicer when you can spend it with family, and so I had my two sisters and their partners over for dinner and drinks. A lovely way to spend an evening, and something we don’t do often enough. I managed to cook up my signature risotto and it went down a treat, and no meal is complete without wine and a candle on the table!
108: Saturday is one of those elusive days that can disappear in the blink of an eye if you don’t have a plan. Its sometimes nice to slow down after a week at work and do very little, so we spent the morning having a little fun around the house, before the wife thought it was a good idea head out to the shopping mall at the busiest time during the week! We had to go toy shopping for birthday presents, but at least got to treat ourselves to a little lunch while we were out, I guess I can cope with a few crowds for a tasty lunch.
109: Sunday morning and time to go swimming, the bonus is meeting our friend with her little girl, and the double bonus is Clare coming along with Chloe to watch Olivia in the pool, as previous swimming sessions have been a bit of father/daughter time and Clare has missed out on how well Olivia is getting on in the water. Swimming is followed up with a visit to Boo Boo Coffee shop across the road, as they have a fantastic menu and even a childrens area. We missed out on soft play with some more friends because of Olivia’s need to nap after a busy morning swimming, but at least we caught up with them later on. All in all a weekend well spent!
110: The joy of being back to work on a Monday, but at least the nights are getting lighter, although a confused two year old is still questioning why she has to go to bed when “its daytime”. Once she was asleep in bed it was time to grab myself some dessert, as dinner had left a spot needing to be filled by something sweet!
So its back on the myfitnesspal app again for me, and today was all going so well… cycling into work, followed by a 2 mile run on the treadmill as soon as I get to work, before I hit the shower. I even pack a sensible lunch, and all is going well… until that is, I get home and discover the daughters home made biscuits and weaken!
Its no secret, my 40th birthday is edging closer and closer and there is simply no hiding from it. I was really hoping that when it finally landed I could at least feel slightly better about things by being at least a few pounds lighter, but that has really not worked out very well so far. I was doing especially well with the half stone head start after my recent bout of gastroenteritis, but think I’ve probably put all that back on now. My failing is not in my lack of exercise, its clearly my weakness for food! Still, at least I am back into the running again now, and there is still hope, one slip up does not mean the war has been lost!
At least one thing I have been able to keep up successfully is the 365 project, and I have even managed to break through the 100 days barrier, which feels like quite a landmark event.
95: A birthday party to go to, and Olivia is ready in her pretty dress. She still needs her afternoon nap, and this particular party was right in the middle of nap time, so we had to push through, but she made it, and had a wonderful time dancing!
96: Practising with a little off camera flash, which I always think makes for a more pleasing portrait, and this little lady is changing daily. The endless screaming everytime she is awake has virtually disappeared now, unless of course she is either hungry or super tired, and she is making some lovely faces and cooing noises, but even better is her tracking and the way she actually watches you and turns to look at you.
97: A black and white abstract perspective shot, something a bit different. Sometimes you need to be stuck for a photo at the end of the day to force you to see something normal in a different way.
98: A little bit of warm weather and Olivia can’t wait to get into the garden, she loves being outdoors. Part of todays excitement was the watering can and the plant spray, any excuse to play with water. After repeatedly watering the weeds for me, she discovered the joy of spraying everything, including herself!
99: Nothing is cuter than a sleeping baby shot, and even though she is spending longer and longer awake, Chloe is still sleeping for huge portions of the day. I went for a slightly desaturated look in this shot, taking some, but not all of the colour out of it. She is growing at a rate of knots at the moment, and I don’t think this moses basket will be big enough for much longer. Best get that spare room sorted asap!
100: Yes! 100 days of not missing a shot, even if some of them have been a bit rubbish along the way. I love this close up shot of Chloe the focus was more on the hand, but it hasn’t made the eye look especially out of focus. When doing portraits, usually it is a priority to get the eyes, if nothing else, in focus. Typically it is one of the rules of photography, but once you have learnt the rules, you can start to break them.
101: The middle of April, and all we want is a bit of sunshine to break up the rainy days… so what on earth is happening when we throw open the curtains on Saturday morning to see snow everywhere? I spotted on the video monitor that Olivia was awake, and as soon as she was up and saw outside, she wanted to be out in the snow. So we got dressed and headed straight out and got some snowballs on the go! I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed when the whole lot had melted by midday! It was fun while it lasted!