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Day 179 – just tell me what you want

Day 179 – Sep 12th

Buying presents for children seems to be something of a first world proble at times, a dilemma between letting them enjoy Christmas and their birthdays, and not spoiling them with so many toys that they forget what they own. There’s also the consideration of space and where to keep everything with an ever increasing collection of jigsaws, dolls, and musical toys. Our house is fairly compact, which is fine for us, but if we don’t keep things in order it quickly and very easily becomes untidy.

The girls toys can quickly seem to dominate a room once they get them out, it’s hard to keep all the bits together so things don’t get lost, and wit more and more toys appearing it means that some toys don’t even see the light of day for weeks at a time.

With all these toys choose from Chloe still has a new favourite above all others, something we didn’t even buy for her… the car. No, I’m not talking about the red plastic Mini Cooper push along childs car that we bought from Toys R Us that they play with in the garden, I mean the 2.0L turbo diesel one sat on the drive.

Chloe has started trying to say a few words recently and has clearly learnt the word car, and will stand at the front door pointing outside saying “car, car” over and over until either a) we manage to distract her (not easy), or b) give in and take her out, accepting that you’re going to be stuck in that car with her for a good ten minutes, and even then you may not manage to get her out without a bit of a fight on your hands!

Incidentally, on the subject of first words, one of the other words she is beginning to learn is ‘Alexa’ after hearing us talking to our Amazon Echo all the time… how very 21st century! It’s quite amusing watching her stand on the edge of the chair trying to shout up to it! 

What other unusual first words have you heard?


Day 178 – If you don’t try, you’ll never know

Day 178 – Sep 11th

With hurricane Irma destroying Florida and the Caribbean I find it hard to really complain much about our fairly placid weather, plus it’s doesn’t make for a very exciting blog either, but today was a day of relative extremes for us here in the UK, glorious sunshine followed by torrential downpours, followed by glorious sunshine, followed by torrential downpours… you get the idea. It’s really stating to feel like Autumn has arrived, regardless of what the calendar is telling us it should be. The wind has picked up, a few leaves on the trees have started to turn red, some have even started falling off already. 

The biggest changes have to be the overnight temperature and the sunset times. At the height of summer there was still light in the sky at 10pm, but now it is almost completely black outside by 8pm. We’ve been lucky to have some very mild nights over the summer and haven’t even shut some of the upstairs windows in weeks, but over these last few nights we’ve really started to feel a significant drop in the temperature after the sun goes down, and the outdoor thermometer had recently been telling us that the temperature has dropped down into single figures during the night, (that’s basically below 50°F for our transatlantic friends) and it’s starting to feel a bit chilly at night, we are going to need to get our winter quilt back out of the loft and onto the bed this week, the summer quilt is just too thin to keep us warm at night! A brand new electric blanket to have the bed nice and toasty for when we get in, is already on order from Amazon!

The weather isn’t the only change going on at the moment, I also decide it was finally time to do something about my hair. I can’t even think of the last time that I had it cut, and I was beginning to get worried that if I sat for too long in one spot with a McDonalds cup in my hand that people may start throwing spare change into it! It was desperate!

I’d decided that I was doing something about it tonight, but instead of just buzzing the lot off like I usually do, I’d quite enjoyed having it a little longer on top, and so asked the wife for her help on doing something a little different with it. 

I was very pleased with the results, and considering the wife is no hairdresser, or even had much experience cutting hair, I think she did a cracking job! It seemed the perfect opportunity to try out my new backdrop to grab a photo of it. A single off-camera flash placed off to the side on a stand, and the black £10 backdrop hanging from the curtain rail was pretty much all I needed with my camera set up on a tripod. It turned out just as I’d hoped it would. Nice photo, shame about the subject!

Day 172 – Happy birthday little princess

Day 172 – Sep 5th

Four years ago today life changed. 

It was a monumental change.

In the fourteen days leading up to that particular day, we had been very anxiously awaiting the arrival of our first child, baby Vokes. We had absolutely no idea if it would be a baby boy or a baby girl, just the thoughts and opinions of everyone who was suddenly an expert on old wives tales and those just “having a gut feeling”, all we knew was that baby Vokes was two weeks overdue, daddy was impatient and mommy was quite uncomfortable!

Finally after several even more uncomfortable days in hospital for the wife, our beautiful little Olivia finally arrived in the world. The feeling of being massively overwhelmed can never be fully described, as it can’t encapsulate how I actually felt at that moment when this tiny baby was placed in my arms. She was mine… MINE, and it was scary! I felt like I was suddenly carrying a ticking bomb that was about to explode and everyone else had turned and run away! All this still feels like it was only yesterday… honestly. Four years gone in the blink of an eye.

Now here we are on her 4th birthday, and she is turning into a proper little lady, a constant source of amusement. 

We’d already celebrated the occasion, once with our antenatal friends at a group party a few weeks ago, and then Olivia had her actual birthday party with her friends at the weekend, and tonight we were having grandparents and aunts and uncles over for a small buffet style birthday dinner.

Before dinner was served and presents were opened, we actually had to go and collect her from nursery. Only today she wasn’t walking home, being carried on my shoulders or riding back on her scooter… no, today we were turning up with her biggest birthday present, her brand new bike, and it went down a treat! It took a little getting used to, but she is keen to get back on and practise some more.

It was a lovely evening with the family over, and it came as no surprise that by the end of the evening she’d had way too many presents. The main issue being storage in our modest house, and the fact it leaves us short of ideas and things to buy Chloe (no point in buying this stuff twice!) for Christmas!

Definitely a first world problem!

Day 171 – Eat less, move more

Day 171 – Sep 4th

First day back at work after the summer holidays and also the last day of my little girl being three years old.

After a summer of indulgence, there was only one thing for it, back on the bicycle to get to work, it was time to burn off a few of those calories with a bit of pedal power!

I used to love cycling, and getting to work in just 20 minutes during rush hour always made me feel good, and a bit smug if I am totally honest. I wasn’t feeling so smug today though, my fitness levels have definitely dropped recently and it was a bit of a tougher ride in than I was used to. Not having the freedom to take the car to work made it an easy choice to cycle to work in the mornings, but since getting the motorbike I have to argue the whole thing out in my own head as to whether or not I have the energy to actually cycle in, on top of how much fun it is to take the motorbike anyway, which doesn’t really help matters.

Since getting the motorbike in October, I think I have only cycled into work about three times. THREE TIMES! That’s terrible, its no wonder my jeans are all getting tight! What I really need now is the weather to improve during September, I am counting on someone doing a little sundance and bringing the warm weather this way. There is nothing more likely to put me off cycling at the moment than the rain! It has been miserable and persistent lately, and we’ve only seen a handful of sunny days throughout the whole of August. I am willing to forego some time on the motorbike as long as I don’t get soaked cycling to work. The big thing about taking the motorbike is that all my clothing is fully waterproof, and so I don’t get wet at all when I take that!

I need to do something though, lets just keep our fingers crossed that we get a little sunshine to inspire me, I will soon be hitting the gym again though, and hopefully stepping it up a bit. The next big thing I need to address is that pesky diet!

Day 168 – Next stop… Christmas!

Day 168 – Sept 1st

The 1st of September already, and with the exclusion of the weekend, it is technically the final day of the summer holidays. Although it is still very much Summer, schools are about to start what is called the Autumn term, and the weather is beginning to feel just a little bit more like Autumn too.

First thing in the morning I walked Olivia to nursery with Chloe in tow, and after that it was very much a day of looking after Chloe by myself as Clare was busy most of the day, making a birthday cake for Olivia’s birthday party and trying to squeeze in lunch with her friends too.

I was lucky to be able to watch some of the free practise for this weekends upcoming Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix as Chloe was happy to entertain herself for a while, but we did get out in the garden for a while and turn the tv off, especially as I had to put together the new parasol for our patio area. Taking the girls outside is never an effort, something they never refuse. There is something that kids just love about being outside, whatever the weather. I remember myself, when growing up and and wondering why there was so much fuss about the rain when I wanted to go out on a wet day. As a child a few spots of rain just wasn’t something I cared much about, thats what coats and hoods were for, right?!

Thankfully we still have a bit of sunshine ahead of us today and over the weekend if the forecast is to be believed, so getting out in the garden while we can is important, especially for a bit of fresh air and exercise if we’re not going very far. While it is nice during the day, we are starting to see the temperatures drop noticeably in the evening, and the sunset time has shot forward. From it still being a bit light at 10pm, its now almost completely dark by 8:30pm. Over the last couple of weeks I have put up some solar lights in the garden, which have made it look very pretty, and the chiminea has had a number of uses since it went up, although I am hoping we will get a few more out of it yet before it gets too cold to sit out in the evening, or the weather turns.

Monday morning is just around the corner, and means me going back to work after a wonderful six weeks off with the family, and between now and Christmas there is only one weeks holiday, and it won’t be too long after that before we start talking about putting up the Christmas tree! There is plenty going on between now and Christmas, but it feels like we’re already on the countdown!

Day 165 – The art of turning 40 and getting fat

Day 165 – Aug 29th

It had been a quiet, stay at home kinda day. and one of those days where I am not quite sure where the time went. After I walked Olivia to nursery in the morning, Chloe and me spent a bit of time together at home while Clare popped out. The day seemed to fly by, ask me what I’d done with my day, and I couldn’t really be sure, I almost believe I must have fallen asleep for part of it… although obviously I hadn’t, I’d been busy creating material for my website, and looking after Chloe, it felt like I’d slipped into some kind of time warp where everything in the house was going at normal speed except for the clocks!

One of the things me and Chloe did together while was to dig out some of Olivia’s first books, and sit down to look at them together, some of the simpler baby and toddler books that Olivia doesn’t look at any more. I love to read stories to the girls, and always try to make them more fun by adding enthusiasm and different voices to the characters, and Chloe enjoyed it too, she loved the books. She hasn’t really been interested in books much before, apart from looking at a few of the pictures, followed by either standing on the books or throwing them across the room!

It was a simple day really, enough for me to get quite distracted by one feature that had been persistently annoying me lately. It was the concern with my currently ever growing waistline. Since getting my motorbike last October, I had almost given up on cycling to work, and after a few injuries, illnesses and other excuses that had got in the way, the gym I had signed up for was seeing me just once a week some weeks. I’d always strived to try and get fit in my 30s, and although never quite at my ideal weight, was always far fitter through my late 30s and turning 40 than I had ever been during my 20s or early 30s.

Just lately though, things seem to ache and hurt a bit more. Is this something to do with physically turning 40, or just something thats going on in my head? Are things hurting because I’m expecting them to?? I had a bad knee from September last year right the way up until the new year which stopped me from running, and recently I’ve been trying to get back into running, increasing my durations on the treadmill at the gym, only to find myself suffering the following day with some serious heel pain. My love of food and drink has not subsided, and without the much exercise to keep me in check, my jeans all seem to be getting a lot tighter lately. The infamous dad belly is now in full effect and it has to go. I’ve made promises to myself to get back into the myfitnesspal app and hit it hard… but I seem to get so distracted by nice food, I need to find an approach thats more sustainable!

With the uncertainty of August weather coming to an end, I’m hoping for a slightly drier September so I can really get back into the cycling and try to make sure my jeans fit a bit better! I guess some forward planning on food is going to help here, and less snacks in the cupboards!

Parents, how do you cope with kids biscuits, crisps and chocolate in the cupboards?

Day 157 – Rubber side down

Day 157 – Aug 21st

Only one thing going on today… and it involves motorbikes. Its the first day of training for my full motorbike license, the weather is not as warm or dry as I’d hoped it would be considering I was going to be taking two rather powerful wheels out on the road, but the rain was at least trying to hold back.

It was a reasonably early start at 8:30am, but thanks to having two little girls who have yet to learn the joy of sleeping in, I was up in plenty of time and jumped on my own little 125cc bike to head down to the car park of the Makro store where the training was being held, just across the road from Streetbike who I’d booked it with.

It was not long before we were on the bikes, and boy were they fun! I didn’t do a bad job considering the extra weight of these 650cc bikes, and the fact that one wrong turn of the throttle could result in death or at least serious injury! We practised various off-road stuff such as low speed manoeuvres around cones, hazard avoidance, controlled stop, emergency stop and a couple of hours out on the road. I got the hang of this new bike fairly quickly, and sadly began to fall in love with it quite quickly too. Not only was is powerful, well balanced and smooth, it also had some nice technology built into it!

Its safe to say that it has ruined my riding experience, as the journey home was the first time I can honestly say I didn’t enjoy being on my own motorbike, it was like riding a lawnmower home!

With all this going on there wasn’t much chance to pick up a camera, and it seemed a little ironic that with so many cameras lying around, I couldn’t find two minutes to pick one up before bed time!

Day 153 – Why won’t you eat?

Day 153 – Aug 17th

We’ve had a slightly out of character little girl this week, Chloe has been off her food a bit, and we’ve had a couple of vomiting episodes. Monday was the first, and our choice for having a laminate wood floor was totally justified when Chloe was sick on the floor and we could just wipe it up. There seemed to be no reason for her being sick, we’d all eaten the same, her nappies were normal, she was as playful and jolly as ever… it just seemed to come from out of nowhere. Tuesday was fine, it looked like she was over whatever it was that had been the problem the day before. Wednesday we had yet another vomit episode again just before bed, only this time we weren’t so cocky about the wipe clean floor as she had managed to cover our living room rug, which, considering she’d not long had her bottle of milk, and prior to that she’d eaten garlic butter filled dough balls, that rug was never getting cleaned, it was time to dispose of it! There is no way we are getting rid of the smell of regurgitated milk and garlic butter!!

So today was a quiet day at home, once Olivia was in nursery, we didn’t want to risk taking Chloe too far in case she was sick everywhere again. My only chance to get out was a trip to the gym, and picking up Olivia from nursery on the way home. I’d delayed going out to the gym until the last minute as I was a little nervous of injuring my heel again on the treadmill. It was a bit tender after my last run, and I am still not entirely sure what I have done to it.

I managed to get a bit of a run in, but I was feeling burnt out, today was a real struggle! I need to be going far more frequently than I am, and the chance of entering this years Birmingham Half Marathon feels like it is beginning to slip away from me unless I can drastically increase my running distance in the next couple of weeks! I haven’t run the half marathon in a couple of years now, and I am missing it, its a fun day and the atmosphere is brilliant! Last year I had a knee injury which prevented me from training, and this time its a foot injury. Still, I have run twice this week and my foot doesn’t hurt too much, maybe its a promising sign??

Day 123 – nothing worth having comes easy

Day 123 – Jul 18th

A progress update on the garden, after a couple of days work from Leigh, who had been brought in to fix our garden, we have the top cleared and almost ready to lay slabs down on. The garden already looks bigger, although its still a bit of a mess while this is going on. 

Today we had the materials delivered that we need to complete the job, comprising of 60 paving slabs, a tonne of hardcore and a giant bag of sand, as well as five bags of cement. The cement couldn’t be left out, in case it rained, so those had to be moved indoors, but I also needed to move the slabs as well. 

I knew it would be a slow job, it would be heavy work, and my back and legs would most likely be aching at the end of it, but it needed doing. An hour and a half later and I have moved all of the slabs from the front garden, through the garage and into the back garden, all the slabs are inside and I’ve finished digging the top of the garden to make way for the work to continue today. 

It’s dark outside, I’m sweating and ready to do nothing but collapse in bed, but not before I’ve had a shower first!!

Day 119 – A change is as good as a rest

Day 119 – Jul 14th

Its nice to have your skills recognised, and being a photographer, when your employer asks you to take time out of your work to do head shots of staff, its quite nice to be able to do something different for a day. As I’ve said before, I never like to complain about my job, but when I am being paid for the day to take photographs instead, it makes a refreshing change. This close to the summer holidays, everyone is winding down for the end of the year now, so things are quieter in the classroom anyway.

I shot around 80 staff, but had to do it in bursts here and there, waiting for staff to find an opportunity to step out of the classroom. Sometimes there would be a queue of people waiting, other times I would be stood around waiting for people to turn up. I also had a chance to edit a few of the photos before the end of the day, so that I didn’t get roped into having to do it at home. These photos don’t benefit me financially in any way, and so I don’t want to be taking up my own time working on them.

Todays photo was one of my colleagues, a guy I have known for a long time, as he started around the same time as me, over 20 years ago. A very friendly, charismatic guy, who is just one of those people who seems to make friends with pretty much most people. I know he won’t mind me using his photo. I have over edited his image a bit, to give it a gritty, high contrast feel. Nothing like the images I will deliver to my employer, which will not look as harsh as this, but I love the way this image looks!

At least I was still able to get out of work on time, as I had no choice but to bring the car to work today with all the lights, backdrops and stands that I just could not carry on a motorbike.

Back when I passed my driving test in 1995, I was just 19 and thought I had the world at my feet with my new found independence, but recently I have actually gone from loving driving, to starting to resent it a little. Its fair to say that I have been truly spoilt with the extra freedom of a motorbike… all the joys of cycling and weaving through traffic on two wheels… but with an engine!! Now I find traffic jams simply unbearable when I am in a car, and commuting to work in the car is something I try to avoid wherever possible! So getting out of work on time was crucial, and my sanity was saved when I got home a few minutes earlier than normal. My family time at home had started, I had my girls and that was all I needed… well, apart from a few Friday night beers!

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