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Day 139 – there isn’t room to swing a cat in here

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Day 139 – Aug 3rd

Rain, rain, endless rain, its like the weather has forgotten what month it is! Thankfully my plan for today involved spending more time in the garage in an attempt to get it into some kind of order. There is only so much I can throw out, regardless of how ruthless I want to be. Its not the most exciting way to spend my time off work, but a necessary task all the same.

It has been four years, almost to the day, since we moved into this house. It was the end of four months of a huge project to modernise it, rewiring it, plastering walls, putting in a new heating system, new kitchen and new bathroom after the wife’s grandparents had lived in it for many years before us. We moved in with just a couple of weeks to spare before Olivia was due to be born, and loved our new home.

In hindsight, we knew the house was a little smaller than we’d have liked, and if we’d been looking at any other house that had no emotional attachment to it we would have almost certainly found something slightly bigger. One of the primary reasons for buying this house was because of the wife’s grandparents having previously owned, but now it was sat empty, and this way it stayed in the family… plus it was on a beautiful tree lined cul-de-sac and we were only a short walk from the in-laws.

At least with this house, even though smaller than we’d have liked, we had a decent sized garage running along the full length of the house. With it being too narrow to actually get a car in, it made for a great storage space for everything else that we couldn’t squeeze into the house or garden. Today was a day to reclaim some of that space back!

If you’re off work over the summer, what plans are you making?

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Day 098 – Lets cherish this moment

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Day 98 – Jun 23rd

The weekends seem to roll around so fast, and here we are at Friday again. The weather has settled back down to, perhaps, a little cooler than we may expect June to be, but at least we can sleep comfortably at night again.

One of the best things about Friday is being able to get home just that little bit earlier than the rest of the week, and spend more time with the girls, although when I got back today Olivia was spark out on the sofa. Oh well, its still good to be home early anyway.

The wife had to pop out to the shops once I was back home, and so I thought I would take the opportunity to grab a couple of snaps of the girls in the beautiful light that was coming in from the overcast clouds through the window. It might sound odd that a photographer prefers a cloudy day to a bright sunny day, but there is logic behind it. Bright, direct sunlight makes people squint a lot, never a good look in photos, it also creates nasty harsh shadows, as well as strong contrast that the camera struggles to deal with. Clouds, on the other hand, break the sunlight up, making it less directional and creating a nice soft light on people, also removing all the hard shadows. Todays shot of Chloe has come out quite well I think.

On a Friday night I never plan much, call it routine, call it laziness, whatever… I like to settle down with the wife, pour a drink, open some snacks, and watch a film once the girls are in bed. Even though it was supposed to be bath night for the girls tonight, we just didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm to do it, so that can wait until tomorrow, meaning that both of the girls were in bed by 7:20pm. Olivia is allowed to watch the iPad in bed on a Friday, so we can leave her to it for a while and get our film started. The wife is notoriously bad at staying awake, and so our best chance of her seeing the end credits is to start the film as early as we can, even though this is still no guarantee. Sadly, this mornings super early start from Chloe meant we BOTH fell asleep and missed the end of the film!

Day 095 – you can’t prepare for everything

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Day 095 – Jun 20th

As Tuesdays go, this was nothing special, the weather was warm and pleasant, the ride into work was nice on the bike, and things can change so quickly. I’d not long been at work when my phone pinged with a text message from an old school friend that I’d been lucky to catch up with over the last 18 months or so, having not seen them since school, thanks to the modern wonder that is Facebook. There was no way of beating around the bush with this message, her teenage son who had been very sick with leukaemia and had been in and out of hospital, putting up a massive fight, had finally lost his battle. I was heartbroken, a teenager should never have to go through that, and a parent should never have to bury their child. It was a sad morning. Thankfully the bright sunshine gave me the perfect excuse to wear sunglasses and hide a few tears. 

At least the evening was a bit more celebratory, as I was heading out for a birthday meal for my sisters parter to an Indian restaurant I’d not tried before in Moseley, although sadly on my own as Clare had to stay home with the girls. Our current babysitting options are a little limited, so going out together is a bit tricky once the girls are in bed. It’s not ideal, but it will no doubt improve. The restaurant, Priya was a good choice, the food was amazing, and I look back to going again in the future!

Today’s photo was taken after I got home from work. It wasn’t quite as hot outside as yesterday, but it was still pretty toasty, and Chloe couldn’t sleep in anything more than just a baby vest, even with a fan in the bedroom, as the house seemed to retain the heat with ease, and was almost impossible to cool. In fact with the house being so warm, it wasn’t even really worth dressing her once she got up. At one point I noticed she was intrigued by her big sisters scooter, so I grabbed my camera just in case, and I just had a feeling that this was a photo that would look good in black and white, as not all of them do. Sometimes you have to be a little choosy about which images you convert to black and white.  My golden rule is to leave any photo in colour where the subject is looking at the camera… but rules are made to be broken, and I think this image worked. 

Day 088 – All is not as it seems

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Day 88 – Jun 13th

That smiling face… you see that one right there in the photo? She quite happily enjoyed cuddles with daddy and a bottle of milk right before bed time, as is standard. Both girls had gone down well, no surprise as they’re both so good at define, but barely an hour had gone by before the video monitor lights up and you’d have thought we’d shot her in both knees by the screaming/sobbing noises she was making!

There can be various reasons for her waking up once we’ve out her down, and again multiple reasons for her to have woken up upset and crying, but it’s not always easy to try and work out why sometimes. We’re just thankful it doesn’t happen very often. Tonight, she was almost inconsolable  for a while, daddy hugs definitely weren’t doing it, even a walk around the garden wasn’t doing it. Thankfully Clare was home to take over, and it seemed like at least mommy cuddles were working! She eventually calmed and we got her back down to bed successfully, although we’re still no clearer as to what actually caused it. We’re putting it down to the most likely  candidate… teething! 

There are a couple of things that we have come to rely on heavily as parents, firstly is gripe water, vile for some people, manna from heaven for others, but it’s certainly helped us in the past when she’s been suffering with trapped wind! Secondly there is liquid nurofen for children, which is much like calpol, but in my opinion far more effective. Lastly there is Ambesol, our weapon of choice for tonight, which, being similar to bonjela, has really helped us out with teething issues! 

So was it teething or coincidence, that she calmed down? Well, the initial crying suggested it was more than just a bad dream or something like that, something was clearly hurting, and she did start to settle after the Ambesol was put on her gums. If only babies could talk. Lets just hope she wakes up with a smile on her face again!

Day 060 – I don’t want it to always be like this

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Day 60 – May 16th

Another year has rolled around again, and with my birthday almost here, I sit here and wonder where a whole 12 months has gone, and wonder what I did with my time… and how the hell it made 12 months vanish in a flash!

This time last year I was about to turn forty, it was the last couple of days of my thirties, and I guess I was feeling a little reflective. My thirties had been far better to me that I had ever imagined, especially when I consider where I was, and what was happening when I actually turned thirty. It wasn’t a great place, I jumped into a job that I hated and was dating a girl who was totally not suited to me. She was a party girl who gave no thought to the future, and was all about pleasing herself, I didn’t even get a present for my thirtieth birthday. Forget surprise trips to Vegas or New York like some of my friends seemed to be enjoying, I just had to be grateful she’d bothered to get me a card, seriously!

Anyway, without going into too much detail about that, roughly about 18 months later I met my wonderful wife, who has changed my life in so many wonderful ways, and given me two beautiful girls. So as I sit here looking back on what has been, I can’t be too regretful for the choices I’ve made, as they’ve brought me here to where I am today.

My only real regret is that we don’t make enough time for each other at the moment. Its all part and parcel of being parents, the girls are young, and they come before everything else. They are our world and we both put them above ourselves and each other. We had no idea what being a parent would actually be like beforehand, regardless of what people told us, so this overwhelming love for our children that has made absolutely everything else less of a priority has kind of created an unwritten understanding between me and the wife, in that I am no longer her number one any more, and vice versa… the girls come first. We happily accept this, and know that one day they will become independent young ladies, and we will be left with little option but to turn the focus back to ourselves again.

It would be nice, however, to make sure that me and the wife still have a bit of time together, as a couple, to enjoy each others company. To remember what makes the other one smile, and enjoy all the reasons we got together in the first place. We just need to show a little more patience first, our time will come!

Moving onto todays photo, this particular evening I had invited over an old school friend, back from when I was at infant and junior school, so it has been a good few years since we not only knew each other, but actually last saw each other, up until we’d started meeting just before Christmas. She had enquired about photography training courses on facebook, and I replied that I had been thinking of putting some together. If she was willing to be my guinea pig, then I’d happily share my knowledge for free. We both got something out of it, and it was great to catch up too, especially as she wasn’t living far away. She may well be reading this, and I hope she doesn’t mind me using this photo for the day, it was only taken to demonstrate a lighting technique, but I think it turned out well!

Canon 50D – Canon 24-70mm @ 31mm – F/3.5 – ISO400 – 1/160s – Canon 430EX speedlite off-camera w/radio trigger

Day 032 – Turn off the tv and get outside

Day 32 – Apr 18th

Just as the brexit dust has settled, people have started getting used to the idea a little more, and the very vocal online community of angry remainers have started to calmdown… the government tosses another political hand grenade over the fence, and called a general election for this summer.

Aside from the usual news reports and party political broadcasts, this can mean only one other thing… Facebook is about to become a political soapbox for a bunch of new found experts on the matter. It’s going to be pretty much unbearable for at least two months, and most likely even a month after its supposedly over! Everyone will be sharing their opinions, telling everyone else which way to vote and making them feel bad if they don’t. I would even consider coming off Facebook for a while, but I know thats not really going to happen, and why should I?! It’s my Facebook too, and its serves a purpose for what I need it for. There is an alternative of course, put the phone down (does no-one use a laptop any more?) and just go outside, which is exactly what I did today.

I’d already spent a portion of the afternoon walking round Lickey Hills, and as soon as we collected Olivia from nursery we were straight out in the back garden. Not having the tv on makes me happy, its good to be outside. I made sure Chloe came out too, I was fairly sure that even though she is still putting everything in her mouth, the grass at least would be safe from being chomped on!

Day 006 – Brighter days are coming

Day 6 – Mar 23rd

Here in the UK we are on the verge of spring arriving, and at the weekend the clocks go forward for British Summer Time, also known as Daylight Savings Time an idea thought up by a man called William Willet in 1907, it was finally passed by parliament in 1916. Pop trivia fact, William Willet is actually the great great grandfather of Coldplay’s Chris Martin!

So with spring almost here, and the days getting significantly longer, its really nice to start seeing some more sunlight at last in what has been a fairly wet, misty and windy end to the winter. The flower seeds I planted a number of weeks ago are all thriving and soon it will be warm enough to plant them out, much to the relief of the wife who is thoroughly sick of seeing them sat on the windowsill!

Todays photo was one I caught of my daughter as she sat near the wonderful light coming in from the front window. There is a real sweet spot near this window which has produced some fantastic light in the right conditions and made for some of my favourite photos!

All good things must come to an end

Easter holidays are now officially over, I really dont know where two weeks has gone, it only feels like a week! Sunday evening has landed again, and while I don’t think I will finish this post tonight, I have at least made a start.

Yes, two weeks have flown by in a blur, and I have had some lovely time with Olivia on the days it has just been me and her, some great family time on the few days that Clare had booked off work, and even a couple of days to myself where Clare was working and Olivia was in nursery. Its not compulsory that we send her to nursery while one of us is off work, but the fact is that regardless of whether she is there or not, we still have to pay for the day. So if we pay for it, we may as well use it, especially as she enjoys nursery anyway. It also gives us the chance to get jobs done around the house that we can’t whilst trying to entertain a toddler. I had a couple of things I wanted to tackle while I had the chance, one of which being the garage, which needed to be sorted out and tidied up. The other was the garden, as I haven’t had chance to do much with it since the winter has passed. Now the warmer spring months are here, the weeds are starting to go crazy, and I am refusing to let them take over, as it will only mean that if I do, the job ends up taking twice as long when I do finally get around to it.

Thankfully I crossed the garage off the list and made a good start on the garden, even managing to get some vegetables planted, as well as squeezing in time with the family. This last week has been extra busy as I have been trying to sort through all of the weekends wedding photos too, two weddings and over two thousand photos between them to go through! The days just haven’t been long enough, and when its like that they seem to go so much faster.

The weather was really starting to feel like spring on the second week, with the sunshine making a regular appearance and the temperature beginning to go up. We took the opportunity to put one of Olivia’s christmas presents together, it was a garden sand pit which we’d asked for with the intention of saving it for the better weather, not for making our daughter play out in the ice with blue fingers!

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The sand pit was a hit, but also playing out in the back garden was too, she loves being outside! One of my big concerns when we moved into this house was the steps up from the back door to the lawn, they are big steps and pose a serious threat if she falls down them, certainly a trip to A&E with something broken! Having a friend who is a builder means I at least know where to turn for help. There won’t be any mates rates or discounts, I’ll pay full price, but a lot of us use him because we know he does a good job, especially in a tradeter where its easy to get conned and ripped off! He has been round to look at the steps and work out a price to replace them, I just hope that when the quote comes back, its at the very least affordable. I’d love Olivia to be out more in the garden over the summer, especially without the fear of her hurting herself trying to get up and down the steps as she seems to love going up and down them repeatedly for no reason at all!

The one other thing we managed to do was get Olivia measured up for some new shoes.  At this age they grow out of them so quickly, they barely last eight weeks and often aren’t even showing signs of wear. Still, even with this obvious gap in the market for some stiff competition, we are left with little option but to pay for the extortionally priced shoes, that are a quarter of the size of mine, yet still more expensive! the girl is growing fast and needs new shoes. This time we actually treated her to two pairs, a normal pair, and a lighter, more breathable pair for warmer days. In theory, with two pairs, there will be less wear on each and it will be easy to resell them. For me, it seems a shame we can’t keep these cute little shoes, but really, thats just the hoarder in me coming out, we’d have absolutely no use for them, and they’d just end up taking up space somewhere, probably in the loft where we wouldn’t look at them again. At least if these end up on ebay we can recover some of the cost of her next pair! Clarks have literally dominated the market in childrens first shoes and there is little competition in this area, which is reflected in the ridiculous costs for something this small! Still, they do look quite cute though!

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After her few days off, Clare sadly had to return to work, leaving me with the little one once again. I was very grateful that the weather was at least on our side this year, and we weren’t restricted to sitting around the house. I had arranged to meet up with a friend and her little girl at the local park so they could play together, and while we were chatting found out that they were also taking her swimming at the weekend at a local pool. This was a perfect opportunity for me to get Olivia back into the pool again, which I’d been wanting to do for a number of weeks. I was always keen to take Olivia swimming regularly, but for various reasons it hasn’t ended up being very regular at all. Much like my running, of course, there is the extra incentive if you happen to be meeting someone there, it gets you off your backside and out of the house! After getting up early to watch the Chinese Grand Prix, we jumped in the car and made our way down to the pool, and it was definitely an hour well spent, she loved it! It has been a few months since we last went and the one thing that became immediately obvious when we were in there was how snug my swimming shorts had suddenly become! I have definitely fallen off the diet wagon over the easter holidays and those extra creme eggs have become a bit of an issue apparently, along with a couple of take aways and the odd beer here and there! It looks like it’s time to start getting strict again, time to get back on the myfitnesspal app. I just need to cut out the crap and make sure I keep my exercise up. I know myfitnesspal works, I’ve used it before and lost a whole lot of weight, I can do it again, I just need a bit of encouragement!

Counting down the days

I have an awful lot in my life to be grateful for, and most of it comes down to a chance meeting on a drunken night out when I met a beautiful girl who ended up being my wife. The rather flat and pale start I’d had to my 30s suddenly changed direction when I met Clare, we soon moved in together, I changed jobs, started a photography business, we got married, went on an amazing honeymoon and eventually bought a house together, and then the best bit…we became parents and welcomed our beautiful daughter into the world. 

In looking back, I’ve come an awful long way in the last six years, and I couldn’t have done it on my own. Some days I feel like I can take on the world, but then there are still days when I just want to sit at home and shut the world out.

Today is definitely one of those days.

I’m feeling tired and grumpy, the weekend was quite busy, and although it was generally a good weekend, it still came with its problems. In reality these were small compared to how good the rest of the weekend was, but being in the mood I’m in today I find myself dwelling on these little things.

It’s at times like these when you need to stop and put things into perspective, measure up your woes against someone else’s bad day, and see how bad things really are. As much as this is a great place for letting off a little steam, I don’t want to stop and dwell on things too much, so I’ll move on with the rest of the weekend.

We started our weekend with a trip to see the mortgage advisor first thing on Saturday morning, to get our mortgage deal renewed after the initial two year deal was up, and as we knew what we wanted it was a fairly quick and efficient process. It left me enough time to get home and get myself ready to photograph a very low key wedding of one of the wife’s work colleagues. My first wedding of the year, and thankfully a very small affair with a very friendly couple, it allowed me to ease myself back into the wedding season again without too much pressure. Photographing a wedding, from the outside, probably looks like quite an easy job. Turn up for a couple of hours, take a few snaps and head home with a pocketful of cash! The reality is far from that, and while there are many,many articles on exactly this kind of debate online, I won’t go into it now. Needless to say, I’ve totally lost count of the amount of weddings I’ve done over the last seven years, but I still get nervous even now! There is so much pressure, and so much to remember, there are so many things that can go wrong, and people that have paid you hundreds of pounds do not want excuses if you let them down… they’ve paid you, they want results! I have already made the decision to steer my business in the direction of newborn photography, as weddings are hugely time intensive. I can often meet a couple twice before the big day to discuss the details and probably visit the venue, then I can be with them for easily a 12 hour day, and then after that I have to spend many evenings (don’t forget I already have a full time job!) sifting through and editing the photos, oh and if they want and album that’ll need designing and ordering too! If only wedding photography was just a days work! The fact that this weekends wedding was a low key affair was an absolute blessing! I was still glad to head home and relax after it though.

Once I was home, that allowed the wife to take the car and get the food shopping. We’re still trying to make the switch over to Aldi as we know we can save money, but we just can’t quite seem to get everything we need from there. This week we managed it, and our weekly shop was significantly less than we were used to from Asda, result! My sister and her boyfriend popped in briefly on their way to a meal, and although they didn’t stay too long and we still had plenty of time to start cooking dinner, frankly neither of us were in a cooking mood… and so Indian takeaway it was!

I was quite surprised and pleased to see that I had got a “pub call” text from my friend Dave after we’d finished our takeaway. After him and his wife split up, he needed somewhere to stay and so he obviously had little other option than his parents for a few weeks, which is the other side of town, and so it seemed our walks to the pub had apparently come to an end at that point. He is, however, looking into renting somewhere close by, so he can still be near his son and close to work. He was made a special journey over to see me and so we were able to catch up for a few hours. It was good to see him, especially as I am not getting out as much these days, so the odd trip to the local once or twice a month was very appreciated and often as far as I’d go, unless of course there was a significant birthday or something to celebrate.

The funny thing is that as Clare’s parents had taken the flat off us when we bought a house and moved out so they could let it out, and it seems almost like fate that the current tenants are in the process of buying a house and the consequently the flat will now be available at a perfect time for when Dave needs somewhere in the area to rent! He thinks it a great idea that he will end up living in our flat! Its perfect for him as its a good size and still cheap, and in a perfect location too! Probably about the best result from his unfortunate situation. Living so close to one of my oldest friends was a real bonus, and it will be nice that we’ll still end up living within a short distance of each other!

Sunday morning was my usual time for running, but my running partner text me to call in sick, and as much as I was actually looking forward to a run, I didn’t have the motivation to drag myself out on my own, knowing I had plenty of other things to do today. It was the one day of the year I could have a total geek out… The Photography Show at the NEC! This was not a place for wives and children, not unless you want them constantly checking their watches and tutting and mumbling about all the other things they could be doing and how nice the weather was outside and how I couldn’t afford anything there anyway etc… so I went alone, and I was happy to do so! With my plans for moving away from weddings and into newborn photography, I needed a bit of kit, and found a few bargains there to get me started. As I already have my first paying customer planned, I can start to recover some of the costs already! Once the kit has paid for itself, I can fully justify the purchase and then its all profit! With the both of us wondering how we are going to afford baby no.2 whenever that happens, this could be a way to really help that problem! The only downside is that unlike a wedding, this requires a few props and such to make it work, and so requires an initial outlay. The plus side, is that props is actually all I will need as I already have all the cameras, lenses and kit that I’ll need from the weddings. However, this doesn’t stop me wandering around the NEC drooling at a few expensive items along the way. Eventually things will need upgrading, and until then a bit of window shopping never hurt anyone. Plus its a useful way to find out what the labs are bringing out, in terms of albums, and mounted prints and various other things that I can use to sell to try and make a bit more money along the way.

I knew when it was time to call it a day though, and so I headed home around lunchtime and the weather had actually turned really nice. It was sunny, and one could almost call it warm! So I decided that even though the wife had plans for lunch, as long as she hadn’t actually started cooking, I was going to suggest we abandon the idea and head out for something to eat. Like a pro poker player, she saw my idea and raised it… we were heading to cannon hill park where we could a) be outdoors and b) grab a sandwich and a cup of tea at the same time! Winner!

It was a lovely afternoon, and although the parking was nothing short of a nightmare, the park didn’t actually feel that busy. We stopped off at the Garden Tea Room and enjoyed a toasted cheese sandwich and a cup of tea while little madam attempted to demolish a Choc Dip.
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We finished the afternoon off by visiting my mom and her other half, which I like to do every couple of weeks as they can’t get over to us very easily any more. I’d like to go more often, but its not always possible sadly, so I always try and make the effort when I can.

So the weekend draws to a close yet again, it has been a busy one, but we have got lots done. The only problem with being busy is that you don’t notice how fast the weekend is actually going! So we decided to slow Sunday evening a bit with a few glasses of wine (for her) and a few beers (for me) while we put our feet up and watch a film, instead of the usual rubbish thats on tv! I have recently taken out a months free trial of NOW TV which is only slightly more expensive than Netflix, but has a far superior selection of films, and is making me seriously reconsider whether I want or need to keep my Netflix account! I’d already dropped LOVEfilm in favour of Netflix previously, but I am becoming seriously frustrated with the lack of decent films to watch on it! We opted for the Hangover 3 as neither of us were sure whether we’d actually seen it, and even when we started watching it and realised that we had, neither of us could remember what actually happened in it anyway, so we left it on and kept watching! A good chuckle and they’ve totally left the door open for a 4th film!

 

 

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The first day of the Christmas holidays, spent at home with my little girl. It was always going to be a day of not going very far, when unlike her normal waking up time of around 7am, today she doesn’t wake up until 11am! This is unheard of, but merely reflects the kind of night we had again, getting up on more than one occasion, to find her yet again covered in snot and with a temperature touching on almost 40Âșc. She doesn’t seem too bad during the day, then just deteriorates during the night, a total mystery! So after her massive lie in, I get her dressed and managed to give her a bottle of milk that she should have had around 9am before her morning nap, which todays actually turns out to be lunch, as less than three hours after she got up, and she is ready for what should have been her morning nap! The poor little thing is still under the weather and clearly exhausted, not only from being up at night herself, but also because of all the germs she is fighting off. Consequently, this nap proves to be an epic one and two and a half hours later I have no choice but to wake her up! In total she has only seen a total of about two hours and forty five minutes of daylight for today by this point as the sun has already set by the time her second nap is over! Still, if she needs to rest, then she needs to rest! Its a fine balance of letting her get enough rest to get over the germs, and making sure she’s awake long enough throughout the day to still be tired enough to sleep at bedtime. Every night I say a silent prayer to myself that tonight, just this once, she might sleep through again, like she used to! It feels like it has been forever since that last happened. Each night, it comes as no surprise that we get woken up again. The only consideration then is working out what has woken her, how we can settle her, how long it will take to settle her, at what point can we get her back into her cot (we’re trying to get her back in before we’ve actually got her back to sleep now!) and how much sleep we have left after that until the alarm goes off… oh yes, and of course the thought of whether or not tomorrow night might just be a bit different.

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