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Day 201 – Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower

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Day 201 – Oct 4th

Happy hump day! Gotta love a Wednesday for giving you a bit of encouragement to make it to the weekend. I received a lovely text message from the wife while I was at work today, with a photo of the two girls while they were out on an Autumn Scavenger Hunt at the local woods with a list from nursery of things for Olivia to find and take back in. It sounds like they had a lot of fun hunting for leaves, twigs and acorns, autumn is definitely a time for getting outdoors and enjoying nature, especially when its nice and sunny out.

Consequently todays photo was Olivia checking off her list to make sure she has everything. She’s such a bright little spark, I just know she’d going to do great at school when she gets to start, but as she’ll possibly be one of the oldest in her class, I just hope she doesn’t end up getting bored. She is already reading numbers and writing her own name, and while I am aware that every parent believes they have created a young Einstein who is some sort of child prodigy, yet I am also aware that some kids arrive at school still not even toilet trained. I’m not one to judge, as they all have their own reasons, and quite frankly its none of my business, I just hope Olivia can end up in a class full of people who can inspire her and push her.

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Day 104 – Some people have “come to bed” eyes, I just have “go to bed” eyes

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Day 104 – Jun 29th

So tired today, so so tired. My attempts to get earlier nights seem to have failed recently, I’m not getting to bed much before midnight on an average night. I’d been using an app on my phone to monitor my sleep, and it initially encouraged me to make more of an effort to get to bed at a sensible time. This has allowed me to track my sleep patterns over time, and in the last 7 days I am averaging 5hrs 50mins of sleep per night. Anyone would think our children were still babies and crying at night or something! Its not good for getting up in the morning, and its not good for having enough energy for the gym in the evening.

Committing myself to not only a photo every single day for a year, but also a daily blog to go with each photo, was always going to add a bit of a challenge to each day, I could easily just upload the photo for each day and be done with it, not bothering to add any text, but in honesty, I do enjoy the writing, I just need to be more organised with my evenings. I also need to take opportunities to do some of the writing during the day, to take the pressure off a little bit in the evening.

Maybe carrying a camera around with me during the day will also help, as I often don’t start writing until I have taken a photo, and trying to find something to photograph can sometimes be the last thing I do in the evening before I go to bed, often keeping me from going to bed. A project 365 is, of course, just a bit of fun, but the truth is that there are at least 365 opportunities to screw it up. So far I have managed to maintain the project by taking a photo every single day, which is the whole point of the project, and it is so easy to forget and miss a day, but if I am going to do this properly then I just have to make sure I keep taking the photos. The key is not leaving it until the last minute.

Today I came home from work and had a photo opportunity just waiting for me, Chloe was sat in her high chair with pigtails in her hair! It looked adorable! One thing we wanted to try and avoid right from when she was born was cutting a fringe into her hair. It has meant that her hair has frequently been in her eyes, and we’ve had to keep trying to clip it back, but now her hair is long enough for pigtails so not only can she see properly, but she also looks super cute! We cut a fringe into Olivia’s hair when she was little, and have spent many months already trying to grow it out!

Today has been grey and miserable day, it has been cloudy and dull outside all day and it there wasn’t a great deal of light about, meaning the living room was a bit on the dark side. One of the toys I have to play with when I am shooting photos is a Gary Fong Lightsphere, a flash diffuser, which, without getting technical, creates the beautiful lighting effect you see in todays photo of Chloe! It has most definitely worked here, this is a photo we will look back on for a long time to come!

Day 061 – I’ve been here before

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Day 61 – May 17th

A day of hope and uncertainty. For me it’s birthday eve, time to open a few cards and presents with the wife and girls as I almost certainly won’t have time in the morning. I run a tight ship getting ready for work in the morning, and don’t have a lot of time for anything that can otherwise wait until later. Tomorrow I’ll have the family coming over straight after work, so I’ll be needing to entertain them when they arrive. 

The girls have got me a bottle of bourbon, although fairly certain they had some help in purchasing that! The wife had bought me a bottle of rather expensive aftershave I’d had my eye on for a while, but had never bought for myself because of its price. I remember mentioning this in passing while I was looking online, although not as any kind of hint, but it seems that the wife was actually listening!

The more significant part of the day was that the mother in law was going back into hospital for her second operation, and it was going to be a pretty big event. It had to be done, but it left us all literally feeling a bit useless all day as we waited for some news that they’d finally finished and that all had gone well.

Thankfully they finished on time, as planned, and everything had gone well. A massive relief!

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

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Right, I am NOT going to let this be a late night! I am typing this as I wait for a loaf of bread to finish baking and it has about 25 minutes on the clock. Once the loaf is done, I want to take it out of the bread maker, cover it over with a cloth and leave it overnight to cool down, ready to slice in the morning, then I can head to bed! I have had two nights in a row of getting to bed far too late, and although it hasn’t actually stopped me getting up and cycling to work in the morning, it just makes it harder and has definitely meant that I am crawling out of bed a few minutes later than normal, and inevitably leaving the house a few minutes later than normal and then getting to work with barely enough time for a shower and a change of clothes. The shower is a must, it can get a bit sweaty keeping up with rush hour traffic, so I definitely need a bit of a freshen up, but its also nice to get a bit of heat back into me after cycling through the cold, especially my feet, they always feel it when the temperature drops. The rest of me is pretty well covered up, enough to retain a bit of heat from the house as I leave, until my body temperature takes over once I’ve hit got going! Choosing the right clothing when autumn kicks in and the outdoor temperature drops, can be a tricky balance, too much clothing will leave you toasty as you head out of the house, but it won’t be long before you over heat and become distracted on the road. For me its normally a case of just putting on a couple of thin layers and gritting your teeth for the first couple of minutes. By the end of the journey I am frequently feeling plenty warm, regardless of how cold the weather is, and very much looking forward to that shower!

With today being Thursday, it means we now only have one day left before the weekend. Friday is almost here and hopefully the weekend will be a little more eventful than the last one was! I’m hoping we can find time to visit my mother on Saturday as not only will she love to see Olivia again, but my sister will be there too, and I know she gets very excited about seeing Olivia. I don’t think we have any plans, but it still needs the thumbs up from the wife first, just in case she has anything planned that I didn’t know about, or “have definitely been told about but managed to forget or plain just didn’t listen in the first place” as she puts it. I don’t know where she gets this idea that I don’t listen from, its just not true. She did try to explain it to me, but I just heard blah blah blah!

What else is happening this weekend? Well, one thing really. Its ALL about one thing. The final and championship deciding race of the Formula 1 2014 season, and what a season it has been! I watched the opening race from Australia at a blurry eyed 6am with my good friend Duncan, in the company of a bunch of other F1 fans at the Aprés bar in Birmingham city centre where each race is shown live, and that is how I intend to end the year, although thankfully with this race being in Abu Dhabi, it starts at a much more sociable 1pm. I am fairly positive that most people reading this couldn’t give two hoots about F1, sundays race or the fierce championship battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, but you’re here now, so settle in for a minute! It has been another mind blowing year in F1 with some fantastic races, some amazing overtaking, some awful crashes including the unfortunate Jules Bianchi who is still in a bad way after a severe head injury several weeks ago. There have been some real eye opening battles between drivers that we weren’t expecting, especially with the rule changes and new engines and after four years of Red Bull dominating each race, the tables have finally turned and we have a new monster on the track, the Mercedes cars of Hamilton and Rosberg who have been virtually untouchable since the first race back in Adelaide in March. They have literally left everyone else standing in their dust, unable to provide an answer to their epic pace. This Sunday is guaranteed to have people sat on the edge of my seat, and it could go either way, and anything can happen. Either way, a Mercedes driver WILL be the new world champion, but which one is not going to be decided until that chequered flag goes down on the final lap of the final race of the year! The last time it was this close and exciting was 2008 in Brazil and it was down to Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton, and with Hamilton down in 6th place on the last lap, Felipe Massa crossed the finish line in 1st place giving him enough points to become the world champion… for a total of 38 seconds, before Hamilton managed to somehow catch and pass a slowing Timo Glock. This change of position gave Hamilton the extra point he needed to steal the championship from Massa on the last corner of the years final race to give Lewis his first ever world championship title.

Well that’s pretty much me wrapped up for today, a quick run out earlier to drop off a bottle of wine and a birthday card for my friends wife, and with my loaf of bread now cooked its bed time. Todays photo, one of the chilli’s I have been growing this year, a cayenne chilli turning from green to red, which will be going into tomorrow nights Chili Con Carne! A dish I never used to eat when my mom made it, until I realised that it didn’t have to be made with the dirty baked beans she used to add, and in fact the humble kidney bean was much more accepted. Don’t ask me why I eat kidney beans but can’t stand dirty baked beans, its just one of those things. I was a ridiculously fussy eater as a child, and some things have just stayed with me!

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Father guilt, thats what I have! It would seem we have created a bit of a daddy’s girl in our daughter and the wife is feeling a bit put out about it. In one way its lovely, to have your little girl reach out her arms and want daddy to make everything alright is fantastic, but when she refuses to go to her mother at only 14 months old, I do feel a bit guilty about it. What do you do? I did remind the wife that in a few years the roles could swap around as daddy lays down the law and is no longer flavour of the month! It doesn’t help that the wife is currently only really getting to see Olivia at the end of the day when she is getting tired, and she’s not great when she needs her sleep, a bit like her daddy! I had all this while Clare was off on maternity leave though, so I kinda know how it feels. Clare would be at home and tell me what a great day they’d had, and she’d send me photos of Olivia smiling and videos of her laughing… then daddy would come home and she’d just cry. I tried not to take it personally, but its not easy, but then I realised that it was just that particular time of day, which is why I especially enjoyed the weekends back then and being able to spend time with Olivia while she was wide awake and happy, rather than all tired and grumpy! There’s nothing you can do with a grumpy tired baby except let them sleep, and you certainly can’t take it personally. For us its a good thing that she seems to recognise the time of day so well, it means her bedtime routine is always regular, she’ll always be ready to go to bed around the same time, and if she doesn’t seem tired and just wants to play we can usually turn it around with a few cuddles and a bottle of milk and have her in bed and ready to go to sleep just 15 minutes later!

Bed time is not as straight forward as it used to be though, our little sleep monster seems to be much more of a light sleeper lately, and her teething really isn’t helping matters! Some nights she’ll sleep right through without as much as a murmur, as she has done for so many months, and other nights where she’ll wake up at the slightest sound, and then there are the nights where she’ll just wake up anyway, noise or no noise! Last night was one of those nights, I can only presume the teething related cold woke her up, and she didn’t seem to want to go back to sleep. Eventually Clare woke as well, I’d been trying to keep Olivia quiet so Clare could sleep, and a bit of team work getting some calpol inside her seemed to work eventually, it really is magic stuff! The little lady eventually settled and we could all get to sleep again. I needed to get a good nights sleep as I have picked up a cough and cold myself, and to be honest its the cough thats annoying me the most. its made me really chesty and I even gave up on cycling to work for the second day in a row, and took the car again today! I’m feeling a bit sluggish at the moment and the trousers I wore to yesterdays funeral were definitely feeling a bit tight, so I could do without missing another days cycling, and I am definitely looking forward to saturday mornings run this week! I need to get some serious exercise on and stop eating crap. I have turned into a real eating machine lately, which I am totally blaming on the weather and time of year, but it would really help if I didn’t keep buying it and leaving crap around the house that we can pick up and snack on! I’ll certainly be doing enough of that over christmas, I don’t need to be starting this early!!

Talking of christmas, I have a question for you all. I noticed that Sky have announced a new channel dedicated to christmas movies, and I wondered what I’d like to see on it as christmas is only about 6 weeks away now! SO I got to thinking, what are my top 5 christmas films. Firstly I think it would have to be the classic Miracle on 34th Street, the remake of course though. Then there would be the Muppets Christmas Carol, followed by Love Actually, the less traditional The Holiday, and a recent addition, The Polar Express. What would your top 5 christmas films be?

Oh and thanks to my sister Lizzie for todays Pudsey Bear outfit that Olivia wore to nursery for their Children In Need week, as is being modelled in todays photo!

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“You tried your best and failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.”

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Don’t worry, the tablets aren’t some stark message that I’m going to end it all, the worst I could hope to get from taking too many of these is really, really healthy joints, as they are only glucosamine tablets. I take them to keep my knees healthy for when I am running! Its a shot I have wanted to try for a while, although I am not hugely inspired by it, but its done now at least, even if its not quite what I had hoped for!

Tuesday morning I had to be in work a bit earlier to prepare for some training that I had to deliver at another school. It always makes me a little nervous when I have to go to unfamiliar schools, as I never knwo how kind the traffic is going to be and if I’ll get there early enough to set up, considering I usually make a point about telling people who important it is to start on time. Then on top of that I have to make sure all my resources are ready and I don’t forget anything, as I am not used to training outside of our school where everything I need is close by! They were a great group, but it still didn’t quite go to plan, considering that the presentation is quite very powerpoint based, I could really have done without their projector overheating and turning itself off half way through! Still I got through it and managed to deliver what I needed to, which meant I could now relax a little bit as I have spent a lot of time after work trying to refine this presentation. Its not a very interesting topic, and I originally put it together with another work colleague, who has now since tapped out, but I was never 100% happy with the content, although I didn’t want to insult the other person by making changes at the time. Now I am doing this on my own though, it is much easier to try and polish it.

Getting in early today meant I could leave a little earlier, although it was just my luck that I should leave work as flashes of lightning appear in the sky and I get drenched in the one and only downpour of the day, still, its worth it to get home and see my little lady again and relieve the grandparents of their duties a little earlier than they’d expected.

Unfortunately with traffic being generally horrible this evening I ended up being a few minutes late for jujitsu, and being a martial art all about discipline and respect, being late isn’t a great way to start a session. I debated turning around and heading home, but I’d drove all that way and so went in. It was a real sweatfest in there this evening, we did some hard work with plenty of throwing going on. Its always good fun though, but I did wish I’d started doing something like this when I was 18 and not in my mid thirties! With running and cycling thrown in, I do start to notice the aches a little more these days!

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Todays post is on time and coming to you from the comfort of my own bed! I was hoping to be in bed by 10pm, but although thats not quite been achieved, I am at least lying on my bed as I type this, which is something. It really was the morning after the night before when the alarm clock went off, numerous drinks combined with not knowing when to stop on a Sunday night didn’t bode well for my ability to jump out of bed with a spring in my step this morning! Still, it was a reasonably quiet birthday this year, and so I felt like I owed it to myself to at least have a bit of fun, even if it was on a Sunday night. When I woke up I had two thoughts initially, one was “I quite literally do not know how I am going to find the energy to cycle to work, and today is one day I CANNOT take the car!” and the other was “Is that rain outside? It sounds like someone has installed a giant shower about our street and turned it on full! I am going to get D-Renched!” Thankfully as quickly as the rain started, it seemed to stop again, and the roads began to dry fairly quickly.

While I was in work, trying my very best to keep my eyes open and not look like I had spent most of the previous day drinking, Clare went out to pick up our new car and trade the old one in. I’ll be honest, I am glad to see the back of that Peugeot, we had paid enough out on it already and were pretty confident that there was a whole lot more to pay out ahead of us. On the day we first saw the car, it was me who took it out for a test drive, so today was Clare’s first go in it, and from her subsequent text message she seemed suitably impressed! Also while I was at work, the in-laws landed from their week away in the mediterranean, and arrived home about the same time I got back. To save them cooking, we had them over for dinner, and even showed them the new car. They came bearing a couple of gifts, including a new bracelet for Clare, as pictured above. Poor little Olivia was in a particularly whingy mood today, and seemed to cry at the slightest thing, although as much as it could possibly be teething related, it could also be that she is just too warm at the moment and maybe tired, as she doesn’t seem to be napping as much lately. It has been warm and sunny outside, and consequently warm inside, although I have brought the fan down from the loft, which has been fantastic and much appreciated! I love my fan!

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“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”

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Tuesday was about one thing for me today, the hour between 7pm & 8pm, tonight was grading night in the Jujitsu dojo and I was hoping to be successful in gaining my next belt. I was feeling a bit nervous today and had been working on a few different techniques that I needed to nail. After hotfooting it home from work, I managed to get to the sports centre early for a bit of last minute practise, but when the clock rolled around to 7pm, we were then being observed. An early injury after getting kicked in the knee was not what I needed, but thankfully I was back on my feet after a few minutes. Not exactly Karate Kid, as were weren’t fighting, but it was still painful! On the grading, me and a friend were working together, he had joined a few weeks after me and was going for the same belt. We managed to get through it and make it to the end of the session helping each other out a bit here and there, and after waiting for the final verdict at the end, were super pleased to have got our next belt, brown belt stage 1. Our next grading will be for he full brown belt, and will probably not be until after christmas now, but it feels really good to have come this far, and been successful at each grading event up to this point. Its tough, and there is a lot to remember, so the new belt means a lot when it is awarded to us along with our next certificate! The one downside of tonight is the fact that I didn’t get much time to spend with my daughter, I was only home for about 15 minutes before I had to leave tonight, if I was going to get into the dojo early to practise. By the time I got home she was in bed and fast asleep. Its not ideal, but it is just one night, and I will get plenty of time with her next week when I am off work, and without the pressure of tonights grading looming over me. I don’t think the easter holidays will be all plain sailing as I will probably have to do some work preparing for some training I will have to deliver on the first day back. I normally spend a bit of time after work doing a bit towards it, but didn’t get much chance tonight as there was a meeting to discuss courses and career development, which was interesting, and then I had to make sure I was ready to jump on the bike and out on time. Now it is time to slow down and relax a bit, I came home to a delicious chinese chicken stir fry made lovingly by the wife, which we often have on a Tuesday as I enjoy them so much and they are easy for the wife to cook and me to reheat when I get back. I guess I had better make the most of being cooked for, as it will soon go back to being the other way around again in a few weeks when the wife goes back to work.  I guess the conversations about baby no.2 will soon be happening again then, I know the idea of work is not one that fills her with delight! Its just a shame I enjoy my work more than her, I’d give up work and be a stay at home dad at the drop of a hat! For now though we can make the most of having two incomes for the time being, as we have some fantastic parents who will be providing a free nursery service for us. I’m not sure how that will work when no.2 arrives as this means Clare’s parents will go from having just the one grandchild, to then having four grandchildren if we have our second child. I think at that point, one of us may have to consider some time off work! We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it though. Who knows, we may even win some money between now and then, I have given up on the National Lottery and signed up for the People’s Postcode Lottery instead, the prizes aren’t as big, but people seem to be winning more often. It can’t hurt to try, plus its by direct debit, so you don’t have to keep going back and buying a ticket!

At least I can crawl into bed now knowing the alarm clock will only be going off three more times before the holidays. It doesn’t necessarily mean much of a lie in, but I’d sooner be woken by my daughter at any time, than the alarm clock! Those early morning smiles just can’t be beaten! I just hope we have a bit of dry weather for the rest of the week for me to cycle in! People keep talking about the 6 weeks of early summer we have ahead of us, although I only actually found this reported in the Daily Star, which is essentially a newspaper for people with an IQ under 50 and as reliable for information as “the bloke down the pub”! When I am lay out in the back garden with my shorts and flip flops on, THEN I’ll believe the weather reports. For now, I am keeping hoodies and jumpers on standby!

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Spending time with the family…

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Monday morning rolls around again and my alarm clock sounded like the clanging of a church bell plummeting from the bell tower and crashing into the floor! It wasn’t the best nights sleep either, strange dreams causing me to toss and turn, which didn’t help much. Thankfully, even though I struggled to get up, I made it in for a 5k run on the treadmill after cycling in. The road was quite frosty, so I was über careful trying to make the short ride to the main road. Tomorrows forecast sounds like even more fun, heavy fog, oh joy!

I got home today to find that the father in law had been round and working in the kitchen, putting a line of tiles on the wall along the top of the worktop, and it looked fantastic. He’s very good, and I just don’t know what we’d have done without all his help! We’d chosen the tiles months ago, but unfortunately they were not a priority, and just had to wait with so many other things going on. Slowly, our house is finally starting to get there! We’d also had a couple of deliveries, food shopping and a wedding album I had ordered for a couple who got married a few months ago. The food shopping, which although it isn’t very exciting, I am still very much enjoying as it means we don’t have to go out in the evening and spend an hour wandering around the supermarket. It meant our evening was free to do other things, and I was keen to get out and see my nan in hospital tonight, I know she’d love to see Olivia, and the ward she’s in allows children and babies in! Sadly Olivia had other ideas and became quite upset, extreme tiredness combined with some possible trapped wind lead to a crying fit for a while before I finally managed to rock her to sleep and then let her lie across me while she napped. I could never have predicted that she was going to nap for three solid hours! So that was pretty much my evening wrapped up, I do love spending time with my daughter, but that wasn’t exactly what I had in mind! She even missed a complete feed as she slept straight through it, but clearly was too tired to be woken up, so after we finally managed to rouse her, she had the next bottle and we’re hoping she’ll have at least a small bottle before bed to make up for it! She’s a very healthy weight though, and its no great cause for concern. We need to look at making the bottles bigger soon, but she’s still not quite finishing every bottle yet.

Anyway, bed for me, that’s late enough!

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