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Day 188 – How do other parents do it?

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Day 188 – Sep 21st

Tonight was a big event for us, the first open evening of a potential new school for Olivia for when she starts this September. We have finally had to start looking into schools as we need to have registered our choices by christmas, and so finally we have to admit that our little girl is growing up fast. School is the next big stage in her life, the point where we have to let go and watch her fly. Its going to be an emotional time. 

We still have at least one more school to check, and it’s tough working out which is the right one, this is going to massively affect their lives, who they become, what friends they make, maybe even what they want to become one day. 

Still, once that decision is made there’s the realistic prospect that we have literally no idea how we’re going to do the school run every day. When both me and the wife were growing up our mothers used to stay at home, and they’d walk us to and from school each day, and be there if we had to take a day off sick. It seemed normal. 

Modern life is quite different to this, both parents quite often work full time and usually develop a lifestyle that makes it hard for one of the parents to give up work. Grandparents have become heavily relied on in recent years, doing a lot of the childcare for small children while the parents work, and I’d imagine that a lot of them are doing the school run too. 

Realistically our only hope is breakfast and after school clubs to provide that wraparound care making drop off and pick up just a little bit easier. My job working in a school is totally inflexible, I can’t go in late or leave early, as that’s just not how it works, and the wife will also be working in a 9-5 environment when she finally goes back to work.

How do other parents cope??

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Day 187 – Why did you do it then?

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Day 187 – Sep 20th

Ah yes, hump day is here, we are now closer to Friday afternoon than Monday morning, its all downhill to the weekend from here. I had treated myself to a cruise into work on the motorbike, and even the weather was treating me to a dry day while on two wheels. I have committed myself to at least three days a week cycling as I need to make sure I keep up a regular amount of exercise each week, and although  I am already feeling the benefits, its nice to have a break in the middle and use a bit of horse power rather than leg power.

It is much nicer to get home not feeling all hot and sweaty and being able to pick the girls up without having to change out of a soggy top first… although today it seems that neither of them were especially interested in daddy getting home anyway. Olivia was burnt out from a shopping trip out on the bus with nanny and had collapsed on the sofa in front of the to before falling asleep shortly after I got back, and Chloe had only managed a 45 minute afternoon nap instead of her usual 2-3 hours and didn’t quite know what to do with herself, leaving her a little bit cranky in between smiles. 

Chloe loves to play and can get a bit rough at times, and has taken to head butting things lately, so today when she bumped her head on mommys knee it clearly hurt a bit. She got over it pretty quickly, but I still had to grab a photo as it was quite funny. She’ll soon learn to make the connection between head butting things and it hurting! 

Back out to the gym this evening, needing to keep up the exercise even though I didn’t cycle today. Feeling a little nervous about how much my foot is going to hurt in the morning if I run tonight, may need look into booking an appointment with a physio soon!

Day 183 – Its the halfway point

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Day 183 – Sep 16th

So this is it, the official half way point of the 365 project. Six months has gone so fast, I’ve produced some lovely photos, and some absolutely duff ones, but it has been fun.

Todays photo was taken in Sandwell Valley Country Park, a venue so close to where we live, yet somewhere that I’ve never been to before. It was a lovely little place, and somewhere we’ll definitely be going to again. We met some friends there in the morning with their two little ones, one of them being Olivia’s best friend at nursery, for a fun few hours. The kids played on the play area for a while, before we took them around the farm to feed the animals, and then finally stopped off for a spot of lunch in the cafe.it wasn’t quite as cheap as you’d hope for a trip to the park, but we enjoyed ourselves.

After we got home I still had time to pop into the city centre for this years Chilli Festival, as I’d sadly missed out on last years due to photographing a wedding on that day. It felt smaller this year than previously, although I’d been assure it as the, and due to the rain it was definitely considerably quieter too. On my own I was pretty much done in half an hour or so, but I had picked up some new chilli sauces. I was tempted to try som of the delicious food on offer, but I’d already had lunch at the park and knew we wouldn’t be eating late tonight. 

Before any films or putting my feet up this evening I had the task of putting all my camera batteries on charge and making sure all my memory cards, cameras and lenses were ready and packed. Early start in the morning. It’s an essential job to make sure I am fully prepared for any eventuality, including a smashed camera or a battery totally failing on me. I still have to get all the shots I need regardless. It can be a stressful day, and there is a lot of pressure, particularly around moments that will only happen just the once and can’t be repeated, and definitely can’t be missed. Once I’m happy everything is ready, I can relax. 

Day 182 – It never rains but it pours

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Day 182 – Sep 15th

Ah Friday, the superhero of the working week! 

I’m looking forward to a bit of a quiet Friday and Saturday as my Sunday is going to be pretty hectic, my first wedding for a while. For one reason or another it has been a bit of a quiet year on the wedding photography front, which is fine as it means more time at home at the weekend with my girls, but Sunday I am back into it, and the wedding weekend starts tonight with the wedding rehearsal. Normally I don’t attend these, but I wanted to make sure I could find the church and check out the parking situation.

The church isn’t too far away, and so I decide to hop on the motorbike, its cheaper to run than the car, and more fun too!

Cue the rain!!

I had to hang around a bit longer with the rehearsal than I wanted to, but it was worth it as I found out I was entitled to a limited spot outside the church, reserved for photographers! This news takes a huge amount of stress out of the wedding day!

So now its time to head home, put my feet up and relax with a film and a drink. On the way home I manage to pull the bike over and grab todays lovely photo… right before it started raining again! I seem to be cursed on two wheels at the moment, every time I climb onto my motorbike or bicycle I get drenched!! Oh well, a few beers and a good comedy film will soon take my mind off that! At least I got home in time to put the girls to bed!

Day 181 – Tomorrow is a new day

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Day 181 – Sep 14th

When your previous evening hasn’t gone to plan and you start the next day still feeling grumpy about it you have to give some consideration to the fact that most of your problems are generally going to be trivial ones that you just need to let go of, and it’s only you that can change whether you’re going to let yourself be happy or not. Take a reality check on the situation, if you have a house, a job, hopefully people around you that you love, food in the cupboards… you’re already better off than half the people on the planet. 

So that’s what I had to do. I can’t take my grumpy mood to work, as it certainly won’t help thing. When I get home my girls don’t deserve the grumpy version of me either, they should have the best version of me that I can be. Sometimes it’s not that easy to arrive home after a day at work with the enthusiasm of a childrens tv presenter, especially when you’re tired, hungry, and inevitably annoyed with some idiots driving on the commute home. Riding home on two wheels frequently means that someone will have had me swearing at some point, whether they can hear me or not, and so when I get home I’ll put the bike in the garage, take a deep breath and give myself a second to let all of the days frustration just drain away. As soon as you walk in the door and see those two little smiling faces looking up at you, everything else just melts away. You can close the door and shut the big bad world out.

Mindset is a big thing, and a while back at work we had a training day, which was called The Art Of Being Brilliant. Presented by a particularly enthusiastic and motivating guy, it was all about positivity and making the choice to be happy. There were mixed feelings about it afterwards, some found it ridiculous and patronising, some found it an utter waste of time, but like myself a lot of people remained open minded and found it interesting and inspirational, enough so to pick up a free copy of the book that had been offered with it. It was very much about this “better version of you” mindset. I never did read the book in the end, as I have many books at home still waiting to be read, although a lot of what was said on the day did stick with me, I just need to remember to put it into practise a bit more often. Maybe I should go back and pick the book up after all. 

How do you pick yourself up when the day isn’t going your way?

Day 179 – just tell me what you want

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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 177 – Try to keep up with me

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Day 177 – Sep 10th

Sunday wasn’t supposed to be much busier than Saturday, but we still had a couple of things we wanted to do.

Our first thing was a trip out to the park to meet a friend and her little girl who was the same age as Olivia. They had both recently turned 4 and both of them had new bikes. We’d agreed to head for one of Birminghams most well known parks, Cannon Hill park as its nice and flat for the girls to ride the bikes, and there is plenty of space of the path for bikes and all the people on foot. The other added bonus is the Garden Tea Room.

Cannon Hill Park may be well known for the infamous arts centre, or MAC as its better known, located at the main entrance to the park, with its shiny new appearance, its shows, its sleek cafe and the courses and other things it puts on, but the Garden Tea Room sat on the opposite side of the park gets a little overlooked. It serves good food at a good price and you rarely have to queue or wait for your food for long. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, plenty of room to store buggies inside and they offer high chairs for the little ones. In fact about the only complaint I have about this place is the fact that they don’t accept card payments for any of the food or drink. A bit of an inconvenience, but if you know about this in advance then you won’t go hungry when you get there, as one of the things the entire park, and the MAC centre are missing is a cash point. Luckily we had cash, so when a rain shower appeared on our walk around the park, we took the opportunity to duck inside and grab a bite to eat and a hot drink.

The morning was a lot of fun, the girls had a fantastic time on the bikes, riding in circles, charging through puddles, racing each other, and frequently stopping to jump off and pick up feathers or horse chestnuts, all before we headed for the duck pond to feed the ducks. We chose a smaller pond, away from the main boating lake, as it is literally plagued by geese, and we would have been mobbed within seconds!

After leaving the park it was over to my mothers for a couple of hours. We knew we were going to be pushing Chloe through her nap time a bit, but she’s coping better with waiting now, although we can’t push her too far, no-one wants a meltdown… and when this girl goes, everyone knows about it!

After getting home and Chloe getting a much needed nap on the way back in the car it was time for dinner, and the good old english classic of toad in the hole being cooked up by the wife. What a way to finish a Sunday!

Day 176 – What shall we do today?

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Day 176 – Sep 9th

It’s Saturday and we’d decided it was going to be a fairly quiet weekend, I know it makes the wife happy when we break the busy weekends up with a few where we’re not doing much. 

The one thing with not making any plans in advance though is that if you don’t just want to sit around the house, you still need to be up and dressed at a reasonable time, or by the time you’re dressed and showered it’s almost lunchtime , the girls will be wang something to eat and we have to consider that Chloe will need to nap shortly afterwards. Essentially what this means is that if we’re not up and out of the house by 10am, we may not end up going until 2-3pm. It’s almost feels like a bit of a waste of a day, especially when we have to be back by 5pm to cook dinner, think about a bath and then get them both in bed by 7:30pm. 

Theses small windows do mean that if we are just staying local then at least we don’t really have to take travel times into account, and we don’t have to commit ourselves to being out for more than a couple of hours at a time. They’re good for trips to the park, swimming or even a trip to the shops. On this particular Saturday, as we had literally nothing planned, I suggested we head down to Toys’R’Us to see if Olivia wanted to spend some of her birthday money. Yes, she’d been bought some lovely gifts for her birthday, but none of which she’d actually chosen herself. Its a nice way to spend a little time, letting the girls wonder round being amazed by this Aladdins cave of childrens toys, although at 18 months I knew Chloe was going to struggle with the concept of putting things back on the shelves a little, and we did spend some time trying to wrench things out of her hands and coerce her to let things go.

Finally the shopping trip was successful, and we were heading back out to the car when we spotted the fire engines that were parked up for the charity car wash, with one of the wagons parked up and allowing children to sit inside and have everything explained to them. Olivia naturally was keen to have a look, and after having a look around the back, was allowed in the front to sit in the drivers seat, which she thought was amazing! It was a nice surprise from a random trip to a shop we don’t normally visit. It might not seem like much, but when you’re a child its super exciting, and when you’re a parent trying to entertain a child on a wet Saturday afternoon, you’ll take every opportunity.

Day 172 – Happy birthday little princess

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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

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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!

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