I write today’s post from the comfort of my new garden furniture, with a fire in front of me, a beer next to me, and the stars above my head. Life feels good at the moment!
Monday we had the pleasure of my friends coming to visit with their baby daughter. Olivia just loves holding babies and playing with them, she’ll make a wonderful mother one day! I love watching all the kids grow up, and change, and develop their personalities… often wondering what they’ll turn out to be like when they’re grown up. What will their passions be? What will they do with their lives? Where will they travel? How will they make sense of the world as it constantly changes and becomes ever more confusing?
I watch my girls especially, to see what clues they’re giving off about what they will be like. What will they look like as adults? Will they still get on with each other? Will they want to hang around with their parents or head off around the world with a backpack? How much of how they turn out will be down to us, or will they be more influenced by who they meet along the way?
We certainly do have two very different girls, as I’ve mentioned before, and trying to predict anything about them is impossible. Chloe is so full of spirit and determination, so visual with her emotions, whereas her big sister was so passive and placid… although she is becoming a bit more determined lately, learning negotiation skills along the way that we haven’t taught her!
The differences between them are amazing, such beautiful little girls, with such different attitudes. It still makes me wonder how the two of them could be so different, but I wouldn’t change either of them! Not one bit.
I am so proud of them both, I think they’ve made me a better person!
Time to make some indoor entertainment, August has landed with a wet start and little signs of improving any time soon. With two little girls who love getting outdoors we decide to head out to a soft play centre so they can burn off some energy with some climbing, jumping and sliding.
They may have energy to burn off, but its time to slow it down when we get home. Olivia loves to sit down and write, draw and colour, so I created a sheet where she could do all three, overwriting numbers, letters and her name, colouring in shapes and matching numbers to groups of dots. She’s amazing and does so well, I can’t wait for her to start school and show off her skills to the teachers. I love that she loves doing it too.
The rest of the afternoon was taken up with our friends stopping by to visit, their son is a few months older than Olivia and they usually play well together, although they were both a little lively and loud, so putting the minions 9 mini movie compilation on the TV quickly restored some peace and quiet as they both soon became engrossed in it.
With dinner done and bath time for the little ladies out of the way, its time for stories and bed for them. I decided to grab a quick shot of the chillies I have grown in the greenhouse as my photo of the day. I love growing chillies, far easier to look after than tomatoes, and there are still many more growing yet to come. I’m picking them and leaving them by the window to let them ripen before they end up in the freezer, ready to go in a chilli the next time we cook one, as they turn from green to red they become hotter, just the way I like them! This shot had to be engineered slightly with some sheets of A4 white paper and two Canon Speedlites bouncing light off the walls and ceiling, trying to minimise the light reflections on the chillies themselves. A high key shot requires two things, a white background and lots of light!
Has anyone else had any joy with growing chillies?
A week off work should mean turning off the alarm clock, but any parent knows that this is a fairly irrelevant task, as those pesky kids have no concept of “sleeping in”, and I have barely peeled my eyelids apart before our bed is turned into a trampoline.
There is a delay at this point, a few moments where me and the wife see how long we can tolerate the sleep terrorists invading our bed and crawling over us like we’re some kind of fun, organic assault course.
The temptation of a hot cup of tea and some toast is a strong one, and escaping downstairs means the little ones have enough distractions to occupy themselves so that we can get used to being awake.
After dropping Olivia at nursery for the day, there was only Chloe to entertain, but with the wife taking her shopping, it meant that I could actually take a little time to use the steam room at the gym, something I had been wanting to do for a while.
I have been missing the gym recently, due to some sort of chest infection, on top of the fact that I somehow seem to have injured my heel, preventing me from running or doing a great deal of cardio. I usually get to the gym in the evening when I have the time, after the girls are in bed. I don’t like missing out on bed time and reading stories unless I have to, which means my gym session is often ending just before the gym closes, so there is no time for the luxury of the steam room or sauna. Today I thought I’d give it a blast, and see if the steam room could help clear up my chest a bit, on top of its other reported benefits.
With only one car between us, I was dropped up to the gym when the wife left for the shops, but had to make my own way back. Halfway, I paused along the bridge over the motorway to grab this shot. I had toplay with a few settings to get some motion blur in the traffic to give it a sense of movement, easy to do at night time with longer shutter speeds, but not so easy in the day time.
I found a little time in the afternoon to start sorting out the garage, it has been on the agenda for a while, and whilst I didn’t have quite the impact I wanted, I did make a start and have a few ideas on how to maximise the minimal space we have available. The six week holidays sound like a great opportunity to do so many things, when in reality they are gone in a flash, and some serious planning and time management is required if you want to get done half of the things that you expect to. Its no secret that I have spent a portion of the last few blog posts whinging about the weather, but its so annoying when all you want to do it get outdoors and it can’t go a single day without absolutely throwing it down! Yes, I know I can’t complain, I’m aware that most people don’t get that much time off in one go, but when you are used to it, you get used to saving jobs for then, and making plans to see people, go places and entertain the kids.
As the day draws to a close I can grab myself a beer, catch up on the blog and… wait, whats this? The wife has put Celebrity Big Brother on the TV?!? Oh man, I really don’t want to watch this, its truly painful… but who are these people?? Its the kind of show that the wife loves, but that makes me want to put the TV on eBay! I am sat with the TV straight across from me and I am trying not to look, but I am totally dismayed at what counts as “being a celebrity” these days, and my eyes keep being drawn back to the joke that is modern entertainment! So far half of the people who have walked in to the house were absolute nobodys who have had a vague appearance on a reality show, and are now being classed as a celebrity in order to appear on a celebrity reality show! It must get pretty awkward when all these so-called “celebrities” meet and look at each other, wondering who everyone else in the room actually is, because the truth is… none of them are famous enough to be called celebrities!!
At least I have the internet!
This is it, the summer term is finally over, the last day in work is finished and I can go home to six glorious weeks with my girls!
I will now get to spend, not just most days, but the whole six weeks with them, after a text message from my friend which informed me that they no longer needed me to look after their son any more, rather than the flexible arrangement we had previously, they needed the support to be more regular and with more help during the week rather than just at the weekend, which I could never have offered because of the hours I work and getting the girls to bed. I’ve been doing this for over two years now, and it has been nice to help friends out, especially as their needs were quite specific and it was an area I happened to have experience in, but I’m glad I can have more time at home with my own family now.
So as I arrive home with the sun shining, what better way to spend the afternoon than head straight back out to the park. Everyone is just sat around glued to the tv, yawning and stretching, so lets go and get some fresh air in our lungs and wake ourselves up! Clare decides to stay at home to prepare dinner and tidy stuff, so I strap the girls into the car and head down to my favourite local park and nature spot, Warley Woods. What better way to spend the afternoon than working up an appetite in time for dinner.
Saturday was another day of cancelled plans, and working out what to do with our day at the last minute. We were supposed to be visiting the mother in law, now that she is home from hospital, but as she wasn’t feeling well, we had to put it off for the time being, and so the day had become a blank canvas.
We’ve been a little restricted over the last few days as Chloe as has been more tired than usual and needed several naps during the day… a growth spurt maybe? Who knows!? So before we could head out for whatever we decided to do, we had to wait for Chloe to wake up from another massive sleep. When we did get in the car we headed out to a local area called Leasowes park, a little play area, a duck pond and a lovely walk. We can stretch our legs as well as let the girls play on the swings.
Last autumn, we came here on a slightly colder walk and I got a lovely photo of the girls sat amongst the fallen autumn leaves. Today it was a little sunnier, and so I wanted to get a shot that reflected that, but a 16 month old toddler who has just discovered how to walk, has no concept of why I want her to sit still for 20 seconds, and is already a little grumpy today anyway, had better ideas!
We still had a nice afternoon out, and also a chinese takeaway to look forward to that evening. We even managed to sit down and watch a film together once the girls were in bed, without Clare falling asleep! Bonus! She was straight up to bed when the film was over, but at least we’d made it to the end of this one.
Then things got a bit more serious…
I caught wind of the fact that something was kicking off in London and flicked on the news to find out that our worst fear was happening all over again. Another terror attack!
On a Saturday night in the capital of the UK, terrorists were trying to unleash chaos on the public, inflicting huge numbers of casualties and killing innocent people. It is heartbreaking, and especially worrying as this is the third attack in around a month. The British public have shown their solidarity for each other, and a bit of love has gone a long way. We won’t be beaten!
Nothing like a houseful of germs to cheer everyone up. With a snotty toddler in the house there is no escaping, she’s into everything and all over everyone, with what looks like two caterpillars crawling down her nose and into her mouth!!
So now we’re all feeling it, coughs, colds, sneezing, sore throat…
That made heading out to the gym all the harder, especially as I hadn’t slept great the night before. Am I just making excuses to not go? Maybe. I can’t pretend that I wanted to go, but there is difference between wanting to go and needing to go. Since I swapped cycling to work for riding a motorbike to work, its no secret that my fitness has been hit, and so has my waistline! Going to the gym is now mandatory, and so signing up for 12 months is going to keep me going back. I’d committed myself to twice a week, which hasn’t worked out every week so far, but I can’t let a week go by without at least going once!
So today I dragged myself out, even though my body was screaming not to, I knew I’d be okay when I got there. I managed an hour, although I wasn’t feeling so clever afterwards. It always seems harder in the evening, but theres just no way of doing it in the morning, the girls are up at the same time as us, and Clare needs help getting them ready. I’d get up early and go for a run, but this knee is still painful, and I am not going to be running far for a while yet!
I am needing more early nights, thats for sure! Maybe I need to look at leaving the motorbike at home more often, and getting the bicycle out again!
329: Sometimes ya just struggle for a photo, but don’t the lights look pretty?!
330: December arrives, so we can now officially talk about christmas without all the miserable people getting offended. The tree has been up for a few days and thankfully our fears have come to nothing, Chloe has been showing minimal interest in it, and any of the decorations on it!
331: T’is the time of year for reflecting on the previous 12 months (you see what I did there!?) It may still be a Friday night, but not a bad time to look back and think about what has been going on for the last 12 months.
332: Its often all too easy to spend the weekend indoors when you have feeding and nap routines to follow with a little one, but sometimes I get a bit fed up of not getting out enough. Today we wrapped the girls up, put them in the car and went out for a walk to blow out a few cobwebs. It may be December, but its hardly arctic conditions!
333: A Sunday afternoon, and a quiet day at home, a chance to let Chloe attempt lunch by herself without being fed. How far can she get, and how much mess can she make? I love the way the sunlight through the window is lighting her from behind.
334: Monday mornings are rarely fun for most people, hauling themselves back through the morning commute into work after a refreshing 48hrs at home. But when you walk out the front door and see this kind of sunrise, it all feels slightly less painful.
335: Busy, busy, busy trying to work through creating wedding albums and also trying to compile material for training.
336: Dark times… when your day just doesn’t go as planned and a single piece of news can change everything. It makes you stop and reflect more than anything.
337: The picture of innocence, when you have plenty on your mind to worry about, but the simplicity of a child can keep you grounded and remind you to not lose sight of the little ones around you who depend on you to keep your head together.
338: When worrying about someone special, very close to you, it forces you to look at yourself and make sure you have done all you can to be a responsible parent and ensure that even if I don’t look after myself for me, I do it for my daughters who need their dad around them.
339: Saturday, the weekend has landed, and time to spend some quality time with the ladies, especially as daddy is off out in the evening to attend the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert at the NEC (or whatever they have currently renamed it to!) I’ve only waited 20 years to see them, and it was totally worth it, even if I did have to go on my own!
340: A day to lighten the mood slightly, the birthday celebration of my friends little boy, and its off to Thomas Land at Drayton Manor for the day. Its a fun day with lots going on, and one of the highlights for the little ones is getting to see Santa and get a present. Olivia wasted no time in telling the big man exactly what she wanted!
341: Bath night, but someone has decided that they don’t want to join their little sister in the bath, they want to have a shower like a big girl. Thankfully we now have the shower screen up too, so its easier to keep an eye on her.
342: The joys of having children… I’m sure if we left Olivia to her own devises, our entire fruitbowl would look like this!
Well this post is going to be the last one of the summer holidays, September is now here, I’m going back to work after six fabulous weeks off with the family, and I am very grateful for the time I have had with them. We’ve done some lovely things, seen family and friends, had plenty of BBQs and enjoyed some lovely weather on days out, in the park, or even just in the garden.
230: This was the day that the wife was out for lunch with work friends, and I was left to watch the girls. Even as a dad of three years, I still feel the pressure of parenting alone when the wife isn’t around! Its like I have never done it before, and one of them might explode or something. Thankfully the big one was in nursery and the little one still isn’t moving very far when you put her down. One thing she is doing is showing us that its almost time to give up the baby bouncer, for as much as she loves it, its getting hard to keep her safe in there!
231: Today was a hot one, a strong reminder that summer wasn’t done just yet. It was my turn to head out for a couple of hours. I’d arranged to meet up with some of the other dads from our antenatal group, and we found some of the new and quirky bars in Birmingham to head to. Not the kind where the kids were all hanging out, doing shots and fighting, this was a little more refined, but still had a “we’re off the beaten track and cool” feel about it. Even the doors had some funky artwork on!
232: Not all selfie’s are polished works of art. There is a growing culture of particularly young ladies who seem to have the selfie down to a fine art and will be prepared to take 500 of the same shot until they’re happy. I gave this idea two fingers and thought I’d grab a shot during my 5 mile run from dropping the car off for its service. Thankfully the father in law was around to take me back to pick it up later that day!
233: Road trip was on! After a painful drive down the M5 we made it down to Devon to stay with friends for the weekend, and that night thought we’d all head out to Lyme Regis beach for a walk and to grab some ice cream. I took other shots, but particularly enjoyed the serene feel of this shot. Canvas material? Something to hang on the wall as a work of art? Maybe so… until the wife shot me down in flames and exclaimed “Its rubbish… theres nothing in it!!”. **shakes head**
234: We headed out today to see a number of places including some fun catching crabs and eating fish and chips by the sea. It is lovely to just relax and spend time with friends sometimes, life can be so hectic at times.
235: These girls love playing together, and now there is a new one to add to the group. I only wish we could see them more often. Today we had some lunch before jumping on the motorway and headed home. Thankfully as it was a bank holiday weekend the motorway was still quiet on Sunday.
236: We were supposed to head out to Stratford-Upon-Avon to meet up with some other friends, which sadly ended up being cancelled at the last minute, and so we headed out for a walk around the local park instead, as it seemed a shame to waste the sunshine, and with the summer holidays drawing to a close and my return to work imminent, I wanted to spend some more time doing nice things with the family. Todays photo was yet another portrait, as I love looking back on them all and seeing the changes.
237: I was out this morning taking care of my friends son for a few hours again after I’d dropped Olivia at nursery, and there was a window of a few hours before the wife headed out for food with a friend. I decided to capture this shot of Chloe now she is sitting up so much, as most of the previous shots were of her lying down. She seems to be changing at an astronomical rate at the moment, and doubling in size! The is becoming a real character, always full of smiles and loving the interaction with adults, very much like her big sister, but very different at the same time.
238: Yeah yeah, another portrait, I need to get the camera out and try some different shots, I know, but today Chloe was all dressed up for her grandmothers birthday and looked gorgeous. We all headed out for a family carvery, which was amazing, even if I did over do things a little.
239: Back out looking after my friends son for a few more hours again, and a nice walk in the Lickey Hills to blow a few cobwebs out as I haven’t done a great deal of exercise since I have been off work. September is now here, and summer is starting to disappear. The days are still warm, but the sun is setting much earlier, and the nights are feeling a little cooler. I think we still have a couple of BBQs left, but autumn is definitely not far away. The green in this picture will soon be replaced by reds and oranges.
240: I’m not going to lie, this was a day I didn’t take many photos at all, and had very little to choose from, but Chloe’s smile just melts my heart sometimes, and she looked so cute just lying back on the cushions after sitting up for a while and then just giving up!
241: Our little baby is no longer our little baby, and we struggle to call her our little girl, she seems so much older than her years sometimes. Her 3rd birthday is just around the corner and today we had a soft play party for her and some of her friends, she is so confident and took it all in her stride, but almost looked a little overwhelmed at the attention was very much focused on her as the cake came out. A rather stunning peppa pig handmade by the wife I might add!
242: The second part of the celebrations was on the Sunday as the parents and one of my sisters came over for a BBQ. We decided to open the bulk of the presents while everyone was around, and Olivia had a fantastic day to finish off a fantastic weekend. Plus we had a little visit from a friend and our second surprise pregnancy announcement of the weekend. Two separate friends are both due with their second babies and both expecting in March. How exciting!
So That’s it, summer holidays are over, our girl is almost 3, and the little one has already turned 7 months old. Time is flying past and the new school year is upon us again as Sunday night lands with a disappointing thud. So much I wanted to do, and so many things still on my to-do list! I am just grateful for the time I have had at home with the family, it has been invaluable and I have been very lucky to have six weeks off, not just with the girls, but with the wife as well. Will we be able to do it again next year? Well, if we can work the finances, then possibly. Fingers crossed!
I don’t know where the days have gone! May has vanished in a flash and June doesn’t seem to be hanging around. I am falling well behind with updating these photos, but here goes!
127: One very pleased wife as our new double buggy arrives, meaning more freedom for her to get about during the day while I am at work. Olivia hasn’t used her buggy for months, but on some days, where a lot of walking is involved, sometimes she wants to be picked up and carried. Not so easy when you’re on your own, but now no longer a problem!
128: Upon losing our allotment last year I turned to growing some veg in the back garden. The broccoli flowered before I could pick it and it was no good then. As I didn’t remove it over the winter it has flowered again this year. It has to go at some point, but it does look very bright and its a lovely place for the bees to land until we get some proper flowers in the garden!
129: Olivia’s new fascination is having her nails painted. She is always watching mommy put her face on in the morning and likes to try a bit of it herself. The finger nails just weren’t enough, and so out came the jelly shoes when the toes were done too!
130: A bit of sunshine in the garden and the weeds are taking a firm hold, and it sometimes seems a shame to pull up some of the prettier ones, but they can be a nuisance. This one always looks pretty when you get close-up, and its always fun blowing them!
131: The year so far has seen a mix of weather, and not just sunshine and showers, but a frustrating mix of cold, grey, wet days and some absolute scorchers. Todays photo is just an appreciation of some blue sky when all we tend to see is clouds a lot of the time.
132: Its birthday eve, my last night of my 30s, a sad day for me. My sister in law came to visit with a card and a nice present. I can’t lie, it was opened before midnight! Bye bye 30s, you were very good to me!
133: Today I turned 40. I always enjoy birthdays, but still feel a bit sad that I am now into my 40s. Many of my friends already are, and they don’t seem to have gone grey and wrinkly overnight. I keep getting told that life begins at 40, and really just need to relax and appreciate everything that the last decade gave to me. The biggest thing about this day though, was not my birthday, but the great news that Chloe’s hip harness is finally off!!!
134: The harness is gone, and now our little girl can have proper cuddles again, and best of all enjoy a bath with her big sister!
135: Olivia has taken on the role of big sister so well, she really does love her little sister and often helps mommy to give her a clean. I think these two are going to get on just fine.
136: Its official, we have a thumb sucker! The dummy still rules, by a long way, but she’s worked out how to get that thumb in, so maybe the dummy has a limited shelf life?
137: Starting the day with a walk over Lickey Hills and making the most of the sunshine. I often take my friends little boy over here when I look after him, and need to remember to bring the family, its a great place for a walk!
138: This guy looks suspicious! Its a “got no photo, lets take a selfie” kinda day!
139: Usually the wife collects Olivia from nursery, but today its my turn. Its only a short walk, and made easy when there is a lovely sunset to look at. I grabbed this cheeky little weed growing out of the front garden wall as I went past.
140: There is definitely a distinct difference between bringing up a little boy and bringing up a little girl. All of my friends who have boys are run ragged by them, they have endless amounts of energy and don’t care about throwing themselves around or whether they injure themselves. In stark contrast bringing up a girl has been a walk in the park, and this little lady is often happy to take a little time out and just sit watching her favourite shows or films on tv.
141: What would you expect of a photographers daughter? To have her own camera of course! I found a bargain on ebay and was pestered daily until the damn thing arrived!
142: There’s something about clouds that appeal to the eye searching for a shot, when the sun hides behind and streams out, I am sold!
143: So now I am starting to accept having turned 40, I finally get to celebrate properly with a party thanks to my amazing wife. I picked an awful weekend with so many friends on holiday, but I was touched by all those who made it and helped me to have a fantastic night. It was even better to have some old school friends there too. I’ve known these guys for almost 30 years, as if I didn’t already have a reason to feel old!
144: After dinner we decided that a lovely way to spend a nice warm evening would just be to put our shoes on and head out for a walk together. This little lady doesn’t need much of an excuse, she may love her tv, but she’s even happier outdoors!
145: Bank holiday Monday, and rather than sit at home cursing the traditional bank holiday rain, we’re our celebrating the 40th birthday of another school friend who moved out to California a few years back and was home to celebrate with his friends and family. It was a lovely afternoon, and in a break of tradition it was actually sunny!
146: The birthday month is at an end, May is over, but we are lucky enough to see our friends, up for a few days from Devon. The girls love playing together and its a shame we don’t see them more often. We finished the day by heading out for food together at Cafe Rouge in the Mailbox. Hopefully we will see them again pretty soon!
So the final countdown begins for the big four zero. There’s a party to plan for and I intend to make it a week of celebrations! I can’t pretend I am looking forward to the day when I can no longer say that I am still in my 30s, but I may as well push through that barrier with some acceptance and embrace the positive of what I do actually have around me. I know its just another day, and I technically won’t wake up and feel any different, but that landmark just says to me “Nothing else significant, and no other special celebrations now until you’re 50!”. In fact the only way I can be considered young by anybody now is if I was dead! Oh joy!
Ah well, on with the photos, and I am now up to day 126! Mini celebration, kinda means I have this thing under control and theres a very real chance I will make it through until the end!
117: The May day bank holiday Monday is traditionally a rather wet affair, as if the rain clouds are pre-booked in advance every year. We decide to spend the day at home and have our friend coming to visit with her little boy, so decide to make the best of staying in and get the kids to make and decorate some biscuits, which kept them entertained for a while.
118: One of those days with very little to report, except for the fact that the scaffolding that went up for a small job fixing a window four weeks ago is still up. The window was done in an afternoon, but the scaffolding is still here and beginning to anoy me!
119: I was lucky enough to be invited to a bloggers only evening to help promote the launch of a new chocolate store in the jewellery quarter. If you check back a couple of posts you’ll find the article I posted on the evening. It was a lovely evening and I was grateful to be a part of it. I learnt a thing or two about chocolate, got to taste some fancy new ones and even got to make my own!
120: Olivia has become a fantastic big sister and really looks after her new little sister, giving her lots of kisses and cuddles, and now has taken to including her when it comes to playing with accessories, including headbands.
121: Its BBQ Friday! The weather forecast is looking up for the weekend, and so I get the BBQ cleaned and light it up, throwing on some of the food I’d thought ahead and purchased the day before. Friday night meant burgers and beers for me. What a way to spend a Friday evening, at home and with my ladies, cooking meat over fire… RAAHHHH!!
122: The wife can’t help herself while she’s off work, passing the time with online shopping! This time for our daughter, buying her a mini trampoline. I was planning on saving this for her birthday, but to be honest, anything that stops her jumping on the sofa and our bed at the moment, is a bonus! With the afternoon turning into a bit of a downpour, we had at least something to keep her entertained indoors too!
123: Sunday showers us with more sunshine, and although the forecast is for a thundershower at some point late in the afternoon, the day starts warm and bright and so we make the most of it. Out comes the BBQ (again!) and out comes the gazebo also, along with the paddling pool. It was a lovely afternoon in the sun, and to make things even better, no rain arrived whatsoever! Good old fashioned fun in the garden!
124: I figured it had been a few weeks since my last proper portrait of Olivia, and I like to keep these up regularly. My favourite portrait lens is the 85mm f/1.8 lens, very popular with portrait photographers. It takes a wonderful flattering picture, and a little bit of sunshine finishes the photo!
125: This little lady is becoming an absolute delight in the last few weeks. The days of screaming just because she’s awake seem to have completely vanished, now she is spending most of the day happy, smiling and even laughing, only having a whinge or a few tears when she’s hungry, needs a clean nappy or can’t get to sleep, all easily fixable! Its the smiles and the laughing that do it for me though, they are so heart warming!
126: The godo weather can’t last, but the rain does leave behind a certain fresh quality to the air. Sadly the big downside is that heavy rain gives the cherry blossom trees that line the road a real battering and they lose a lot of their petals. The cherry blossoms did seem to start flowering early this year, and normally the flowers are gone within a couple of weeks, although this year they seem to be hanging on and on!