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Day 152 – We’ll get there eventually

Day 152 – Aug 16th

Getting ready and trying to get out of the house on time is something every parent of small children dreams of doing. It seems like an elusive dream, a holy grail of parenting, the one false promise you make to all your friends and end up apologising for on a fairly routine basis.

I had arranged to meet an old work colleague who left for a new school around christmas, that I haven’t been able to catch up with since. We decided to head down to Cannon Hill park, as its central for most people to meet up, there is a lot of space to walk around, the lake, two play areas for the children, the crazy golf and a funfair, plus the gardens and a tea room. Its a great spot, but on really warm days we tend to avoid it purely on the basis of how busy it can get. When the sun comes out its near impossible to find a parking space!

Like almost every other day, we were late getting out of the house, and so I was quite grateful that a) we got a parking space quite quickly, and b) my friend, thanks to his little boy, was even later than me. As most of our friends seem to have kids these days, you kind of expect things like this to happen, and you’re just glad that its not you that is the last one to arrive!

The kids had a fun time, and it was nice to catch up with my friend, he’s a really nice guy and I was quite disappointed to find out he was leaving and moving on. We’d played catch with some balls, tried to fly Olivia’s kite, although it wasn’t quite windy enough to keep it up, enjoyed ice creams and spent a bit of time avoiding the large groups of geese that could look a little intimidating to a small person.

Its a lovely park, and I’m looking forward to going back again soon.

Day 151 – boy or girl, who cares?

Day 151 – Aug 15th

Tuesday means nursery for the big one, and just the little one at home with us, giving us a chance to get a few chores done. One place I seem to be visiting a lot lately is the local tip to get rid of garden rubbish and stuff thats cluttering up the garage, and today I was off there again, with more of the same. With the garden in a much better state and a bit more room in the garage, I am hoping to see less of the tip over the rest of the holiday!

From the tip I was off to the gym for the first time in a while, I’d been forced to rest up for a couple of weeks after a running injury, a pain in my heel that made it really uncomfortable to walk for a few days. It felt like really hard work today getting back into the gym, I hate taking time off as it makes it so hard going back. I need to get back into it, get a proper routine going. I just hope this rest time has been sufficient to stop the pain from coming back.

From the gym it was back off to nursery to pick the big one up again, and as it was a nice afternoon, we all went out to stretch our legs.

One subject that had fired up some debate today was the feature on ITV’s This Morning show on a couple who claimed to be Britains first “gender neutral” parents, an article on which can be found here. The mom was actually born a man, and the dad was born a woman but does not identify as being male or female. Fine, quite simply their choice! The nation, however, seems divided on the way they want to bring up their son, encouraging him not to see himself as a boy, but instead as a neutral person with no gender identity, and let him decide if he wants to be a boy or girl when he is ready. They are sending him to school in a boys uniform, but making him go in pink socks as a compromise! Is this child not being set up to be a target for the bullies? Does it really matter that much if he just doesn’t get it, and wants to be a boy like his friends?

The This Morning facebook page lit up like a firework with comments, and twitter nearly went into melt down. Of course, what adults choose to do or call themselves is one thing, but it should have nothing to do with the kids who just need a normal upbringing. They need an equal chance and to be on a level playing field with their friends.

I know many people, myself included, who have had a miserable time at the hands of bullies at some point or another whilst at school, whether it be a one-off episode or a repeated problem. It doesn’t take much for some knuckle head to think that his picking on someone is “harmless fun” and has no impact. But parents who line their child up with a number of reasons to be considered different do nothing to help with this problem. Is “being a bit different” really so important to you??

I think the majority of people agreed on one point, you just need to let kids be kids. Stop interfering, a childs life should be simple and fun, it gets confusing enough as you get older. Just let them be themselves and not have to worry about your hang-ups.

Some might say that it’s not our business, and they don’t need or want our opinions. A valid point, yes, but when they take their issue onto national TV to be discussed in front of millions of viewers, I think it’s fair to say they have invited people’s opinions. 

The debate continues.

Day 150 – How can two children be so different?

Day 150 – Aug 14th

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!

Day 149 – Don’t always follow the beaten track

Day 149 – Aug 13th

I like to think I try to avoid passing up a good opportunity, and with the weather generally being slightly more in our favour lately, I decided to try and catch up with a couple of friends and get the girls out walking again.

I’d wanted to take them to the Lickey Hills Country Park, as its a lovely spot for a walk, and whilst Olivia hasn’t been there for a long time and won’t remember it, Chloe hasn’t been there at all. Sadly Chloe decided to go down for a late nap after lunch, and I really didn’t want to wake her up from it, so in the end it was just me and Olivia.

The park was unsurprisingly busy, as its a very popular spot, especially when it gets even a little bit sunny, and I was lucky to just about find a space for the car. We met our friends and headed down to the play area for a while, before heading off for a walk in the woods. My friends wife is especially good with kids, and led them straight off for a walk through the woods away from the main trail that everyone follows. Instead of just going for a walk along the same trail I often follow, suddenly we were climbing over fallen tree stumps, jumping over ditches and hiding from Gruffalos. The kids had a great time, and its just a shame we couldn’t have a little more time there, it was time to go home before we knew it! I hope we get the chance to do it again soon!

I’m glad we found a different way to go, it felt like a bit of an adventure for the kids. What are you doing with your kids to make the holidays interesting?

Day 148 – Every day should feel like a new adventure

Day 148 – Aug 12th

A visit to the park in the morning, where we met up with friends for a little while and managed to grab a decent family photo of the four of us. I’m quite pleased with it anyway, think we’ll have to print this one and get it on the wall!

After getting home in time for lunch, we were expecting Olivia’s friend from nursery who was coming to visit, and had a few nice activities lined up to keep them both entertained. On top of painting, and making biscuits, we also had some time in the garden with the slide and the trampoline, and Olivia’s push along Mini Cooper was a big hit with everyone. It was good to see them playing together so nicely again, they are both so alike in their temperaments, so well mannered and easy going. I’d like to think they are both a credit to their parents, but this could just be where nature vs nurture comes in, as child no.2 seems to making up for all the easy times we had! It does make me wonder how two children brought up the same way, in the same home, can be so different! Olivia is definitely just a lot more passive in her nature, I don’t think its anything we’ve done as parents. Or does the simple fact of having one child in the house change the dynamics of how the second baby sees the world, compared to the first one?

We finished the day off with a slightly different twist, our Saturday night curry wasn’t ordered in from the local restaurant, or picked up from the ready meal section of the supermarket, or even poured out of a jar… Clare had gone and done something that I was too nervous to do before now, she cooked up her own curry. It was nice, although we had to keep it a little plain and spice-free for the girls or they wouldn’t have eaten it, I prefer mine with a little more heat. It was perfect for them though, but it has inspired me to give it a go, especially as a) I enjoy cooking anyway, and b) I own a highly recommended curry cookbook, which has done nothing but sit there and gather dust since it arrived!

One thing we have been talking about doing is trying to vary our weekly menu a bit. We have been planning our weekly meals for a few years now, and it really helps with shopping costs, the amount of food we no longer throw away, and making sure anything frozen that we need is defrosted the night before. The only down side is that you can often find yourself in a bit of a loop with cooking the same meals time and time again. I like trying new dished from time to time, and certainly need to get my hand back in the kitchen, as Clare seems to have adopted the role of chief cook since she has been off work.

For anyone that doesn’t use a weekly food planner and is fed up of looking through the cupboards and feeling uninspired, I’d recommend it.

Day 147 – It feels good to get out

Day 147 – Aug 11th

One of the things on my to-do list for the summer holidays was to make sure we got out for a good walk at some point, specifically over Clent hills. The weather lately still hasn’t been up to much, but at some point you have to say “screw it!” and just get out there and do it!

So thats what we did! Clent hills have always been a firm local favourite place to go, and somewhere I have been visiting for many years now, a place I always wanted to take my girls, even before they were born! As we’d got nothing on the calendar for today we decided to dig out our walking boots and wellies and head out for a walk. It was good to get some fresh air, appreciate the countryside scenery, the lack of people and noise, zero distractions from TVs and Ipads, even little Chloe who struggled with the terrain a bit still kept going!

Clent, as like most wooded areas, isn’t somewhere that dries out quickly, especially after several days of rain. As expected, when we got there it was fully of puddles and muddy spots along the walk up from the car park to the main view point.With the high probability of muddy puddles and some puddle jumping going on, we’d prepared by putting the girls in wellington boots.

It made the walk up slow going, but we were in no hurry to get anywhere, there was no destination or time limit, this was all just about the walk itself. It reminds me of the quote that I sometimes think about: ” Its not about the destination, its about the journey.” some words that can apply to a variety of situations especially when you spend too much time focusing on some imaginary goal, and not appreciating what is around you right now, and enjoying the things you are doing to get there.

Day 145 – You never know whats around the corner

Day 145 – Aug 9th

Sometimes its nice to enjoy a slow start to the day, where you’re not racing to throw yourself through the shower and leap out the front door leaving behind half of the things you should have taken with you because you’re rushing too much.

Our only commitment of the day was to meet one of Olivia’s nursery friends at soft play, a girl she hasn’t seen outside of the nursery setting before, so it was nice for her to have someone new to play with that she already knew. Soft play seems like the easy activity to do in poor weather, but it does have many advantages in developing gross motor skills, social skills, confidence, independence, and its also a chance to burn off a little energy.

We got home from soft play just in time to start dinner, and rather than let the girls just sit in front of the tv while dinner is cooked, I wanted to get them both involved, so we decided to make pizzas. The base was shop bought, they just had to choose and add their own toppings. As we stood to chop and prepare the toppings, the door went, it was the sister-in-law with the girls cousins. Thankfully we had four small pizza bases, so they decided to stop and join in with the pizza making. Pizza making was a hit, and in a short time we had four individualised pizzas served up. Entertainment and dinner all in one go!

Day 142 – If only Sunday was a day of rest

Day 142 – Aug 6th

So much for resting on the Sabbath, the wife was off out this morning to meet her friends for breakfast, leaving me to sort the girls out. So consequently I am taking no responsibility for any mismatched clothes the girls may end up wearing today though, I apparently always seem to make poor choices where this is concerned!

Me and the girls decided to take some lunch outside onto the new garden furniture, which made a nice change as its not something we’ve really done before, and todays pleasant weather allowed us a chance to do that. Poor little Chloe was just too tired to eat anything with us though, so she was soon up to bed for a nap, leaving me and Olivia free to play a few games and do some reading that is a bit more difficult to do with her energetic little sister around, leaving a trail of destruction behind her.

Once Clare was home, I was free to jump on my motorbike and head out to briefly catch up with a friend who had moved out to Australia a few years ago and was back for a short while to catch up. It was very last minute, and the original plan had been to take the girls over to see my mother, so I left Clare to put them in the car while I was out and meet me at my moms house. Having the motorbike certainly has been a huge benefit. For me, all the benefits of being able to get about without having to deprive the wife of a car while she has the girls.

The best thing about tonight is the fact that its Sunday night and there is no Sunday night feeling. No work for me in the morning!!

Day 141 – Where does the time go?

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Day 141 – Aug 3rd

Four years. Where has four years gone? It seems like five minutes since we were sat in a room with a bunch of strangers, six other first time heavily pregnant women with their six rather anxious fathers-to-be, about to be taught the joys/horrors of child birth, and what to actually do with a baby when you get it home.

This bunch of strangers turned out to be a really cool bunch of people who we have remained friends with ever since. The moms regularly meet up, and so do the dads, and occasionally we get the whole gang together, which is tricky as there is so many of us, but for the joint birthday party and usually christmas too, everyone always puts the effort in to be there.

The location has changed each year, for the first year we met at Pizza Express, but have since moved on to having it at each others homes as there is more room for the kids, as we don’t need to book any tables or have a time allowance. We all contributed by bringing some different food with us to put on the buffet, and helped to clear up at the end. Clare had found a piñata at the supermarket, which we filled with sweets and took with us, the kids loved it! We were just grateful to get outside at all though, the weather had been crazy this morning… black clouds, torrential rain, thunder and lightning as we arrived, followed by blazing sunshine and clear blue skies, followed by torrential rain and hail stones! Thankfully the sunshine bit hung around long enough to dry most of the garden out so that we could all get out.

All in all a great day, even if the dads were feeling a little fragile after meeting for a few beers the night before!

Day 140 – Don’t assume you know everything

Day 140 – Aug 4th

The day I had been dreading, the first step towards my full motorbike license started today with my motorbike theory test. I had never done a theory test before, as they weren’t actually introduced until the year after I passed my driving test all those years ago. I’d done a practise of the theory test online when I signed up for it, and did okay, so I was fairly confident that my knowledge and 20 years experience of driving would be sufficient to get me through it. A little arrogant, or over confident maybe? You could say so, but I figured my road knowledge had always been quite strong.

The night before I decided to try the practice test again, and got a reasonable and sufficient score again, but then happened to notice all the training material that they had available to purchase, and suddenly wondered if I should have done more to prepare for this. Obviously the questions were going to be different on the day, and what if I knew none of them?? What if I not only failed, but did so in spectacular fashion?

Luckily a good portion of it is common sense, and so I managed to get through and pass it. Not with the same score I’d got on the practise, but it was sufficient all the same.

I headed home feeling much relieved and was pleased to see a little bit of sunshine. A chance to get a few more chores done inside the house and out, and continue sorting the garage out by taking stuff we no longer need to the tip. There has been a number of items that have been stored in there for various reasons that just haven’t been touched in the four years since we moved in, so it seems that being a little more ruthless is something I clearly need to work on.

By the afternoon the garage was starting to feel a little more spacious, although there is still work to be done, but at least it is considerably easier to walk through and bring things like garden wheelie bins through when we need to.

I decided to reward myself with a little time relaxing on our new garden furniture, as I hadn’t had much chance to take advantage of it before.

That evening I was dropped into town to catch up with some friends, the dads from our antenatal group, on one of our few nights out. Its so nice keeping up with this lovely group of people and watching the kids all grow up together.

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