Autumn is finally here, the weather is changing and you can feel in the air that Summer has left us.
I love this time of year, as well as the environment and weather it also means changes at work as we enter a new school year. Some people will know me as a photographer, some people will have known me for years and probably can’t even remember what I do, other s will know that I have spent many years working in a special needs school with some pupils that need a lot of help.
One of the things that has been passing the time this week is the baking and selling of cakes in our class, trying to raise some money to allow the pupils to get out into the community, visiting places like Morrisons, McDonalds and Pizza Express to gain some independence. Working in a special needs school can be as much rewarding as it is hard work, and over the years I have seen many changes. Helping to build up some life skills has been the biggest jump forward recently, as we try to move slightly away from more academic subjects. If we can have a little money to take with us for the pupils to spend, this can only help to empower them more.
It’s fair to say the cake sale went well and the pupils will soon be enjoying their first trip out.
I was really hoping to get a more seasonal photo today, but as is normal when you’re working full time and being a parent while working on a 365 project, sometimes you just don’t get a chance.
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??
Day 170 – Sept 3rd
It’s now the last day before going back to work after six wonderful weeks off with my lovely family. In some ways it feels like five minutes since the holiday started, I almost don’t know where the time has gone, but in other ways it does feel like we’ve been off for ages and we’ve actually had quite a busy and productive summer.
At least we had the pleasure of seeing family today, a meal out to celebrate the mother in laws birthday properly. We’d booked a table at our favourite carvery and thoroughly enjoyed the meal, the setting, service and food are all fantastic and never disappoint. Thankfully we’d gone in hungry, as it seems so hard to come away from the servery with anything less than a mountain of food, although somehow I still managed to clear my plate. With lunch done it was back to the in-laws for a cup of tea, and so the girls could stretch their legs a little. It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and of course the girls loved spending time with their grandparents.
There was one more chore for the day before I could relax in the evening, which I fully intended to do before going back to work in the morning! I had to assemble Olivia’s new bicycle ahead of her birthday. We’d picked it up from Halfords, and although they would have put it together for us, for free, I wanted to leave it in the box as it was easier to conceal until closer to her birthday. It was something I’d never done before, and had no idea how long it would take. Someone I spoke to recently suggested it could easily take a couple of hours, but thankfully I managed to get it done in about 45 minutes, which I didn’t think was bad considering that there we no instructions included on how to do it.
With the bike put together and then hidden under a blanket in the garage ready for Tuesday, it was finally time to open my final beers of the holiday, along with snacks and a film… tonight being the rather bizarre, but still amusing ‘Seven Pyschopaths’. Enough to distract me from the sad truth that tonight the alarm clock is going back on and tomorrow I don’t get to spend the day with the girls.
Its easy to feel a bit sad, but I do need to appreciate the time I have had at home with them, and the opportunities we’ve had for days out. It has been a real blessing having the wife at home as well, so we’ve been able to do a lot of things as a family. Opportunities like this don’t come along often.
Winter is coming.
Birthday parties are definitely made easier when you don’t have to do them at home or worry about the weather. Today was Olivia’s 4th birthday party, which we did at Jungle Bugs soft play centre again. She had been very excited about it for a few weeks, and today it was finally here.
Jungle bugs is a good sized play centre, bigger than one we’ve been to for a few parties recently, but not quite as big as others which appeal to slightly bigger kids meaning that the little ones aren’t at risk of being trampled on or knocked over. Hiring it out meant free entry for Olivia’s friends, and they also got to choose their lunch on arrival, which is served up in a private party room as the rest of the play centre is open to the public. As luck would have it on this day, the place was surprisingly almost empty. For the first hour we were there, the majority of kids there were with Olivia’s party, so it almost felt like we had exclusive use of the soft play centre. Due to its location, this soft play centre can get particularly busy, especially during holidays and weekends, more so when its raining, so today definitely felt like a win!
After the kids had arrived and all burnt off a little energy, it was time to sit them down to bring in the cake and sing happy birthday to Olivia before serving lunch. Clare had put a lot of effort into creating a Paw Patrol cake, and used a recipe from a cake baking book I’d bought for her birthday. Her efforts had been rewarded, it was an amazing cake, and consequently all gone in now time. Even the few slices we took home afterwards didn’t last long!
Olivia had a great party and we were very grateful to every one that turned up, wished her a happy birthday a brought a lovely gift with them, and also to those who couldn’t make it due to illness for letting us know.
Its the mother in laws birthday, and we could finally we can unveil the canvas we’d created for her birthday, a family portrait taken by myself courtesy of the self timer. A morning out with Clare and the girls, and Clare’s brother and his family at a local park was kept under wraps, so as not to ruin the surprise. The resulting canvas did look lovely and the mother in law was clearly over the moon with it.
We had a lovely lunch for her birthday, and the girls loved playing with their cousins, and the day felt very special, a worthy celebration after the mother in laws illness and subsequent battle to recovery, especially now that all her treatment was over.
I look back on my fond memories of growing up as a child and all the fun I had playing with my cousins, and like to think that my girls are also creating memories that they will equally cherish when they are older. The dynamics of my family have changed a bit over the years, my aunts and uncles don’t get on quite the same as they used to, and I hardly see some of my cousins, but it is still nice to see them from time to time, in particular my cousins as we can all reflect on the fun we had and smile about the easy, care-free years of growing up together.
Families are funny things!
With the six week holiday stretching out before us back in July, there was only one way to make sure we didn’t waste it, and that was to make a list of the things we wanted to do and people we wanted to see. I knew that we’d never tick all of it off, and the poor weather we had at the start of August really didn’t help with any of our outdoor plans, but we didn’t do too badly in the end. There are still a few people I was keen to catch up with, that we’ve simply run out of time to see now, but the one thing I was particularly passionate to tick off the list was a family day at the seaside. A day on the beach doesn’t feel like enough, but its better than not seeing the sea at all! Ideally I’d love to have gone with friends, but in the end, with just a few days of the holiday left, we couldn’t make it happen and were just glad to be going as a family.
We’d been organised enough to prepare lunches the night before, and I’d made a list of things to take so we could pack the car up a bit quicker in the morning. I’d suggested getting out of the house far earlier than the wife had expected, much to her annoyance, so I had to make sure that getting out of the house was fairly uneventful.
The nearest beach to Birmingham is Weston Super Mare, but its not somewhere I particularly enjoy going to, as its always really busy due to its proximity to the Midlands, hence its nickname “Birmingham-on-sea”. Plus, on top of the fact that its always so busy, we never seem to see any sea at all while we’re there, the tide is always out in the middle of the day, and goes so far out that we can’t even see it!
Instead, I had opted to take the family to Barmouth beach, probably the second closest beach to Birmingham. It took longer to get there than Weston, due to the lack of motorways through North Wales, but it was a much nicer drive through countryside and mountains, past quaint country houses and quirky pubs. I arrived at the beach already feeling relaxed!
When we arrived I was especially surprised at how many spaces were left in the car park on such a nice day, as well as how much space there was on the beach. The beach itself is surrounded by mountains, and so wasn’t especially windy, but there was still a nice breeze to cool us down a little. The weather was perfect, slightly warmer than had been forecast, but not too hot though, and beautifully sunny with just a handful of clouds in the blue sky. Its almost as if we’d booked the weather with some kind of online system!
This was Chloe’s first time at the seaside and she loved it, even splashing in the sea, which was a lovely temperature, and warmer than I expected. We’d got our blankets down, enjoyed a little lunch with some music on the side from the ANKER bluetooth speaker I’d taken with us. The girls enjoyed building (and knocking down of course) some sandcastles, with their new buckets and spades.
As we hadn’t expected such lovely sunny weather, both me and Clare had come unprepared for the warm weather and had to roll our jeans up so that we could join the girls splashing about in the sea.
We finished the day with some dinner, a traditional fish and chips, which just has to be done when you’re at the seaside, and the food was amazing. The girls sat and ate well, and did us proud, they were so well behaved. Not surprisingly they were both soon asleep when we set out in the car on the return journey home, so we were able to push through and do it without stopping.
At last, my holiday was complete, our day at the seaside was fantastic and I now felt that I hadn’t been robbed of a decent break because of the miserable Birmingham weather.
Barmouth… we’ll be back soon!
Bank holiday in the UK means either one of two things, pouring rain or sunshine and blue skies. Anyone living here would argue that it is more commonly the former, although today would prove not to be. Yes, it is bank holiday Monday and the sun is out and the day is warm and pleasant. The kind of day where you enjoy the sunshine, but still feel inclined to take a little shade so that you don’t overdo it, although many obviously do, its something us British are famous for around the world. Like the famour Rudyard Kipling saying goes, “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”.
Today we were meeting friends at Rowheath Pavillion near Cadbury World for what was described as a “small pop-up version” of the Bournville Food Festival. It was very much a family friendly day out, with picnic blankets every where, kids playing games, craft activities, some delicious food on offer, plus the bar was open… oh, and apparently free prayers if you were so inclined, as it was organised by the local church!
It was a fun afternoon, the kids had a great time, we had a bite to eat and I even managed to grab a beer, which went down very well in the sunshine, and it felt like all the worries in the world had faded away for a few hours. We finished off the afternoon with a walk around the fishing lake before heading home. It was a good way to spend a bank holiday.
How did you spend yours?
Its a beautiful Sunday morning outside, and I’ve made the executive decision that we’re getting out early and doing something. The initial suggestion was swimming, a firm favourite with the girls, especially Olivia. I am keen to get Chloe in the water more as she has only been in a couple of times so far, and Clare was happy to join us, which meant taking both the girls was a lot easier… until we realised we were out of swimming nappies! These little things are essentially when taking little ones swimming. They’re not going to stop a toddler peeing in the pool, but the reality is that its half a cup full in several thousand gallons of water that is already pumped full of chemicals to remove any traces of body fluids anyway. No, the nappies are only to stop the number two’s, those bad boys can only be contained by a nappy that won’t disintegrate in the water, and so the swim nappy is as essential and swimming costumes!
Being a Sunday meant that the supermarkets did not open until 10am, but we needed to be at the swimming pool for 10am for the first session or we wouldn’t get in on time, and consequently wouldn’t get out on time for us to get home so I could see the one thing on TV that I had been waiting weeks for, the Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix!
Thinking about it a little, I figured that swimming was an indoor thing anyway, and something we could do in any weather, so stressing about nappies, and times was pointless, lets get outside and enjoy the sunshine, after all, we’ve waited weeks for it, and we’re not even sure how long its here for!
So the decision was made, Clent Hills it was. Its only 10 minutes away, its a lovely walk, and we can be out there for as little or as long as we want. The girls can stretch their legs, explore nature, burn off a little energy, feel the sun on their skin and the wind in their hair, which is something I have always been keen to make sure we do with them, from even before they were born. This generation of techno-addicts who are either glued to a xbox/playstation console or a mobile phone seem to have lost touch with nature, and I always wanted my girls to enjoy the world around them, ask questions about the changing colours of the leaves, taste the blackberries on the brambles, listen to the sounds of the birds, climb the trees, and just be kids. There is a time and a place for technology, and I am fine with them using it, but as the age old saying goes… everything in moderation!
Once we got home we treated the girls to a splash in the paddling pool to cool off a bit, as it was still sunny and warm and they both love any excuse to play in water and splash about, not surprisingly they were straight in there in no time at all. We threw the gazebo up over them for a bit of shade, and although it was a little late in the day for a gazebo to be going up, the following day was also supposed to be sunny again and even warmer, so it was worth putting up for two days.
What do you like to do when the weather is nice?
A proper day out with the girls, driving down to Bristol to meet some friends at the zoo. Bristol is about 80 miles from us, but our friends live in Devon, so its a half way point for us both to meet at.
We’d not been to Bristol zoo before, and the parking was our first obvious problem when we arrived. I knew there was a chance it would be a bit busy, but the car park was completely full and we were instantly redirected to some overflow parking, that just happened to be a marshalled area in a field across the road, which I missed the turning for and managed to park on the street for free anyway.
Thankfully our timing was spot on, and we arrived at the same time as our friends, managing to meet them before we walked in. The zoo itself was nice, but a little underwhelming, it seemed to be missing some of the main animals you expect to see at a zoo. No tigers, no giraffes, no hippos, no rhinos, no elephants, no camels, no orangutans… and while it was a pleasant walk round, you couldn’t help but notice the absence of what would generally be considered “main attractions”. The sort of thing that when you ask a child what animals you’d find at the zoo, these are the first ones that will always reel off! There was definitely an element of “is that it?” when we got to the end.
With a 90 minute drive home, neither me or the wife had any inclination to cook, and so treated ourselves to a chip shop dinner on the way home. I know its not the weekend, and this kind of food is usually a Friday or a Saturday thing, but sometimes you just have to go a little crazy.
This is obviously some far removed usage of the word crazy that I was previously unaware of 10 years ago! Going crazy when you have turned 40 and are a parent means something altogether different to the carefree days of your 20s, and even 30s for some, where your only real responsibilities are paying your rent and turning up for work on time!
As it happened, I didn’t really want to be looking for an easy photo of a zoo animal for today, I felt like it may be a bit of a cheat, and so I happened to spot this scene of Clifton Down when we got to Bristol and parked the car, it was just crying out to be photographed!
Day 2 of motorbike training on the beautiful Suzuki SV650 and I was really wishing I could afford to take one of these bikes home once I’d finished my training, but sadly the finances aren’t going to stretch that far at this current time.
Todays weather was vastly improved, in fact we were starting to overheat in all our protective clothing every time we stopped, still I’d rather get home sweaty with some scuffed clothing than with half an arm missing after the road turned into a cheese grater should I come off the bike. At least this meant the roads were dry and there was no worry about coming off in the wet!
I was gutted to hand this beast back over at the end of the day, but at least I had built up my confidence on riding a big bike, it was just a shame the test is still so a few weeks away.
I came home keen to cool off a bit and dumped my stuff, only to find Chloe promptly trying to fit into the motorbike boots, she loves trying other peoples shoes on! She’s such a character! The trousers and jacket were a little sweaty, so thankfully she didn’t touch those!