365 project

Day 309 – We need to see each other more

Day 309 – Jan 21st

Try Dry January they said… you’ll sleep better they said… apparently not every night it would seem. Now normally it is me that is ill, picking up any number of germs at work, which considering the nature of my job is especially easy. This time, however, it was the wife’s turn to not be feeling quite so well, and the most obvious result of this was a cough that could wake the dead. Well, perhaps not quite that bad, but it certainly did wake the house up once or twice during the night.

Olivia was pretty good and must have gone straight back to sleep, as we only found out about it this afternoon when she announced that the coughing had woken her. Chloe is a bit more of a delicate sleeper generally, and needed a bit more interaction to get back off to sleep.

The coughing didn’t improve much as the night went on, and winter is always a bad time as people always shut the windows and have the heating on, which dries the air out and makes everyones chest worse. The humidity level in most peoples homes during the winter must be pretty low. Thankfully we had a humidifier sat on top of the cupboard, perfect for times like this. It meant faffing around with getting it down, filling it up and plugging it in at 4am, but the end result could be a much better nights sleep for everyone, well, for what was left of it anyway.

This clearly had little impact on Olivia’s sleep, as she was in our bedroom at 7am, not to climb into bed with us and quietly watch cartoons as we rest like she normally does… oh no, not today, this time she wanted to play with toys… yes, the very activity she could have easily done in her own room without disturbing anyone. She couldn’t be convinced to just take them back to her own room as she “wanted someone to play with”, and so as I had little left to bargain with, I had to give in and offer her the iPad to play games on, just so we could snooze for another half hour or so. Its not exactly a high point in our parenting, and I am sure others have done the same. I don’t see the iPad as a bad thing, I just don’t like using it as a babysitter. I should have been up and interacting with her, but I was just so tired after a bad nights sleep. I’d even written off going to the gym, which I wanted to do to make up for the half attempt at yesterdays run! Its fair to say that it wasn’t the ideal start to the day.

The one good thing about this morning was the fact that we literally had to do nothing before midday. We had a christening to attend at 2pm that was just 5 minutes up the road, so we could get breakfast, relax, and take things slowly. The only thing we had to watch was the snow that was coming down again, this time it had started to settle on the roads and was showing little sign of slowing down. The forecast had promised that it would turn to rain around lunchtime, which it promptly did, meaning we could at least get out of the house and get the car out of our road.

It was a lovely afternoon seeing friends that we just do not see often enough, it always makes me think that we should make more of an effort to arrange things. As gatherings such as christenings etc are just too infrequent.

I was at least pleased that I had managed to get through not only Friday and Saturday night without any alcohol, but also a Sunday afternoon in the pub with friends (our venue after the church) and the wife encouraging me to “take a day off”. I held strong, and even refrained from picking at the girls crisps, as they are also on the banned list.

So far the weight loss has had a positive, if somewhat unstructured start. We are now two thirds of the way through January, and I am not actually missing alcohol, crisps or biscuits too much, and I feel that a large part of the battle has been consequently been taken away. Previously I had used myfitnesspal to help me track food and lose weight, and it had worked a treat the first time around… the main drawback to that is that it still allows you to snack, providing that you log it all down and count all the calories. The snacks are my weakness though, my achilles heel, if I can cut them out then I will be doing a lot better than before. It is simply better to not eat them than try to regulate them. Once the weight is down a bit I will slowly reintroduce them. At my last weigh-in on the scales I was just slightly above 200lbs, which is a loss of 8lb since the start of the month. Not bad for just cutting out the snacks and booze!

365 project

Day 307 – Its like Christmas all over again!

Day 307 – Jan 19th

Ah, the sweet taste of the weekend. There is no secret in how much I love my Fridays. 48 hours at home with the family and no work to worry about while I am off. The weekend has always meant several things, relax and watch a film with the wife, some snacks and a few beers/wines/whiskeys (delete as appropriate). It has also meant staying up a bit later, and having no alarm clock apart from the small, two legged, organic ones that sleep in the other rooms and come in to wake us as soon as they’re awake.

Why is it… and I know other parents are asking the same question… why is it that you only have to drag kids out of bed during the week, for at the weekend they are up before sunrise?? I cannot complain too much, we have two fantastic girls, they go to bed at a sensible time, usually by 7:30pm and sleep through until at least 7am the following morning. We nearly always get a solid nights sleep, and have no complaints. I know a lot of parents who don’t have it anywhere near as lucky as we do. Still, to have no movement in the house until about 9am on just one Sunday morning would be absolute bliss!

So whilst in the midst of Dry January, and without a single snack in sight, what does excite me at the weekend now? Well I do like to treat myself to a little caffeine buzz with a couple of energy drinks, sugar free of course, and dinner was a delicious chilli, not exactly a takeaway, but still very much Friday night food. Then there are my deliveries this week, some new clothing… courtesy of eBay of course. I don’t often buy myself new clothing, but have recently purchased a few SuperDry tops from the famous auction site. I only buy clothes that are well looked after and describe themselves as ‘hardly worn’, and in the meantime have saved myself a small fortune. A SuperDry t-shirt for £3.50 and a SuperDry hoodie for £5… yes please, I’ll take those. Sure its a little gamble, they could be terrible, they may not fit, but for the price I’ll risk it! Yes, I know theres a little charity shop somewhere that could benefit from my money if I am looking for a bargain, but I don’t get out shopping very often, so its either look online, or don’t buy anything at all. Now at least I have some clothing which looks new, feels nice and makes it look like I have spent far more than I actually have. Considering how many things are for sale on eBay, I know that there are many, many people doing the same, and probably just not owning up to it. Hey, maybe buying second hand clothes on eBay is still frowned upon a little, but so was online dating at one point, and look where that’s going now!

365 project, Photography

Day 305 – If only we could do this together

Day 305 – Jan 17th

Mid-week and it has been a quiet week so far. Chloe is still not walking on her foot, its clearly still quite painful for her, although we are not especially worried as it seems fairly obvious that its just a nasty sprain and she’ll be back on it in a few days.

One big benefit of today is the fantastic nights sleep I got last night, going to bed extra early really paid off, and I woke up feeling much better. I really must try and do this more often, as I am quite tired of making new years resolutions about going to bed early pretty much every year. I am not normally one for making new years resolutions, but I am human, and pretty much think the same as most other people when the grim reality of January 1st sets in… must drink less, must lose weight, most go to bed earlier & must go the gym. Like most people, this is a recurring theme for me, I think you get to a certain point in life where you continually seem to be losing weight, or at least attempting to. Why is it that some people seem completely unable to get back down to the normal, healthy weight that the rest of the population seem to manage with such ease?

Anyway, I can’t complain too much, after jumping on the scales this week I am pleased to announce a loss of around 8lb since the start of the month, and this is pretty much just from cutting out snacks like crisps and biscuits, as well as the alcohol. The gym has been helping, although it is busier than ever at the moment, with the “new year, new me” bunch taking over all the equipment until they all give up again in February.

It is only the snacks and alcohol that have stopped, as meals are all remaining the same for now. They aren’t especially unhealthy and our portion sizes aren’t too bad. This evenings meal was a bit of a stark contrast for me and the wife though, she was off out for some fancy eating at a bar in a posh part of the city, while I sat in with the girls and ate fish fingers and mash! Oh well, she deserves it, she doesn’t get out all that often, and I know it will be my turn again at some point. Its just a shame that we can’t get out together more often as a couple to eat at nice places, like we used to before children, but I guess that time will come again soon.

365 project, Photography

Day 303 – You won’t always get it right

Day 303 – Jan 15th

They call it Blue Monday… the theory being that it is calculated to be the most depressing day of the year, using some fancy formula incorporating peoples bulging waistlines, empty bank accounts, the arrival of credit card bills along with various failed new years resolutions, and the miserable gloomy weather just doesn’t help.

The initial concept of Blue Monday was first publicised as part of a 2005 press release by holiday company Sky Travel, which claimed to have calculated the date using an equation. Although scientists consider this to be pseudoscience and have derided the idea as nonsensical.

Whether you believe it or not, it can certainly seem like a particularly lack lustre time of year, the poor weather and lack of sunlight leaves even the most positive of people pining for the summer months!

To me, it was just another Monday, a chance to get out on the motorbike again to ride to work as I was intending on saving my legs for a run at the gym later, where I am hoping to make a push on my running and extend my time on the treadmill again.

Sadly this wasn’t to be the case. I got home from work and was thrilled to see the girls (and the wife of course) as I am every day when I get back, they’re not always quite as thrilled to see me every day its fair to say, but I don’t take this personally. We sat down as a family for tea, and in a step up from the normal routine, Chloe decided she was having nothing to do with her high chair and wanted to sit in a proper seat like the rest of us… and to be fair to her, she sat and ate her dinner far better than she otherwise does. Maybe time to look into giving up the high chair, or at least thinking about it?

Suddenly she’d had enough, dinner was done and she wanted to leave the table, but rather than be helped down, the little adventure hero we’d created wanted to do it all by herself, and without much warning… only wasn’t expecting to slide off quite as quickly as she did. Suddenly there is a crumpled heap on the floor and the expected tears… only this wasn’t the usual tears.

Normally Chloe is quite a brave little trooper, and not quite as sensitive as her big sister, but she was clearly in some pain. Initially it wasn’t a huge concern as she’s always bumping herself on something, but when we put her down and she squealed as soon as she put weight on her foot, we became a bit more concerned. Now we’re definitely not parents that panic, if they get a cold we go to the chemist, not the doctors, if they get a rash, we see if it passes by itself, but it was clear we were going to have to get this one checked out at A&E, as she couldn’t stand on her one foot.

Now anyone who has ever been to Accident & Emergency at any hospital will know that you expect a wait of at least a couple of hours, regardless of what time you get there. The great thing about healthcare in the UK is that it is all free and everyone can use it… the downside is that everyone DOES use it, and there is no quick route to seeing a doctor, well apart from maybe faking death in the waiting room!

So with the in-laws at our house to watch a sleeping Olivia once she was in bed, it was off to the hospital we went. Sadly our worst fears were realised as soon as we got there, the place was packed! 8pm on a random Monday in January and it was standing room only. We knew this wasn’t going to be quick, but we were not prepared for how long it was actually going to take. Finally, at 1:30am, a whole five and a half hours after going into A&E we were finally getting back into the car. Anyone who says that the NHS is not struggling is a joker. The staff did the best they could and couldn’t have been any nicer, and they did all they could to make you feel like the only person they’d seen that night once it was your turn, but there simply wasn’t enough of them to deal with the queue. It was an uncomfortable experience I would not be wanting to repeat in a while. I can now see why they are constantly trying to drive the message home about not going to A&E with things that your doctor, or even a pharmacist at your local chemist can help you with. The girl that turned up with an eye infection wasn’t helping anyone, and the THREE friends that came with her, taking up seats that genuinely sick people could have sat in instead of having to use the floor were just as selfish!

Thankfully for us, after an inspection and a trip to the X-ray dept, there was no sign of any damage. Just a sprained ankle by the looks of it. One less thing to worry about at least.

We had certainly learnt our lesson tonight, and the £10 in parking just to be seen by a doctor only added insult to injury!

365 project, Photography

Day 297 – Don’t push too hard

Day 297 – Jan 9th

With the alcohol/crisps/biscuits/chocolate ban in force, I am depriving myself of a massive amount of calories, which whilst difficult enough as it is, is only worth doing if I am going to tie it in with some proper exercise to make it worthwhile. After two weeks off work and a few extra pounds around the waist I am not feeling quite ready to jump on my bicycle and attempt to keep up with the traffic just yet. The mornings have been dark, damp and miserable, and the thought of cycling does not fill me with joy much.

This is the exact reason I decided to switch leg power for horsepower, and have not regretted it… apart from the obvious temptation to keep using the motorbike and miss out on burning calories while I commute through cycling. Its just nice to have the choice at the moment, but I need to remember the deal I made with myself where I promised I’d ride the motorbike Mondays and Fridays and then cycle the rest of the week. It sounds simple enough, at least until you throw the gym in there! I have been talking to a friend about the prospect of signing up for another half marathon this year, as I have been unable to take part in the previous two Birmingham half marathons due to injuries. We are looking at running the Stratford half marathon in May, and that gives me just enough time to train properly without pushing too hard that I end up injuring myself.

After hitting the gym and beginning the training last night, my legs were just not ready for cycling this morning, and my best intentions of cycling three days a week are not looking good. Still, the gym has to be the focus for now, hopefully my legs will begin to ache a little less when I get back into it and I will be able to hit the treadmill and cycle the next day, like I used to before the girls came along!

365 project

Day 295 – If snow won’t come to us, then we go to the snow

Day 295 – Jan 7th

Today was on of those days that Olivia is always counting down to, 4 sleeps to go, 3 sleeps to go… you get the idea, it was a childrens birthday party. It was the son of one of our friends, and in a rather exciting twist to the usual birthday party format, they had decided to have it at the Snowdome, somewhere none of us had been to before.

We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but we were pretty sure it was going to be cold, and so wrapped up accordingly. It was indeed cold, but a great deal of fun. The girls had a whale of a time, well, at least while they could tolerate the cold. We appear to have overlooked the need for extra pairs of socks to keep the feet warm! Thankfully the snow part was only 30 minutes, which was long enough for the girls to have plenty of fun before they’d had enough and wanted to warm up… and soon enough we were off to the much warmer party room for the kids to enjoy food and drink and some cake. Nothing like a good party to entertain the kids for a few hours, its not quite free childcare, but it is a chance to at least take a bit of a break from worrying about where they are and what they’re doing a little bit less for a couple of hours.

Then that was it… Christmas holiday is suddenly over. Back to work in the morning. I can’t be too disappointed, I’ve had a fantastic couple of weeks off, even if we didn’t go very far or get a whole lot done, at least got to eat well and drink well, enjoy a bit of snow, relax at home and see some friends and family, what more can you ask for?

365 project

Day 294 – Silence is golden

Day 294 – Jan 6th

A quiet Saturday at home, the Christmas holiday has almost come to an end and its time to think about getting ready for my return to work on Monday.

The wife has a morning appointment at the opticians, meaning its just me and the girls for a couple of hours, and with no intention of going anywhere soon we can just relax around the house, we’ll worry about getting dressed later, there’s no rush right now. The girls chose to play upstairs and Olivia’s airbed was proving a popular choice.

After lunch was done for the girls, it was time for Chloe to take a nap, while Olivia went round to visit the grandparents with the wife, to help take their Christmas tree down. This presented a chance for me to put my feet up for a couple of hours, do nothing and try to close my eyes for a bit too.

It was optimistic at best though, my usual plans for napping usually end in me not being able to fall asleep when the opportunity presents itself. Oh well, at least I could put my feet up and relax for a bit, its a rare treat to not have little ones running around demanding attention. For as much as I love them, this little silent spell is bliss!

365 project

Day 293 – Isn’t it about time we had a good argument?!

Day 293 – Jan 5th

Ahh Ikea, the Swedish home of the good old family row! If there is are two things certain about this Scandinavian maze, its that a) you will end up spending WAY more than you intended to and come out with things you never went in for, and b) it will test even the strongest of relationships, often ended up in somebody losing their temper at some point!

We hadn’t been for a while and figured it was about time as we needed some new lamps of quite a specific design for our living room and this was the best place. Its fair to say that the lamps were not cheap, and even with this in mind we still managed to spend 2.5x the amount we intended to. The bill was so high that I even questioned it at the till.

The thing with Ikea purchases is that even if you spend a lot, you rarely regret what you’ve bought, and our new lamps looked fantastic, and fitted into the small space we needed them to. We even came away with a gorgeous wooden toy box for the girls toys, which although we weren’t planning on getting today from Ikea, we were looking at picking from somewhere or other very soon anyway. It added a significant chunk to the bill, especially with all the add-ons that you have to buy to go with it, or it doesn’t look like the display model, but the end result after an hour of putting it all together was one of total satisfaction.

My biggest regret of the day was not stopping in the cafe for delicious Swedish meatballs!!

365 project, Photography

Day 291 – Once is not enough

Day 291 – Jan 3rd

Its gym day, time to burn off some of those christmas calories… but lets not pretend that this isn’t just a few festive mince pies I need to get rid of, these are December calories that need to go in all honesty!

I don’t like to worry too much about what goes into my mouth over Christmas, its a time to enjoy food and drink without feeling too guilty about it, although this year I have been a little more careful and tried not to get too carried away. Either way, the scales do not reflect this and so its time for some serious action!

So far alcohol, biscuits and crisps have been banned, these are calories that do not contribute to my hydration or stop me from being hungry, and whilst I am not counting calories yet, I feel that just cutting out the snacks is going to be a good start. I need to at least keep this up for January until I can see some results.

So I decided to treat myself to some new headphones to help me along, and this very affordable pair of Skullcandy bluetooth wireless headphones has been a complete revelation, the connection to your phone is quick and easy and the sound quality is very impressive. The lack of an annoying wire swinging backwards and forwards as you run on the treadmill has been driving me mental for an eternity, so going wireless has been nothing short of wonderful!

Now I just need to make sure my gym visits are a bit more regular than they have been.

365 project, Babies

Day 288 – Its certainly not like the old days

Day 288 – Dec 31st

Has it really been a week since Christmas eve?? Where has a week gone? It feels like we’ve done so little!

New Year’s Eve has always been a favourite night of mine, the party night of the year. Be it a house party or an evening in the city battling the crowds, some years I’ve even partied till the sun came up.

The wife isn’t quite as much of a fan of new years eve as me, it’s “just another night” in her opinion, which is fair enough, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Although in the past she has enjoyed a few parties with me and my friends at our one friends house who happened to have a bar and a dance floor in his conservatory and was happy to throw a party for a few years on the run, some good nights were certainly had there, and it’s just a shame the whole thing had to eventually be knocked down for an extension on the house.

Soon afterwards we became parents, and the New Years celebrations were pretty much confined to just the two of us, sat in front of the TV at home. I do miss the parties, but it’s the price you have to pay for parenthood sometimes. Of course, there is the possibility we could have planned in advance a little and organised our own party, but so many of our friends have also become parents in the last few years, that babysitters are strongly in demand and parties are generally quite rare now anyway.

So, we resigned ourselves to a night in. The girls saw a few fireworks before they headed off to bed and we ordered ourselves a takeaway, poured a drink and put the Wolf of Wall Street on to watch. I did get a last minute call from a friend to join them for a few drinks, but we had already ordered our food and Clare was going to attempt to stay up anyway, so I wasn’t going to see the new year in on my own.

Around midnight the fireworks kicked off, and our light sleeper Chloe somehow slept straight through them all, but our deep sleeper Olivia somehow woke up, and so we let her join us at the window to watch the phenomenal view that we had from our bedroom over a few miles of Birmingham, we had literally 50-60 firework displays going off as far as we could see, from somewhere down our road all the way up to a few miles away towards the city centre. I didn’t realise we had such a great view!

It may not be party central, but I had all I needed under one roof. Some good food, some drinks, some good tv and my wonderful family!