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Day 239 – Try to keep yourself distracted

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Day 239 – Nov 12th

Sunday morning was no lie in, we had arranged to meet some friends to take the kids swimming. The local pool had thankfully changed their opening times, making it easier to park and get in to the small pool early which worked really well for us. We were changed and in the water by 9am and out again by 10am with the whole of Sunday ahead of us. I managed to take both of the girls by myself as I am keen to get Chloe in the water more, and Olivia really takes no looking after.

After a spot of lunch we were off out to the park to meet some of our antenatal friends, Olivia loves playing with their daughter, and the two girls could go and ride their bikes and run about. I felt a bit guilty about it, but I was starting to clock watch towards the end as the penultimate Formula 1 race of the season was on at 4pm and I was keen to see not only the start, but some of the build up commentary to the grand prix. Our friends know I am a huge F1 fan and so is the husband, so he agreed to come back to our house and watch the race live, rather than having to wait to see the highlights later that night. It was nice to have a bit of company to watch the race with for a change. After the race, he was picked up by his wife, it would have been a nice quiet evening for the two of us, but Clare had to go out and babysit our nephew and niece.

It meant that with the girls in bed, it was just me entertaining myself for the evening, and trying hard to distract myself as I was trying to take my mind off the fact that I had my motorbike test in the morning and I was starting to get a little nervous… the worst thing I could do. I know I can do everything that is required on the test, and I know I can do it well, but under test conditions I begin to panic and it all starts to go wrong, I forget things and make stupid mistakes.

It wasn’t helping that I kept checking the weather, as it was getting colder and colder, with the temperature set to drop to -1ºc meaning that if there was ice about then the test could be cancelled.

I figured a few drinks before bed would help me relax and get to sleep a little better, although that unfortunately meant a later night than I had intended. D’oh!

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Day 232 – Autumn gives the summer a beautiful send-off

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Day 232 – Nov 5th

Its actual bonfire night in the UK, but seeing as it is Sunday most of the fireworks will hopefully have gone off on Friday and Saturday night, although there will always be those that are determined to wait until the actual date to set some off, and the few weird ones who seem to hang on until Monday or Tuesday… what is THAT all about??

We’d already had fireworks on Friday, and a bonfire at home with sparklers on Saturday, so we were done for this year.

I had to pop out at lunchtime to meet with a couple, they are getting married next year and were visiting their venue and had asked if I could join them to take a look over the place. I’d seen a photo of it, and it looked nice enough, so I really wasn’t expecting to be quite as impressed by it as I was once I’d seen it in person. It was a beautiful venue, and the attention to detail was very impressive. With the passion of the people running the place it sounds like the day will run very smoothly indeed, and I am very much looking forward to their wedding day there, I have no doubt it will be an amazing day.

I did grab a shot of the place before I left, but came home to find these three leaves at the bottom of the driveway, just crying out to be photographed. Here is Autumn at its finest, well done mother nature!

Day 221 – Make any excuse, just go outside

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Day 221 – Oct 25th

Oh what to do to entertain the kids during half term? Well, they already get plenty of time in front of the tv, and we’ve been to the park… my one passion is to get the girls out of the house where we can and going for a walk, exploring nature and just enjoying being outside. 

A bit of fresh air and a good walk is guaranteed to wear the girls out, and hopefully they’ll get a really good nights sleep from it, although to be fair we did get really lucky with two girls who already sleep well anyway. 

A short drive away from where we live are the Clent Hills, a National Trust location that attracts a lot of walkers and families from all over the surrounding areas. It’s a place I have been going to for over 20 years and have probably only ever explored 15-20% of it. We did start to explore a little bit further when Olivia was walking a lot and Chloe was in a baby carrier,  it but now Chloe is also walking we’ve had to reign in the length of our walks a bit as Chloe’s little legs just can’t walk that far, and she loves to join in with the walking instead of being carried all the time. The distance we cover is significantly less, and it is more about just exploring nature and getting outdoors than how far we get.

We’d left our walk a little late in the day, as trying to work around Chloe’s nap time can be tricky, but these last couple of weeks we seem to have had teething rear its ugly head with an absolute vengeance, and we are seeing many of the evident signs, besides the appearance of teeth. One of which is the clear need for her to get a good 2-3 hour nap during the day. Some days we can push it and get away with less, but it catches up with her. We made it out today with just enough time before the sun went down, and it was nice to see the girls enjoying the outdoors, although putting wellies on was definitely a good idea as Olivia was straight into the muddy puddles and soon soaked from the waist down! Peppa pig has a lot to bloody answer for!!

Day 213 – When the wind blows

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Day 213 – Oct 16th

Yeah, I’d seen the reports about hurricane Ophelia trying to lay claim to the UK and that it could all get a bit crazy, but as I looked out of the window on Monday morning I was just a bit concerned that it was raining a little bit, and I didn’t really want to cycle to work in the rain… I mean who would?! Other than that… no signs of any such hurricane whatsoever!

We’d treated ourselves to a cheeky Sunday night Chinese takeaway and so I had been totally guilted (by no-one other than myself) into cycling to work on Monday morning when I would have otherwise have taken the motorbike in. I’ve now committed myself to cycling three days a week to keep my fitness up, but take the motorbike on a Monday and a Friday. As I finished packing my bag up ready to leave the house I looked out again and with some relief noticed that the rain had completely stopped, and so I set off.

Then by lunchtime, as predicted, it all went a bit crazy!

The winds picked up, the sun was almost blocked out by Saharan sand being whipped up in the crazy weather, it almost seemed to turn day into night… during the middle of the day! The sun had gone a weird red/orange colour and people were beginning to get a bit freaked out by it!

Finally everyone realised the world was NOT actually ending when the high level sand storm cleared and the sun continued to shine, back to its normal brightness throwing shadows across the floor. The one thing that didn’t subside was the wind, it was clearly not the nightmare that Scotland and Ireland were experiencing, but it was still quite wild, especially when you had to contend with the notion of cycling home in it!

Strangely it had also been a rather peculiar 21ºC today, very un-autumn like, so at least it stopped the wild winds that were whipping you about from side to side a little less like the icy blast of an air conditioner! I did opt to abandon my usual ride down the main road, and stick to a quieter, but slower side road so there was less traffic to be buffeted into if it all got a bit hairy. My usual route is a straight run and can take me as little as 20 minutes door-to-door on my way to work, but the road can get quite narrow and the traffic can be crazy at times. Sometimes you have to realise that taking a slower route may be the difference between getting home a little later, or getting home at all!

How did hurricane Ophelia affect you?

Day 205 – Time flies when you’re having fun

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Day 205 – Oct 8th

Its not often you’ll find me setting an alarm on a Sunday morning, and its particularly you will see that alarm set for a ridiculous time like 5am, but today was the Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix, and I always try to be up on time for it. Even though the race itself begins at 6am, I still like be up early to to put the kettle on, make myself a slice of toast and give myself time to wake up a bit while I watch the warm up coverage. Anyone with no interest or understanding of F1 would see this behaviour as nothing less than absolutely crazy… but then I can still imagine a number of F1 fans who are just thinking “It’s 5am on a Sunday morning… what on earth are you thinking??!!”.

Getting up at that hour, I was setting myself up for a long day for me today, after the race was over there was just enough time together ready to head out and meet some friends at the park before going for lunch with them. The Sun was out, and although it was October, it was still pleasant out. We took a walk, fed the ducks, and the kids took the bikes and scooters around the park before heading to the play area. We could have stayed here longer, it’s a big park, but we needed to get lunch sorted before Chloe had a meltdown for missing her lunchtime nap, she’d already turned up at the park in full on whinge mode!

Thankfully, after we left the park, she managed to at least grab a little mini nap in the car on the way to the restaurant, which wasn’t far away, and ask I sat in the car for a few minutes longer to let her sleep a bit in case that was all she got, but at some point I had to call it, I was going to brave it and try to get her from car seat to buggy without waking her. To my surprise it seemed to work initially, but inside the restaurant it seemed especially noisy and there was no keeping a light sleeper like Chloe asleep.

Still, the nap seemed sufficient for now, and we all enjoyed the afternoon, and I even treated myself to a few afternoon beers!

Day 191 – It won’t always go to plan

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Day 191 – Sep 24th

What better way is there to start a sunny Sunday morning in September than with a trip to the farm for a birthday party? Well for many there was the excitement of the Birmingham Velo, which I was a bit gutted to be missing out on, but there is always next year for that. The Velo was passing close by our house, walking distance, but I didn’t have time to go and watch it as we needed to jump on the motorway to get to the farm.

The girls had a great time at the farm, there was horse riding, animal feeding, tractor rides, party food, small animals to stroke, ferrets to walk… and the weather was glorious to top it off. 

As we weren’t too far from my moms house, we decided to stop in on the way back, as they love to see the girls, and we hadn’t made it over last weekend. It wasn’t exactly a hectic day, and from here it should have been quite simple, head home, get dinner for girls and put them to bed… that wasn’t quite what happened though. I’d planned the morning, getting to the party making sure to miss the Velo road closures, but I’d not even given it a thought for the journey home, and some of the major roads were still closed off. 

Due to my lack of planning for our journey home, we got stuck in some horrendous traffic trying to get across the Hagley Rd, which we had to do to get home. The side roads were backed up and hundreds of cars were queuing to find a way across, and then desperately trying to turn around only to find out that they’d been blocked in bya long line of other cars queuing behind them also desperately trying to find a way home!

It became quickly obvious that even if a route home was avail able, there was too many cars to fight with, we were spending more time stationary in queues than anything else, and the girls were sat in the back of the car getting hungry.

There was only one simple decision to make, abort mission! Turn around, stop fighting the traffic, and go find somewhere to eat. Tonight, it was a table for four, and we weren’t going to be cooking after all, so the least we could do was to relax and enjoy the opportunity, and we did exactly that. Pizza Express had us sat down and fed in no time, and by the time we had finished, all the roads had been reopened and the traffic had gone! 

What a way to finish a day! 

Day 188 – How do other parents do it?

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Day 188 – Sep 21st

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

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

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

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

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

How do other parents cope??

Day 186 – The day I remembered that I’d forgot

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Day 186 – Sep 19th

Back on track, and at least I’d made it half way through before I missed a day, although I can’t believe I just totally forgot, usually just before bed I’ll remember and at least make an effort. 

The project begins to get a bit more difficult from here onwards as we head into Autumn and the days get shorter and shorter giving me less daylight to shoot in after work. Sure there are other options, using the flash at home, long exposure shots at night, or taking the camera to work and shooting during the day, although the latter is brings its own challenges as I don’t get a huge dinner break to both go out and find some and also eat, plus when you’re cycling, the added weight of carrying a big camera in your bag is something you really don’t need. I tend to carry quite a bit in my rucksack at times and each little thing adds extra weight. It might not seem much as you pack each item, but it adds up and there are some days when you first pick the bag up that you begin to wonder how you’re going to cycle with that load on your back at all. There is also the fact I can’t shoot anything within my work environment as cameras and camera phones are generally not allowed in a school setting, especially in this era of heightened safeguarding. So although not impossible, photos during the day are tricky to say the least.

Autumn does bring with it some beauty though, and it is a season I love. The colours in the trees, the leaves on the ground, the way the sky seems to turn so blue. I was looking for a shot and managed to capture this pigeon as it flew overhead, contrasted against the sky. I knew that was my picture for the day.

Day 185 – The day I forgot

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Day 185 – Sep 18th

Okay, I am human, I completely and utterly forgot to pick up my camera today! Can you blame me after taking around 1000 shots yesterday??

For day 185 we’ll have to make do with a photo that is essentially a day late. The wife doesn’t think it should count and said I should have no photo for that day, like there are some unwritten rules somewhere. I disagree, this is my project and therefore I make the rules, so if a photo a day late is to be included then I am happy with that. This one is a bit of an abstract shot, so as to not represent a significant event on a particular day. I still like it!

One a journal note, I hate rain! Sometimes it sucks not having a car to take to work, traffic drives me mental, but at least you don’t get soaked through to the skin like you do on two wheels!! Grr!

Come on Autumn, don’t you let us down now… summer was an absolute wash out, and we need a bit of sunshine to cheer us up!

Day 163 – Summer isn’t over yet

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Day 163 – Aug 27th

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?

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