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Day 173 – be grateful… there are people who would love to have your bad days

Day 173 – Sep 6th

Third day of the new Autumn term and the first day of the kids being back in meant a new class and some new faces to get used to. I wanted to feel more switched on, and be more on the ball, but I definitely wasn’t functioning at 100% today. I think a few cold germs, with the cumulative effects of repeated late nights over the holidays, on top of cycling to work again and pushing it hard in the rush hour traffic to keep up (after getting on the scales this morning and feeling truly horrified at the results)… it has all started to take its toll. I need a couple of days to slow down a little, get to bed early and do something about my diet.

This evening I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely couple, plus the mother of the bride who was proving to be a very useful point of contact, to have some final discussions about their wedding which is now less than two weeks away. The church is one that I haven’t photographed a wedding at before, but the reception venue thankfully is, and in fact it also happens to be where the wife and I had our wedding reception too, so it was lovely to head back there five years later. The last time I photographed a wedding there it had rained all day, so I am hoping for a little dry weather this time around. 

As it was an early evening meeting it meant that I missed out on some time at home with the girls, so it was great to get home and have time to see them before they went to bed, and be able to read bedtime stories, as I didn’t think they would still be up when I got back.

Once the girls were in bed, it was time to sit down for dinner, and as usual the TV was on, I wasn’t really paying much attention until the wife flicked on DIY SOS. Now normally I don’t watch a great deal of TV, largely because me and the wife have very different viewing tastes, but also because there is rarely much on that interests me anyway. The wife will sit down with the sole intention of watching something, and will flick through the channels until something grabs her interest, whereas I will generally not watch any TV at all, unless there is something specific I want to see and I will make time to watch it before going back to what I was doing.

I knew that DIY SOS was going to tug at the heart strings though, it always does. For anyone that has never seen it, it is based around a family in need, either a parent or child with a life limiting illness or disability in a house that is totally unsuitable and unliveable, and in just over a week a huge team of local tradesmen and women all give up their time for free to strip the house back to a shell and transform it, and the garden, into something absolutely amazing. The results are often mind blowing and the family are invariably reduced to tears. This particular episode featured a lovely, decent, honest family where the dad, who wasn’t especially old, had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease, and was given just three years to live. Not even long enough to see his young girls finish school. As a father myself, I just found the thought of this absolutely crushing, life can be so unfair… and so to all those who thought the ALS ice bucket challenge was a waste of time and water… screw you, man! The $100 million or £76 million that was raised in a single month as a result, enabled ALS researchers to uncover a major breakthrough in identifying and working towards treating the disease.

Its things like this that make you stop and think about everything you have, and everything you should be grateful for, appreciating every day because you just don’t know how many you have left.

What have you been thankful for today?


Day 168 – Next stop… Christmas!

Day 168 – Sept 1st

The 1st of September already, and with the exclusion of the weekend, it is technically the final day of the summer holidays. Although it is still very much Summer, schools are about to start what is called the Autumn term, and the weather is beginning to feel just a little bit more like Autumn too.

First thing in the morning I walked Olivia to nursery with Chloe in tow, and after that it was very much a day of looking after Chloe by myself as Clare was busy most of the day, making a birthday cake for Olivia’s birthday party and trying to squeeze in lunch with her friends too.

I was lucky to be able to watch some of the free practise for this weekends upcoming Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix as Chloe was happy to entertain herself for a while, but we did get out in the garden for a while and turn the tv off, especially as I had to put together the new parasol for our patio area. Taking the girls outside is never an effort, something they never refuse. There is something that kids just love about being outside, whatever the weather. I remember myself, when growing up and and wondering why there was so much fuss about the rain when I wanted to go out on a wet day. As a child a few spots of rain just wasn’t something I cared much about, thats what coats and hoods were for, right?!

Thankfully we still have a bit of sunshine ahead of us today and over the weekend if the forecast is to be believed, so getting out in the garden while we can is important, especially for a bit of fresh air and exercise if we’re not going very far. While it is nice during the day, we are starting to see the temperatures drop noticeably in the evening, and the sunset time has shot forward. From it still being a bit light at 10pm, its now almost completely dark by 8:30pm. Over the last couple of weeks I have put up some solar lights in the garden, which have made it look very pretty, and the chiminea has had a number of uses since it went up, although I am hoping we will get a few more out of it yet before it gets too cold to sit out in the evening, or the weather turns.

Monday morning is just around the corner, and means me going back to work after a wonderful six weeks off with the family, and between now and Christmas there is only one weeks holiday, and it won’t be too long after that before we start talking about putting up the Christmas tree! There is plenty going on between now and Christmas, but it feels like we’re already on the countdown!

Day 167 – Every reason to celebrate

Day 167 – Aug 31st

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!

Day 166 – Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

Day 166 – Aug 30th

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!

Day 161 – Make hay while the sun shines

Day 161 – Aug 25th

The last Friday of the holidays that I don’t have to consider work (although I clearly already am thinking about it, proven by just the fact that I am typing this!) as next Friday will be the final weekend of the summer holidays.

So what do we do with a Friday and no plans? Well, with the weather forecast continuing to look dry and fairly pleasant, so one thing that I have to do is get all the wood in the garden cut into little pieces that will fit in my chiminea, ready for some late night burning.

Life was made a little easier by Chloe napping and Clare disappearing off to her mothers for an hour with Olivia. This meant I could get the saw out and chop up wood to my hearts content. It’s about all you can ask for when you have kids.

Again, as is traditional on a Friday night, we attempted a film. This time we had opted for one we’d seen before, as Clare had nodded off the last time we tried to watch it. Sadly naaaaah, she missed the last 10 mins of this one too, even if it is a good film! We were doing so well at the start, and even up to half way through. So close, and yet no cigar! 

Day 153 – Why won’t you eat?

Day 153 – Aug 17th

We’ve had a slightly out of character little girl this week, Chloe has been off her food a bit, and we’ve had a couple of vomiting episodes. Monday was the first, and our choice for having a laminate wood floor was totally justified when Chloe was sick on the floor and we could just wipe it up. There seemed to be no reason for her being sick, we’d all eaten the same, her nappies were normal, she was as playful and jolly as ever… it just seemed to come from out of nowhere. Tuesday was fine, it looked like she was over whatever it was that had been the problem the day before. Wednesday we had yet another vomit episode again just before bed, only this time we weren’t so cocky about the wipe clean floor as she had managed to cover our living room rug, which, considering she’d not long had her bottle of milk, and prior to that she’d eaten garlic butter filled dough balls, that rug was never getting cleaned, it was time to dispose of it! There is no way we are getting rid of the smell of regurgitated milk and garlic butter!!

So today was a quiet day at home, once Olivia was in nursery, we didn’t want to risk taking Chloe too far in case she was sick everywhere again. My only chance to get out was a trip to the gym, and picking up Olivia from nursery on the way home. I’d delayed going out to the gym until the last minute as I was a little nervous of injuring my heel again on the treadmill. It was a bit tender after my last run, and I am still not entirely sure what I have done to it.

I managed to get a bit of a run in, but I was feeling burnt out, today was a real struggle! I need to be going far more frequently than I am, and the chance of entering this years Birmingham Half Marathon feels like it is beginning to slip away from me unless I can drastically increase my running distance in the next couple of weeks! I haven’t run the half marathon in a couple of years now, and I am missing it, its a fun day and the atmosphere is brilliant! Last year I had a knee injury which prevented me from training, and this time its a foot injury. Still, I have run twice this week and my foot doesn’t hurt too much, maybe its a promising sign??

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 144 – Gotcha!

Day 144 – Aug 8th

There were three things on my to-do list today, and at least with Olivia in nursery I had the opportunity to tick them off. First on my list was getting down to Streetbike, my local motorbike shop, to arrange booking in my motorbike lessons so that I can get my full motorbike license and remove the L plates from my bike, and hopefully in the not too distant future, upgrade my wheels to something a little more powerful.

Second on the list was to collect the bicycle we had ordered and reserved for Olivia’s 4th birthday. It was still boxed, and so easily hidden until her birthday rolls around in a few weeks.

Last on my list was to head back down to the gym and take advantage of the steam room again. I am quite enjoying spending half an hour in there every few days, as I don’t normally have time after a cardio session in the evenings. I finished up and showered just in time to pick Olivia up from nursery on the way home. Usually she grumbles if we have to go home in the car, its nice to know that she enjoys walking home so much! Although it seems that today she was tired enough not to care too much!

Todays photo was a chance shot of our local neighbourhood fox, who always appears from the same place most afternoons/evenings, wandering from one garden across the road into another garden, and doesn’t even care if its dark out, or the middle of the afternoon. Today I saw him out with another fox for the first time and knew that if I wanted a photo, that now was my chance. I wouldn’t have time to change lenses, and had to hope whatever lens was on my camera would get me close enough. Thankfully the lens was suitable, but by the time I was ready to take the shot the second fox had already ran off. I do wonder where they sleep, and what it is they’re finding to eat each night, as food must be slim pickings around here! I’d love to stick a GoPro on one, one evening and find out what they get up to.

Time to relax with a well earned beer, even if it is only a Tuesday night!

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!

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