Day 125 – The end is in sight

Day 125 – Jul 20th

Its almost the end of term, so close that I can almost taste it! For parents its that dreaded time of year, what to do for six weeks with the kids, but for anyone who works in a school its a long awaited break. Some friends grumble about us having six weeks off, some make fun of us because its only been a few weeks since our last holiday and our job must be (sarcastically) so stressful. The thing about schools is that they are all very different, and within that each class is different, and likewise, each pupil is very different. This is much more apparent when you work in a special needs school, as kicks, bites and punches can be part of every day life. So yeah, when we are making biscuits or getting the paint out, life may seem like a walk in the park to some people, but when your clothing gets ripped, you get punched in the head and kicked in the shin, and even spat at in the face on a fairly routine basis, you may feel like you need a bit of a break so that you don’t get to the point where you may lose your patience and snap at one of the kids, because as soon as you do… they’ve won! On top of which, we’re human, there’s only so much you can take on a daily basis, plus the kids need a break too, their behaviour is noticeably different at the end of term, and even more so at the end of the school year. Yeah, I’ll take that six week break thanks!

At the end of each summer term it is becoming increasingly popular for schools to have a leaving prom, even nurseries are getting in on the act now! As is traditional, our school did the same, and yet again I was asked to take some photos, although I was keeping my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t get asked this time. I’ve done it for the last few years and its a hectic evening, I’m exhausted and aching at the end of it, I have to miss out on putting my own girls to bed, and unlike everyone else that goes I have to use my own (very expensive) equipment, plus I am usually the last one out of there and the only one to walk away from the night with homework!

Still, I’d agreed, so I had to do what I could. It was a combination of two kind of shots, firstly of the pupils that were leaving receiving their awards, and secondly taking some posed photos with the studio lights and backdrop, where some props had been provided for the occasion, as seen in todays photo. Although one of my fears came to light on this particular event, too many people getting silly and over excited with the props too close to the backdrop, one of them stumbled, stepped backwards, and tore a hole my nice vinyl backdrop and nearly pulled the whole thing down. I was not a happy bunny at this point, although I have been promised that a replacement will be paid for it is needed. It has made me think about whether or not I’ll agree to do it again next year though.

Day 119 – A change is as good as a rest

Day 119 – Jul 14th

Its nice to have your skills recognised, and being a photographer, when your employer asks you to take time out of your work to do head shots of staff, its quite nice to be able to do something different for a day. As I’ve said before, I never like to complain about my job, but when I am being paid for the day to take photographs instead, it makes a refreshing change. This close to the summer holidays, everyone is winding down for the end of the year now, so things are quieter in the classroom anyway.

I shot around 80 staff, but had to do it in bursts here and there, waiting for staff to find an opportunity to step out of the classroom. Sometimes there would be a queue of people waiting, other times I would be stood around waiting for people to turn up. I also had a chance to edit a few of the photos before the end of the day, so that I didn’t get roped into having to do it at home. These photos don’t benefit me financially in any way, and so I don’t want to be taking up my own time working on them.

Todays photo was one of my colleagues, a guy I have known for a long time, as he started around the same time as me, over 20 years ago. A very friendly, charismatic guy, who is just one of those people who seems to make friends with pretty much most people. I know he won’t mind me using his photo. I have over edited his image a bit, to give it a gritty, high contrast feel. Nothing like the images I will deliver to my employer, which will not look as harsh as this, but I love the way this image looks!

At least I was still able to get out of work on time, as I had no choice but to bring the car to work today with all the lights, backdrops and stands that I just could not carry on a motorbike.

Back when I passed my driving test in 1995, I was just 19 and thought I had the world at my feet with my new found independence, but recently I have actually gone from loving driving, to starting to resent it a little. Its fair to say that I have been truly spoilt with the extra freedom of a motorbike… all the joys of cycling and weaving through traffic on two wheels… but with an engine!! Now I find traffic jams simply unbearable when I am in a car, and commuting to work in the car is something I try to avoid wherever possible! So getting out of work on time was crucial, and my sanity was saved when I got home a few minutes earlier than normal. My family time at home had started, I had my girls and that was all I needed… well, apart from a few Friday night beers!

Day 117 – run like the wind, walk like an arthritic old man!

Day 117 – Jul 12th

Last nights gym session felt good, I got a bit of a sweat on doing a warm up time on the exercise bike, then took to the treadmill to push my running a bit, in the hope of being in a position to consider this years half marathon.

Plan A foiled by yet another injury. Finished my run, fine. Got showered and home, fine. Woke up this morning, could barely stand on my left foot, let alone walk! The day improved with some pain killers and a bit of stretching, but here I am at the end of the day, and still in pain! Hoping some rest in bed tonight will help. I did, however, spend the day hobbling around like I had broken glass in my shoe. It was a close call with giving work a miss today, but it at least got easier as the day went on.

So much for exercise being good for you, I sometimes wonder how I managed to do five half marathons and two Tough Mudders with numerous injuries temporarily putting me out of running so easily recently.

Came home to an empty house today, quite unusual, and managed to take a few minutes and enjoy the peace and quiet for a little while before I could hear the car pull up on the driveway again and the silence was broken. Suddenly two eager little girls came running into the living room looking for daddy. However daddy was not feeling the urge to jump out of the chair. It was my plan to spend as long as possible sat down resting my foot tonight, which I hate doing while the girls are up, as they deserve my attention, but I really had to rest this foot. We did spend a little time in the garden though, but it wasn’t long before both of these little ladies were shattered, Chloe who was overdue a nap and already whinging, was the first casualty of a busy day.

When there was only Olivia, before Chloe was born, it was quite easy to manage our day, doing our best to incorporate nap times and bed times, but now that there is two, it isn’t quite so easy. People often ask what changes the most when you have a second child… well, there is plenty! Time management is the biggest challenge. Chloe seems to have fallen into similar naps as Olivia did around the same age, but its not always easy to squeeze them in exactly when she wants them, as there seems to be a lot more fluctuations on the times she actually wants to go down, whereas you could almost set a clock by Olivia’s naps. Today was a day when Chloe could actually have done with two naps, but there just wasn’t a chance to get the second one in… and cue grumpy, clingy Chloe!

Even when she’s in a bit of a grump, she can still make us laugh, and always gives the best hugs!

Day 116 – and the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down…

Day 116 – Jul 11th

After a few weeks without rain, the garden lawn is starting to look a bit tired, and I’ve had enough of having to grab a watering can and water the flowers each evening, and then worrying about them if I forget to do it one evening. Well today started out damp, and apart from a couple of dry spells this morning, its pretty much rained all day since then.

As an adult owning a property with a garden, particularly one that you’re growing things in, its pretty much about the only time that anyone can get even remotely excited about rain. You may be cursing that your day out is ruined, or that you can’t hang the washing out to dry, but you can at least smile in the knowledge that your grass is getting a good water and the flower beds will love it. The simple fact is that this green and pleasant land of ours would not be quite so green without a bit of rain every now and again to keep it that way.

One of the little green shoots that had come from Olivia helping me to plant some seeds back in February was our sunflowers. They seemed to do very little for a number of weeks, and the shoots were no more than a few inches tall, then suddenly, out of nowhere, they seem to have shot up, and this week have even begun to open up! That’ll keep the bees happy for a while, and now the garden will start to look even brighter!

With the weather being wet, I ditched the idea of cycling this morning in favour of the motorbike. Sure, I’m still exposed to the elements, but at least on the motorbike I am covered in waterproof clothing! Made up for it with a gym session this evening, but now have come home with pretty severe heel pain, leaving me limping about a bit, and I’m not even sure how I’ve done it! Only hoping a good nights sleep will fix things, and on that note… well, you don’t get a good nights sleep from tapping away on your laptop while sat on the sofa downstairs!

Day 110 – When it all gets too much, just lie back and look up

Day 110 – Jul 5th

Ah yes, riding the motorbike home in the sunshine, getting a bit of a sweat on in the leathers, and trying to dodge the traffic to keep moving so you don’t over heat. It was a nice ride home, and the girls are usually pleased to see me, but today the iPad won, and Olivia couldn’t be bothered to put it down for long enough to come downstairs and say hello… bloody charming! At least I still have an effect on Chloe who gets excited when she here’s my keys in the garage door.

The twists and turns of having two children never fail to make me smile. In fact I congratulated my friend, by text message, on the arrival of his second child, and he asked me… “any tips for two kids?” and it got me thinking, how did things change for us when Chloe arrived, what did we do differently? Could I actually have any useful advice to offer anyone who had recently become a parent for the second time?

Kids are so different, its really hard to say whats best, so aside from joking about getting used to never being on time anywhere, the only real advice I had to give was to make sure that you always give both children equal attention. Its very easy when you have a big one sitting quietly entertaining themselves to forget about them when there is a little baby who seems to do nothing but cry all the time. As soon as Chloe was born, we made the effort to ensure Olivia had plenty of attention, she was still taken swimming, had her bed time stories, had someone to play in the garden with her, or was even asked to help around the house, or especially with feeding or changing Chloe, whch made her really feel like a big sister. I guess we’ll never know if it ever actually made any difference, but she has never been jealous of her sister, or been spiteful towards her, and we’re starting to see a real friendship blossom between them.

I’d like to think that part of it was us doing a good job, and not just luck.

What advice could you give to someone who had become a parent for the second time?

Day 109 – Lets do things as a family

Day 109 – Jul 4th

You know what’s hard? Pushing yourself flat out at the gym when you’re already tired before you begin.

Know what’s harder? Trying desperately not to snack once you get home from said gym session. Thank goodness there isn’t a great deal to snack on in our house!

Know what’s even harder than that? When you try on all your jeans and find out that most don’t fit, and your down to just a couple of pairs that do and have to keep wearing them!

That sucks! 

Physically it has been a disastrous year for me. Almost twelve months ago I hurt my knee while out running due to an old pair of worn out trainers that were long over due for replacement. I didn’t run for a while, but at least I was cycling. Then, about nine months ago I got the motorbike, and essentially gave up cycling as I was having so much fun commuting on the motorbike, and the novelty still hasn’t worn off yet! 

So with no running and no cycling I was forced to join a gym, which was fine, I do enjoy the gym, but finding the time for it has been a bit of a challenge. It’s usually late at night when I go, just before bed. Not ideal as it means my energy levels are already low by the end of the day, and if the girls don’t get to bed on time, then I get even less time in there, plus if we’ve had dinner late, then I could be exercising on a full stomach 

I’d sooner be exercising in the morning before work,  but it’s just not feasible. So I’ve been squeezing in the odd session here and there when I’ve had the time (and energy!), but I’m hoping to get back into a bit more running now my knee seems to have recovered, and hopefully start cycling to work a little more, at least before the summer holidays start. 

I’d love us to get out more as a family and do lots of walking over the summer, at least today we all got out for walk round to the nursery to pick Olivia up, even Chloe couldn’t wait to get there! 

Day 104 – Some people have “come to bed” eyes, I just have “go to bed” eyes

Day 104 – Jun 29th

So tired today, so so tired. My attempts to get earlier nights seem to have failed recently, I’m not getting to bed much before midnight on an average night. I’d been using an app on my phone to monitor my sleep, and it initially encouraged me to make more of an effort to get to bed at a sensible time. This has allowed me to track my sleep patterns over time, and in the last 7 days I am averaging 5hrs 50mins of sleep per night. Anyone would think our children were still babies and crying at night or something! Its not good for getting up in the morning, and its not good for having enough energy for the gym in the evening.

Committing myself to not only a photo every single day for a year, but also a daily blog to go with each photo, was always going to add a bit of a challenge to each day, I could easily just upload the photo for each day and be done with it, not bothering to add any text, but in honesty, I do enjoy the writing, I just need to be more organised with my evenings. I also need to take opportunities to do some of the writing during the day, to take the pressure off a little bit in the evening.

Maybe carrying a camera around with me during the day will also help, as I often don’t start writing until I have taken a photo, and trying to find something to photograph can sometimes be the last thing I do in the evening before I go to bed, often keeping me from going to bed. A project 365 is, of course, just a bit of fun, but the truth is that there are at least 365 opportunities to screw it up. So far I have managed to maintain the project by taking a photo every single day, which is the whole point of the project, and it is so easy to forget and miss a day, but if I am going to do this properly then I just have to make sure I keep taking the photos. The key is not leaving it until the last minute.

Today I came home from work and had a photo opportunity just waiting for me, Chloe was sat in her high chair with pigtails in her hair! It looked adorable! One thing we wanted to try and avoid right from when she was born was cutting a fringe into her hair. It has meant that her hair has frequently been in her eyes, and we’ve had to keep trying to clip it back, but now her hair is long enough for pigtails so not only can she see properly, but she also looks super cute! We cut a fringe into Olivia’s hair when she was little, and have spent many months already trying to grow it out!

Today has been grey and miserable day, it has been cloudy and dull outside all day and it there wasn’t a great deal of light about, meaning the living room was a bit on the dark side. One of the toys I have to play with when I am shooting photos is a Gary Fong Lightsphere, a flash diffuser, which, without getting technical, creates the beautiful lighting effect you see in todays photo of Chloe! It has most definitely worked here, this is a photo we will look back on for a long time to come!