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Day 187 – Why did you do it then?

Day 187 – Sep 20th

Ah yes, hump day is here, we are now closer to Friday afternoon than Monday morning, its all downhill to the weekend from here. I had treated myself to a cruise into work on the motorbike, and even the weather was treating me to a dry day while on two wheels. I have committed myself to at least three days a week cycling as I need to make sure I keep up a regular amount of exercise each week, and although  I am already feeling the benefits, its nice to have a break in the middle and use a bit of horse power rather than leg power.

It is much nicer to get home not feeling all hot and sweaty and being able to pick the girls up without having to change out of a soggy top first… although today it seems that neither of them were especially interested in daddy getting home anyway. Olivia was burnt out from a shopping trip out on the bus with nanny and had collapsed on the sofa in front of the to before falling asleep shortly after I got back, and Chloe had only managed a 45 minute afternoon nap instead of her usual 2-3 hours and didn’t quite know what to do with herself, leaving her a little bit cranky in between smiles. 

Chloe loves to play and can get a bit rough at times, and has taken to head butting things lately, so today when she bumped her head on mommys knee it clearly hurt a bit. She got over it pretty quickly, but I still had to grab a photo as it was quite funny. She’ll soon learn to make the connection between head butting things and it hurting! 

Back out to the gym this evening, needing to keep up the exercise even though I didn’t cycle today. Feeling a little nervous about how much my foot is going to hurt in the morning if I run tonight, may need look into booking an appointment with a physio soon!


Day 183 – Its the halfway point

Day 183 – Sep 16th

So this is it, the official half way point of the 365 project. Six months has gone so fast, I’ve produced some lovely photos, and some absolutely duff ones, but it has been fun.

Todays photo was taken in Sandwell Valley Country Park, a venue so close to where we live, yet somewhere that I’ve never been to before. It was a lovely little place, and somewhere we’ll definitely be going to again. We met some friends there in the morning with their two little ones, one of them being Olivia’s best friend at nursery, for a fun few hours. The kids played on the play area for a while, before we took them around the farm to feed the animals, and then finally stopped off for a spot of lunch in the wasn’t quite as cheap as you’d hope for a trip to the park, but we enjoyed ourselves.

After we got home I still had time to pop into the city centre for this years Chilli Festival, as I’d sadly missed out on last years due to photographing a wedding on that day. It felt smaller this year than previously, although I’d been assure it as the, and due to the rain it was definitely considerably quieter too. On my own I was pretty much done in half an hour or so, but I had picked up some new chilli sauces. I was tempted to try som of the delicious food on offer, but I’d already had lunch at the park and knew we wouldn’t be eating late tonight. 

Before any films or putting my feet up this evening I had the task of putting all my camera batteries on charge and making sure all my memory cards, cameras and lenses were ready and packed. Early start in the morning. It’s an essential job to make sure I am fully prepared for any eventuality, including a smashed camera or a battery totally failing on me. I still have to get all the shots I need regardless. It can be a stressful day, and there is a lot of pressure, particularly around moments that will only happen just the once and can’t be repeated, and definitely can’t be missed. Once I’m happy everything is ready, I can relax. 

Day 181 – Tomorrow is a new day

Day 181 – Sep 14th

When your previous evening hasn’t gone to plan and you start the next day still feeling grumpy about it you have to give some consideration to the fact that most of your problems are generally going to be trivial ones that you just need to let go of, and it’s only you that can change whether you’re going to let yourself be happy or not. Take a reality check on the situation, if you have a house, a job, hopefully people around you that you love, food in the cupboards… you’re already better off than half the people on the planet. 

So that’s what I had to do. I can’t take my grumpy mood to work, as it certainly won’t help thing. When I get home my girls don’t deserve the grumpy version of me either, they should have the best version of me that I can be. Sometimes it’s not that easy to arrive home after a day at work with the enthusiasm of a childrens tv presenter, especially when you’re tired, hungry, and inevitably annoyed with some idiots driving on the commute home. Riding home on two wheels frequently means that someone will have had me swearing at some point, whether they can hear me or not, and so when I get home I’ll put the bike in the garage, take a deep breath and give myself a second to let all of the days frustration just drain away. As soon as you walk in the door and see those two little smiling faces looking up at you, everything else just melts away. You can close the door and shut the big bad world out.

Mindset is a big thing, and a while back at work we had a training day, which was called The Art Of Being Brilliant. Presented by a particularly enthusiastic and motivating guy, it was all about positivity and making the choice to be happy. There were mixed feelings about it afterwards, some found it ridiculous and patronising, some found it an utter waste of time, but like myself a lot of people remained open minded and found it interesting and inspirational, enough so to pick up a free copy of the book that had been offered with it. It was very much about this “better version of you” mindset. I never did read the book in the end, as I have many books at home still waiting to be read, although a lot of what was said on the day did stick with me, I just need to remember to put it into practise a bit more often. Maybe I should go back and pick the book up after all. 

How do you pick yourself up when the day isn’t going your way?

Day 179 – just tell me what you want

Day 179 – Sep 12th

Buying presents for children seems to be something of a first world proble at times, a dilemma between letting them enjoy Christmas and their birthdays, and not spoiling them with so many toys that they forget what they own. There’s also the consideration of space and where to keep everything with an ever increasing collection of jigsaws, dolls, and musical toys. Our house is fairly compact, which is fine for us, but if we don’t keep things in order it quickly and very easily becomes untidy.

The girls toys can quickly seem to dominate a room once they get them out, it’s hard to keep all the bits together so things don’t get lost, and wit more and more toys appearing it means that some toys don’t even see the light of day for weeks at a time.

With all these toys choose from Chloe still has a new favourite above all others, something we didn’t even buy for her… the car. No, I’m not talking about the red plastic Mini Cooper push along childs car that we bought from Toys R Us that they play with in the garden, I mean the 2.0L turbo diesel one sat on the drive.

Chloe has started trying to say a few words recently and has clearly learnt the word car, and will stand at the front door pointing outside saying “car, car” over and over until either a) we manage to distract her (not easy), or b) give in and take her out, accepting that you’re going to be stuck in that car with her for a good ten minutes, and even then you may not manage to get her out without a bit of a fight on your hands!

Incidentally, on the subject of first words, one of the other words she is beginning to learn is ‘Alexa’ after hearing us talking to our Amazon Echo all the time… how very 21st century! It’s quite amusing watching her stand on the edge of the chair trying to shout up to it! 

What other unusual first words have you heard?

Day 178 – If you don’t try, you’ll never know

Day 178 – Sep 11th

With hurricane Irma destroying Florida and the Caribbean I find it hard to really complain much about our fairly placid weather, plus it’s doesn’t make for a very exciting blog either, but today was a day of relative extremes for us here in the UK, glorious sunshine followed by torrential downpours, followed by glorious sunshine, followed by torrential downpours… you get the idea. It’s really stating to feel like Autumn has arrived, regardless of what the calendar is telling us it should be. The wind has picked up, a few leaves on the trees have started to turn red, some have even started falling off already. 

The biggest changes have to be the overnight temperature and the sunset times. At the height of summer there was still light in the sky at 10pm, but now it is almost completely black outside by 8pm. We’ve been lucky to have some very mild nights over the summer and haven’t even shut some of the upstairs windows in weeks, but over these last few nights we’ve really started to feel a significant drop in the temperature after the sun goes down, and the outdoor thermometer had recently been telling us that the temperature has dropped down into single figures during the night, (that’s basically below 50°F for our transatlantic friends) and it’s starting to feel a bit chilly at night, we are going to need to get our winter quilt back out of the loft and onto the bed this week, the summer quilt is just too thin to keep us warm at night! A brand new electric blanket to have the bed nice and toasty for when we get in, is already on order from Amazon!

The weather isn’t the only change going on at the moment, I also decide it was finally time to do something about my hair. I can’t even think of the last time that I had it cut, and I was beginning to get worried that if I sat for too long in one spot with a McDonalds cup in my hand that people may start throwing spare change into it! It was desperate!

I’d decided that I was doing something about it tonight, but instead of just buzzing the lot off like I usually do, I’d quite enjoyed having it a little longer on top, and so asked the wife for her help on doing something a little different with it. 

I was very pleased with the results, and considering the wife is no hairdresser, or even had much experience cutting hair, I think she did a cracking job! It seemed the perfect opportunity to try out my new backdrop to grab a photo of it. A single off-camera flash placed off to the side on a stand, and the black £10 backdrop hanging from the curtain rail was pretty much all I needed with my camera set up on a tripod. It turned out just as I’d hoped it would. Nice photo, shame about the subject!

Day 177 – Try to keep up with me

Day 177 – Sep 10th

Sunday wasn’t supposed to be much busier than Saturday, but we still had a couple of things we wanted to do.

Our first thing was a trip out to the park to meet a friend and her little girl who was the same age as Olivia. They had both recently turned 4 and both of them had new bikes. We’d agreed to head for one of Birminghams most well known parks, Cannon Hill park as its nice and flat for the girls to ride the bikes, and there is plenty of space of the path for bikes and all the people on foot. The other added bonus is the Garden Tea Room.

Cannon Hill Park may be well known for the infamous arts centre, or MAC as its better known, located at the main entrance to the park, with its shiny new appearance, its shows, its sleek cafe and the courses and other things it puts on, but the Garden Tea Room sat on the opposite side of the park gets a little overlooked. It serves good food at a good price and you rarely have to queue or wait for your food for long. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, plenty of room to store buggies inside and they offer high chairs for the little ones. In fact about the only complaint I have about this place is the fact that they don’t accept card payments for any of the food or drink. A bit of an inconvenience, but if you know about this in advance then you won’t go hungry when you get there, as one of the things the entire park, and the MAC centre are missing is a cash point. Luckily we had cash, so when a rain shower appeared on our walk around the park, we took the opportunity to duck inside and grab a bite to eat and a hot drink.

The morning was a lot of fun, the girls had a fantastic time on the bikes, riding in circles, charging through puddles, racing each other, and frequently stopping to jump off and pick up feathers or horse chestnuts, all before we headed for the duck pond to feed the ducks. We chose a smaller pond, away from the main boating lake, as it is literally plagued by geese, and we would have been mobbed within seconds!

After leaving the park it was over to my mothers for a couple of hours. We knew we were going to be pushing Chloe through her nap time a bit, but she’s coping better with waiting now, although we can’t push her too far, no-one wants a meltdown… and when this girl goes, everyone knows about it!

After getting home and Chloe getting a much needed nap on the way back in the car it was time for dinner, and the good old english classic of toad in the hole being cooked up by the wife. What a way to finish a Sunday!

Day 176 – What shall we do today?

Day 176 – Sep 9th

It’s Saturday and we’d decided it was going to be a fairly quiet weekend, I know it makes the wife happy when we break the busy weekends up with a few where we’re not doing much. 

The one thing with not making any plans in advance though is that if you don’t just want to sit around the house, you still need to be up and dressed at a reasonable time, or by the time you’re dressed and showered it’s almost lunchtime , the girls will be wang something to eat and we have to consider that Chloe will need to nap shortly afterwards. Essentially what this means is that if we’re not up and out of the house by 10am, we may not end up going until 2-3pm. It’s almost feels like a bit of a waste of a day, especially when we have to be back by 5pm to cook dinner, think about a bath and then get them both in bed by 7:30pm. 

Theses small windows do mean that if we are just staying local then at least we don’t really have to take travel times into account, and we don’t have to commit ourselves to being out for more than a couple of hours at a time. They’re good for trips to the park, swimming or even a trip to the shops. On this particular Saturday, as we had literally nothing planned, I suggested we head down to Toys’R’Us to see if Olivia wanted to spend some of her birthday money. Yes, she’d been bought some lovely gifts for her birthday, but none of which she’d actually chosen herself. Its a nice way to spend a little time, letting the girls wonder round being amazed by this Aladdins cave of childrens toys, although at 18 months I knew Chloe was going to struggle with the concept of putting things back on the shelves a little, and we did spend some time trying to wrench things out of her hands and coerce her to let things go.

Finally the shopping trip was successful, and we were heading back out to the car when we spotted the fire engines that were parked up for the charity car wash, with one of the wagons parked up and allowing children to sit inside and have everything explained to them. Olivia naturally was keen to have a look, and after having a look around the back, was allowed in the front to sit in the drivers seat, which she thought was amazing! It was a nice surprise from a random trip to a shop we don’t normally visit. It might not seem like much, but when you’re a child its super exciting, and when you’re a parent trying to entertain a child on a wet Saturday afternoon, you’ll take every opportunity.

Day 174 – we are made of star dust

Day 174 – Sept 7th

Its tough getting back into the swing of things after six weeks off work, and a poor track record of going to bed far too late. After feeling a little run down and unwell yesterday I decided to take the motorbike to work today, and it was so much nicer!

Sadly changes at work mean having to stay a little later than usual on a Thursday, so I couldn’t race home to collect Olivia from nursery, I had to leave that to the wife. As soon as I was home, Olivia was keen to get out on her new bicycle and go riding. She’d only had it two days, and I thought we’d end up just going up and down the length of our road, but she’d clearly been practising while she was at home yesterday and looked like she’d got this thing mastered, even using her brakes to slow herself down.

Todays photo was pretty much just an observation of how badly I need a hair cut. It was also a planned, deliberate pose… a close-up shot using the ultra wide angle lens, with a bounce flash illuminating me from above, and then converted to black and white using one of my favourite actions from my Totally Rad actions collection in Photoshop. It came out exactly as I’d imagined, that always makes me happy!

Day 172 – Happy birthday little princess

Day 172 – Sep 5th

Four years ago today life changed. 

It was a monumental change.

In the fourteen days leading up to that particular day, we had been very anxiously awaiting the arrival of our first child, baby Vokes. We had absolutely no idea if it would be a baby boy or a baby girl, just the thoughts and opinions of everyone who was suddenly an expert on old wives tales and those just “having a gut feeling”, all we knew was that baby Vokes was two weeks overdue, daddy was impatient and mommy was quite uncomfortable!

Finally after several even more uncomfortable days in hospital for the wife, our beautiful little Olivia finally arrived in the world. The feeling of being massively overwhelmed can never be fully described, as it can’t encapsulate how I actually felt at that moment when this tiny baby was placed in my arms. She was mine… MINE, and it was scary! I felt like I was suddenly carrying a ticking bomb that was about to explode and everyone else had turned and run away! All this still feels like it was only yesterday… honestly. Four years gone in the blink of an eye.

Now here we are on her 4th birthday, and she is turning into a proper little lady, a constant source of amusement. 

We’d already celebrated the occasion, once with our antenatal friends at a group party a few weeks ago, and then Olivia had her actual birthday party with her friends at the weekend, and tonight we were having grandparents and aunts and uncles over for a small buffet style birthday dinner.

Before dinner was served and presents were opened, we actually had to go and collect her from nursery. Only today she wasn’t walking home, being carried on my shoulders or riding back on her scooter… no, today we were turning up with her biggest birthday present, her brand new bike, and it went down a treat! It took a little getting used to, but she is keen to get back on and practise some more.

It was a lovely evening with the family over, and it came as no surprise that by the end of the evening she’d had way too many presents. The main issue being storage in our modest house, and the fact it leaves us short of ideas and things to buy Chloe (no point in buying this stuff twice!) for Christmas!

Definitely a first world problem!

Day 170 – all good things must come to an end


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.

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