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Day 170 – all good things must come to an end

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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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Day 160 – The best camera is the one you have with you

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Day 160 – Aug 24th

Thursday means an early start, making sure we are out the house by 8am to walk Olivia to nursery. We’re also now at a stage where its hard to do much without Chloe wanting to get involved too, she is very aware of being left out. So today I figured I may as well be pro-active about it but his morning and bring her out for a walk with me so that she can take her big sister to nursery, which thankfully is only a few minutes walk away. 

With Olivia dropped off, Chloe and me headed home. The sun was out and it was a gorgeous morning, so no need for any coats, and as we came down the alleyway leading on to our road, with the sun in front of us and Chloe walking ahead, I knew I had a lovely photo… only I’d left the house without a camera! As this is my fourth year of doing the 365 project I am used to having a camera on me pretty much everywhere I go, although I don’t always have it out, as I don’t want to look like some kind of weirdo, so I usually keep it hidden away in a shoulder bag. All I had on me at this point today though was my phone. I have previously mentioned the capable ability of my phones camera, and have previously used photos from it for the project. It just seems a little funny that with the numerous cameras I have, and all the professional lenses to go with them, that it should be down to my phone to save the day. Hence the title of today’s post.

As usual, a nursery day is a day to get things done around the house, which is one of the reasons we still send Olivia to nursery while I am off work, apart from the fact she enjoys it, has friends there, and learns from it… as well as the fact that we’re paying for it anyway. We’ll soon have her going during term time only to bring the costs down a bit, as we’ll need to save as much money as we can once Clare goes back to work, the nursery fees are going to rocket with both of them in full time day care. Its a prospect we’re aware of and not looking forward to much. On a plus side, it will only be about 12 months or so after Chloe starts before she gets her allocation of free hours. It is a necessary evil, we need to go out to work to earn the money to pay for someone to look after our children while we are out working. It seems a little illogical when you look at it like that, but its a great preparation for them ahead of starting school, with the social skills and academic skills they will learn. Its the sort of experience they could never have if they were being looked after at home by the wife, or even grandparents once the wife was back at work, even though the latter is no longer really an option any more.

We’ll work it out, its going to be difficult for a little while, not forever, and other parents seem to cope. Although it is a changing world we live in, and the days of stay at home moms looking after the children is becoming increasingly rare as women are generally more focused on careers and feel an obligation to return to work once their maternity leave is over, to maintain the lifestyle they are used to. I remember growing up, my mom was always about, taking us to school, and picking us up, there if we got sick and had to stay home. It kind of makes me sad that in my job its going to be almost impossible to do that when the girls are in school, we may be relying on breakfast and after school clubs, which seems to be very much the modern way of doing things. How lovely it would be if a work-from-home position came up!

How does everyone else cope?

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!

Day 126 – Schools out for summer… almost!

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Day 126 – Jul 21st

The end of term is here, for most people in our school. Its a bit of a funny year though, there will still be some people, including myself, that will still be going in on Monday.

So that we could finish on the Friday, the school gave us the option to stay after school and make up the hours for the final Monday… or we could leave on time at the end of the day as we normally do, and just come in on the final Monday. There was a dilemma here, but we were then told we had to make up the hours in a series of two hour sessions after work… TWO full hours after work!

After a full day I really didn’t want to be staying behind a further two hours, when my day is done I want to get home to see my girls. Screw it, I’m going in on the Monday and doing all my hours in one go, its the easiest way.

Friday evening proved to be a wet and windy affair, so it was even more pleasing to curl up with the wife, a few beers and some snacks, and put on a film. I’d made the decision to put on the Sixth Sense as the wife had never seen it. Anyone who has seen it will instantly remember the ending, and normally the wife can spot twists like this and guesses them five minutes into a film, so I was convinced she was going to work out how this was going to end… but she didn’t! All the way to the end and she literally announced in clear shock that she “did NOT see that coming!”. I felt a sense of pride on a) a film that she stayed awake through, and b) a film she did not predict the ending to.

Yeah, happy Friday everyone!

Day 103 – You know you want it

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Day 103 – Jun 28th

Well that’s Wednesday done, and the worst of the week over with. Working in a school, everyone hates the arrival of ofsted, no matter how much you’ve prepared all year for their anticipated visit. At least now we can relax a little now, with just a few weeks left until the summer holidays begin.

Yes, yes, the six week summer holidays, they’re fast approaching. The holidays you only have to briefly mention in passing to anyone who doesn’t work in a school, and they instantly hate you and assume you are gloating and trying to rub it in their face. They all see six weeks off as literally the best work bonus ever.

Yeah sure, I am never going to complain about six whole weeks off work, its one of the small perks of the job, and lets face it, working in a school doesn’t offer many perks outside of the holidays, but this bonus does come at a price!

Look at it this way, outside of your work colleagues, none of your friends are ever free, they’re all still working. Then try booking a holiday anywhere in the world… yeah, that £500 holiday you just took, thats going to cost me £1700 to take the same one! Try getting a day off for a week day wedding, or the funeral of someone who isn’t direct family. I’d love to do more photography training for myself, but do you know when it all is?… yeah you got it, term time! Want to go on a stag/hen party, or just a week away with friends?… you can guarantee they’ll all be going at the cheapest time of year! I’ve had to miss out on a few before now because of how inflexible the holidays are.

I do love the holidays, although the reasons have changed in recent years, now its more about spending time with the girls, rather than just turning the alarm clock off for a few weeks. I’ve also been lucky enough to spend the last summer holiday and this upcoming one with the wife too, because of her “extended” maternity leave!

Onto todays photo, a shot taken from this afternoon when I got home from work. Olivia wanted to play on the table with her kinetic sand, so I thought I’d try Chloe with some wax crayons to see how she’d get on. They caught her attention for a while, but she was soon off doing other things. The hand in the shot was actually Olivia’s when she helped me pick up the crayons that had been dropped.

the project continues: days 230 – 242

Well this post is going to be the last one of the summer holidays, September is now here, I’m going back to work after six fabulous weeks off with the family, and I am very grateful for the time I have had with them. We’ve done some lovely things, seen family and friends, had plenty of BBQs and enjoyed some lovely weather on days out, in the park, or even just in the garden.

230: This was the day that the wife was out for lunch with work friends, and I was left to watch the girls. Even as a dad of three years, I still feel the pressure of parenting alone when the wife isn’t around! Its like I have never done it before, and one of them might explode or something. Thankfully the big one was in nursery and the little one still isn’t moving very far when you put her down. One thing she is doing is showing us that its almost time to give up the baby bouncer, for as much as she loves it, its getting hard to keep her safe in there!

Day 230 - Aug 23rd

Day 230 – Aug 23rd

231: Today was a hot one, a strong reminder that summer wasn’t done just yet. It was my turn to head out for a couple of hours. I’d arranged to meet up with some of the other dads from our antenatal group, and we found some of the new and quirky bars in Birmingham to head to. Not the kind where the kids were all hanging out, doing shots and fighting, this was a little more refined, but still had a “we’re off the beaten track and cool” feel about it. Even the doors had some funky artwork on!

Day 231 - Aug 24th

Day 231 – Aug 24th

232: Not all selfie’s are polished works of art. There is a growing culture of particularly young ladies who seem to have the selfie down to a fine art and will be prepared to take 500 of the same shot until they’re happy. I gave this idea two fingers and thought I’d grab a shot during my 5 mile run from dropping the car off for its service. Thankfully the father in law was around to take me back to pick it up later that day!

Day 232 - Aug 25th

Day 232 – Aug 25th

233: Road trip was on! After a painful drive down the M5 we made it down to Devon to stay with friends for the weekend, and that night thought we’d all head out to Lyme Regis beach for a walk and to grab some ice cream. I took other shots, but particularly enjoyed the serene feel of this shot. Canvas material? Something to hang on the wall as a work of art? Maybe so… until the wife shot me down in flames and exclaimed “Its rubbish… theres nothing in it!!”. **shakes head**

Day 233 - Aug 26th

Day 233 – Aug 26th

234: We headed out today to see a number of places including some fun catching crabs and eating fish and chips by the sea. It is lovely to just relax and spend time with friends sometimes, life can be so hectic at times.

Day 234 - Aug 27th

Day 234 – Aug 27th

235: These girls love playing together, and now there is a new one to add to the group. I only wish we could see them more often. Today we had some lunch before jumping on the motorway and headed home. Thankfully as it was a bank holiday weekend the motorway was still quiet on Sunday.

Day 235 - Aug 28th

Day 235 – Aug 28th

236: We were supposed to head out to Stratford-Upon-Avon to meet up with some other friends, which sadly ended up being cancelled at the last minute, and so we headed out for a walk around the local park instead, as it seemed a shame to waste the sunshine, and with the summer holidays drawing to a close and my return to work imminent, I wanted to spend some more time doing nice things with the family. Todays photo was yet another portrait, as I love looking back on them all and seeing the changes.

Day 236 - Aug 29th

Day 236 – Aug 29th

237: I was out this morning taking care of my friends son for a few hours again after I’d dropped Olivia at nursery, and there was a window of a few hours before the wife headed out for food with a friend. I decided to capture this shot of Chloe now she is sitting up so much, as most of the previous shots were of her lying down. She seems to be changing at an astronomical rate at the moment, and doubling in size! The is becoming a real character, always full of smiles and loving the interaction with adults, very much like her big sister, but very different at the same time.

Day 237 - Aug 30th

Day 237 – Aug 30th

238: Yeah yeah, another portrait, I need to get the camera out and try some different shots, I know, but today Chloe was all dressed up for her grandmothers birthday and looked gorgeous. We all headed out for a family carvery, which was amazing, even if I did over do things a little.

Day 238 - Aug 31st

Day 238 – Aug 31st

239: Back out looking after my friends son for a few more hours again, and a nice walk in the Lickey Hills to blow a few cobwebs out as I haven’t done a great deal of exercise since I have been off work. September is now here, and summer is starting to disappear. The days are still warm, but the sun is setting much earlier, and the nights are feeling a little cooler. I think we still have a couple of BBQs left, but autumn is definitely not far away. The green in this picture will soon be replaced by reds and oranges.

Day 239 - Sep 1st

Day 239 – Sep 1st

240: I’m not going to lie, this was a day I didn’t take many photos at all, and had very little to choose from, but Chloe’s smile just melts my heart sometimes, and she looked so cute just lying back on the cushions after sitting up for a while and then just giving up!

Day 240 - Sep 2nd

Day 240 – Sep 2nd

241: Our little baby is no longer our little baby, and we struggle to call her our little girl, she seems so much older than her years sometimes. Her 3rd birthday is just around the corner and today we had a soft play party for her and some of her friends, she is so confident and took it all in her stride, but almost looked a little overwhelmed at the attention was very much focused on her as the cake came out. A rather stunning peppa pig handmade by the wife I might add!

Day 241 - Sep 3rd

Day 241 – Sep 3rd

242: The second part of the celebrations was on the Sunday as the parents and one of my sisters came over for a BBQ. We decided to open the bulk of the presents while everyone was around, and Olivia had a fantastic day to finish off a fantastic weekend. Plus we had a little visit from a friend and our second surprise pregnancy announcement of the weekend. Two separate friends are both due with their second babies and both expecting in March. How exciting!

Day 242 - Sep 4th

Day 242 – Sep 4th

So That’s it, summer holidays are over, our girl is almost 3, and the little one has already turned 7 months old. Time is flying past and the new school year is upon us again as Sunday night lands with a disappointing thud. So much I wanted to do, and so many things still on my to-do list! I am just grateful for the time I have had at home with the family, it has been invaluable and I have been very lucky to have six weeks off, not just with the girls, but with the wife as well. Will we be able to do it again next year? Well, if we can work the finances, then possibly. Fingers crossed!

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