I write today’s post from the comfort of my new garden furniture, with a fire in front of me, a beer next to me, and the stars above my head. Life feels good at the moment!
Monday we had the pleasure of my friends coming to visit with their baby daughter. Olivia just loves holding babies and playing with them, she’ll make a wonderful mother one day! I love watching all the kids grow up, and change, and develop their personalities… often wondering what they’ll turn out to be like when they’re grown up. What will their passions be? What will they do with their lives? Where will they travel? How will they make sense of the world as it constantly changes and becomes ever more confusing?
I watch my girls especially, to see what clues they’re giving off about what they will be like. What will they look like as adults? Will they still get on with each other? Will they want to hang around with their parents or head off around the world with a backpack? How much of how they turn out will be down to us, or will they be more influenced by who they meet along the way?
We certainly do have two very different girls, as I’ve mentioned before, and trying to predict anything about them is impossible. Chloe is so full of spirit and determination, so visual with her emotions, whereas her big sister was so passive and placid… although she is becoming a bit more determined lately, learning negotiation skills along the way that we haven’t taught her!
The differences between them are amazing, such beautiful little girls, with such different attitudes. It still makes me wonder how the two of them could be so different, but I wouldn’t change either of them! Not one bit.
I am so proud of them both, I think they’ve made me a better person!
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!
Rain, rain, endless rain, its like the weather has forgotten what month it is! Thankfully my plan for today involved spending more time in the garage in an attempt to get it into some kind of order. There is only so much I can throw out, regardless of how ruthless I want to be. Its not the most exciting way to spend my time off work, but a necessary task all the same.
It has been four years, almost to the day, since we moved into this house. It was the end of four months of a huge project to modernise it, rewiring it, plastering walls, putting in a new heating system, new kitchen and new bathroom after the wife’s grandparents had lived in it for many years before us. We moved in with just a couple of weeks to spare before Olivia was due to be born, and loved our new home.
In hindsight, we knew the house was a little smaller than we’d have liked, and if we’d been looking at any other house that had no emotional attachment to it we would have almost certainly found something slightly bigger. One of the primary reasons for buying this house was because of the wife’s grandparents having previously owned, but now it was sat empty, and this way it stayed in the family… plus it was on a beautiful tree lined cul-de-sac and we were only a short walk from the in-laws.
At least with this house, even though smaller than we’d have liked, we had a decent sized garage running along the full length of the house. With it being too narrow to actually get a car in, it made for a great storage space for everything else that we couldn’t squeeze into the house or garden. Today was a day to reclaim some of that space back!
If you’re off work over the summer, what plans are you making?
A week off work should mean turning off the alarm clock, but any parent knows that this is a fairly irrelevant task, as those pesky kids have no concept of “sleeping in”, and I have barely peeled my eyelids apart before our bed is turned into a trampoline.
There is a delay at this point, a few moments where me and the wife see how long we can tolerate the sleep terrorists invading our bed and crawling over us like we’re some kind of fun, organic assault course.
The temptation of a hot cup of tea and some toast is a strong one, and escaping downstairs means the little ones have enough distractions to occupy themselves so that we can get used to being awake.
After dropping Olivia at nursery for the day, there was only Chloe to entertain, but with the wife taking her shopping, it meant that I could actually take a little time to use the steam room at the gym, something I had been wanting to do for a while.
I have been missing the gym recently, due to some sort of chest infection, on top of the fact that I somehow seem to have injured my heel, preventing me from running or doing a great deal of cardio. I usually get to the gym in the evening when I have the time, after the girls are in bed. I don’t like missing out on bed time and reading stories unless I have to, which means my gym session is often ending just before the gym closes, so there is no time for the luxury of the steam room or sauna. Today I thought I’d give it a blast, and see if the steam room could help clear up my chest a bit, on top of its other reported benefits.
With only one car between us, I was dropped up to the gym when the wife left for the shops, but had to make my own way back. Halfway, I paused along the bridge over the motorway to grab this shot. I had toplay with a few settings to get some motion blur in the traffic to give it a sense of movement, easy to do at night time with longer shutter speeds, but not so easy in the day time.
I found a little time in the afternoon to start sorting out the garage, it has been on the agenda for a while, and whilst I didn’t have quite the impact I wanted, I did make a start and have a few ideas on how to maximise the minimal space we have available. The six week holidays sound like a great opportunity to do so many things, when in reality they are gone in a flash, and some serious planning and time management is required if you want to get done half of the things that you expect to. Its no secret that I have spent a portion of the last few blog posts whinging about the weather, but its so annoying when all you want to do it get outdoors and it can’t go a single day without absolutely throwing it down! Yes, I know I can’t complain, I’m aware that most people don’t get that much time off in one go, but when you are used to it, you get used to saving jobs for then, and making plans to see people, go places and entertain the kids.
As the day draws to a close I can grab myself a beer, catch up on the blog and… wait, whats this? The wife has put Celebrity Big Brother on the TV?!? Oh man, I really don’t want to watch this, its truly painful… but who are these people?? Its the kind of show that the wife loves, but that makes me want to put the TV on eBay! I am sat with the TV straight across from me and I am trying not to look, but I am totally dismayed at what counts as “being a celebrity” these days, and my eyes keep being drawn back to the joke that is modern entertainment! So far half of the people who have walked in to the house were absolute nobodys who have had a vague appearance on a reality show, and are now being classed as a celebrity in order to appear on a celebrity reality show! It must get pretty awkward when all these so-called “celebrities” meet and look at each other, wondering who everyone else in the room actually is, because the truth is… none of them are famous enough to be called celebrities!!
At least I have the internet!
After half a day of showers, then sunshine, showers, then sunshine, I headed off out with to meet a friend and his little girl so we could take them both swimming. One of the many benefits of Olivia attending nursery has been her social development and in particular, her making a best friend, who she has seen outside of the nursery setting several times now.
I like to get the children away from any tv’s and electrical devices wherever I can, and so swimming seemed like the perfect option as I haven’t taken the girls for a couple of weeks. It was just Olivia and myself today, as going at lunchtime meant that Chloe would be down for her usual 2 hour midday nap.
The girls had great fun in the water, and great catching up with the other dad too. Olivia has come on leaps and bounds with her confidence in the water and her attempts at swimming. We’re going to have to get booked up for swimming lessons soon!
Once back home, after stopping off at the shop for some chocolates “because I did good swimming today, daddy!” there was a break in the rain, where the sun came out and dried everything up for a while, leaving enough time for me to enjoy the new garden furniture, which I haven’t had much chance to do so far. I think I will be appreciating it more during the evenings, with a beer after the girls are in bed. Hence the need to go shopping for a chiminea for those cooler autumn nights, so we can stretch out the length of time we can use it for! All the fire wood I collected the other day will finally come to some good use rather than me just lighting fires in the garden!
Having this feature put in has definitely made the garden feel significantly bigger. The girls seem to love it too, and with my new Anker bluetooth speaker giving us some tunes right at the very top of the garden, I think we’ll enjoy having a few friends over to enjoy it with us!
Well here we are, a week into the summer holidays, and after weeks of sunshine and dry weather, all we want now is some warm and dry weather to be able to head out and do nice things with the kids during the day. The weather today is grim and the forecast is for more of the same to come.
In the morning we were booked in to see Olivia’s key worker at nursery, for their equivalent of parents evening… which is now a parents morning to make it easier for parents who finish late during the week. Usually it is down to me to head down, as the wife is not entirely convinced that these meetings are essential while the children are so young, but I always enjoy going and chatting to the staff about Olivia’s progress all the same. This week I was busy sorting things out in the garden, and so Clare took Olivia and went to the meeting herself.
After a tip run to clear out the garden, it was another quiet afternoon at home. The heavens opened and no-one wanted to go anywhere anyway. Our plan to visit the in-laws was disrupted because of germs, it wouldn’t be fair of us to spread them around, so with nothing else planned, it was time to find a way to entertain the girls before bathtime and finally a takeaway once they were in bed.
A surprisingly warm day to kick the six weeks holiday off with. After walking Olivia up to nursery the rest of the day was a little unplanned, something I didn’t want to be happening for the rest of the holidays, we need to sit down and start planning a few activities, days out and visits to see family & friends. There is plenty we can do, although I don’t want to fill every day up. We need days at home to rest and relax, they are just as important, providing that we’re getting out and doing things on our list.
I needed to pop back into work to collect something I’d left there, and also needed to visit one of my sisters to drop something off as well. As the wife was out doing the food shopping, I took the motorbike and felt like I’d nearly cooked myself, all wrapped up in protective clothing in the sunshine! It’s nice that in the middle of the day during the holidays, the roads are so quiet. I am definitely beginning to feel the restrictions of a 125cc motorbike now, and cannot wait to get my theory test out of the way next week, then I am one step closer to taking my full test and upgrading the motorbike to something with a bit more poke. I am not wanting to pull wheelies, or race cars along dual carriageways, or anything like that, but part of the bonus of being on two wheels is being able to do things like jump to the front of a queue and pull away when you need to, rather than the car behind you trying to squeeze past because you’re just not accelerating fast enough.
With the girls in bed, it wasn’t long before the wife headed up and I was left alone downstairs, so I figured I would treat myself to a little drink to being on holiday, and although I hadn’t ticked much off the to-do list today, I am confident we’ll get plenty done over the next few weeks. Just need to get a bit more practised in getting to bed early now!
This is it, the summer term is finally over, the last day in work is finished and I can go home to six glorious weeks with my girls!
I will now get to spend, not just most days, but the whole six weeks with them, after a text message from my friend which informed me that they no longer needed me to look after their son any more, rather than the flexible arrangement we had previously, they needed the support to be more regular and with more help during the week rather than just at the weekend, which I could never have offered because of the hours I work and getting the girls to bed. I’ve been doing this for over two years now, and it has been nice to help friends out, especially as their needs were quite specific and it was an area I happened to have experience in, but I’m glad I can have more time at home with my own family now.
So as I arrive home with the sun shining, what better way to spend the afternoon than head straight back out to the park. Everyone is just sat around glued to the tv, yawning and stretching, so lets go and get some fresh air in our lungs and wake ourselves up! Clare decides to stay at home to prepare dinner and tidy stuff, so I strap the girls into the car and head down to my favourite local park and nature spot, Warley Woods. What better way to spend the afternoon than working up an appetite in time for dinner.
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!
It’s the wife’s birthday, and we didn’t get long to see her in the morning as she was off out to meet friends for breakfast/brunch. Now they no longer work together she doesn’t get to see them very often, so we couldn’t complain, it’s her birthday after all. There was time for cards and presents, obviously, but once she was gone, the rush to do things was off, so me and the girls took the morning slowly and we were in no hurry to get ourselves dressed.
The house needed tidying and cleaning, but when you are trying to watch and entertain two small children, its not quite as easy as that. There is only so much you can do, as it’s either one thing or the other. We’d got family coming over for a BBQ and there was a list of chores, but nothing that would take too long, at least nothing that couldn’t wait until the wife was back to watch the girls while got on with things.
Again, as like yesterday, the sun came out and surprised us, and the day really warmed up. It was perfect BBQ weather. The family eventually turned up and we had a lovely afternoon, the girls had a great time playing with everyone in the garden. It was good to see my mom and both my sisters and have time to talk to them. I just wish we could do it more often. Olivia found a new friend in her older cousin, who is usually busy, but thankfully had some time off work and was able to make it.
The important thing was, that the birthday girl herself, my wife, enjoyed her day. She does so much, and we’re thankful for everything.