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Day 191 – It won’t always go to plan

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Day 191 – Sep 24th

What better way is there to start a sunny Sunday morning in September than with a trip to the farm for a birthday party? Well for many there was the excitement of the Birmingham Velo, which I was a bit gutted to be missing out on, but there is always next year for that. The Velo was passing close by our house, walking distance, but I didn’t have time to go and watch it as we needed to jump on the motorway to get to the farm.

The girls had a great time at the farm, there was horse riding, animal feeding, tractor rides, party food, small animals to stroke, ferrets to walk… and the weather was glorious to top it off. 

As we weren’t too far from my moms house, we decided to stop in on the way back, as they love to see the girls, and we hadn’t made it over last weekend. It wasn’t exactly a hectic day, and from here it should have been quite simple, head home, get dinner for girls and put them to bed… that wasn’t quite what happened though. I’d planned the morning, getting to the party making sure to miss the Velo road closures, but I’d not even given it a thought for the journey home, and some of the major roads were still closed off. 

Due to my lack of planning for our journey home, we got stuck in some horrendous traffic trying to get across the Hagley Rd, which we had to do to get home. The side roads were backed up and hundreds of cars were queuing to find a way across, and then desperately trying to turn around only to find out that they’d been blocked in bya long line of other cars queuing behind them also desperately trying to find a way home!

It became quickly obvious that even if a route home was avail able, there was too many cars to fight with, we were spending more time stationary in queues than anything else, and the girls were sat in the back of the car getting hungry.

There was only one simple decision to make, abort mission! Turn around, stop fighting the traffic, and go find somewhere to eat. Tonight, it was a table for four, and we weren’t going to be cooking after all, so the least we could do was to relax and enjoy the opportunity, and we did exactly that. Pizza Express had us sat down and fed in no time, and by the time we had finished, all the roads had been reopened and the traffic had gone! 

What a way to finish a day! 

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Day 188 – How do other parents do it?

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Day 188 – Sep 21st

Tonight was a big event for us, the first open evening of a potential new school for Olivia for when she starts this September. We have finally had to start looking into schools as we need to have registered our choices by christmas, and so finally we have to admit that our little girl is growing up fast. School is the next big stage in her life, the point where we have to let go and watch her fly. Its going to be an emotional time. 

We still have at least one more school to check, and it’s tough working out which is the right one, this is going to massively affect their lives, who they become, what friends they make, maybe even what they want to become one day. 

Still, once that decision is made there’s the realistic prospect that we have literally no idea how we’re going to do the school run every day. When both me and the wife were growing up our mothers used to stay at home, and they’d walk us to and from school each day, and be there if we had to take a day off sick. It seemed normal. 

Modern life is quite different to this, both parents quite often work full time and usually develop a lifestyle that makes it hard for one of the parents to give up work. Grandparents have become heavily relied on in recent years, doing a lot of the childcare for small children while the parents work, and I’d imagine that a lot of them are doing the school run too. 

Realistically our only hope is breakfast and after school clubs to provide that wraparound care making drop off and pick up just a little bit easier. My job working in a school is totally inflexible, I can’t go in late or leave early, as that’s just not how it works, and the wife will also be working in a 9-5 environment when she finally goes back to work.

How do other parents cope??

Day 185 – The day I forgot

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Day 185 – Sep 18th

Okay, I am human, I completely and utterly forgot to pick up my camera today! Can you blame me after taking around 1000 shots yesterday??

For day 185 we’ll have to make do with a photo that is essentially a day late. The wife doesn’t think it should count and said I should have no photo for that day, like there are some unwritten rules somewhere. I disagree, this is my project and therefore I make the rules, so if a photo a day late is to be included then I am happy with that. This one is a bit of an abstract shot, so as to not represent a significant event on a particular day. I still like it!

One a journal note, I hate rain! Sometimes it sucks not having a car to take to work, traffic drives me mental, but at least you don’t get soaked through to the skin like you do on two wheels!! Grr!

Come on Autumn, don’t you let us down now… summer was an absolute wash out, and we need a bit of sunshine to cheer us up!

Day 161 – Make hay while the sun shines

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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 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 150 – How can two children be so different?

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Day 150 – Aug 14th

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!

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 139 – there isn’t room to swing a cat in here

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Day 139 – Aug 3rd

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?

Day 137 – The devil finds TV for idle viewing

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Day 137 – Aug 1st

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!

Day 136 – Finding time to relax is just as important as chores

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Day 136 – Jul 31st

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!

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