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.
Well the weather forecast has lived up to expectations, and even though it was early in the morning, the mercury was already starting to soar! My first job of the day was to get the car over to my mechanics garage, so he could check the battery and car our car starting properly again.
With that checked out, the next job was to drop Clare at the hospital to see her mother, before taking the girls home so Chloe could get a nap before we did something with our, as yet unplanned day. I contacted a few friends about an afternoon in the park with the kids, a couple of them already had plans, and I was about to resort to putting the paddling pool up in the garden under the gazebo for the girls, when my phone pinged with a message from one who hadn’t yet replied, and suggested we join him in his garden for some paddling pool fun with the kids. Game on!
The kids had fun playing together and splashing about, although it wasn’t long before Olivia took herself indoors to explore all the toys! We were in no hurry to leave, especially when another friend arrived with his little girl. Instead, we opened the cider (best drink on a hot day!) and got in some KFC for dinner!
From a day with no plans, it turned out to be a fantastic day, even if I did end up with burnt shoulders,
by simply assuming I wasn’t going to need cream as (I thought) I’d kept out of the sun enough to not really get caught out by it! Apparently not! Still, at least I don’t have the wife’s inherited faulty irish sun-averse genes, and this would eventually calm down and tan! I just hope I’ve passed on a few of my slightly more sun tolerant genes to the girls!
What a day! I am hot and tired, my day at work was going fairly well right up until the end. Working in a special needs school can indeed be a very rewarding job, as many people inform me when I tell them what I do.
The job has many positive points and I enjoy what I do. I’ve been in the job a long time, and know that I can do it well.
As a teaching assistant the hours are good, the weekends are always a nice bonus, and the holidays are a definite perk (if you don’t mind being fleeced when booking flights or holidays!).
Then there are days like today, when pupils tempers flare and they lose it. Having my t-shirt ripped, my iPad smashed, and being physically assaulted in a number of ways, it takes all your patience and training to get through it whilst keeping calm and trying to avoid injury. It can be mentally draining and you head home feeling like a bit of a failure for not being able to prevent this pupils meltdown. When you work with pupils with special needs, especially autism, the day can always be unpredictable, and even when you try your hardest, there are times when you’re just not going to win.
Thankfully these kind of days are rare, and I always have my family to look forward to at the end of the day when I get home. There is nothing better than getting home and being greeted by two smiling faces that are thrilled to see daddy finally pull up on his motorbike and walk through the door. Some days Olivia likes to sit on the petrol tank of the bike, and hold the handlebars as I push the it up the drive and into the garage, and Chloe just gets so excited, and gives the best hugs too, you really feel like she’s missed you!
With the wife heading out after dinner to visit her mother in hospital again, its down to me to get the girls ready for bed, although with the weather being as warm and pleasant as it is, there’s still time for a little play in the garden first! As it approaches bedtime, it soon becomes obvious that Chloe is getting tired, the hugs are a bit more frequent, the dummy is in and her poor lamb is being dragged around behind her wherever she goes! This lamb is becoming more and more valuable as each day passes. We currently have no way of replacing it with an identical one as we didn’t buy it and have no idea where it was purchased from, it isn’t supposed to be put in a washing machine, although it definitely doesn’t quite smell as fresh as it used to, and we’re dreading the day that the realisation dawns on us that we can’t find it anywhere. Still, we must continue to guard it like its made of solid gold or something, for if this thing gets lost, then we will be having fireworks at home!
As the end of my two week break creeps closer, the weekend arrives to what would normally be a cheer, but at best all I can work up for it is a sigh. We’ve had a good run, it has been two weeks of spending time together, and getting out seeing people. There has to be a time to relax at home though, its something I am not very good at remembering, I am all too eager to try and make arrangements to get out and do things or see people. I know Clare is always grateful for a day at home where we can either just relax or get things done around the house that we don’t have time for when we’re out seeing people.
So today was one of those days, and not going anywhere was helped by the fact we didn’t have a car for the morning, due to it being in for an MOT and new brakes. I don’t like or trust the local garages, and have been using the same mechanic for a number of years now. Originally a friend of a friend, and preferable to use as he was a mobile mechanic. It didn’t take me too long to see how efficient, reliable and thorough he is, on top of the fact his prices are impossible to beat. He now owns a workshop, which isn’t exaclty on our doorstep, but is definitely worth the trip to make sure the car is properly looked at. The only problem with this is getting home again when I have to leave it with him. What do other people do? Does everyone just get taxis all the time? Do people just use the closest garage and hope for the best?
I have been ripped off by enough garages now to know how cheap and lazy they are. I’ve had shoddy work done, incorrect parts put on my car, cheap parts used, and personally would be very happy if I never had to use a different garage ever again. Just before christmas we had a problem with the car, where the door handle broke onthe drivers door. We could get in, but not get out again without lowering the window and using the outside handle, not ideal in a crash or emergency, and the wife wanted it fixed urgently. She was right, it needed doing quickly, and my mechanic is often too busy to see us without at least a couple of days notice, so the wife took it to the garage around the corner from where we live. They needed one part, a cable, and said they’d order it and get back in touch. Ten days later we rang them again to be told they still didn’t have it yet and would chase it up. Four weeks had passed without a word, we had heard nothing, and so I called up my mechanic. Not only did he quote us half the price that the garage did, he had it fixed (even though he had to order the same part) in five days, and then informed us about the mess the garage had made of our door when they took the inside off to have a look at it, and how he’d done what he could to sort it out once the handle was fixed. So not only had they tried to fleece us, they failed to order the part, failed to call us back, and made a mess of our door panel. This is why I dislike garages, and then they even had the nerve to send us an MOT reminder in the last couple of weeks, I snorted with derision, and tossed it straight in the bin!
I’d decided for this particular garage visit that I’d be sticking my bike in the back of the car and riding home once I’d dropped the car off. I could just as easily throw the bike back in the car once I’d gone back to pick it up. It was a sunny morning, and I needed the exercise after all!
The sun stayed out all day and so we spent some time in the garden, doing a little gardening, and entertaining the girls. It was a good way to spend a day. Good, honest old school fun, no tv or electronic devices required. Just a bit of fresh air, vitamin D, and exercise. If we can have more days like this in the summer I will be very happy.
One of the things I did in preparation for the wife and I having our first baby was to enrol in some NCT antenatal classes. They weren’t free, but they were worth it, and we came away feel empowered with enough knowledge to prepare us for the minefield ahead, and more importantly we also came away with a whole new friendship group that we have managed to stay in touch with for almost four years now. A really cool bunch of people, along the way we’ve met up for lunches and birthdays, dads nights out, moms coffee mornings, and have been able to not only support each other, but also watch all the children grow up and be able to welcome their new siblings to the group.
It was one such sibling who was celebrating the 2nd birthday today, and the party was a fantastic afternoon out in the sunshine, on what felt like the warmest day of the year so far. The kids had plenty to do, including paddling pools, trampolines, play houses and with plenty of party food and drinks available, it was very enjoyable for the adults too.
It felt like the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon, as a family, in the company of good friends, with the sun warming our skin. With Clare agreeing to drive home, I even took advantage of the warm weather and tucked into a few ciders. Not something I drink very often, but on a hot, sunny afternoon they are unbeatable!
How did everyone else spend their Sunday in the sun?
Sometimes plans don’t always go ahead, I guess telling the people you’re planning to visit in advance gives you a better chance of them being available. This oversight left our Saturday free at the last minute, and with the weather looking good and no other plans I decided to drag the family out to the Wyre Forest for a picnic and a walk around the Gruffalo trail.
I’d been meaning to take the girls for a while after meeting friends there a few months back and finding out about the Gruffalo trail, especially as we’d watched the Gruffalo almost on a daily basis at one point, and read the book countless times.
We were a little late leaving the house, and with the weather being so sunny and pleasant, I fully expected the car park to be full when we got there, and was very thankful that after 45 minutes of driving we arrived to find plenty of spaces still left. With the car locked up, and a quick toilet stop, we grabbed a few ice creams from the cafe before setting off along the trail. Olivia was a trooper and walked the whole way around, while Chloe enjoyed the view from a rucksack style carrier. This carrier was a great little investment, Chloe loves being in it and I just want to make sure it gets plenty of use before she outgrows it, unlike some of the clothing she’s been bought in the last year! It was great to enjoy nature, some fresh air and get some sun on our skin. I can’t wait for Chloe to be a bit more steady on her feet so she can do some walking too!
Let’s be honest here, what has summer actually consisted of? Well, while its true there has been some sunshine, it hasn’t exactly panned out as we’d hoped. In fact those of us who jetted away to far off hot countries are probably feeling fully justified in the money they spent now. Is there anything more annoying than going on holiday, or coming back to a total heatwave and thinking “why did I even bother spending all that money when there was just as much sunshine here?!”, I know just how nice it feels to spend your hard earned money on a week in the sun and then sit smugly on the tarmac as your plane is ready to take off with the wind and rain battering everything. Anyway… we definitely didn’t have a heatwave, a bit of sun, yes, but certainly nothing worth writing home about! At best, if we add all the really nice days together, we probably had about a weeks worth of warm sunny days where we could get the flip flops on, and have a bbq out without fear of needing an umbrella or warm jumper at some point during cooking!
The one thing I did have this summer was six fantastic weeks with my daughter! It has been truly wonderful, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the time I was able to spend with her. We went swimming, did some painting, went walking in the woods, saw the grandparents on both sides, saw friends, cuddled on the sofa watching peppa pig and the gruffalo. Its quality time that you just can’t get back once they have grown up. As anyone with children will tell you, over and over again, they grow up so fast, right in front of your eyes, kind of the opposite of watching it in slow motion! Now our little one has turned two years old, and our plans for celebrating her birthday actually worked out in our favour. The summer has been lousy and miserable, and we have barely seen any sunshine. Grey clouds and rain showers have frequently been the order of the day, and it was looking like September was likely to see very similar weather to what we’d had throughout August. The dilemma then lay in what we were going to do for Olivia’s birthday. Last year we had fantastic weather and enjoyed a wonderful bbq in the garden with our family and close friends. It was something I was very keen to repeat, but the weather just wasn’t giving us any hope.
The family home we have built up around us is a lovely house on a lovely road, with pleasant neighbours and everything we need close by… the one thing we don’t have though, is a huge amount of space inside. It is what it is, we love where we live, and the don’t mind that we don’t have a three car garage or basketball court on the driveway. The one problem it does present though, is when we want to invite lots of family and friends over to celebrate our daughters birthday with us, but are forced to restrict how many we invite in case the miserable british weather we have been forced to endure decides to rain on our celebration and force everyone to head indoors and get awkwardly cosy with each other! We did consider other options, like renting somewhere like a social club or a soft play centre, but in the end decided against it and figured we’d roll the dice and take a chance on the weather… it turns out we got lucky and it paid off!
After a cold and slightly damp start to the day, we were very lucky to have some sunshine and blue sky meaning the bbq could be lit and the kids could play out in the garden with Olivia’s toys. To say I was relieved and overjoyed would be an understatement! Suddenly I was able to relax and enjoy the day without wondering where we were going to seat everyone indoors or what we could find for the kids to do! It was a fantastic day, Olivia loved having so many people round and other children to play with, and so we made sure to only open a couple of her presents so she wasn’t too distracted.
As childrens parties go, it was the usual feast of sausage rolls, chicken nuggets and general food of otherwise little or no nutritional benefit, but this is what kids like and expect at parties, and lets be realistic, its a 2 year olds birthday, I’m not about to go reinventing the childrens party with carrot sticks and falafel! The food was not surprisingly a big hit, leaving us to think that maybe we should have bought more, and its this kind of eating that has been causing us to grow a bit concerned with Olivia’s eating recently, as she seems to be so picky lately, and although she eats fruit, is flatly refusing any normal meals that we put in front of her, especially anything that may be remotely healthy or nutritional. I’ve done a little research and I am aware that there are large numbers of parents who regularly find it difficult when their children won’t eat, but its not always easy to see the bigger picture when you are just focussing on one meal at a time, especially when nursery tell us that she has eaten without any problems each time she is there! So what is the answer? What do you do with a child that doesn’t eat? We’ve tried many different techniques, but there are days when she appears to eat so little that we’re surprised she a) keeps going and b) hasn’t fallen ill. All we can do is step back and look at the bigger picture of what she is eating throughout the week, and not necessarily for that day. We need to try extra hard to fight our protective parenting instincts and not make a big deal about it. We’ve done plenty of online research, checked the forums and the baby websites, and everyone one that has commented online about this pretty much says its just a phase that passes with time, and so we just have to go with that and fight our urge to try and fuss, coax or bribe her, or get annoyed or upset by it. At least she is still having a good breakfast and drinking plenty!
Now September is here, and that means one thing (apart from Olivia’s birthday) that the six week summer holiday is finally over, and I am back into work like I’d never left! Its a sad time, and we start looking forward to colder events like halloween and bonfire night, or dare I say it, christmas! Some might say that its too early to be thinking about the festive season, but for me, I love christmas, so it doesn’t matter and I think that from September onwards its perfectly acceptable to begin discussing it. Then you have to consider the practicalities of thinking about christmas not in terms of weeks or months, but in terms of paydays! If you don’t want all your presents to be coming out of one monthly wage, then start spreading the cost by buying a bit each time you get paid! Makes sense, right? At least this weekend we have a significant distraction as we head back to the hospital for our second scan now that Mrs V is pretty much at 20 weeks. We still have to finish having the discussion about whether or not we discover the sex of the baby. I am thinking that we don’t need to find out, as it won’t change anything, and even if we did start shopping for blue or pink… what if they’re wrong?! Of course, the need for a discussion is based on the fact that Mrs V does not agree with me, and is very keen to find out. The other argument is, if we DO find out, then do we go telling people, or keep it to ourselves? Oh well, I guess this one is TBC!
So what do I do now then? Find out, or push to keep it a surprise?
“A dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it.”
Okay, a delayed Saturday post, but its here! A busy Saturday meant that I didn’t have time to put my photo up until the early hours of the morning, and literally fell asleep in front of the computer, so gave up, switched it off and went to bed!
Saturday started by me feeling a little sluggish after the Friday night curry and beer, so I wasn’t quite as productive first thing, as I needed to be! It was a beautiful day, the weather was gorgeous, as we seem to have been treated to some very sunny weekends in March, so we got out in the garden and tried to take advantage of the weather by doing a spot of gardening, while Olivia got to enjoy the sunshine and the feel of grass underneath her! I had to stop in the afternoon to head out and visit some friends who I have been lucky to capture many photos of, including their wedding, baby bump, newborn and christening photos. Their little girl turns one next week and so I wanted to get a portrait of her for the occasion for them, whilst dropping off some photos from a previous visit. Thankfully she is not a shy baby, and was full of smiles, so I was able to get in and out quickly to head home and clean the house before my sister and her family headed over for dinner. There was nothing to cook as my sister had already prepared food and brought it over with her. It was a lovely few hours, and they didn’t stay late, which gave me a chance to catch up with my mate at the pub for the last hour before it closed.
I didn’t want to post yet another photo of Olivia today, but this one was just too cute to leave out!
“Nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy. Remember that.”
Woke up this morning to a beautiful mist outside and knew straightaway that I needed to try and get it in a photo before it disappeared, partly because it looked lovely, and partly because I knew I’d be out for drinks tonight and so my photo would have to be an early one. There is no leaving in until the last minute today! I also had to head out early to get supplies from the supermarket for the christening buffet tomorrow, so I jumped out of bed, threw myself through the shower, grabbed my wallet and camera and headed for the car. I grabbed this shot at a beautiful, local spot known as Warley woods, even though Warley as a district technically no longer exists. The woods are connected to a park, and together make a gorgeous place to go out for a walk. Several of my shots for this year have been taken there, although its hard to spot which ones unless you’ve been there. After I got the shot, it was straight off to Asda and I grabbed the shopping in record time before it got busy there, I hate supermarkets at the weekend, especially having worked in one for a few years! Once the shopping was dropped off at home, I went to pick up my Mom who was going to help make all the sandwiches with us while Olivia was entertained by her Grandad! My bike has had to go back to the repair shop again for a new back wheel, but I should be able to pick that up in time before I have to go out later with the dads from our antenatal group, two of which I have to go and pick up in a bit so we can all share a taxi into Harborne from mine. I’m missing two things tonight, first is the Neds Atomic Dustbin concert I was looking forward to, a favourite indie band from the 90’s who originated just down the road from here, and secondly was a night out with my friends who have decided to head up north to Chesterfield for my friends birthday, which normally wouldn’t have been a problem, except for the fact that they are all staying over and I wouldn’t be able to get back in time for the christening, even if you didn’t take into consideration the preparation of the room we’ve booked, before we have to head to the church tomorrow.
But for right now… its qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix!
“As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.”
I decided to get up today and get involved in a Body Combat session as I haven’t been running for a few weeks as my tendon is still sore and I have been trying to rest it. My Jujitsu sensei also runs various fitness classes throughout the week and had free passes for todays class, so I figured it would be a good chance to get the heart pumping again! I want to sign up for the Birmingham Half Marathon at some point, having pulled out of the Great North Run, so I need to pick up my training again! We did our weekly food shop as soon as I got back, as we wanted to stock up as soon as we could, just in case the wife’s waters decided to break and we had to dash to the hospital and came home with a new baby to empty kitchen cupboards! After a spot of lunch, we decided to go for a long walk to see if we could encourage junior to make an appearance, and headed out to a local country park, and with the father in law starting to lay the kitchen floor tiles, we needed to stay out of the way for a bit anyway. The wife seemed a lot less uncomfortable walking today than she has done in the last few weeks, which I found quite encouraging, meaning we could walk much further than I’d expected. The weather was beautiful today, warm, sunshine, blue skies and a little bit of cloud. It really had an ‘end of summer’ feel about it, not quite autumn, but clear signs that we’re almost there. Acorns ready to drop on the oak trees, and berries everywhere. It was very tempting to pick some black berries to take home and bake with, but we had nothing to put them in. It was a lovely afternoon. The summer holiday is also almost over for me, i’ll be back to work in a week, but days like today, spending some quality time with the wife have been lovely!