Owen’s Fifth Birthday

Today was Owen’s fifth birthday. For once the boys actually gave us a bit of a lie in. Just before 7:00 we heard shouts of “it’s my birthday”, “I’m five” and “wake up Henry, it’s my birthday”. To say Owen was excited would be an understatement! Owen was a lucky boy and had lots of presents, the Lego being a firm favourite yet again (in the photo above he is using the Lego iPad app for instructions) and he spent the morning playing with some of his new toys.

Unlike last year, we were able to have a few of Owen’s friends round for a small party in the garden. There were four of Owen’s friends and a little sister who is friends with Henry, so it was good to watch them all playing together nicely. As it was the last day of the school holidays they were probably all pleased to see each other again. Jen had made another amazing birthday cake, this year with a Mario Kart theme.

After the party it was nice to hang out at home with the boys Nanny and Grandad. All the excitement had tired Henry out, so whilst he had a nap and Owen played trainsets with his Grandad I managed to see to a few jobs in the garden. With all the excitement, the boys ended up having a busy day, so I think Owen will be going back to school for a rest tomorrow, before birthday part two, with Grandma and Grandpa tomorrow!

RIP iPhone 7

My trusty iPhone 7 took a tumble onto the pavement whilst I was working on my van, and the screen shattered. I was already planning to replace it this year, so it was not the end of the world, but it was a sad end for what must be the best piece of technology I have ever purchased.

Since the iPhone 3G I had bought each major new iPhone on launch day – 3G, 4, 5, 6 and 7. To me, the iPhone 7 was the sweet spot, a good-sized screen, with TouchID and the build quality was a big step up from the iPhone 6. I was so happy with my iPhone 7 that after 2 years of ownership, I did not feel the need to upgrade to the iPhone XS, nor did I feel the need to upgrade to the iPhone 11 after 3 years – my phone had been fitted with a new battery and had a new lease of life. When the iPhone 12, in particular, the 12 Mini came out, I was swayed, but I had plans to buy a new Mac and did not want to buy both within the space of a few months. In any case, the iPhone was still working well, so I decided to stick with it for a fifth year.

Seeing as this is the longest I have kept a phone, I am pretty sure that it must also be the camera I have used the most. I had my Canon 5D for ten years, but I know I have taken many more photos on the device that is always in my pocket. Therefore I thought I would share some of my favourite photos taken on my iPhone 7.

Owen was only a few months old when I bought the iPhone 7, this was taken shortly afterwards on our first trip away as a family of three, and became my phone screen background.

Taking two months of parental leave before Owen’s first birthday provided lots of selfie opportunities. I especially liked the three generations one.

When Henry was born, the first photos of him were taken on my iPhone 7. I had bought my Fuji X-T2 by this point, but when wrangling a small baby an iPhone is much easier.

The first roof down drive in the MR2 was an important milestone for both the boys, so of course I had to take selfies!

Whilst on the subject of my MR2 Roadster this is my favourite picture of it taken on the iPhone 7.

Now that the boys are a bit bigger we can go on bike adventures – some of my favourite times with the boys. I am sure that there will be long lasting memories from these trips, but in case not, my trusty iPhone was in my pocket to capture it all.

Holidays are usually “big camera” time, but when you’re in a ball pit or having a van picnic the iPhone is less cumbersome.

This story has a happy ending as I bought an iPhone 12 Mini to replace it – the camera is a big step up, especially with portrait mode. So I am looking forward to more photos as the boys grow up, and we go on more bike adventures and hopefully on holidays!

HKT Winter Defiance Handbook

Five months of challenges to stay motivated, inspire others, have some fun and f*ck winter

Over the lockdown in 2020 I started listening to the HKT Podcast and really enjoyed the mountain bike chat, with a side helping of current affairs. Davi, the host, predicted that this past winter was going to be rubbish for a lot of people, with potential lockdowns on top of the usual winter weather – he was not wrong! So on World Mental Health Day he released a list of 250 challenges, to give the “podcast family” something to focus on over winter and keep them motivated. This sounded like a great idea to me, so I downloaded it as soon as it was available.

The challenges were split into the following groups:

  • Riding challenges (50) – I must admit that I took a look at the list of tricks and feats of endurance and thought “no chance”. However, without specifically trying, as I thought it was way out of reach, I did manage to complete the “ride 100 miles in November” challenge. The only other riding challenge I completed was to “organise a ride with an old friend” – Partho and I rode at Cannock Chase the day after the challenge started. I have known Partho for twenty years, so he must count as an old friend! We both also rode with Ali for my birthday and I have known him for even longer!
  • Fitness challenges (50) – again, I was not so keen on these, but thought that some of the smaller push up challenges would be doable – I made 10, but struggled to get to 25 although I did not do enough practice. I had also intended to dig out my trainers and go for a run to check off some of the shorter running goals, but with limited free time, the bike always won out.
  • Random challenges (50) – there were all sorts of challenges, from litter picking to writing a poem and even getting a tattoo! The challenge to “bake a cake from scratch” prompted me to bake Jen a carrot cake for her birthday – Jen makes the best cakes, so I felt pressure to deliver! The cake was a success, not as good as one of Jen’s, but definitely edible.
  • Podcasts to listen to (25) – I am a newcomer to podcasts, so liked the idea of recommendations for others to check out. I enjoyed the few that I listened to from the list, and have more saved for future listening, whilst working on bike in the garage or driving my van.
  • Books to read (25) – the only books I seem to read are bedtime stories to the boys! I started reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield Amazon affiliate link but have not finished it yet. I really should as there is a podcast episode to go with it.
  • Movie night (50, spilt between action sports and mainstream movies) – this was the group where I was able to tick off the most challenges, often helped by the boys. Even with Despicable Me 1, 2 and 3 being one challenge I could have ticked that off multiple times, as the boys, especially Henry love the minions. I watched a few films with Jen and also some new riding films, from which I added my favourite music from the soundtrack to my MTB music playlist on Apple Music.

The challenge I am proudest of is “spend fifty hours learning a language”, I chose PHP, and specifically the Laravel framework. I doubt a programming language was the idea of this challenge, but the real goal was taking the time to learn a complex subject. A decent chunk of the fifty hours was spent making a web application, running on my Mac through Docker, to track my progress on the challenges. I find that I learn best when I am working on a project and an updatable list of challenges seemed like an ideal project to learn on.

In the end I found that I had not completed as many challenges as I would have hoped – only 15 out of the 250, but although the challenge has officially finished, I will still refer back to the lists of moves/podcasts/books when I am looking for inspiration for something to watch/listen to/read. The main thing though was that it gave me something to focus on over the winter, other than work or homeschooling.

Henry’s Second Birthday

Yesterday was Henry’s second birthday! He seemed to enjoy his day being the centre of attention and all the minions themed goodies we had set up for him, including a life sized minion balloon. As you can see above, the bubble machine was also went down well! It feels a lot longer than a year ago that we were able to have loads of visitors at home for his first birthday party! This year was a much quieter affair – other than a few door step visits, it was just his Nanny and Granddad (our childcare bubble) who were able to come for Sunday Lunch, and the amazing Minion cake that Jen made.

Looking back at my post about Henry’s first birthday I noted how his language was behind Owen’s at that age, and it has not really improved, he is gaining a few words a week, but is nowhere near as chatty as Owen was aged 2. Maybe because he cannot get a word in edgeways with Owen about. Last year I said that Henry was probably cheekier than Owen, and that has not changed, he always has a cheeky look about him, however he is very kind hearted, always wanting to help. Hopefully this will continue through the “terrible twos”! He also likes his routines, for example he knows that we use the “pho” (phone) in my pocket to FaceTime my Mum before bedtime – so at dinner he will pat my pocket and say “pho Mama”. Then when we are speaking to my mum, he asks for “Baba”, his name for Grandpa. He really loves both sets of grandparents, his face lights up whenever he sees them, especially face to face and we cannot go past a black Range Rover Evoque without him saying “Baba car” or “Nana car” at every red hatchback.

Over the last few weeks, Henry has really started to get the hang of riding a balance bike and is starting to look like a proper little mountain biker. I decided that his second birthday was as good a time as any to take his Strider off the rocking base it has been attached to – the first thing he did in the morning was to sit on the bike. In the afternoon, when our guests had gone, I took Henry out for a ride round the garden, which soon turned into along the lane behind our house, then round the block. At each opportunity to turn around, I would ask Henry if he wanted to go home, but he would shake his head and point further down the road, until we got to the “Baba car” at the end of our road. Once I had eventually got him pointing back towards home, it was only right at the end that he dropped the bike and put his arms up for a carry. I think his ride was 750m, but given that was ten times as far as his previous longest ride (last weekend) I think that was really good going! Looking back, Henry was a bit later getting started on his balance bike than Owen, but I think he has already surpassed Owen on his second birthday. I cannot wait to get him onto the balance bike track when Ready Steady Riders are allowed to start running their balance bike sessions again.

It is mad to think that the baby of the family is no longer a baby. With Owen back at school I am really looking forward to “Daddy and Henry Fridays”, especially once we can venture out in the van or MR2, as we have not had the same opportunity to spent time just the two of us as I had with Owen.

Snowy Sunday

2021 has got off to a quiet start. England is under lockdown, so we’ve just been in an endless loop of working from home combined with homeschooling for Owen, with just the odd bike ride to break the monotony. Therefore it was exciting to wake up to snow this morning! Snow continued to fall during breakfast (homemade sausage and egg muffins). By the time we were dressed and ready to head outside there was a decent covering in the garden. Henry rushed outside and was straight on to his trike – he has definitely caught the cycling bug!

After throwing some snowballs, Jen, Owen and I set about building a snowman – by far the biggest we’ve managed to build in our garden. We all had great fun messing about in the snow. Sensible Dad Lewis then decided it was a good idea to clear the drive and path to the garage.

By this time the boys were getting cold, so I grabbed the Orange Four from the garage and went for a ride! Traction was surprisingly good on the fresh snow, even on the road. Under the snow, the trails were still muddy though, so it was hard going. I was well wrapped up, with my Buff over my ears, and surprisingly did not feel the cold at all. Thanks to the snow, my bike stayed fairly clean too!

After my ride, we took the boys sledging for the first time. The hill behind the house was not steep enough, but the boys absolutely loved it! After sledging we went back inside to warm up by the fire. Jen cooked a lovely roast dinner, with cookie dough pots for pudding. Now the boys are tucked up in bed after their tiring day and I’m sat by the fire writing this post with a wee dram of whisky.

Remote Learner of the Week

The start of 2021 has been tough, we were expecting restrictions, but not another lockdown. Since the first lockdown Owen has started school, which means that in addition to our own jobs, and looking after the boys, we need to help Owen with his school work.

First off, I must say Owen’s school have been great! Despite the late announcement, and staff self isolating, there was a lesson online for Owen’s class less than twelve hours after we were told that schools would close. The PE teacher has also been using the school’s Twitter account to run a challenge for pupils to log enough exercise for a trip around the globe. It has certainly helped encourage Owen to get out on his bike.

The first week was a case of all of us learning as we went along, but Owen coped well and got settled into his new way of working. Which involves typing on his iPad, or writing/drawing and Jen or I taking a photo of it and uploading for his teacher to mark. However, with Friday being my day off work, I had a bit more time to help, so encouraged Owen to make a film for his maths work – counting the different shapes. He seemed to be a natural in front of the camera, he did not get phased when I asked him a trickier question than he expected, and did it all in the first take! He is a better presenter than I am videographer for sure – more practice needed on my part!

The second week has stated better, as we are better prepared, both with our expectations and resources – Owen now has exercise books to write in and an iPad that plays the videos from school (thanks Grandpa!). Much to Owen’s delight the iPad also works with more games than my old iPad 2, from 2011, which he has been using. I was already proud of how he had been learning, and behaving (most of the time) but then he was recognised in the school newsletter as the “remote learner of the week” for his class! A definite proud Dad moment.

Henry has also been making me proud this week! On Wednesday Jen dropped him off at nursery and for the first time ever, he did not cry! When I collected him, he even needed to be coaxed out – until he saw that I was wearing my bike helmet and worked out that we would be riding home. Then he ran across the playground towards my bike! On the way home he learned to stand on the pegs of the Mac Ride when we go over bumps. This is usually accompanied by Henry saying “bump”, another new word. As important as bike skills are, I am really glad that he has settled in to nursery and enjoys going. The day and half he is there allow us to focus on Owen’s school work and I know how nursery brought Owen on a lot socially. The friends he made at nursery he still considers to be his best friends, and soon that will be Henry too.

Instagram Best Nine 2020

As in previous years (2018 and 2019), I thought it would be interesting to look at each of my best nine performing Instagram posts in a bit more detail. Unfortunately Facebook/Instagram have broken the Worpress embeds for Instagram posts, which is really inconvenient, and partly to blame for the delay to this post.

This was from parental leave with Henry, when we went for a drive in the MR2 together. Henry loved being in the sportscar.

One of the benefits of parental leave was that I could take Owen for midweek mountain bike rides! This was from Owen’s first ride at Hick’s Lodge – somewhere that we loved visiting in 2020. On this trip we only rode the final section of the blue trail – now Owen can ride the whole trail.

At the start of March, Owen’s balance bike club, Ready Steady Riders, took over Adrenaline Alley skate park in Corby. Owen loved it! I had fun too, I took loads of photos on my Fuji X-T2, and it was the first “big” trip in the van. After spending 2007 and 2008 commuting between Kettering and Coventry, it was the first time in two years that I was excited to do that drive.

Another shot from a ride at Hicks Lodge! This was just before lockdown, Owen and I rode our bike, but Jen and Henry also came along for a picnic and walk. I blogged about it at the time.

This photo is from Henry’s first bike ride – sat on his Thule Yepp Mini bike seat Amazon affiliate link on the front of my bike. It was just a short loop from home, but it opened up a whole world of family bike rides. Henry has now grown out of this seat and is on the Mac Ride, which will open up more technical trails.

I did get out on some solo bike rides in 2020! This photo was from a particularly satisfying ride. During lockdown I had given my Orange Four a full strip down and service, this was the first ride back. Working from home in the summer, I really enjoyed going for a short post-work ride on a Thursday evening. A sort of commute/celebration of the end of the week.

I may have been a bit premature celebrating Henry’s first ride on his balance bike, as it has not been repeated since. I am trying to get him out on the balance bike as much as I can. Even at Henry’s current age Owen was not regularly riding his bike, I had to keep trying him on it, and all of a sudden it clicked. Hopefully Henry will get the bug soon and we can go one rides together.

I was slightly surprised to see that my old Vitus Nucleus made the cut for the top nine, but the Orange Clockwork Evo that replaced it did not. I had many adventures on the Vitus, but it has donated most of its parts to its replacement, and the frame is hanging from the garage ceiling to remind me of the 6,256km we shared.

This is really the odd one out – there are no bikes or boys! It was taken on a photowalk in Sutton Park with my best friend Partho. It was a really enjoyable morning, we had breakfast and strolled around the park with our cameras. I need to remember to make time for this sort of thing and hopefully we can do more 2021.

Henry’s Christmas Holiday 2020

At the end each term, Henry’s nursery set him (us) homework, to share a few photographs of what he has been up to over the holiday. Owen also had this homework when he was at nursery, but I did not think to share the photos on my blog. As it is a nice recap, I have decided to start sharing them.

We have formed a childcare bubble with my Mum and Dad, so it was nice to be able to get out for a walk around Coundon Park with Jen’s parents between Christmas and New Year. The boys loved seeing their Nanny and Granddad. I had never really explored the park further than the playground and it was good to see the Peace Orchard and Coundon Wood. We will likely head back in future.

Another walk in the woods! We did a lot of this in 2020. Of course, Henry loves the puddles! Another, less photogenic, time, he managed to fall in to this puddle. Then Owen’s welly got stuck in the mud and he stepped into the puddle in just his sock. That walk got abandoned quickly…

On New Years Day, I decided to fit the Mac Ride to my bike, this is a selfie from Henry’s first ride. He loved it! As he is able to hold the handle bars, and move around a bit, he seems to feel more involved in the ride than on his old seat.

After our ride together, Henry helped to clean my bike. Both the boys seem to love using the Muc-Off spray and brushing the bikes. I even bought Owen a special Muc-Off x Frog Bikes kit for Christmas.

A Productive Weekend

Two of my goals for 2021 are to “get on top of cleaning the cars” and “tidy my garage”. This weekend I decided to start as I mean to go on. So I shuffled the cars around to get the MR2 on to the drive to give it a quick clean – its first since 2019! The main motivation behind this was that my parents had bought me a car cover (Amazon affiliate link) for it for my birthday and I did not want to fit it on to a dirty car. It was also a good chance to use my Worx Hydroshot (Amazon affiliate link) – previously washing cars on the drive meant running a hosepipe from the back garden through the house, leaving both front and back doors open. Which is not ideal in winter, or with a small inquisitive child who like to get outside at any chance. I used a 40 litre flexible bucket to feed the pressure washer, and that was more than enough for a quick wash on the MR2.

Whilst the MR2 was on the drive, I took the opportunity to sweep out the garage and load all of the waste cardboard in to Jen’s Toyota Yaris to take it to the tip. The reason for taking the Yaris is that vans, like mine, are not allowed at the tip. Owen came with me, because he likes watching the heavy machinery there, and with the back seats folded down it was a chance to ride up front with me. It was nice to be out just the two of us in the Yaris, after running our errands we took the long way home, past the Midland Air Museum and Lunt Roman Fort, as Owen’s current interests are Spitfires (none at the museum unfortunately) and Romans.

Along with writing this short blog post, I make that three of my 2021 goals that I have made progress on, before starting back at work for what is going to be a very busy few months…

2021

Happy New Year!

I am going into 2021 with low expectations – hopefully it means I will not be disappointed. We have got a few trips tentatively planned, a rescheduled return to Bluestone in Wales and a visit to our friend’s holiday cottage in Staithes, North Yorkshire. Partho and I also need to plan our return to Coed Y Brenin in Wales. I would like to ride there with Owen too. Closer to home, my parents bought us a family membership to Twycross Zoo, we had one when Owen was Henry’s age and we all loved it, so I am looking forward to returning.

Work is going to be interesting for me, as the project I am working on will finally launch. Our office in Coventry is closing, so I’ll either be working from home or commuting to Milton Keynes – hopefully the former. Fortunately I also have a few projects outside of work to keep me occupied: bike builds, and web apps – which I hope to convert to iOS apps once I have bought at new Mac. I am waiting for Apple to release the workstation class version of their M1 processor, to replace the ten year old iMac I use for editing and software development – so leap in performance will be something to look forward to!

We saw in 2021 the same way we’ve seen in the last few years – quietly at home. Not that we had a choice in the matter. Some of our neighbours decided to let off fireworks in the street – to be fair it was a pretty good display and as the boys sleep at the back of the house they did not get woken up (unlike last year). Given the combination of tier 4 lockdown and rubbish weather, we seized a window of blue sky in the morning to get out for a short family bike ride. I had fitted the Mac Ride to my Clockwork Evo, as Henry is now big enough to graduate from his baby seat. I was unsure of how he would cope on the Mac Ride, so we stuck to a short loop, but he did really well, and seemed more involved in the ride than on his old seat.

As in previous years, I have set myself some goals for the year ahead:

Catch up on blogging

I have loads of posts, either half-finished drafts, or ideas on the kanban board I use to track ideas for this blog, that I need to get published. Following on from last year, I also need to set up the Organize Series plugin, and apply it to my old posts, so I can finally have the structure to series of posts that I have wanted for a number of years.

Publish more of my software work

A lot of the projects that I am working on just reside on virtual machines on my Mac for my own use. I need to set them free! Either getting them on a live server, sharing them on my Github or even just blogging about them. Not only will it push me to give projects that final polish, hopefully it will act as a bit of a portfolio for my software development work.

Take a good wildlife photo

Looking back through my Lightroom catalogue, most of my photos from 2020 were of Owen and Henry. As cute/wild as they are, in 2021 I would like to take a good wildlife photo. Ideally I would like this to be in my local woods, as I regularly see wildlife there, but am usually on my bike, or accompanied by two small children, so the animals do not hang about for long!

Ride 1,000 miles

I usually measure cycling distance in kilometres (it is the rules), but the 1,552km that I rode last year was just short of 1,000 miles, so I will put in the effort to hit the 1,000 mile goal. I have made a start, only about 997 miles to go…

Of course, my annual challenge to ride further than my best friend Partho still stands. He does not appear to have ridden today, so I am already pulling out a slight lead…

Ride somewhere new with Owen

I would like to take Owen for some slightly bigger days on the bike, possibly in Wales. I think he would manage the blue trail at Llandegla or Coed Y Brenin. I have also heard good things about Nant Y Arian’s new blue trail.

Get on top of cleaning the cars

I used to really enjoy cleaning cars, but with three cars and two small children it has become increasingly difficult. Multiple cars need to be moved to get one on the drive, and running a hose to the drive means leaving both front and back doors open which is not ideal with Henry in particular, who likes to escape. I have recently bought myself a Worx Hydroshot (Amazon affiliate link) cordless pressure washer, which will run from a water butt and should mean that I am able to clean cars with the house doors shut.

First on my list is the MR2, it has not had a wash since May 2019, and I have a car cover to put on it, but do not want to do that until it is clean. I plan to get this done by the end of January – after all, there is not much else to do!

Declutter/sell stuff

I have got stacks of stuff that I have been meaning to sell for ages, 2021 needs to be the year that it goes! I also feel like it is going to be an expensive year – I need to buy a new Mac, which will also likely mean buying more back up drives etc, so any extra funds will help!

Tidy my garage

This is a carry over from 2020. The garage has got to a point where it is full of bikes, bike parts and bike boxes – I need to have a sort out! I have got a tip slot booked (in the Yaris, because vans are not allowed) on Sunday, so that should at least allow me to get rid of the bike boxes. Then after I have finished rebuilding Owen’s next bike, I will sort out the workbench and storage areas. I am going to force myself to do this before starting any major jobs on bikes. This year started hanging bikes on the wall, I need to rejig how I have got them arranged, to make it easier to get the bikes in and out.

Get my weight down to 85kg

Another carry over from 2020 (and 2019), but this year I am hoping that I can keep up the momentum from the last 5 months. Jen is on board, and is not going to bake any cakes, as we ate too much cake last year. I also have added motivation as my Dad lost a lot of weight last year and at this rate he will get down to 85kg before I do.

As always, I am sure that more goals will crop up as the year goes on. Hopefully Henry will start to ride his balance bike and to speak more than the odd word. I hope this is not a case of needing to be careful with what I am wishing for. I would like Owen to gain the confidence on his bike to ride up and down kerbs, however he has set his sights slightly higher – he wants to learn to do jumps (and whips) on his bike!