It’s the Grand Vacances!

Our first summer in France and also, because DD is at the maternelle rather than at nursery, our first year without any childcare all summer meaning we have a full 8 weeks to occupy DD. Eight whole weeks? Yikes! It’s exciting yes, but daunting too. I doubt I’d be nearly so daunted if we were still at our old place near Manchester. There was sooooo much to do there. We were close to so many places running child-friendly activities – whether they were small business, community run projects – and of course I also had all my friends around me, many of whom had children of a similar age and would also be swashing around at a loose end for the entirety of the summer holiday.

There’s plenty to do here you could say and you’d be right but we’re on a tight budget now and many of the places to visit –  castles, animal parks, and the like – are aimed at tourists and are expensive – which makes them out of reach except for maybe one or two days of the holiday. There’s plenty to do outdoors here, yes: the usual, walking, cycling, etc. plus water sports, etc. But my children are 3.5 and 1.5 years old. They can’t do the same things. They don’t have any sense when it comes to being in the sun. They can’t swim. Or ride bikes. They prefer to run in opposite directions, especially where water’s involved. They play together, just, but not for long. More often than not there’s screaming, given that the DD is at an age where she’s starting to create things that are meaningful, develop stories, be interested in projects, while the younger one is now totally mobile and is happiest when taking things apart and chucking them either down the stairs or over his shoulder. You can see how these two interests aren’t mutually compatible.

And there’s no backup. The grandparents are staying firmly put in the UK this summer. We don’t have any visitors, as we hadn’t moved into a proper rental house when people were starting to make summer holiday plans. So no friends are visiting, which is a shame. I was thinking to go back to the UK for a week (or more) but it’s high season so prices are high and after last time (I went on my own with the two smalls) the idea of it made me want to lie down! which means I’ve decided to put that off until later in the year.

What, then, is the plan? I need one, so I asked my friends on Facebook for tips on surviving the summer and got a few good suggestions including:

  • divide the day into three segments – morning, lunch, afternoon – and have an activity for each
  • make sure you get out the house every day (amen to that one!)
  • plan activities like messy play, crafts, etc.

And a few not so helpful ones, like:

  • Enjoy them, they’re only young for a short time.

Yeah, yeah. Something to remember when DS has just destroyed the train track that DD has spent the last 20 minutes constructing and they’re locked into a scream-in-your-face battle. Practical advice this is not!

Feeling at a loss I made a timetable and printed it out – thinking I could work with that three blocks every day thing.  It looked like this. When I started splitting the columns into three it became a tangled mess of boxes – all empty. I was starting to panic just looking at it.

2017 Summer Holiday Calendar

The blank and rather daunting calendar page

I tried to allocate activities to days with the day-into-thirds rule in mind but kept coming back to the fact that planning anything with a one-year-old and a three-year-old is as good as impossible, especially weeks in advance. The idea of having a timetable was itself stressing me out. The whole idea of having a holiday is to relax and not be rushing around or overcommitting to things. Plus it’s impossible to buy anything you actually need in France, so that ruled out pretty much any activity that needed supplies. Pinterest-inspired mummy I am not! So the calendar had to go.

Still on the search and a bit anxious about the long weeks ahead I took another friend’s advice and did some mummying homework (which also gave me the opportunity to reunite with Kindle), quickly reading these two books:

Both those reads helped to put me at ease. With those principles in mind I could handle it, for sure!

This all means that as far as holiday planning goes, the plan is to play it by ear depending on how well we’ve all slept, what sort of mood we’re all in (not always sleep dependent!) and the weather, of course.

My loose “schedule” – which is really just a bunch of things we might want to do – looks like this.

holiday planning page

My Holiday Planning Bullet Journal Page

New ideas are popping up all the time so it’s already grown since I took this pic. And the calendar is being used as a log of things we actually did so we can look back at the end of the holiday and think, “Wow! Look all the fun things we did!”

Holidays, here we come!!


Note: This post contains affiliate links. These are to books I’ve read that I recommend. I hope you don’t mind me including them. 

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What’s in these boxes anyway?

Here’s the final installment of our move: day 5, when the boxes arrived from the UK. We’ve been here a month now – actually, exactly one month tomorrow! We’ve not found a new permanent home yet but we are making new friends, loving the sunshine, and settling into a new way of life. More on that another day. So far, so good.

*****

Have we put our watches forward or not? On Day 5, the last day to be dominated by moving-related activities, that was the million dollar question. With Matthew James delivering our stuff sometime between 8am and 9am and “a lot to do before then” (James’s words) we were in for another early start; 6.45am, as it turned out all our clocks were already on French time. I thought it was unusually dark for 7.45am. Oh well, what’s another hour of sleep anyway?

At around 8.50am we got a call. The lorry had arrived – great – but we had gone over the space we were quoted, 10 cubic metres instead of 7, so had to make an extra payment before they would deliver our stuff. Fine, I guess. When all your worldly goods are within a mile of your home and that’s the only way to get them back, what can you do?! It wasn’t so easy to sort out though. The gite still had no Internet, so we couldn’t look the number up online to give their office a call. The paperwork they’d given us on collection only gave their web address and e-mail, no phone number, so we were in a bit of a fix. Bullet Journal to the rescue, as I’d noted the phone number down when calling a couple of months earlier, so was able to find the contact number and call to get it all figured out. But then, how to send the payment without access to online banking? I needed to check my account balances, maybe move some money between accounts, and then set up the new payment, but before that I needed a phone number for the bank that I could call from outside the UK, and how on earth was I supposed to find that without going online!? Luckily my phone had some credit so I cautiously enabled data roaming. The banking app worked a treat and the call us button dialled without issue, despite being an 0300 numer. Phew. A few security checks later, it was all sorted. After a quick call to Matthew James to confirm, the lorry was on the way up to us and James was on his way to the meeting point with the Passat, which we were using as a shuttle vehicle between the lorry and the gite.

As with the collection, the guys that turned up were incredibly helpful, polite and professional, even if some of the boxes had been a little trashed in transit. It didn’t take long for everything to be unpacked and stored away in the upstairs room. Marvellous! Bringing everything into this small space, it really does seem that we have alot of stuff but when I think of the amount of stuff we didn’t bring, it is pretty much essentials or too-expensive-to-replace items only. Still, we had some rearranging to do before we could get our beds set up and straighten our living space out a bit and we decided that was for another day as we needed to go out and pick up some supplies. We were still living off the cash we’d withdrawn on the Friday, due to the card cancelling fiasco, so needed to be cautious about spending, which meant simple meals and quiet days knocking around the gite. After so much activity over the last few days and months that was just what we needed though, so after the shops we headed back for a late lunch and a lazy afternoon. Time to bond and regroup.

Back on the Bullet Journal trail

This week’s been a slow one and we haven’t made much progress with the decluttering or packing. My excuse? Baby #2 is having a Wonder Week! Yes, my usually chilled, easy-going boy has been Mr. Unhappy for a good number of days now but according the app there are only three days left to go (assuming he’s a text book WonderWeeker, of course.)

But it hasn’t been totally wasted. A discussion on the Natural Mamas forum I frequent prompted me to look at bit more closely at my Bullet Journal so I’ve made the most of my sitting about cuddling and jiggling time by doing some BuJo homework and getting inspired. There are some great resources out there, starting with bulletjournal.com, the source of all things Bullet Journal. If you’ve no idea what bullet journaling is, this is a great place to start. Watch the video, as I did, and see whether it grabs you. If you think you like the look of it, check these sites out for inspiration: Boho Berry, Hello Brio, and Tiny Ray of Sunshine. They’re all WordPress blog sites so you can Follow them, if you like what you see.

As far as my bullet journal goes I’ve been using a very simple layout and basic key for about a year now and it has proven it’s worth to me many times. I’m a list-maker by nature and also have bit of a stationery fetish, so it sits very well with my personal style. I find that writing things down makes things real and makes them more likely to be remembered or, in the case of making a plan, makes things more likely to happen. I only reluctantly gave up my Filofax two smart phone ago, resisting the technological push for as long as I could, but then found that digital organisation is confusing! I like to be able to flick through my diary or to-do list and see what’s what. Pages on a screen weren’t working for me and I was starting to feel disorganised. I would say my love affair with the bullet journal was instant. I recently rediscovered it’s power when I needed to find an e-mail address from someone we met on holiday over two years ago. Thanks to the BoJo indexing system I was able to find it in a matter of minutes! With digital notes, calendars, etc. spread all over I suspect I’d never have found it (adding it to my address book at the time would have been too obvious :-))

On this journey into Bullet Journaling I’ve been reminded that, not only do I love to write things down, I also love to doodle! I was a prolific doodler while studying; idly drawing patterns and pictures alongside notes during lectures helped me to remember things and also helped me to stay awake and present through some of the drier subject areas – and I studied philosophy, so there were many of those! On the back of the last few days’ research I now have a quarterly goals page, a blog ideas page, a tracker page (for recording how often in the month I achieve tasks related to my goals) – all blatantly copied from the websites I recommended above. Next up I plan to do a well-being wheel, which is an idea I got from the discusison on the Natural Mamas forum. All this planning is really good for me as, with so much going on, there are times it feels like we’re hurtling towards and unknowable end, focusing on the big picture, making it easy to lose sight of the closer to home and the day-today. Throw children into the mix and it’s no surprise to me that I haven’t really thought about much other than moving and sleeping for the best part of the last six months. That needs to change as we need to do better at things like budgeting and meal planning, and it’s important to me that I reach my fitness goals, get some head space, spend quality time with DD, and have the time to develop a new business, so we can continue to live our new life once the money runs out! I’ll share my wheel once I’ve finished it. For now I’m using the basic categories and, unpopulated, it looks like this:

IMG_2686

I clearly have a way to go if my BuJo efforts are every to be as beautiful as many others I’ve seen online, but it’s functional. Now to find my colouring pencils which, if DD hasn’t hidden, lost or broken them, have probably been packed. Hmm.

[I thought I’d add  a picture for a change. What do you think? More pictures?]