July has felt absolutely non-stop! It’s been jam-packed with end-of-term school activities, soaking up the continuing sunshine and celebrating the start of the summer holidays – the first week of which we have been spending on holiday in Italy on the eastern shore of Lake Maggiore. I’m actually currently sat on the balcony of our lovely villa writing this (though I should really be thinking about packing as we’re heading home early tomorrow morning 🙁 ).
It’s been a bit of a strange month: the end of an era as Ella finished primary school for good after seven years of building friendships; being supported by wonderful teachers and stretching herself through learning. The school put on a fantastic array of events and activities for the Year 6 leavers and everyone cried buckets whilst promising to keep in touch and taking endless photos to remember each other by as they head off to different high schools in September.
There have been so many things to love this month, both big and small, so here are all the little things I’ve been loving lately throughout July…
I love researching holidays almost as much as I love the holiday itself! I always buy a Lonely Planet guidebook for wherever we’re going and I spend hours poring over the pages: figuring out what there is to see and do; planning trips and adventures; and imagining what it’s going to be like when we get there. It’s become a bit of a tradition and I won’t buy any other travel guidebook now as I have a secret little goal of collecting them all (and maybe even writing for them one day)! This Italian Lakes guidebook has been absolutely invaluable during our week here. It’s now full of turned down corners of pages, notes in the margins, under-linings and circling of places to visit and bookmarked sections for potential future trips.
July was so busy with work and school that my brain was fried by the time each evening came around and I simply couldn’t face staring at a screen or thinking too deeply any longer. I deliberately left my laptop switched off and picked up my book instead, finally finishing re-reading all the Harry Potter books in the series and ticking off another item on my ’40 Things Before I’m 40′ list.
Whilst we’ve been in Italy I’ve started ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ by Celeste Ng. I wanted something completely different from Harry Potter and I’d heard good things about this one. I picked it up several weeks ago and have been saving it for our holiday ever since. I’m only a couple of chapters in at the moment and I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far – I love books that start off slowly and really build up the characters. Relaxing on the sofa in the evening watching the sun set over the mountains on the other side of the lake has made it an even more memorable way to read it.
Oh gosh I’ve watched so many school events this month I’ve almost lost track! First up was Lola’s turn at the annual athletics competition that all my girls go in for through their school. She was in the skipping race. Her best friend didn’t get selected to compete but came along to cheer Lola on anyway – they’re pretty much inseparable. Seeing Lola surrounded by her friends, all supporting and encouraging each other and quite literally patting each other on the back was so lovely to see. Something the girls’ school does really well is cultivating a team spirit amongst classmates and it was definitely out in force on this day.
Sports Day, however, ended up being cancelled due to the heatwave the UK has been basking in for the last couple of months, so that was one thing that we DIDN’T get to watch. The school playing field doesn’t have any facilities for this kind of weather unfortunately – no shade, no toilets, no access to water – and so it was called off. Understandable of course, but a real shame as it would have been Ella’s last ever one at primary school.
I went to watch all three girls’ separate class assemblies over the course of a few weeks. Lola’s was all about deserts and mountains as their topic this term has been ‘Extreme Survival’ – she was the leader of an expedition across the Sahara Desert. She remembered all of her lines and said them clearly and confidently with a big smile on her face, her eyes seeking out mine in the audience. Mimi really hates standing up in front of people to speak and always gets super anxious before things like assemblies. She managed to do it though and I was so proud of her. It was actually one of the best class assemblies I’ve ever seen in all my years of parenting – they’d been learning all about leisure and entertainment from the 1950’s to the year 2000 so we were treated to a fabulous array of songs, global events and dance crazes – it was brilliant! And Ella’s leaver’s assembly was just incredibly emotional. The theme was ‘I’m a Year 6 Get Me Out Of Here’ and it was absolutely fantastic! Ella was one of the hosts and she had so many lines to learn – she practised every night in her bedroom for weeks in the lead up to it. At the end the whole class got up and sang ‘This Is Me’ from The Greatest Showman – I tried so hard to keep my tears in check but when I saw one of the boys welling up I couldn’t hold them in any more. Ella spotted me crying and that set her off, and before long the whole class was sobbing their way through the song.
Ella has also been part of a dance group at school for the last year and they, along with the school choir, put on an end-of-year evening performance for the parents. Honestly, it brought tears to my eyes – not just her performance but the show as a whole because everyone involved had worked so hard on it and every single person really lit up with joy as they were performing. They all rehearsed for hours on end, the teachers gave up their time to create costumes and help with practices and it was such a fun evening. There was a really good turnout too with siblings and grandparents all attending, though I did feel quite sad that we live so far away from the girls’ grandparents as it’s something they would all have loved to have watched.
TV-wise the first half of the month was dominated by the World Cup. Truthfully, I couldn’t have cared less about it and simply dived into my book or caught up on work every time there was a match on, but the husband and Mimi are both football obsessed and so it was a big deal to them. We let Mimi stay up late to watch England play Croatia in the World Cup semi-final and she was literally on the edge of her seat the whole time. I didn’t look at the television once – I was too busy capturing her reactions and expressions on camera and have ended up with a little series of photographs of her that I really love.
And finally, as an end of term treat, we took the girls to see High School Musical at our local theatre. It was a Musical Youth Theatre production so the actors were all aged from 8 to 18. The girls are obsessed with all three of the films (and I have to say I’m not complaining about watching Zac Efron a million times over 🙂 ) so when I spotted that it was on I knew that I had to book us some tickets. We all enjoyed it, there was a fair bit of singing along and seeing Ella’s eyes light up at the possibility of being involved in something like that was quite special.
At the start of the month I heard all about Ella’s induction day at the high school she’ll be going to in September. She met her new form tutor and everyone else that is going to be in her tutor group, and took part in four lessons – PE, Chemistry, Maths and IT. She wasn’t bubbling over with excitement about it all, but I’m guessing it must have been a pretty overwhelming day for her. Hopefully by the time her first day comes around she’ll be feeling a bit more positive about it all.
I also heard all about the girls’ recent school trip to Chasewater. They took part in climbing and abseiling, archery, kayaking and sailing activities and absolutely loved it. I always get so nervous when they go on school trips (though of course I try to keep my worries to myself and not pass them on to the girls). It’s really only about the journey to get to the location and back but I still get a horrible knot in my tummy which stays with me all day until they’re safely home. I know they always end up having a lot of fun and I also think that it’s important for them to do it as they grow exponentially in confidence every time they go somewhere different and try something new. Ella was really scared of the climbing wall but she did it and was so proud of herself, and she REALLY loved the sailing. Mimi didn’t want to go at first – she woke up with a tummy ache (which is how her anxiety tends to manifest if there’s something she’s nervous about) but the husband did a brilliant job of talking her round and convincing her to go and I’m so glad she did because she had a great time, particularly enjoying the archery after our recent trip to Warwick Castle, and couldn’t stop talking about it once she got back. Lola loved the kayaking (which surprised me) – it was the first time she’d done anything like that and she seemed to take it all in her stride.
And finally we’ve been hearing a lot of “Buongiorno!” and “Ciao!” whilst we’ve been here in Italy. I love languages and learnt both French and Spanish at school, though I dropped French in Year 9 and opted to take Spanish for GCSE instead as I have family in Spain and used to visit regularly. Italian reminds me of Spanish a lot – the flow of the words, the pace, the intonations – they’re both such beautiful languages and I’d love to pick them up again at some point. It’s been lovely to hear the girls (Ella in particular) having a go at speaking it too – I think it’s important to try and speak the language of places you visit whilst you’re there. She’s got ‘excuse me’ (“mi scusi“), ‘please’ (“per favore“), ‘thank you’ (“grazie“), ‘I’m sorry’ (“mi dispiace“), ‘goodbye’ (“arrivederci“), ‘yes’ (“si“) and ‘no’ (“no“) down already and we’ve only been here for a week.
We made the short plane journey over to northern Italy! It is SUCH a beautiful place and so very different from anything we’ve ever seen before considering that it’s only a two hour flight away from England. Even though the plane journey was relatively speedy, it actually took us all day to get to Lake Maggiore because we flew from Heathrow airport (a two and a half hour drive from where we live) and then after we’d got our luggage and our hire car (that’s a whole other story!) it was another hour and a quarter to drive to where we were staying in the mountains. I don’t mind the travel days too much, though it is tiring for the girls and stressful for the husband (who does ALL the driving, bless him). I just keep telling myself that it’s all part of the adventure.
Since we’ve been here we’ve made lots of memories: swimming in the lake; eating copious amounts of fresh pizza; enjoying multiple gelatos per day; riding in a bucket lift to the top of a mountain; wandering the streets of tiny medieval towns; travelling by ferry; having a peacock for a next door neighbour and watching both stunning sunsets and exciting thunderstorms to name just a few. These are some of my favourite photos so far from our trip:
During the final week of school Ella wore her ‘leavers hoodie’ non-stop (despite the 28 degree heat!). I managed to prise her out of it before we came away on holiday but I’m sure it’ll be back on again once we get home!
And since we’ve been away I’ve been living in shorts, skirts and vest tops – the heat here in Italy is intense. I bought a couple of new things to bring away with me and it’s been lovely having some new clothes to wear as I don’t really buy new things for myself very often. I even wore a dress when we went out to dinner last night, which is pretty much unheard of for me. No photographic evidence I’m afraid as I’m always the one with the camera, but it did happen – I promise! It’s made me realise how stuck in a rut I’ve got with my clothes at home – why I feel braver on holiday I have no idea – and I’m determined to change things up a little when we get home to England. Plus, since turning 35 a couple of months ago I seem to have simply stopped caring about what other people think and just wear what I want to wear and what I feel comfortable in – so much better than feeling self conscious all the time!
Once we’re home we still have five and a half weeks of the summer holidays to enjoy. Some of it will be taken up with preparing for Ella starting high school – we’ve got ALL the new uniform and equipment to buy – as well as doing the annual trip to purchase new school shoes and get haircuts for everyone. But other than that we have very little planned, just a couple of little excursions here and there. I do have a few work days organised too (whilst the girls will go to a summer sports club) and otherwise our calendar is mostly empty.
We’ve not even made a Summer Holiday Bucket List this year – I think the last few months have been so manic and full-on and busy that we all just need some downtime and the opportunity to be spontaneous rather than having a schedule to follow and things that I feel like we have to tick off a list. Lazy mornings, fun afternoons filled with tree climbing and wild swimming and long walks, time together, no demands, eating ice cream, playing in the garden, reading books, lots of sleep and making it all up as we go along is what I’m hoping for, as come September there are going to be a lot of changes and new routines and things that we’ll need to adapt to.
I’m really looking forward to it all – a slow and simple summer is exactly what we all need.
Linking up with Coffee Work Sleep Repeat’s ‘Little Loves’: