The beginning of July feels like forever ago and yet the month seems to have gone really quickly – how is it the 1st of August already?! We are currently almost at the end of the second week of the six week summer holidays and they are disappearing far too fast for my liking. We’ve packed a LOT into the last few weeks of term without really meaning to, and it’s been a really lovely month overall.
Here are all the little things I’ve been loving lately throughout July:
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The Book of Dust: I finished The Book Of Dust within a couple of days of the new month beginning, having read most of it in June. The first part of the book felt like quite a slow build-up, which I enjoyed, and then all of the action happened in the final third of the story – I couldn’t put it down. It’s one of those books that leaves you breathless by the end of it and I felt like I needed an hour or so to re-adjust to the real world. It’s an absolutely brilliant piece of writing and I cannot wait for The Secret Commonwealth. I think I’ll need to re-read the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy first though.
City of Girls: And now for something completely different! I started ‘City Of Girls’ by Elizabeth Gilbert and am currently a couple of chapters in – I wanted something fun and light-hearted to read that perhaps had an undertone of inspiration and encouragement. I read ‘Eat, Pray Love’ many moons ago when I was travelling and then completely fell in love with ‘Big Magic’ last year, which I think needs to be compulsory reading for anyone who is a creative or who runs their own business. In all honesty ‘City Of Girls’ hasn’t grabbed my interest so far (controversial, I know) but I’m hoping it will as I get further into it. I’ll keep persevering!
Sports Day: Way back at the start of July the husband and I went to watch Mimi and Lola in their Sports Day – Mimi’s last ever one at primary school. It’s always a fun couple of hours cheering the girls and their classmates on in various races. The Obstacle Race will forever be my favourite. The girls did well: Mimi came 1st in the ‘bat and ball’ race, 2nd in the girl’s sprint race and her team won the relay race as well. Lola came 1st in the skipping race (and then promptly gave her 1st place sticker to a friend who was sad that she hadn’t been placed in the top three in any of the races yet).
Mimi’s Leavers Assembly: I remember watching Ella’s Leavers Assembly last year and feeling just so emotional about it all. You would maybe think that doing it all over again for the second time around in as many years would make it easier, but it really didn’t. The play itself was fantastic – all the children had worked so hard on it, everyone remembered their lines and the set and costumes were brilliant. And then they sang their Leavers Song (see below), a couple of the girls started crying, then some of the boys started sobbing with their heads in their hands and that was it, my own tears came. Mimi, bless her, was absolutely fine and didn’t even get a wobbly lip.
Watching these kids grow up together over the last seven years; the friendships they’ve made; the memories they’ll have of each other; the experiences they’ve shared…it’s a very special thing. Many of them are going on to the same high school together (including Mimi) and, whilst of course it will be different because they’ll be in different classes and making new friends, I really hope some of the bonds between them all remain because it does seem to be something quite unique.
Big Little Lies: We’ve been working our way through the second season of Big Little Lies and now have just two episodes left to watch. I absolutely loved the first series and didn’t know how on earth they would be able to top it, but they absolutely have. The acting is phenomenal from all of the cast – the husbands and kids as well as the main female leads. The women are of course the stars of the show and they are beyond incredible: every expression; every intonation; every weighted silence; the body language… it tells you so much of what’s going on underneath in the most subtle of ways. It’s so… real. These women are all of us. The addition of Meryl Streep and the role she plays was utter genius. I did Media Studies at A Level so I can’t help but analyse everything about the show, from the music to the way a scene has been shot to the editing, and it’s faultless. I don’t know yet how this season is going to end (I’ve managed to avoid any spoilers so far!) and I very much hope there will be a third season to come. I want to know how these women’s stories end. I still can’t decide whether to read the book or not!
Good news and bad news: We’ve had a real mixture of both good and difficult news over the last month. The difficult news doesn’t relate directly to us, more to various people around us that we care about. A friend who’s cancer journey may not be quite over yet; a neighbour who lost a close relative in absolutely tragic circumstances; and a member of the husband’s family who’s home has been completely devastated by a fire. All awful things that serve as further reminders that you never know what is going to happen next and that you really do have to make the most of every single day because you only get one shot at this life. I know this is meant to be Little Loves – all the things I’ve been loving lately – and of course I don’t love these terrible situations at all. I do feel it’s important to be real though and to share the behind-the-scenes stuff that puts the good things that I have been loving into context. Life isn’t always amazing. Sometimes it’s awful. And the contrast between the two is just as much a part of the story as the highlight reel and the celebrations which are all to easy to share on here.
Good news-wise we received four fantastic pieces of news from our girls all in one day! Lola and her friend are having a poem that they wrote together published in a book in September. Ella had two separate pieces of work (French and History) displayed in an ‘Exhibition of Excellence’ at school. Mimi received the Class Award for her attitude towards preparing for the Leavers Assembly and standing in for several absent classmates’ roles during rehearsals (she was the only person who knew everyone else’s lines as well as her own). And Sophie got brilliant grades in her Psychology mock A level exams, meaning that her predicted grade for her final exams next year is an A. Neil and I are so proud of them all!
Mimi’s leavers song: I heard this song so many times over the last month as Mimi was practising it for the Leavers Assembly and yet it still made me cry when they sang it on their last day!
A decision: I made the decision to work as little as possible throughout the summer holidays so that I can be with my girls. I’m fed up of trying to balance work and holiday clubs that they don’t even really like going to any more, and of feeling like I’m never fully present with anyone, anywhere, because my head is always somewhere else and focused on the next thing I need to be doing. I originally wanted to take the whole summer off but unfortunately it’s not quite worked out like that and I am ending up continuing to see two or three clients each week. I’ve done my best to keep childcare arrangements to a minimum – just one day per week wherever possible. I think with Mimi finishing primary school and the realisation that I’ll have TWO children in high school come September it’s suddenly hit me that they really are growing up and those endless summers that seem to stretch on forever when they’re small will soon be gone.
This does lead into a bigger decision regarding the future of my therapy work and the path I’ve been walking on for the last twelve years. Things are shifting and changing and whereas the timing of it could be construed by many as being very wrong, it actually feels very right to me and I’m trusting that with all the hard work I’m putting into the stuff I love to do, it will all work out ok in the end. I’m absolutely determined that by this time next year things will be different.
Our summer bucket list: We made our ‘summer bucket list’ and finalised some arrangements for next month. The girls love coming up with ideas for things we can do during the holidays and it always ends up being a mix of old favourite traditions that we do every single year, lots of little things that will probably end up being the most memorable moments for them, a couple of day trips and a few new places to explore.
We also made a start on ticking some of them off: fruit picking and a water balloon fight (plus a little bit of early stationery shopping for school because it appears that the girls love stationery as much as I do!).
I bought myself an anklet (from Sainsburys of all places, for just £4!) and I absolutely love it. I’ve been wanting one for ages in an attempt to get back to being more ‘me’ and I’m so pleased I found one that I like. I only wear it with skirts or shorts (it doesn’t really work with skinny jeans, my go-to Mum uniform), but with the recent heatwave we’ve had I’ve been able to wear it most days. I love the hot weather – I just feel so much more confident and comfortable in myself for some reason.
Adventures with the girls: The girls and I have had a few little adventures together this month. I love bundling them in the car, turning the music up loud and us all singing along to Olly Murs/Shawn Mendes/The Greatest Showman soundtrack together as we head off somewhere nearby to revisit an old favourite place or discover somewhere new.
~ At the start of July we explored a different path down the canal in Great Haywood, picked some wildflowers and then ate white chocolate ice cream (it must have been good as they’re still talking about it now, almost a month on from the event!) at Canalside Farm.
~ We’ve also had a couple of trips to Shugborough. One was just Ella, Lola and I (Mimi stayed home with the husband to watch the Cricket World Cup final on TV – we got home just in time to see England win!)…
….and one was to meet up with my lovely friend Penny and her two children. It was so good to catch up with her properly after over a year of not being able to find a time to meet up.
A family mini-break:
At the very beginning of the summer holidays we were lucky enough to be offered a wonderfully unexpected opportunity for a family mini-break at Landal Sandybrook Luxury Lodges in the Peak District. It was very much welcomed by all of us – a weekend of fun and downtime was exactly what we needed after a long seven weeks of school, and we had a brilliant time. My full review of our stay is here.
ClickinMoms Annual Photo Hunt:
I decided to take part in the ClickinMoms Annual Photo Hunt, which takes place every year during the month of July. Anyone can take part (you don’t have to be a member of ClickinMoms) though if you do join the ClickinMoms community* you get the chance to win various prizes throughout the month. This year there were 84 items on the list in total and whilst I knew I wouldn’t be able to capture anywhere near even half of them as the girls were still in school for three weeks of the project, I still had fun diving in and shooting as many of them as I could. Some were completely natural and candid moments and some were slightly more set up specifically for the shot. It was interesting letting my creativity have free rein with regards to how I interpreted the prompts and I’m really pleased with the photos I got. These are my three favourites out of the thirteen I managed to tick off:
At the moment August looks to be fairly open. We have a few things in the diary – some work days for me, a couple of days in Southampton visiting friends and taking the girls to their first ever festival – but otherwise no real plans. And that’s just how I want it to be. Taking each day as it comes isn’t easy or natural for me, a slowly-being-reformed perpetual planner, but I’m working on it. Some days we’ll end up having adventures. And other days we’ll do nothing at all. And as long as we’re together, it will all be ok.
Joining in with Sincerely, Anna and Little Loves