May felt like a total whirlwind of a month. We got home from our annual Easter trip to Cornwall at the end of April and exactly one month later we jetted off to Boston for May half term! The girls had precisely sixteen days of actual school (plus weekends in between) and during that time the work on the kitchen following the fire was finally done (two weeks of complete and utter chaos but it’s all finished now apart from the tiling – hurrah!); I squeezed in as many therapy clients and as much work as humanly possible; the husband and I managed to have TWO date nights; we had multiple viewings on our house which we’re currently trying to sell; my Mum came to visit; the teenager came to visit; the littlest one had her first stage performance AND Mimi had her Year Six SATs tests.
As I read back over what I’ve just written it sounds totally bonkers, but I guess that’s just the season we’ve been in recently. Sometimes you have to just go with it and trust that it’ll all work out ok (it always does) and that you’ll catch up on the lost sleep eventually (I never will).
Needless to say, life has felt very fast and very full these last few weeks and I am craving a slower pace, some peace and quiet, and some proper down-time to rest and recharge. It has been pretty wonderful though and when I look back at everything we’ve been up to I don’t regret a single minute of it.
Here are all the little (and big) things I’ve been loving lately throughout May…
Travel Guidebooks: I love all the research and planning that goes into a trip almost as much as the trip itself and I always buy Lonely Planet guidebooks for wherever it is we’re travelling to. I spent every spare moment I could find in the lead-up to our adventure diving into these, figuring out potential day trips and itineraries and looking up interesting places for us to visit and fun things for us to do that would keep all five of us happy. A friend once commented that I could do travel planning as a job and even though I have no idea whether that’s an actual thing, it’s something I would be very happy doing!
The Book Of Dust: I had the best of intentions of reading this on the plane journey to Boston and finishing it whilst we were away. I dutifully packed it in my hand luggage…and that’s exactly where it stayed. I didn’t read a single page. And I’m totally ok with that. Now we’re home, a few quiet evenings on the sofa whilst the husband is on a night shift will get me back into the swing of it.
Lola perform on stage: Back in December, Lola did her first ever performance with the musical theatre group she’d joined a few months previously. The show was at a local high school and she was nervous (as she hadn’t been doing it for long) but still enjoyed it. This month her group performed a different routine at an event called ‘Stafford’s Gotta Dance’ at our local theatre, on a proper stage, in front of hundreds of people and I am SO proud of her! She and her group danced to The Greatest Show (from The Greatest Showman, which she loves) and she performed the whole thing confidently and with a huge smile on her face. I will never, ever get tired of watching my girls do the things they love to do and seeing them light up inside with joy as they do it.
Game of Thrones: I don’t watch much TV but I do make an exception for Game of Thrones. The husband and I had been looking forward to the new series for months and it definitely lived up to expectations. I think I held my breath entirely through every single epic episode. I feel sad that it’s over now, but to be fair the final sequence left everything wide open with lots of potential for future series. Fingers crossed.
The Fault In Our Stars: I read ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ by John Green in one sitting on a train to London a couple of years ago and loved it. The teenager has been telling me to watch the movie ever since and I’ve never quite got round to it. I happened to find it on the list of films to watch on the aeroplane on our flight to Boston and, despite regular interruptions from the girls needing the toilet/wanting snacks/requesting help with word puzzles I managed to watch it all the way through. I’m very grateful I wasn’t sat next to a stranger as the ending had me sobbing into my hands. Normally the book is always much better than the film but I have to say in this case I think they’re equal. It was beautifully put together and I really enjoyed it. If you haven’t seen it I can really recommend it.
Baseball: Before we went to Boston I managed to book some tickets to a Boston Red Sox baseball game at the iconic Fenway Park, the oldest ballpark in Major League baseball. It was something we all really wanted to experience, and to be able to see the Red Sox play at home after winning the World Series last season was pretty special. I’ll admit it took us a while to figure out what was actually going on (I’m forever grateful to a friend’s husband for giving us a quick rundown of the rules before we attended!), but once we got into it and the action picked up a bit we really enjoyed it. The girls loved cheering when a Home Run got scored, and we joined in with the Mexican waves and the traditional rendition of ‘Sweet Caroline’ during the 8th innings. Three and a half hours later the Red Sox were victorious with a score of 12-5 against the Cleveland Indians and we all agreed it was one of the best things we did during our trip.
Olly Murs: For his 40th birthday back in December I gave my husband tickets to see Olly Murs on his ‘You Know I Know’ tour. As the date of the gig drew closer we started listening to the CD in the car on the school run and it is now all three of the girls’ current favourite album. We’ve had Olly Murs songs on repeat literally all month – they won’t listen to anything else! He’s a fantastic performer and Neil and I had a brilliant night out together. We’ve seen Olly twice now and I’d happily go again if given the chance.
One thing I really liked was that he spent some time talking about mental health. He shared his struggles with depression and anxiety following his increase in fame and was honest about why he decided to get therapy. It’s so encouraging hearing high-profile people talk openly about this. There is no shame in finding things hard and reaching out for help. I’ve had therapy myself and I now do it as a job – I’m a trained therapist and help people work through and overcome their challenges. I see first hand every single day just how much of a difference it can make to people. Olly wrote this song as a result of what he learned about himself and it’s one of my favourite tracks on the album.
Good news: Whilst we were on the Cape Cod section of our trip we received an unexpected WhatsApp call from the teenager. After an initial heart-stopping moment of panic (on my part) that something was wrong, she delivered us the good news that she had just passed her driving theory test! We’re all super proud of her – she worked really hard to achieve that and I’m sure she’ll be ready to take her practical test within the next few months too. I still can’t imagine her behind the wheel of a car but it’ll be great for her to have the freedom to be more independent.
The long journey to Boston: As I mentioned, we spent May half term (plus a few extra days where we opted to take the girls out of school) exploring beautiful Boston and the gorgeous coastline of Cape Cod. It was a long journey to get there – at the time of booking the trip there were no direct flights from any of the airports near to us so we had to fly from London Heathrow. This meant a two and a half hour drive (and a ridiculously early morning start) before we even got anywhere near an aeroplane, but the girls coped brilliantly with everything. The flight itself wasn’t too bad at all – 6 hours 25 minutes on the way there and 5 hours 50 minutes on the way home (I love that the homeward leg is always quicker!) and a total of 6530 miles flown. Travelling with kids is never easy but it was definitely worth it for the memories we made, especially as it’s likely to be our last big family travel adventure for a while.
Memories: Yes, it’s cheesy but we really did make so many wonderful memories on our trip to Boston and Cape Cod. Exploring the city, discovering street art, going out for dinner, connecting with friends, marvelling at the architecture, experiencing our first ever baseball game, riding the subway, visiting Harvard University, celebrating Mimi’s 11th birthday, learning about all the history, collecting shells on the beach, playing crazy golf and soaking up all the beautiful houses and flowers that we stumbled upon…
It was challenging in so many ways but the positives were so plentiful that the trickier moments always end up disappearing into nothingness and all we’re left with is the memory of the fun we had together, the laughter we shared and the new things we saw and did as a family.
A new dress: A photographer friend of mine, Amy, who inspires me on a daily basis with her beautiful work and gentle soul, lives in Boston and I was so excited to be able to connect with her and her family whilst we were over there. I booked her for a family photoshoot as the last photos we have of all of us together were taken at the husband and I’s wedding five years ago and I wanted some more up to date ones (as well as a special memory of our trip).
Anyone who knows me is well aware of my serious aversion to being in front of the camera, but this was really, REALLY important to me, so I bought myself a new dress and dug deep for some courage. As soon as I put the dress on I felt like ‘me’, a version of me that’s been hiding for quite a while. I’ve promised myself to wear it more this summer, just because.
Birthday celebrations: We celebrate two birthdays in May – mine and Mimi’s. Mine was first, near the start of the month, and it was a very normal day that marked my 36 trips around the sun. Neil and I went out for dinner and my Mum came up to visit, both of which were lovely ways to celebrate. As I always do around my birthday, I’ve updated my ’40 Things Before I’m 40′ list with all the things that I’ve ticked off and/or have been set in motion over the last twelve months – it’s slow progress, but I’m getting there!
Mimi’s 11th birthday was far more interesting as it fell whilst we were in Boston! We had a mini-celebration with a birthday cake and let her open most of her presents at home the weekend before we went. She was thrilled with all of them, and so very grateful for everything she received. We made a big fuss of her on the actual day too – her only request was doughnuts! With her birthday usually falling in or around half term, she’s spent several of them in exciting places over the years – Cornwall, Spain and now America!
Year 6 SATs: Mimi’s Year 6 SATs tests fell right in between our two holidays and she coped really well with them all things considered. She had done lots of practice test papers both at home (her choice) and at school and we know that she did the very best she could. We’re incredibly proud of her.
The teenager: Sophie came up to visit in the middle of the month – the first time we’ve seen her since Christmas. It was a very ordinary weekend in terms of what we got up to but it was so lovely to have her here that it didn’t matter in the slightest. There were tears from the girls when she left to go home and we’re all hoping it’s not going to be too long until she’s back up with us again. I managed to convince them all to come outside and have some photos taken by the beautiful blossom trees near our house and I’m so pleased with them. This one was my favourite.
June looks set to be a little bit quieter and we don’t have many things planned at all, which is definitely a good thing. We have our five year wedding anniversary to celebrate and I’m looking forward to the approach of summer as well as decluttering the house ready for (hopefully!) moving once we’ve sold ours and bought the one we’ve fallen in love with. Keep everything crossed for us!
Joining in with Sincerely Anna and Little Loves.