August has been a funny old month. We’ve not really done very much and yet my head has still felt full – distracted I guess – with all sorts of things. I had grand hopes for fun day trips and exciting weekly adventures with the girls before quickly realising that they weren’t going to happen no matter how hard I tried or how much I cajoled. It ended up being a month of me doing my best to accept that it was going to be a slow summer because that’s precisely what everyone needed and I’m pretty sure there’s a lesson in that somewhere.
Despite the lack of activity, we have had fun together and there have been many, many moments to love as the month has gone by.
Here are all the little things I’ve been loving lately throughout August…
City Of Girls: I have tried so hard to get into ‘City Of Girls’ by Elizabeth Gilbert over the last month. I really want to love it as much as I loved the other two books of hers that I’ve read. ‘Eat Pray Love’ was a brilliant and timely read whilst I was travelling many, many moons ago and ‘Big Magic’, which I devoured last year, had a huge positive impact on me, helping to change the way I think about myself and my passions of photography & writing, my creativity and my work in so many ways.
But I just cannot get into ‘City Of Girls’. I read the first three chapters in one sitting, re-read them twice more over the next couple of weeks, managed a fourth chapter last weekend and I just can’t seem to get any further with it. I don’t yet like the main character – I’m not sure whether it’s just that I can’t relate to her or if it’s something else, but it’s just not grabbing me despite the acclaim it’s had. I think I’ll try one more time. I don’t like giving up on books but perhaps I’m just not in the right frame of mind to read it right now and I need something else before going back to it at a later date?
Toy Story 4: The husband, Ella, Lola and I went to see ‘Toy Story 4’ at the cinema whilst Mimi was on a sleepover with her best friend. She was adamant that she didn’t want to see it and was happy for us to go without her. It was a lovely film and we all thoroughly enjoyed it (though I was not a fan of the dolls I have to say – they creep me out at the best of times!). Controversially, there were no tears from any of us even though I had expected to cry buckets (I usually do in kids films!). I thought it was a really sweet and symbolic way to end the story.
Movie Nights: The girls had requested that we put ‘movie nights’ on our summer bucket list and we managed a couple throughout August. Well, one movie night just for us girls whilst the husband was at work, and one movie afternoon when the rain fell and there was nothing else for it other than for all five of us to snuggle up under a blanket on the sofa with sweets and popcorn.
Our movies of choice were ‘Hotel For Dogs’ (actually pretty funny) and ‘Night At The Museum’ (Lola was less keen on this one but the older two loved it). Oh, and Lola and I watched ‘Wonder’ together one afternoon whilst Ella and Mimi were elsewhere – such a lovely film with a wonderful message.
Television: The husband and I finished watching ‘Big Little Lies’ (season 2) and I very much hope there will be a third series – it’s such a great show and it ended in such a way that they can’t really leave it as there are too many questions left unanswered. We also started watching ‘Shadow Hunters’ as Ella reads the books and I want to be able to engage with her when she talks to me about them. It’s actually pretty good if you’re into that kind of thing.
Travel vlogs: I have a never-ending bucket list of places that I want to visit, and Canada and the Pacific North West of the USA are very high up near the top of that list. I followed (on Instagram) Katie Ellison’s trip there with her family at the start of the summer holidays with fascination and awe – it looks so incredibly beautiful and there are so many cool things to see and do and places to explore. She’s recently shared her Vancouver and Seattle travel vlogs on her YouTube channel and I’ve already watched them both several times over, making notes and mentally planning an itinerary for when we (one day!) make it out there ourselves.
House news: After falling in love with a gorgeous house that we desperately wanted to buy, putting our own house on the market and finding a buyer, we ended up being stuck in a chain. Our buyer’s buyers were holding everything up and using delaying tactics, resulting in frustration all round. Ultimately, someone else put in an offer on the house we wanted, and, as they could move quicker than we could, their offer was accepted and we heard from the estate agent that we had lost the house. The husband and I were incredibly disappointed – although we’d tried hard not to get too excited, in our heads we’d already moved in. I loved the garden in particular and fully imagined us living there until the girls all left home. I still feel sad about it now.
Once we’d heard the news, we had the difficult decision of whether to continue to look for somewhere else or whether to take our house off the market and stay put. We opted to keep looking and found another property fairly quickly. It’s actually pretty perfect for us, so we put in an offer, had it accepted and also found a new buyer for our house all in the space of a week. The new buyer has no chain meaning that everything will hopefully move a bit more quickly. Last week we heard the good news that we have officially ‘sold’ (subject to contracts being exchanged), it’s all going through and we’ll be on the move fairly soon. Yay!
Music at Sunshine Festival: We were thrilled to be gifted a family ticket to go to Sunshine Festival in Upton Upon Severn over the August Bank Holiday weekend and we had an absolutely brilliant time. It was their 10th anniversary event, the weather was scorching hot and we had Sophie with us for the weekend so we knew it would be full-on fun. There will be a dedicated blog post all about it in the next week or so.
It was the girls’ first ever festival experience and I think we can call it a success: Ella’s favourite was the Taylor Swift tribute act; Neil, Sophie and Mimi loved the Ibiza Club Classics set; whilst Lola and I enjoyed the circus most of all. Add to that neon coloured slush puppies, ice cream, henna tattoos, family-friendly entertainment for the kids, people-watching, food from all over the world, creative stallholders selling their wares and listening to acts like SClub, Peter Andre and BoyzLife… let’s just say we made a lot of memories. Sadly we had to call it a day before Scouting For Girls (who I was desperate to see) came on. Maybe next year.
Early morning bakes: I’m always up before the rest of the household, so one morning I did a bit of baking whilst everyone else was having a lie-in. Banana cake (a favourite recipe given to me by a friend several years ago), plus banana and blueberry muffins (recipe from the Love Food Hate Waste website) always go down a treat with my girls.
Boston vlog: We may have returned home from our trip to Boston exactly three whole months ago, but I’ve finally written all about it (you can find Part One here and Part Two here) and made the final vlog of our adventures in the city. These travel videos take me an absolute age to put together and they are nowhere near as polished as I’d like them to be but I love creating them so much and I’m learning more every time I do it (and am hopefully improving) so it’s totally worth all the time I put into making them. If you like what you see I’d love for you to click the ‘subscribe’ button – thank you so much in advance if you do 🙂
Henna tattoos: Whilst at Sunshine Festival all five of us girls got henna designs on our hands and I love them. I went to a high school that was predominantly Asian and many of my friends had mendhi on a regular basis when they attended family weddings and special events. I always coveted one as I think they’re beautiful and so I was thrilled to finally get my wish 20 years down the line at the festival.
The husband wasn’t impressed (he hates tattoos of any kind, including the two I already have!) but I felt so much more like me when I had this done that it’s made me realise how much I’ve lost myself over the years and how little things like this can remind me of who I am – a bit of a hippie at heart. The artwork is sadly already fading but the learning has remained: I need to do more of the things that make me happy, no matter what anyone else thinks.
Celebrating fifteen years: Our fifteen years ‘together’ anniversary fell in the second half of the month. Fifteen years! And he still has my whole heart. I’d originally wanted for us all to go to Paris for a long weekend but we’d not been able to make that work. We were supposed to be visiting friends in Southampton and spending a bit of time in the New Forest by way of celebration instead.
Unfortunately, events beyond our control took place and we ended up having to cancel that as well, which was a real shame. It meant that actually we didn’t do anything at all to mark the occasion so I feel a little sad about that. We’ve rearranged the visit to our friends for next month instead so hopefully it’ll work out this time and we’ll see the New Forest in all it’s Autumn glory.
A day trip to Marlow: For the first time ever this year, Ella went to stay with my Mum and Stepdad for a week during the holidays. It was a pretty big thing for both parties I think! Ella has been away from us for that long before on a residential trip with school, but she’d had all of her friends with her so it was a bit different. And my Mum has had the girls during the daytime for a few hours before but never overnight, and never at her house (which is 140 miles away from where we live!)
We met up in Marlow, where my grandparents used to live before they passed away – it’s a place that holds many happy childhood memories for me and I was really keen to visit and show the girls all the places that meant something to me. It was on our summer bucket list to go there and so it made sense to spend the day there and then they could take Ella home whilst we headed back up to the Midlands.
I went to have a look at my Nana and Grandad’s old house (which I found really quite emotional), then we played in the park that I used to play in as a little girl, went for a walk along the river, had some lunch and wandered around the shops. It was a lovely day (even if there were a few tears when we said goodbye to Ella and went our separate ways).
Ella had a good time at my Mum’s – they went to the British Museum in London, visited Kew Gardens (which she absolutely loved) and did some shopping. She video-called me every evening to tell me what she’d been up to, sent me photos on WhatsApp, and whilst of course she missed us and we missed her, she enjoyed herself. Mimi has already asked if she can go next year!
Sophie came to visit: The last time we saw the teenager was just before we travelled to Boston in May, so it had been a while. She’s been busy with sixth form and driving lessons and working so hasn’t had the opportunity to come up before now. We always love having her come and stay and even though Neil usually has to work for some of the time she’s here, we do try and get out and about and do fun stuff all together.
This visit we went for a walk at Downs Banks, a gorgeous woodland area near where we live, and apart from the usual initial protests at having to leave the house, I think we all had fun climbing trees and catching up on all of her news.
Family Photoshoot: I finally shared my favourite photos from the family photoshoot we had with my wonderful friend (and incredibly talented photographer) Amy Murgatroyd whilst we were in Boston. She honestly makes magic with her camera and the gentle encouragement she gave to a very nervous me was the difference that made the difference.
It was so interesting being on the other side of the lens and experiencing what I guess my photography clients will feel like once I start taking more of them on, so it was a really useful thing to do as well as something I’d really wanted to make happen. I’m forever grateful to Amy for capturing us in this way.
It was ridiculously hard to narrow down which ones I liked best out of our gallery as I truly loved them all. My most favourite one is below and you can see the rest in this blog post.
Summer Bucket List: As well as movie nights and spending the day in Marlow, we also managed to tick off a few more items from our summer bucket list: we had some meet-ups with friends; got creative in the garden with some painting and patio rainbow chalk; and took a trip to Birmingham Think Tank Museum, which was ace. I thoroughly recommend paying it a visit – we had a fantastic time there trying out all the interactive visits and learning lots along the way.
All the school uniform is sorted, school shoes have been bought, hair has ben trimmed, eyes have been tested and pencil-cases are stuffed full of new stationery. There were a few things that we didn’t get to do, like a day at the beach and visiting some new National Trust properties but hopefully they’ll remember a summer full of fun in between the quieter ‘at home’ days.
Now all of a sudden the summer holidays are almost over and it’s time to go back to both school and work and right now I don’t feel even remotely ready for either. Because despite the incessant bickering, the occasional refusal to leave the house, regular cries of “I’m bored!” and their ability to drive me crazy on a daily basis, I really would much rather have them home with me. I’ve worked far less this summer than I usually do and it’s been lovely to be able to spend so much time with them.
It’s time for a new chapter though. The season is about to shift – I can feel it. The girls have already started having porridge for breakfast, the mornings and evenings have that distinct hint of a chill to them and there are tinges of gold beginning to appear amongst the leafy greens in the woods.
In a few days time Mimi will begin the next big adventure in her life as she joins her big sister at High School. I think she’s looking forward to it although of course there is some nervousness there too. Lots of her friends are going to the same school and she’s got Ella there to help guide her through it too so I’m sure she’ll be fine. I hope she’ll be fine.
Whatever September holds for us, I’m learning to simply go with the flow. It’s not easy, but if the events of this year so far (and every year, actually) have taught me anything, it’s that we cannot predict or control anything that happens in life. All we can do is make the best choices we can in the moment and remember that we are in charge of how we respond to the things that happen. I’ve spent far too long worrying about things that might or might not happen, and stressing over things that I can’t actually do anything about and it really is time for that to stop.
August, you’ve been a month of contradictions – lovely and challenging and fun and loud and slow and full of all kinds of memories. September, I may not be quite ready for you yet but seeing as you’ve already arrived… let’s go.
Joining in with Sincerely, Anna and Little Loves.