As soon as we fall into the New Year all we look forward to is the summer. Actually I love the spring but summer brings so much more excitement with the tease of warmer weather, a potential holiday which lasts longer than a bank holiday weekend and a promise of a quieter period at work.
However what I always seem to forget during this eagerly anticipated run up is the huge amount of juggling, ad hoc entertainment arranging, and all the other 101 things to remember which comes from both of us working in pretty inflexible jobs.
We yearn for school time when it’s holiday time, and for holidays when it’s term time but for me the looming six week break brings organisational panic and that annual monster dose of working mum’s guilt (I really don’t feel it very often but it always rears it’s ugly head in the summer).
We’ve just about managed to nail term time, which included a lot of calculated decision making. Specifically, moving house into the right residents permit zone which allows me to logistically herd two kids to and from nursery and school / after school clubs before and after work plus park the car as close as possible to the tube. It doesn’t totally alleviate the last minute mad dashes from the station or the overly apologetic phone calls to the after school club supervisor letting them know I’ll be there soon, but it does massively help and allows me to get to each location by the skin of my teeth. There’s nothing like a good old rocket up your backside after work to get you moving, and I don’t think I actually take a full breath until both are belted in their carseats badgering me to “put Capital on”…”no, play Old MacDonna Had a Farm”, neither of which I need in my life at that particular moment. (If you watch my Insta stories you’ll be v familiar with my post work pick up panics!).
Even though term time is hectic, the kids have long days and I am really only a glorified taxi driver…it’s a very organised routine so everyone knows what they’re doing, where they’re expected to be, which parent is minding the kids on what day (Mr LMA does Wednesday and I do Friday’s, Saturdays and Sundays), which allows us to generally get through each week unscathed and (sometimes) on time (not often enough). Add in the odd curve ball of a sick child or a forgotten inset day (disaster) and peace is interrupted usually with a frustrated “your turn” in unison before we let rock, paper, scissors decide.
So hopefully you’ll now understand why summer holidays send me into such a spiral of emotions (because I am a control freak!!!!)…pure joy when grandparents ask if they can ‘have Jack’ for a day or two (winning), anxiety when trying to source new camps which Jack will love but more importantly which operate during the hours I need them to (08:00 – 18:00 – anywhere that finishes before 6pm is a deal breaker), despair when I remember at midnight that I need to make a pack lunch and we don’t have anything suitable (only leftover curry), embarrassment when I accept a playdate knowing I probably won’t be able to return the favour, plus shed loads of guilt knowing that all of these people are going to spend enormous amounts of time with my boys instead of me?!?!?!
Hence the absolute necessity of a summer holiday!
I say that in such a way it makes it sound like we have them frequently…unfortunately not, and we haven’t been on one for a couple of years (v sorely missed). We have been though on a couple of smaller trips instead which were very lovely but we love nothing more than being in our own family bubble spending time on our favourite ‘white isle’. There’s nothing more therapeutic than regrouping after being part of this crazy work / life / kids world we live in and for us Ibiza is so familiar now that it’s home from home, and a very easy trip for us to make.
This year however, much to Jack’s initial disappointment, we’re not heading to his favourite island (shock), instead we’re very lucky to be heading off, a little later than usual, on an uber exciting family adventure which will definitely loosen those constraints of the slightly regimented life we lead.
More on that to come…
Our Family Weekly Round Up
As well as a regular blog I thought I’d share our weekly family ‘highlights’…
Finn did a poo on the toilet at nursery (big win).
Jack won ‘goalkeeper of the day’ at football camp.
I’ve managed 22 days of intermittent fasting (for detoxing purposes).
Finn graduated to pre-school and starts properly on Monday.
Mr LMA got his first interrupted lie in since starting night shifts (win).
The kids got to watch FOUR movies in a row (mum win right there).
My childhood memories consist of so many snippets of my parents hard working lives. We were always lucky enough to get away in the summer … to Scotland, France or Italy … and my fondest holiday memories weren’t with a particular parent but were always in the places we regularly visited.
When you’re a child the sense of familiarity makes it so exciting because you remember what you loved so much about the last time you were there, and you can’t wait to do it all again – the distinctive smell of pine trees you get a whiff of as you drive deep into the Highlands, that bakery you remember so well in Valbonne with the freshly baked croissants for breakfast, that teeny family run shop round the corner which sells those pretty provencal style bikinis your mum buys for you and your sisters every year, the taste of the fish and chips from Smiffy’s which your dad always treats you to in Aviemore, and the enormous choice of beautiful stationery you always get to pick something from in the local hypermarché for the start of the new school year.
These are a very small collection of memories I will always treasure and ones I have always wanted to create for my kids.
We both first went to Ibiza (separately), before we were together, on the stag and hen week of a couple we both knew. He was a single 27 year old, I was 24 and nearing the end of a 6 year relationship, and our experience of Ibiza back then was party indulgence at it’s errrrrr, very best (trust me). Unbeknown to us at the time we would hook up three months later and then well, the rest is currently 15 years of history.
So we decided to go back (together) in August 2012, when Jack was three, to find out if there was another side to the infamous party island. We’d heard loads about it through friends, and I had always adored the bohemian vibe I had experienced in 2003, so was desperate to see more.
And that’s when we fell in love with the island …
Ibiza is an island small enough to travel from top to bottom in 45 mins, it has fifty coves each with its own identity, many far more developed than others but lots still hidden and in their very natural states. The whole island has an incredibly calming and hippy vibe, and as soon as we step off the plane it always feels like we’re home.
I have never been a massive fan of Spanish cuisine but over the years we have built up a little black book of our favourite places to eat where we know we’re going to be given a real feast, and they range from local tapas bistros where the locals hang out, a humble reggae playing Italian pizzeria, and a couple of ‘nice’ restaurants we treat ourselves to.
One of Ibiza’s most amazing qualities is its ability to attract all ages who can have any type of holiday they wish…
You can be 24 and wanting to just dance all night and drink all day, you can be 34 and wanting to build sand castles with the kids on some of the most beautiful beaches, you can be 44 and wanting to go away for a cheeky weekend as a couple (sans kids) to enjoy sundowners without hearing the word ‘mummy’ repeatedly, you can be 54 and wanting to hang out with your best friends and all your teenage kids, rent a villa, read books and spend long, lazy lunches at the amazing beach restaurants, you can be 64 and wanting to hike around the beautiful coast line for the weekend, and you can be 74 and wanting to go back to where it all began with your kids, and their kids, to hear the crickets in the trees, smell the lemon groves, and reminisce with the whole family about all those happy holidays.
So to continue tradition, we headed back to our magical island this year and here are our family best bits on two of our very favourite things, beaching and eating …
Our favourite beaches include … S’ilot D’es Rencli, a tiny cove at the Northern tip of the island which is perfect for snorkelling, jumping the waves, getting away from the busier beaches and is surrounded by rock pools waiting to be discovered. Benirras is located to the North West, is a very well known beach as it’s home to the famous bongo players who beat their drums every evening as the sun sets slowly, getting louder and louder as the sun starts to melt into the sea (a great experience). We usually head there after spending the morning at the Las Dalias hippy market (more on that to come).
There are so many beautiful beaches that you don’t really need to go to beach clubs but we do book one during our holiday (as a treat), and our top beach club finds are … the Beachouse which is located near Ibiza town and where we went to for the first time this year. Wow! Definitely my favourite place for pure indulgence with it’s effortlessly cool polynesian style interior including fans, bamboo ceiling, white floorboards and beautifully scattered rugs. We arrived for breakfast at 10:00, feasted on mango, yoghurt and granola while the kids devoured red fruit pancakes. We were then shown to our beach beds and our very own bamboo umbrella. We used the beach service for our lunch which consisted of a sharing platter of hummus, crudités, pitta bread, tomato salad and fries, and we stayed right until the end, which I think was 19:00 ish, when the beds were being packed away and the music and dancing was beginning.
Tropicana on Cala Jondal and El Chiringuito on Es Cavallet are two other beach clubs we’ve been to before … both have their own bohemian identity, have delicious restaurants, the same beach service concept, and vary in price.
Now I don’t know about you, but eating is what we tend to talk about most (and do) on holiday, and is the topic I do most of the research on as we all LOVE our food. The first question usually out of the boys mouths in the mornings are ‘what are we eating for dinner?”.
So our most favourite places to feast definitely include … The Fish Shack which is perched precariously on the edge of a cliff near Talamanca Beach and is such a beautiful place. There’s nothing chic about it, which I love, you access it via a dirt road, rock up in your salty and sandy beach clothes and sit at tables on the rocks. There isn’t a menu, you just pick from the ‘fish of the day’ (which has been freshly caught), and whatever you choose is always served with buttery, boiled potatoes and a simple salad. Between us we ordered whole Dorada and Gambas and they were delicious. Top Tip : bring mosquito spray with you otherwise you’ll get eaten alive, and if you don’t want to wait for a table get there early (i.e. 20:00 ish) because you can’t reserve them so it’s first come first serve. As we were leaving at 21:30 there were 3-4 families waiting for tables.
A firm family favourite, and a place we have visited on every holiday, is La Toretta which is located in the old town, within the castle walls, and right in the middle of a lively cobbled street which makes it the absolutely perfect place to people watch (another thing we’re pretty good at). We usually pre-book a table for 21:00 so that we can still be seated when the local street artists (especially the capoeira) make an appearance at 22:30 ish.
Our two tapas favourites are Raco Verd and Destino, both in the tiny village of San Josep. They’re right next door to each other but couldn’t be more different in style. Raco Verd is within a walled courtyard, serves the most incredible mouth watering ribs (which you’ll need to order more than one bowl of), really tasty chilli and is a popular venue for local singers to perform. Destino is more of an authentic, local hang out. Nothing much to look at, and tucked away, but again serves the most delicious tapas. There’s no menu here, once you’re seated you’re invited to choose from the various pre-cooked dishes which on display … and trust me, the beef is melt in your mouth and the prawns are deliciously garlicy. Top Tip : both places need to be pre-booked.
Our most favourite pizza and pasta place, because there always has to be one, is Bon Sol which is a very unassumingly placed right on the beach in Cala Vadella. The menu is extensive, the food really is delicious and it’s a family tradition for us to eat there on our first night and on our last just before we leave for the airport for our usual midnight flight home. This time around we also got a take away pizza to eat on the beach after dark which the kids haven’t stopped talking about. Our favourite dishes are the salami pizza, prawn and courgette tagliatelle, the mixed salad and my new favourite … the tomato, asparagus and prawn organic spelt tagliatelle (divine!!).
We also visited three new restaurants this year which I had read about …
Sunset Ashram is a Thai / Sushi restaurant on Cala Conte beach which I briefly mentioned above. What a wonderful surprise! It’s very well known but definitely an experience everyone should have. My kids know the quieter side to the island very well so I really wanted them to see some authentic bohemian party vibes which this place offers in bundles with the beating bongos, local artists singing, bikini clad dancers, a front row seat for the incredible sunset and that underlying beat which slowly builds up and kicks in just as the light dims.
The menu is pretty extensive, pretty expensive also, but so good. We ordered the thai style squid and sushi to share as a starter, the kids shared a Pad Thai and we both devoured the spicy monkfish and prawn yellow curry.
The second was The Giri Cafe in San Joan, to the North of the island which looks incredibly unassuming from the outside, as it’s set back from the road a little, but once you’re taken through the darker interior you find yourself in the most secret kitchen garden (I think I did actually squeal as we walked into it).
It’s so incredibly cool and sophisticated, not particularly boho and rustic like other parts of the island but so so pretty. We were given a table tucked into the corner and were engulfed by a mixture of flowers, vegetables, edible flowers, lemon trees, lettuces, etc. The smell was divine! What they have done so well is transform the concept of an ordinary kitchen garden into something very beautiful indeed. Oh and let’s not forget the Burrata salad … all I’m going to say is it’s drizzled with homemade pesto and caramelised (yes caramelised) pine nuts. I’ve never tasted anything quite like it (delicious).
The final place we visited was La Paloma, and well … what a place!
Not only must it be the prettiest restaurant I have ever been lucky enough to go to, the staff are incredibly warm and welcoming, the food is out of this world (really), there’s a children’s playground (win) and most importantly the story behind it’s existence is just so incredibly heart warming. A family who desired to …”create a restaurant in harmony with the authentic beauty of the island” (sigh), and since 2004 it has evolved into a family friendly little gem tucked away in the most gorgeous citrus grove setting. I will be dreaming about it frequently until we get to visit again and it’s an absolute must if you really would like something special.
So apart from beaching and eating, we don’t tend to do too much else (haha), but there are a couple of places we don’t like to miss out on and Jack, particularly, loves having his memory jogged and making sure we carry on with our traditions.
The first is … walking to the top of the Eivissa Castle which stands proudly at the top of the Dalt Vila (Old Town). We always do it on the night we have booked La Toretta and drive into town early evening, walk through the port, check out the shops, walk through the beautiful arch through to the old town, meander through the cobbled streets and then make the sweaty climb to the top. Historically a pirate has been sat up there, next to the canons, whom Jack met when he was younger and was totally enthralled by. He’s no longer there but we’ve continued the story for Finn.
On our way down, and before we’re due to eat, we stop off at S’Escalinata which sits on some of the steps in the old town. Colourful beanbags strewn over the stone make perfect seats, and a wonderful place to cool down before we head off again.
Our other favourite hang out is Las Dalias, the original hippy market, which is to the North of the island. It’s open on Saturday’s and we tend to get there as it’s opening at 10:00, and before the queues of traffic build up.
It’s full of the prettiest market stalls selling anything from find gold jewellery to the most beautifully soft leather clutches (kicking myself I didn’t buy one), and is the place we always buy our throws and far too many bracelets. The loveliest thing about it is it’s sprinkled with little drinking / eating hot spots where you can take a seat, grab a coffee, listen to the DJ and his mellow beats echoing around you while you zone out for a while.
So that’s it really. In a nutshell.
A very small glimpse into our holiday with our genuinely favourite beaches and food places, and below are a few helpful beaching and eating top tips which I have either been told or learn’t over the years…
To avoid the busy roads and the mad scramble onto the beaches, arrive early, especially in August. It sounds like common sense but arriving after 11:00 usually means total chaos and if you have kids then 10:00 doesn’t actually seem that early and you get to choose your spot before all the party lovers arrive.
And because there are so many beaches to choose from, and all within driving distance, definitely hire a car. There are taxis available but you could end up spending a fortune. We have always booked through Moto Luis, as recommended by a local friend of mine on our first holiday, and after numerous bookings everything is just so easy and efficient. We meet them in car park 3 at the airport where there is never a queue. In previous years when we have taken night flights we have jumped into a taxi from the airport and then asked for the car to be dropped to us at the apartment a couple of days later when we’re ready to travel around. They’re very flexible. We booked a convertible Fiat 500 this year, as Jack is obsessed with convertibles, and it was the cheapest option … and so much fun.
If you’re interested in visiting a beach club, always book your table for breakfast / lunch or dinner plus your beds in advance because we saw so many people being turned away due to it being fully booked. Also, these places can be pretty expensive (hence why we only go once), so take plenty of snacks and your own water (especially if you have kids). I always freeze a couple of big bottles of water the night before and they defrost while we’re on the beach, and stay cool.
In terms of budget, you really can spend a fortune in Ibiza (which I’m sure is the same case on any holiday). Prices have risen since we first visited, and when we go we’re always on a budget, but the beauty of it is there are so many pretty places to see, beaches to go to and places to eat where you don’t need to spend the earth. I always pepper our holiday with a couple of ‘treats’ where we know we’re going to spend more.
This year we shopped at the supermarket when we arrived and stocked up on watermelons, peaches, plums and big cases of bottled water. We made picnics for lunch, bought a big supply of snacks and ate out mostly only for dinner. For some of the dinners, depending on where we were, the kids would share a meal and on the couple of occasions we ate out for lunch, we would order various starters to share, and mopped it all up with the freshly made bread, olive oil and balsamic. I also bought our inflatables before we left this time round, from Amazon, plus took our trusty old Ibiza throw to use on most of the beaches.
For restaurants, I would really go by personal recommendations … there are so many places that we haven’t even scratched the surface of, but there are also fabulous hidden gems which you will only really find out about if you explore or if you know someone who has been there before. If I like the vibe of a restaurant I will always ask the manager / owner for their personal recommendations, as you can usually guarantee they will like similar restaurants to their own.
If you’re still reading (haha), and are still interested, you can see videos of all the places I’ve mentioned on my Instagram highlights @lights_mama_action.
That’s a question I have asked myself hundreds of times over the last twenty years.
I was never one of those kids who grew up knowing exactly what they wanted to be, I can’t really remember much of my primary school years, I loved secondary school, enjoyed GCSE’s and hated my A-levels. And consequently failed them twice. For no reason other than I just didn’t study and had no desire to.
I remember being 17 and on my first holiday in Italy with a friend and her family, having the absolute time of my young life when I ‘checked in’ with my mum to get my (first set of) A-level results. To say the call didn’t go accordingly to plan was correct. From memory I got an E and two D’s, a newly bought flight home that very next morning plus a stern word of warning which simply meant if I didn’t get on it…well I wouldn’t want to know what would happen next. So I abandoned my friend (with her three A’s) to enjoy our last week of our holiday without me.
I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t study. Why I rebelled. My parents were (quite rightly) exasperated at my lack of enthusiasm and diligence and I vividly remember going through uni options (during my A-level retake year) with a teacher who just kept asking me “So, what do you want to be? You must have some sort of idea?”, and I truly and honestly really didn’t!! There wasn’t a single subject I ever thought I was really good at, or had a genuine passion for and even though I was surrounded by friends who had very clear ideas of where they were heading, I just didn’t.
I was given every amazing opportunity to do well, and I could have gone to uni but it just wasn’t of interest to me. And the problem was I simply didn’t know what I wanted to do and that feeling alone made me feel like I couldn’t do anything.
My first full time job (aged 17) was in the box office at Chelsea Football Club. Such great fun but I had zero interest in football, and it didn’t last long.
At 18 I started dating a pretty badly chosen boyfriend and at 19 left home to live with him (shocker). I’m a massive believer that you should never regret anything but I definitely feel I wasted six of my early and very important years when I could have been doing so much more. Luckily it was only 6 years.
During that relationship, and aged 20, I managed to wing it through an interview as PA to the CEO in a digital advertising agency in Westbourne Terrace. I remember feeling sooooo incredibly happy, so grown up and so proud of myself that I’d managed to bag a job in such a cool industry! And this is where I really did have the time of my work life. Cool parties until 4 am, back in the office for 7 am to finish a pitch and repeat…almost every week. And I met some incredible people and life long friends.
But I wasn’t really going anywhere. We were bought out by WPP a few years later (I know right…Martin Sorrell himself), and I moved around in the company for the best part of the next seven years…I started new roles, organised some of our most fun events but still didn’t feel like I was doing what I truly should be.
At 24 I thankfully saw the very bright (in your face) blinding light and finally left the badly chosen boyfriend in search for a simpler (and much happier) life.
I had all the intentions of being single for a while, enjoying life just as me living back at home with my mum and sisters who were so over the moon that I was ‘back’. Ahhh, but my subconscious clearly had very other ideas, and just three weeks later I went on my first date with this guy…
I mean…I didn’t hang around, did I. Thankfully.
I realised so much about myself in that first year of being with him (Mr LMA). He unclipped my wings and allowed me, for the first time in 6 years, to be…well…me. He gave me so much space, where my ex suffocated me. He held me close and set me free all at the same time, where my ex manipulated and held me back. And more importantly than anything he just loved me, where my ex controlled me.
You really don’t realise how important those late teens / early twenties are until you’ve come out the other side.
So (I hear you ask), maybe this is when I found ‘me’?
Most of me yes, but not quite all. Mr LMA always knew exactly what he wanted to do. He had always dreamt of working for himself and becoming a London taxi driver which I realised pretty soon after we first started going out, and while he was studying the Knowledge. I stayed in advertising for a further 7 years going through the motions, moving around with my boss but still not really knowing where I was going to end up.
During that time (in 2006) we decided to try for a baby and two years later, just before we were about to start IVF, I magically fell pregnant with Jack.
Ahhhh, and then there he was…all 8lbs 13oz of deliciousness.
Oh hi there… There I am.
I see. Now I get it. So, this is me. This is what I have been waiting for…
Becoming a mum was definitely the most pivotal moment for me. In those first few weeks it felt like the last 12 years (since I left school) of not knowing what I was doing, where I belonged, and who I was completely fell away to make room for me. I felt such overwhelming euphoria, like a spark had been lit and the whole world seemed to open up in front of me. And it didn’t stop.
I loved being a new mum, I loved going back to work when Jack was 3 months old as the new me (a mum). I loved spending every waking hour at the weekends being a mum. I loved hanging out with friends (as a mum), I loved telling anyone and everyone (who listened) that I was a mum.
For the first time ever I felt totally confident in me, my purpose and I felt I had a genuine direction in life.
And then after six years of having Jack all to ourselves, he became two…
I know it’s a total cliche but becoming a mother really has been the making of me.
It has made me ambitious, it has made me appreciate (rather than regret) my youth for shaping me, it has made me more confident, it has made me want to work hard, it has made me adore my parents even more, it has made me feel like I can achieve absolutely anything and ultimately it has made me a better person.
Those floating pieces in that unsure puzzle have all of a sudden slotted into place.
It’s strange isn’t it…sometimes you’ll come across the most confident, ambitious, and maternal person who will shatter once they become a mum for the first time. Another who never ‘wanted’ children, falls pregnant, panics and then becomes the most natural, nurturing mum you will ever meet.
This ‘thing’ called motherhood really does bring something quite unexpected out in all of us, in so many different ways, but what it does do (very wonderfully) to us all, is create a very common ground. It doesn’t matter if you’re the natural one, or you’re the one who feels the most awkward, or the one who needs regular ‘me’ time, or the one who doesn’t want to leave their babies side…there is no right or wrong way to feel but we do all feel something.
I have spent a lot of my 39 years making quite a few very bad decisions, but I personally feel like I have also made some of my very best. And I am quite sure there will be plenty more to make for our children (like my parents had to make for me), and I (we) won’t get all of them right but we’ll do our very best. And that’s good enough.
That really is, motherhood and me.
OUR FAMILY WEEKLY ROUND UP
Jack sprained (might have even chipped a bone on) his ankle playing football.
Mr LMA went to watch Liverpool v Roma and slept overnight in his taxi.
I ordered ‘that’ polka dot skirt from H&M (yet to eagerly receive).
Finn had a referral to the eye hospital, but all is fine.
Finn’s new sayings are ‘oh flip’ and ‘hi peeps’. Say what?
The wash basket is full to the brim (again) after non existent washing all week.
There’s something incredibly special about experiencing new things as a family, and this particular trip was no exception.
It totally blew our minds in so many ways.
It was built around a family wedding in Mexico which would have been too far to fly just for the weekend, plus Jack and Finn were ring bearers, so we didn’t want to miss it. So we made it our very special summer holiday.
We flew into LA, as the flights were considerably cheaper than into San Diego, and went with Air New Zealand through a friend’s recommendation. We’re so glad we did…the Skycouch has totally revolutionised economy long haul travelling (not that we fly long haul very often, but we definitely want to now). They are by far the best way to travel with kids, unless of course you can afford business class, and it doesn’t cost a huge amount more than a normal economy ticket.
The best things were…there was plenty of room for both boys to lie down flat, side by side, and sleep for about 6 of the 11 hour flight ( big win), there were specific seat belts which meant the kids didn’t need to be disturbed if there was turbulence, and while they were indulging in hour after hour of films at their disposal they sat in total comfort.
Top Tip – we needed new beach towels so I decided to buy the hamman towels by Sand & Salt which doubled up on the flights as blankets (see below), plus beach / pool towels.
We decided to pack a lot into our trip so only booked 3 nights in LA, landing in the evening of the first night so we only had two full days before we moved on to San Diego.
I found LA accommodation the hardest to decide on because they’re all so expensive!!! Again I went on a friends recommendation to stay in Santa Monica (v good choice) but found the hotels / Airbnb costly so decided to stay in Marina del Rey (approx. 20 mins cab ride). I chose the Jamaica Bay Inn for it’s location, it’s pool overlooking the marina (where you can paddle board), and the stunning view from the marina rooms. The place I would have loved to have stayed was Shutters on the Beach, strangely enough it was the most common hotel to appear on my feed every time I searched on Google (funny that), but there wasn’t a hope in hell unfortunately.
Our first full day was spent on Venice Beach. Wow. It rendered us speechless, there was so much to see and so much going on. The expanse of white sand, the pops of colour, the vibe, the Baywatch lifeguard stations, the skateboarding, bikes everywhere…just everything. It’s basically Camden by the sea which some people will hate but we loved. We then headed off to dinner at Coast in Shutters on the Beach. I’d be damned if we weren’t going to experience some part of that hotel while we were here (obvs). It’s certainly not cheap but worth the treat…divine roasted artichokes, clams, muscles, Prosecco…you name it, we ate it (and very kid friendly).
Our first day passed us by in a delicious, yet jet lagged, haze and I can’t say we were ready for the early morning departure to our surprise trip planned especially for the kids…Disneyland. It would have been daft to travel all this way and not visit, so we planned to make the most of it in one full day. We woke the kids at 06:30 to a wrapped present each hiding their Mickey Mouse t-shirts which you would have thought might have triggered an idea of where they were going but Jack especially was totally unaware, in his sleep deprived zombie state. An anticlimax at it’s very best (and I have the film to prove it).
Again, on a recommendation, we bought ‘hopper’ tickets for both parks, Disneyland and the California Adventure Park, as we were only there for a day and were told it would be possible to do both. They were absolutely right, you just have to prepare yourself for a really long day (14 hours in fact). It’s also best to head into the California Adventure Park first and Disneyland after so you can finish with the parades and fireworks (which are obviously two of the most magical parts).
We ordered an Uber for 07:30 (they are the only way to travel in LA if you don’t have a car), to arrive just in time for our pre-booked breakfast with Goofy at 08:30 (squeal). The taxi ride sparked excitement in Jack, and the questions started flowing…’Is it really the place we see on the TV?’, ‘What do you mean we’re having breakfast with Goofy?’, ‘Are we allowed to go on the rides?’, ‘What, all of them?’…his little mind was exploding.
Goofy’s Kitchen was great fun, unlimited food, singing, and something I would highly recommend because the kids get to meet so many of the characters in one place so you don’t spend the rest of the day chasing them around the parks and queuing with hundreds of other families for photos. Although Finn HATED every single one of the characters and screamed every time they came over!!!
We always knew this day would be more for Jack than Finn. Jack would be the only one to remember it so we gave him the map and asked him to guide us where to go, and in what order. We took it in turns to go on a ride with him, and because we’d downloaded the Disney MaxPass app we could easily see which rides had the shortest waiting time, plus we could book in our FASTPASS’ directly from our phone (massive win). Another great thing about the MaxPass is that all photos taken by Disneyland’s photographers during your stay are uploaded to your account so you can print them off when you get home, etc.
There’s something very magical about Disneyland which will forever be one of our greatest memories…the over the top American culture was just perfect and it felt like we were walking onto different film sets all day. I was blown away and Jack was mesmerised. Our favourite ride had to be Radiator Springs in Cars Land, and luckily it was my turn to go on with him. Jack went on rolling his eyes at me when I divulged the Cars were real and he came off whispering in excitement that they absolutely are real!!!!!
It was an exhaustingly long day, but we stayed until the bitter end but unfortunately didn’t see the fireworks as they were cancelled due to wind. Both boys were given a few dollars to spend while they were there, we walked forever, we ate huge chunks of water melon, Finn cried on almost every ride he went on, we dined in one of the Cars Land gas stations, ate far too much pop corn and Jack got to drive his very own car in Autopia in the middle of the night! What a very special experience which will make you smile for many months to come.
That was the end of our quick stop in LA, and the next morning we were checking out and heading to the train station for San Diego.
Lots of people suggested we hired a car and drove to San Diego but in reality hotels in LA charge a lot for use of their car parks (it costs much less to get an Uber everywhere), plus the Pacific Surfliner coastal train sounded easy, looked incredible and didn’t seem that expensive. The journey was going to be 2.5 hours, I pre-booked business class tickets ($180 for four of us) as you’re not guaranteed seats in economy (and that’s not viable with kids), they’re double decker trains plus it travels right along the coast so the views, I assumed, were going to be amazing.
I mean, it was unbelievable!
I could quite easily become a train nerd after that journey. The views were incredible, being upstairs on a train amazed Jack, we had table seats which meant the kids could play, colour, read in their own space (I could keep Finn out of the aisles), and we just managed to grab coffee and croissants before we boarded it as probably one of the noisiest, touristy hillbilly families to ever grace a quiet, businessmen adorned carriage who were peacefully working on emails (oops).
It’s hard to know what to bring two very different aged kids to keep them occupied on a long haul trip when you’re trying to keep baggage to a minimum.
Top Tip – I bought each a personalised toy bag with strict instructions that they could fill it with anything they wanted but this would be their only source of toys to play with whilst on holiday (Finn naturally chose cars, lego men and Woody / Buzz / Jessie figures, while Jack chose cars, UNO, fidget spinners, lego and his superhero figures). I found it a really good way to restrict what we took and it kept their toys totally separate – and no arguments! I also packed a colouring book each plus a couple of books. That was it.
Arriving into San Diego station was like entering into a different world. We left quite a dirty, industrial looking LA Union Station and ended up in a palm tree lined, glistening city which looked like it had been taken right out of the movies. It was love at first site.
I researched San Diego for probably the longest time as I knew very few people who had visited (hence not as many accommodation recommendations as LA) and had absolutely no idea where we should stay. The hotel I really fancied was La Valencia in La Jolla, but it’s quite far north, and even though it looked spectacular we were only in San Diego for another 3 nights so felt we needed to be more central to make the most of it. Again Uber is the way to travel around this city so we quickly booked one and made our way to The Dana on Mission Bay. (As recommended by my sister in law who’s wedding we were over for, and who lives in California).
The Dana…just wow!
The location, the view, the calmness, the marina bay pool, those garlic and soy edamame, that enormous bed..the wow’s were endless. I actually cried when I saw the view from our room.
We spent most of our time in San Diego really taking it easy. LA was so busy from the moment we landed to the time we boarded the train, plus Finn had developed croup, so we mostly went to bed with the kids at 20:00, indulged in great food, played table tennis, ate some more, and I went on a solo coffee run every morning at 06:30 just so I could watch the sun rise. Magical.
We ventured out one evening to Mission Beach, a lovely walk from the bay, and stumbled across the most amazing sushi restaurant – Cannonball. I had no idea San Diego was famous for it’s sushi but it certainly has something to be proud of. We inhaled two rounds of utter deliciousness, which the kids loved, all on an oceanfront roof terrace with Ibizan musical vibes tinkling in the background.
For our last full day in San Diego we decided to visit Coronado Island (another recommendation), which is only accessible by ferry or one road from the mainland. We decided to Uber it.
This place quite rightly stole my heart.
The most velvety expanse of the whitest sand I have ever seen. Edged with sand dunes, and peppered with red topped parasols which belong to, and match the roof of, the infamous colonial Coronado Hotel (another place we’d love to stay, probably never).
It’s probably also the windiest beach we have every been on plus a seagull stole our tennis ball, but glorious all the same.
Another interesting but unknown fact about San Diego is they celebrate Taco Tuesday. Apparently it’s busier than a Saturday night out and lucky for us our last night was on a Tuesday, so there was only one thing for it…we went in search of taco’s.
So on the way back from Coronado Island we headed to San Diego’s ‘old town’ which we were told would be heaving on a Tuesday night, and we chose Casa Guadalajara which suited us perfectly as we entered as wind swept, sand covered and salty hair tinged, hungry tourists. Unbeknown to us they also made the biggest and best margaritas I have ever tasted! Delicious.
Needless to say we left San Diego very happy, very chilled, Finn’s croup was in it’s last stages and we were ready to meet up with the Irish family for the eagerly awaited wedding…in Mexico!!!!
After being picked up from The Dana by the bride, we travelled as a three truck convoy (totalling 30 from the Irish side of the family) to the border on the way to the wedding hotel in Ensenada, Mexico, where we stayed for the next 5 nights. Travelling through borders by car is an experience in itself if you’re not used to it and after our very calm week in our bubble of four, this is where the fun really started!!!
The difference in landscape as soon as you cross the border into Mexico is astounding, it’s a little less well kept and a little more rugged but the views and the sunsets are just as beautiful.
Hotel Punto Morro is spectacularly positioned on the edge of a cliff with breathtaking views from all rooms, the pool, the restaurant and the wedding marquee. And Ensenada itself really is a culturally exciting place to visit. We watched a famous Mexican boxing fight in a local Mexican bar plus briefly experienced their festival before heading back to hotel, all kids in tow, to sit around the fire pit and join the Mexicans and Irish in what they do best…drink ice cold beers, from the many cool boxes, and sing until your hearts content.
The Mexican’s and Irish are big on family values and the wedding reflected every part of their inspirational cultures. It was hands down the most beautiful, vibrant, fun, colourful, music filled and family orientated day…and it’s true, they sure know how to party!!!!
After the wedding we visited a local vineyard for dinner. Not really knowing what to expect from the desert surroundings we were overwhelmed by the beauty of Finca Altozano, especially the astonishing oysters, delicious octopus, deep fried brussel sprouts (life changing) and melt in the mouth sweetcorn bread.
As we left Ensenada we stopped off at Ortega’s a local ocean side restaurant in Lobster Village, Puerto Nuevo, witnessing another stunning sunset, delicious lobster and a brilliant mariachi band.
The last stop of our adventure found us back in California, specifically in Imperial Valley, staying with family in their home. Our last few days consisted of witnessing (and being very much part of) more of the Mexican’s amazingly family orientated life. Including getting used to fully air conditioned houses (it’s 40 degrees a lot of the time), our niece’s birthday party, the sudden drop in temperature when we visited nearby mountain villages like Julian, the tastiest apple pie which would give our recipes a run for their money, plus the pure joy on Jack’s face to have a pool in your back yard!
And then it was over.
The trouble with going on such an unbelievable holiday means that coming back is so much harder, and the jet lag on the return well, whoaaaa…no-one prepared us for that!
But what returning home does do, very positively, is reaffirm the strength of your family unit, it reminds you how much you love spending time in your bubble, it reinforces all the fun you can have together, and above all it makes you want to work harder and strive for more unbelievable memory making experiences.
I would highly recommend all of the above, ten times over, and travelling with kids (at any age), and making new memories with them, is absolutely the best part!
Seriously these two subjects are like oil and water, strawberries and houmous or fasting and hangovers…they very simply DO NOT MIX. It doesn’t matter if you’re your own boss or you work for one, the struggle’s the same and the reality is you always know in your gut when ‘that moment’ is approaching, but foremost on your mind (well my mind anyway) is…’Please no not now, don’t get sick now…I’ve got such a busy day tomorrow. Be well for just one more day and then, I promise, I’m all yours’.
Ring any bells?
I work in the corporate world, Finn goes to all day nursery and Jack goes to breakfast club – school – and then after school club, so we rely upon lots of other people looking after our kids while we work. And one of the things I dread is when they get ill (not because they’re ill as such but more because our meticulously worked out routine will be broken). In black and white what I’ve just said sounds awful, I mean why would you think twice about not being at home with your kids when they’re poorly? God, you must be such a bad mother to choose work over looking after your sick babies. It’s only work after all, surely your children are your priority? Yep…I’ve certainly felt all of the above over the years, ten times over, and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so but not being able to just ‘drop’ work and stay at home when sickness arrives on the doorstep is part of being a working parent. That good old mum numbing guilt, frustratingly not being able to please everyone, at it’s very best.
I can honestly say I have rarely felt guilty for working even when both kids are being looked after by others from 08:00 – 18:00, it’s just something we’ve had to do as a family. Finances dictate that we both have to work (full stop), and I worked full time until Jack was five. It wasn’t until he had started primary school that I felt the overwhelming need to reduce my working week and have just one day to take him to school at a normal time, pick him up at the normal time, meet the other parents, speak to his teachers, and basically get to know his new school life. Luckily it was at a time that it was ok financially for me to take a salary cut, so thankfully I was able to start the ‘flexi working’ discussion at work. That whole process took a lot longer than anticipated (which I’ll save for another time), but ever since I’ve had Friday’s off I feel so much more balanced, plus I’m definitely a better mum for it…four days working (which I enjoy), plus a three day weekend (which I cherish). It works for us.
As is with I’m sure most working parents our normal week is very structured, strict on time keeping, precise, and everyone knows where everyone is, every day, but throw in a sick child and it tests even the tightest routines and most robust of extended caring networks.
Take last week for example…more juggling than ever, numerous quick decisions needed, not many highs and a hell of a lot of low lows. None were catastrophic lows (obviously) but they were definitely tricky.
Just to set the scene…we’ve experienced gastroenteritis only once before when we went away as a family of 16 (11 adults and 5 kids) to a beautiful farmhouse in the South of France for 2 weeks over the summer in 2015 (while I was on maternity leave with Finn). The first couple of days were a total dream. My sister was the first to get ill on the second evening and then it literally was a human domino effect…Jack threw up next while sat on the toilet, then me, then my mum, and so on. It was like living in a life size petri dish. No-one actually fully recovered during that holiday, we just kept passing the bug around (through the swimming pool which we didn’t realise at the time), Finn had to go to the doctors at one point and my mum was so poorly she didn’t properly recover for at least a couple of weeks after we’d returned home. A holiday to remember.
So imagine my absolute pleasure at getting it for the second time last weekend, luckily only as a family of 4 and no swimming pool in sight, but ferocious none the less. It obviously came from Finn, and obviously from his nursery (the one very annoying thing about nurseries…you get a dose of every bug going). Totally hideous but no actual throwing up at first (just dodgy stomachs), and so we continued as normal on Monday and Tuesday, as Finn seemed fine in himself plus he was eating. (Jack was also by the seaside with a grandparent so luckily wasn’t party to it).
It then turned into sickness hell on Tuesday night at around 9pm. I moved Finn into our bed (as his was no longer fit to be slept in), Mr LMA slept in Jack’s top bunk, and I was then on vomit watch for the next five hours. Poor thing. He hasn’t been as poorly since ‘that’ holiday, but if I’m completely honest all I remember thinking at 2am, whilst he was projectiling strawberries into a saucepan, was…’Please stop soon. I need sleep. I have to go to work tomorrow’.
Awful mum? Maybe. But not really, I just can’t help my head spinning at times like this, trying to figure out how the next few days are going to work, who’s going to look after Finn if he’s poorly tomorrow, how will I manage work on 4 hours sleep, (with coffee obviously) and it’s fine, I can cope just as well as I used to when I was 23 and out until 3am stumbling into work hungover and reeking of alcohol vowing, I’d never do it again.
This time Finn had actually timed it perfectly throwing up on a Tuesday, because it meant he could stay at home with Mr LMA on ‘daddy daycare Wednesday’, so phew…no need to ‘have that convo’ with my boss or call in the extra caring cavalry just yet. (Win).
If you were party to my insta stories last week you will also know this greatest of all timings was short lived and on Thursday morning when I dropped Finn back at nursery (with only a slight temperature, zero sickness plus a full stomach and a smile), I got to work just in time to receive a call from the nursery to say his temperature had rocketed to 39 degrees and he needed picking up. Great. Conversation with my boss had to then happen, work summer afternoon out was declined, and we have spent the last four delightful days at home, inside, Jack and I both placating / hugging / and sympathising with our little blonde ball of magic.
Normality thankfully resumed somewhat on Sunday morning, when Finn woke without a temperature for the first time, but then Mr LMA spent the entire morning rushing between the bedroom and the toilet so…it’s still very much with us.
Our Family Weekly Round Up
Jack and I gorged on pork while the other two couldn’t eat a thing.
I’ve re-realised I absolutely can’t sleep in the same bed as my kids (fidgets).
I managed to sneak out and went to my first Juxlomama event (win).
It’s day 43 of my intermittent fasting, and it might actually be working.
There are only 2 weeks left of the summer hols (eek).
Which means it’s only 3 weeks until our holiday!!!!!!
Finn is not 100% so not entirely sure what this next week holds (wish me luck).
Monday’s come round far too quickly…but why the hell are we ALWAYS so surprised when they turn up? Why do we not know off by heart by now that a Monday follows a Sunday, it’s the start of the week, and therefore it’s time to get our shit together?
I, like most, usually deny that Monday is tomorrow and therefore get those Sunday twitches which I first remember feeling at school. The realisation of not finishing all of my homework used to slap me in the face around 17:00…now the realisation is predominantly that I haven’t got round to washing something which is urgently needed by someone.
Don’t get me wrong, Sunday’s are also one of my favourite days of the week, it’s the day when I feel most relaxed (after having two days off already), it’s the day when there are no expectations, no pre-paid sporting events I have to take Jack to, we rarely make plans (unless it’s a family lunch, which is always a great thing), it’s a day I can just potter, and it’s the one day when there’s a bigger chance Mr LMA just might make it home for dinner.
So to help reduce the shock of a Monday springing up on me I’ve since learnt, over the years, a few helpful tips to smooth the way.
My Sunday strategy includes…
Ensuring a wash is put on first thing which includes the forgotten uniform.
Making sure pants for all boys are in same wash as there definitely won’t be any clean. (If you’re pushed for time, only wash the PE kit as uniform isn’t really needed until Wednesday).
Reminding Jack (before you put a movie on) to unpack his school bag (from Friday).
Reading the school letters Jack’s been stashing hours before you go to bed to ensure you don’t lose sleep on all the things you might have missed (mainly payments for school trips).
Buying 4 pints of full fat milk (this is more an every day reminder as we ALWAYS run out of milk).
Cooking too much for dinner so you’re guaranteed leftovers for a few lunches at work, (unless of course Mr LMA is home for dinner which means you’re screwed).
Mopping the floors with something lovely smelling to make you feel like you’ve cleaned the entire flat and eradicate lack of cleaning skills guilt.
Putting clean clothes away which have been sitting there all week (I mostly ignore this one because it’s logical and easier to leave them out as more often than not they’ll be worn again, immediately – why do boys do that?).
Taking something out of the freezer for Monday night’s dinner, because you won’t EVER remember to do it in the morning.
Setting your alarm for 05:45 so you can go for a run before the flat is awake. (This will always kick start the day and makes you feel great!).
Switching the other alarm on for 06:45 because nine times out of ten you’ll turn the previous one off. (There’s always tomorrow).
Going to bed before 23:00 to ensure morning crankiness is at a minimum (therefore start your new Monday blog post earlier so you’re not still clicking keys at 00:05).
So by achieving at least 50% of the above on a Sunday (I find) really helps to reduce Monday morning chaos, because I don’t know one person, with kids, who is able to glide effortlessly through Monday without a moan, missing pants, or milk.
The key is to remind myself, to remember, to plan ahead (smart I know).
Our Family Weekly Round Up
Finn’s discovered his love of corn on the cob.
Jack played crazy golf for the first time with Grandpa.
Liverpool drew with Watford (v sore point with Mr LMA).
Finn and I have caught gastroenteritis (boiled chicken starts now).
I ate at an Ivy Cafe for the first time (highly recommend the shepherds pie).
Finn really rocks a head scarf and could easily pass as a girl.
Jack, aged 8, is now wearing trousers for 10 year olds.
I had a minor panic on Sunday evening, after I dropped Jack off to his grandparents for the second week running, that I had planned too much for him over the school holidays. (Jack very much goes with the flow so you never quite know what he’s thinking and even if he doesn’t enjoy something he’ll more than likely just do it anyway).
As we’re not going away until September (to a family wedding hence why we’re taking a holiday during term time), I am working through the school holidays, bar a couple of odd days, so organised a full itinerary for Jack to ensure he wouldn’t get bored. This includes three sets of 3 night sleepovers with grandparents, various camps including coding, cricket and (of course) football plus visiting friends, swimming and / or whatever Mr LMA and I had planned on a Wednesday and Friday. It felt like a great idea at the time but I think the whole not sleeping at home for so many nights came to a head at the weekend and made me question our parenting.
I know. It sounds pathetic. And I can hear some of my friends who haven’t got grandparent support say that I’m mad, and I should be thankful. I can also hear my other friends say they wish they worked and didn’t have to spend the entire 6 weeks with their kids at home going crazy. The reality is we all have our ‘wants’ and will always be envious of some parts of other people’s lives but we also have those moments (which we should remind ourselves more regularly) of feeling incredibly lucky.
Jack is incredibly lucky to be able to go to different camps and to have grandparents around who want to spend time with him. Finn is incredibly lucky to be able to go to nursery during the holidays and spend time with his friends, and I’m incredibly lucky to be able to work and also have a three day weekend. Life is what you make it and I chose this particular route so note to self…”Stop moaning about missing your kids, love the love they’re getting elsewhere and enjoy that little bit of time you’re having without them”. After all…absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Well mostly, not all the time. Sometimes we need less absence and more presence.
Mr LMA has been working night shifts (he’s a London black cabbie) for the past 5 weeks (and will do until our holiday) which means that apart from Wednesday’s (his one day off) we’re like passing ships in the night. He’s asleep when we wake, when we get home in the evening and go to sleep, he’s awake and working. And more annoyingly what tends to happen is as I’m so time constrained on the other three days and leave the office at 17:00 to pick the kids up I end up working late on a Wednesday, on probably the most important day of the week when I should be leaving on time to spend the evening with the boyf. So then what happens? We bicker. No shit Sherlock.
We’ve never been good at not seeing each other, but we do so rarely at the moment that when we have a couple of hours of family time it usually ends up as one massive anticlimax. Jack will be in a mood for not getting his own way, Finn won’t listen to a word of discipline so we then resort in taking charge of one child each and grunting to each other sarcastically about what a lovely time we’re having. It’s always the bloody way. You look forward so much to that ‘time’ you end up ruining it, without any real reason, other than you know it’s never for long enough.
But we’ve both learnt over the years that the key to getting through phases like this, and believe me we have been through a lot of them, is to accept them, laugh through them and keep looking forward to the end in sight. Soooooooooooooooooo Mr LMA…
…I’ll see you in 4 weeks on holibobs !!!!
Our Family Weekly Round Up
Jack started reading Harry Potter (my dream came true).
Mr LMA bought new suitcases for our holiday.
I didn’t manage to run once (can’t remember why).
Jack caught the best batsman out at cricket camp (proud).
The washing machine has started to smell like rotten eggs (annoying).
I found holiday bargains in Primark (would definitely recommend a visit).
Finn now knows how to say Dumbledore (Jack’s win).
My littlest sister came over and we drank (a lot of) Prosecco…hic.