Back to School

 

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Well the title says it all. This is the week. Our 12 weeks of summer are over once again. They have honestly been good. A lot of fun but also a lot of hard work and I still think they are at least 3 weeks too long!

Mumming full time to 3 kids that now have opinions, wants and attitudes is not easy and that’s without any of the issues I’ve had with Poppy. These 3 kids though as they grow they’re so loving, inquisitive, imaginative and eager to please that they can be an absolute pleasure when they want to be!

I find it amazing how our 3 can all be so different. The day of going into school will be a completely unique experience for each of them.

Poppy – heading into a new special school for her 6th year of full time education. Excited and ready but really having no clue where she is going on her 35 minute commute – on the school bus. No expectations of the school or her class.

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Izzy – Onto 3rd grade. She realises this will be real school. A decent amount of responsibility and state testing for the 1st year of many. She’s heading in happy, confident and excited to meet new friends but I can tell she has a sense of uneasiness about how this year will go.

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Leo – He’s undecided as to whether he wants to bother with school now! After longingly watching his sisters go into school every day he now thinks staying with mummy is a good option. When we moved to Florida I got an extra year with Leo. Children start at age 5 as opposed to 4 in the UK. Initially I was kind of disappointed I would be delayed my ‘freedom’ by a year but I am so grateful to have had his wonderful company for the extra time. Maybe it’s me who’s not sure he should bother with school!

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New school year means a new routine. My do’s & don’ts:

Do’s

  • I’ve decided in terms of extra curricular activities we will lay low until Autumn. Girls will cheer and attend brownies but nothing more. I feel like there will be a big adjustment period for each of them.
  • Set bedtimes with a story for both Leo & Poppy. I forgot the power of reading to a child with the late summer nights, both still need to be exposed to stories, words & letters
  • I will blow dry all 3’s hair after showers, mega task but hopefully prevent the wet hair tangles and tears in the morning
  • Take breakfast orders at bedtime – save me shouting up the stairs repeatedly trying to sort it
  • I’ll keep reminding the kids they are capable of making their own beds!!
  • Be strict with homework and leave time to actually be there helping. Izzy is really the only 1 that had homework so far and was self sufficient so I’d hover around but was always busy. They all need me there to encourage and help
  • Volunteer at both schools
  • Join Izzy & Leo once a month for their lunch – parents can go in any day and eat with their child. So cute but incredibly noisy!
  • Be as organised as possible to ensure a smooth morning. I’m talking shoes at door, bags packed etc

Don’ts

  • I will not set expectations of grand lunches by making butterflies out of cheese, ain’t gonna happen!
  • I will not be the last parent to pay for the field trip – Izzy was always left in a panic about this
  • Don’t miss a thing. I will be home for the next few months at least. All the events that sometimes to me, seem unimportant, mean the world to our kids I have no excuse to not be there
  • Don’t expect. I will keep an open mind and embrace where this academic year takes the kids

So we’ve done meet the teachers, taken in bags & bags of school supplies. Walked the corridors and classrooms of both schools, we’re ready to go!

All the kids are starting on different days so next week i will write about how their 1st days went.

Shopping – Filling a home U.S style

Before we left for Florida we had pretty much our whole house packed up and put on a ship to Jacksonville. All the furnishings and decor Rob and I had built up over our last 2 homes together.

We started the process of choosing a home relatively quickly and within a few weeks had an offer accepted on a beautiful house that felt like home.

Move in day and our furniture is all brought in. Well it looked like dolls furniture!! We’d obviously realised this house was bigger than our English home but it looked ridiculous! 😂

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Now we hadn’t really budgeted to buy new furniture for a whole house since our old stuff was still in good condition. That meant my job was to find and buy items to fill the empty spaces, without breaking the bank.

I mentioned in my previous shopping blog about not knowing any of the shops and brands. I didn’t know the furniture shops either so I started trawling through all the shops followed by 3 kids who would rather be in a pool than spending hours in & out the car, in & out of shops.

The worst thing was we couldn’t afford anything in those shops without an extra mortgage! Even the shops that were ‘outlets’ were still over the top price wise.

So I started asking the few friends I’d made where I could find cheaper but still good quality items. I was directed to a few websites and told about looking for coupons. We did order a few items with a sale and then a coupon, I felt comfortable we’d got a bargain. The postage time here though is ridiculous, often over a week even for small items. Amazon is extremely popular for quick delivery and generally that’s still 2 days.

I then found a few shops like homesense in the Uk. Where you wander round rummaging through shelves, but have to buy otherwise next time you go, the item is gone! Spent a lot of money buying “just incase it goes” 😂

The other ways we managed to start filling the house was something called swip swop. Facebook groups by area where people sell all kinds of items, generally at very good value! We bought big items this way. Sofas, coffee tables, bed frames etc.
I still regularly look through the sites for a good bargain.

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I also discovered curb alerts. Where people would put on an fb group an item they left curbside outside their property. Free to the first person to get there. I raced for a few items that way!
Or on bin day if an item is in the curb you can take it, not ashamed to say I grabbed some good stuff over the last 2 years!

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My favourite curbside find ☝️

Now I know what you’re all thinking, why didn’t I just go to ikea? There wasn’t one!! The nearest ikea was 2 hours away. Rob had even mentioned this before we moved and I assumed he was wrong. Ikea finally arrived in jacksonville November 2017 and now I enjoy visiting on a regular basis to restock my basics – candles, straws and bag clips!

Stay tuned to my blog, I’m working on publishing a new vlog. House tour! See the house we had to fill 🙂

Target Vlog!

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Hi all, last week we went on a family shopping trip to target as it was a rainy day and the kids had been promised a toy. I decided to have a go at creating a vlog about what we bought the kids to go along with my shopping blogs.

☝️ there’s the link! I realised as soon as it uploaded to youtube I need to film landscape not portrait so picture quality not amazing I’m afraid. Also I have no clue how to edit but am spending what feels like many hours researching and learning so going forward my vlogs will be better quality.

The pic of me is the make shift tripod I created out of a doll box! So you see the equipment I have to work with 🤣

Let me know what you think and if there is any content you would like to see me vlog about. Enjoy!

Stateside Shopping!

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American shops, all the shops seen on films, tv shows or in my case pinterest, all the time! I used to see something I liked on pinterest – you could guarantee it was from an American shop! Well now those shops are at my finger tips.

Moving over to Florida I had to find a new shopping groove. New go to’s for the kids, me, home and even food shopping! I was an expert shopper but suddenly these new places felt daunting. Every shop I went in I had no clue where anything was or sometimes even what would be sold in the shop!

A food shop would literally take me hours. Gone were the days of zipping through tesco with a trolley – or having my online order prefilled with essentials and the lovely delivery men putting all my bags in the kitchen!!

I’d stare at shelves, looking at unfamiliar brands, trying to see which was the best value. I mean a family of 5, you can imagine how long that takes.

Then I’d do it all again the next week, at a different shop trying to lower the cost. This was not a quick holiday trip to the supermarket, this was our new life and a budget that didn’t allow for costly supermarket trips.

Honestly, even now I’m still figuring this all out. I’ve gone from expensive shops that sell everything to fresh green grocer type places alongside $ tree and aldi!

I tried costco once a month to buy in bulk with a quick top up at a local shop. Costco though = $100s I want it all and its all big and expensive!

Then I found an aldi, roughly 11 miles 20 minutes drive away and started going every week. I got tired of weekly shopping so tried doing a 2 week shop – we have a big pantry but if food is there it’s most definitely eaten quicker than I anticipated! Food and drinks are packaged big enough at least to warrant only shopping 2x a month. I just have “hungry” ie.greedy kids!

Now I am trialing a bi-weekly shop at Freshfields Farm. A 30 minute drive up the freeway – hence why its taken so long to try regularly.

It’s basically a big greengrocer and butchers. Pick my own fruit and veg plus meat at better prices with much more selection than the other supermarkets I’ve tried. I can also buy a big variety of herbs, which for some reason are not readily available round here. All at great competitive prices, hallelujah, at last!

A big freezer is a must here, most houses also have an extra freezer in the garage! I separate all my meat for the 2 weeks and freeze in portions for 5. I’ve also started freezing the herbs as the packs they are sold in go off in a few days. Great way to ensure I’m getting moneys worth!

The following week I’ve started using walmart (asda) pick up. The big supermarkets still don’t offer delivery here (you can pay a provider that will shop for you at limited shops). Walmart at least do a pick up. I senf Rob as its near his office. He’s always made it back with everything and unflusterd so its a win! I use walmart for top up of fresh items and milk then snacks, paper products and other pantry items.

I mentioned budget earlier on. The food shop here, it’s not cheap. I almost stopped and cried at the cost of mandarins in aldi compared to home! I shop for things we need, not things we want due to the cost which makes me sad but hey ho we can’t have everything can we?? I’d have loved to have shopped M&S every week at home (Think Fresh market US friends)
At least it means I avoid that amazing sweet aisle in the pic above!

To ensure I keep the food budget I meal plan for 2 weeks – I use pinterest a lot for meal ideas, plus my old recipe books, facebook groups, instagram and magazines.

Then write a comprehensive list. I try my very very hardest to stick to the list. 100% easier if Rob or the kids are not with me 😂

I’ve also tried coupons but I find I buy the item because there is a coupon rather than needing it! Also the coupons are generally for brands and I couldn’t care less about brands.
I’d rather buy aldi own at less cost. Got to love a good branded BOGO(F) though!

Lastly, shops here giveaway free coffee whilst your browsing and publix give kids cookies. Perfect bribe!

Follow my blog, facebook page or instagram page to see my next shopping blogs. Clothes, home, bargains and a few lost in translation items!

Surviving the summer!

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This is a follow up blog to my #12weeksofsummer I published back in June.
As the Uk are just starting their summer break of 6 weeks thought I would post a few tips to help along the way and also as a way for me to refocus and rock the last 19 days of school break! (No, I’m not counting 😉)

I’ve thought about all the things we have been doing that have made our break a success so far and I also asked the nocatee mummy tribe for some of their successes.

Routines change massively in the summer so be ready for different bed and wake times, the house to be a mess and noisy constantly, more trips to mcdonalds than you’d like to admit too and a losing battle with the laundry. Mental preparation is a must!

Our 3rd summer here with these long breaks, none have been as bad as I’ve expected so be positive about the break. A chance to be with your children- you only get 18ish summers after all!

Routine, schedule, planning all really help! Some mums have allocated a day for actives eg. Mondays parks, wednesdays swimming.

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Other mummies have a routine where they go out every morning and chill in the afternoons – often a must here because of the heat and the thunder storms.

The girls 2nd grade teacher has been doing “Try it Tuesday”. Each week on Tuesdays her family try something or somewhere new. New restaurants, parks, or places of interest. I’m definitely going to do this next 12 weeks of summer!

Camps, fill some time up with those. Don’t feel guilty for sending the kids. Everyone needs a break from each other sometimes and this is a way of getting that and loads of entertainment for the littles.

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One mummy told me she booked her boys individually in a camp alternate weeks so they got their fun and break from sibling but also 1 on 1 time with mum, genius! Something else I’ll be doing next summer.

Ask the kids for their input, dragging them places they don’t want to go all summer long is no fun for anyone. I posted before about our bucket list and its been a real success for us. Take a read of that blog too!

Sometimes you do have to drag the kids around places though I mean life has to go on, food shopping still has to happen (although I recommend online 🙂), appointments etc. Just compromise, yes its rubbish, boring blah blah blah but after you get to ride bikes or swim or watch you tube kids.

Get in some supplies. Go to £ land or $ tree to stock up on crafts for rainy days or a bit of down time. I know in my house Poppy at least is happy with some scissors and scraps of paper!
We also did projects and sensory play throughout the summer.

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Another thing to stock up on is snacks because for some reason kids can’t stop eating all day long whilst not in school. I mean mine literally stand at our pantry looking for snacks 50% of the day!

Also wine, lots and lots of wine.

The internet is your friend. I’ve mentioned I research activities lots before, but we also use the internet for entertaining and getting the kids moving. Their favourites are cosmic yoga and born to move dance programme by Les Mills. Of course there is always someone watching a random child opening a toy on youtube kids too!

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Rally your mummy friends up for the summer. Playdates are an easy hit in terms of occupying your kids and having some adult conversation. Make it fun by serving margaritas or some other exotic cocktail 🙂 Adults only, obvs! Kids can have some gummy bears.

Also other mummies are a great source of information. Have no shame in copying where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing from Instagram or facebook posts!

Take help when its offered. I’ve learnt since moving away from family if a neighbor or friend offers to watch our kids say yes and leave fast! Without family round I’ve also had to ask for help with kids on occasion and we use sitters.
Take your breaks alone and with your partner.

Enjoy your summer!

Why I always say yes!

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Look at those smiling faces! That’s why I always say yes!!

This weeks request was tie dye. Not something we’ve done before but apparently you tube makes it look very easy and lots of fun.

We all know I’m not a fan of mess and throw a sensory child into the mix and we’ve often had disastrous scenes! So saying yes to this type of project is kinda a big deal.
However I love to see my kids happy so I agreed 😐

I waited until I could use my Michaels (craft store) 50% off coupon then went ahead and purchased a tulip tie dye kit.

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I was given a little advice from a fellow mummy- “Its messy, do it outside ”
Nervously I got the garage prepped – a thunderstorm popped up so no outside!

The kids were beyond excited and followed my instructions surprisingly well. All waiting patiently for their turn to choose dye colors and have their t shirt tied up.

Once the kids got started Leo and Poppy got into the creating mess phase. Squirting dye all over the t shirt, mat and unfortunately themselves!!
Izzy sat perfectly in her neat little corner taking care of where she put the dye.

As the t shirts were finished I realised how much mess 2 out of 3 actually made and grabbed wipes. Nothing.
This dye was not coming off! A frantic google led me to winn dixie to purchase a box of baking soda. Made a paste, rubbed it all over Poppy and Leo’s legs. A slight improvement 🤔

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Here’s hoping our Florida lifestyle will help fade the dye, pool here we come!!

Other projects we have done and created messes with this summer – a pool full of water beads, slime, painting shells, sand art,play doh and cooking.

Next up Poppy’s request to make cup cakes. We’ll tackle a proper recipe not a box 😀

All you do is clean

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My 8 year old Izzy said to me yesterday “You never play with us, all you do is clean”
To put into context the kids had been asking when would daddy be home from work so they had someone to play with.

Now all who know me, know I do enjoy a good clean! I’ve always been a tidy person but more so since having kids.
It started when Poppy was born and people would randomly drop in to see the baby. The thought of my house being messy as well as me looking like I was losing my mind with a newborn was enough to make me clean our tiny house daily.

Now, fast forward 9 years I have gained 2 more kids, a dog, 5 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, a playroom and a garage – that my kids use as their bonus playroom.

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So, my cleaning takes slightly longer than the hour I’d spend on our old 2 up 2 down with a static baby!

I clean to make sure we are organised as a family, to try and erase germs, to create a calm atmosphere or because I’m stressed – try it, it works wonders!

Now during this long summer holiday I’ve dropped the amount I clean by at least 50% but the kids see me do it and occasionally they have to sit and not take out toys whilst I do it. Poor kids 😂

What they don’t know is the 9 months of the year they are at school I break my back to ensure all the cleaning, laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, organising etc is done before the school day finishes.
I never sit, I don’t drink tea and watch trash tv, most days I don’t even eat lunch.

I want to be there once the kids are out of school. ‘There’ may be on the edge of a field watching cheer or football or I may just be sat at the end of the drive watching the cul de sac crew playing.

So even though I do my ‘chores’ while the kids are out they still have the perception that all mummy does is clean? How do we as mummy’s ensure our kids see us the way we want them too?

I want mine to see me as being ‘there’ right now I don’t work – my time is theirs.
I’d like them to see me looking after them, feeding them and loving them.
The mummy who sings badly in the car and the shower.
The mummy that loves them and their daddy.

I know I’m not the one that plays karate or pokemon- that’s daddys job. However it is me that crafts, that lets them help cook, assists with homework, gives them role play ideas, takes them to activities and sports. I’m not just the cleaner.

The morning after I started drafting this post Izzy hit her nose and made it bleed (with her tablet – we’ve all been there!) At the time there were 4 adult family members in the house. It was mummy she cried for and needed me to look after and console her.

I think that in itself shows even if I do clean a bit too much the ‘cleaner’ is a pretty insignificant part of my mummy role.

So I’ll keep mumming the way I am. We have 3 happy healthy kids. Rob and I as parents work well together, between the 2 of us our kids get everything they need.

Mini Vacay

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My parents are over in Jax for 2 weeks and whilst they’re here we like to get out of Nocatee and start exploring.
We’ve done Orlando a few times, tarpon springs and Treasure Island so far.

This holiday we decided to head North. My parents normally come out around Nov/ Dec and we head west for the heat – coming from England they are sunseekers.

We chose Savannah as an area to stay in. Rob and I have been there twice – once with kids and once without.
Mom and dad have never been.
Rather than staying in the city though we opted for St.Simons Island. A barrier island off Georgia, 1 of the golden isles.

I spent a few hours searching for accommodation – generally our go to’s are hotels.com as you book 10 nights and get 1 night free or VRBO – easy site and booking process, always had good stays.

However on this occasion I found a cute place on Airbnb.

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3 bed, quiet street and walking distance to some shops and restaurants- not something we’re used to anymore!

Jekyll Island was our first stop. We headed straight to the historic district to join the trolley tour.

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90 minutes of driving round the old club and its properties and a tour round 2 of the old houses. Kids managed to sit and listen nicely for the majority of the time and enjoyed the houses.
A quick stop for ice cream and onto the driftwood beach.

Unfortunately we got rained off the beach but the kids had a great time climbing through the driftwood trees!

Welcome to Jekyll Island

Next onto St.Simons Island. Our kids are always so excited to get to our holiday accommodation. Especially leo, he loves nothing better than a hotel – crummy motel or a 5* he couldn’t care less!

Rob and I though know we’re probs in for some sleepless nights. A change like that is a big deal for Poppy. Although on the outside she seems as excited as the other 2 her actions would disagree. Tantrums, meltdowns and night wakings were all part of the weekend. We don’t stop our family experiencing holidays, trips etc because of this, we just deal with it best we can.

Whilst in St Simons we did some walking around both pier village and redfern village. Spent all afternoon at Neptune park, the kids loved it there. A pool next to the ocean with a playground and huge trees to climb on.

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We had some good meals out and kids had fun. A sprite is a treat for them and they got 1 three days in a row!

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http://www.explorestsimonsisland.com

Next onto Savannah
Now that is a fun city! My blog wasn’t around when Rob and I did a trip there with no kids. We were giddy to be alone and you are legally allowed to walk around drinking alcohol in the streets! Needless to say the next morning I had to rely on our credit card statements to figure out our drunken path round the old streets!

Anyway back to this weekend! We wanted to give my parents a quick intro to the city. We walked along the river, stopping in the tourist shops along the way. Kids got “candy” they purposely chose the most sour they could find – after recollecting sweet names they’d seen on youtube! (I’ll post the video of them eating them on fb and insta)

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We headed through the city with the promise of Forsyth park playground stopping in the small squares and near picturesque houses.

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The kids were actually very well behaved. We made some good compromises …. river walk – sweets, walking through city – playground, behave at dinner – ice cream 😀.

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More memories made with nanny & GG.

904 Reviews

I’m going to use this blog as a space to write a quick comment on any Jax restaurants and bars I mention in my blogs or on my insta. I’ll add info and post each time a new venue is visited.

Safe Harbor – Great spot in Jax beach area with indoor and outdoor seating. Outdoor is on the intracoastal waterway so plenty of boats to watch.
Order on the way in and food is served very fast – perfect when eating with kids! Big portions of fresh seafood (burgers are good too!) and good value for money.

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https://www.safeharborseafoodrestaurant.com

Engine 15
Jax beach brewery. Good draft selection. The bar area felt a little crowded on a Thursday evening for kids. There is a section at the back of the bar with old arcade games and board games that our 3 enjoyed. Didn’t try any food but looked standard brewery grub.

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Www.engine15.com

South Kitchen
Nocatee’s first service restaurant and bar. Great happy hour snacks and drinks! Southern style food for the adults and a good priced 3 course for the kids, including yummy banana pudding. The bar is also a nice spot to meet and have cocktails (only need a few!) Or beers with friends.

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I recommend the brunch and bottomless mimosas!

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Clark’s Fish Camp
Scenic spot on Julington Creek. We like a nice water spot coming from Birmingham!
Unusual decor to say the least. If your offended by taxidermy may be one to avoid. It was kind of over stimulating for Poppy, had a rough bedtime.
Food was ok, a lot of fried items and huge portions!
A novelty place rather than gourmet.

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http://www.clarksfishcamp.net

Snowgenix
New Taiwanese shaves ice parlour on Old baymeadows. Good place to use as a compromise when visiting southside shops (aldi, target etc) treat time if kids behave!
Fast service,big portions – around $8 each and enough for 2 to share. The kids loved it and I have to agree it was pretty cool 😀

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https://m.facebook.com/SnowGenix/

Halfway there!

Hooray, I’ve done it!! We’re into week 6 of the longest school summer break in the world. Get through this and another 6 to go 😶

We’ve been trying to keep occupied as much as possible.
I’ll admit though I’d be lost without the community pools and friends to swim & play with.

Some of the fun activities we’ve done so far … chuck e cheese, aquarium, bounce camp, ice cream parlours, country music festival, bingo, food trucks, park hopping, magic show, birthday parties, home spa afternoon, library visits all relatively low cost too.
My kind of fun!

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The kids have all attended 3 Vacation bible school camps together and loved every minute.
I think they are a great way for the kids to be interacting with their peers and adults in a structured environment. Gives them a break from home amd mummy too – the kids need that as much as the mummy!

Activities we are yet to do… mini break to Jekyll island/ St Simons island and Savannah, cheer camp, more birthday parties, baseball game, cinema trip, free slurpees, brewery family night, tie dye t shirts (waiting to use my 50% off coupon for the materials!), school meetings and tours, beach day and definitely lots more swimming!

Whilst all this is going on I’m still trying to fit in me time at the gym, cleaning, laundry, groceries etc.

As I said in my 12 weeks of summer blog my standards have dropped. The house isn’t as clean, laundry is backed up and the kids ate pasta 3 nights in a row whilst we picked at leftovers – shock horror!

So I’ll list a few ways to help out the mummies still trying to get through this break or the mummy’s about to start in England.

Set expectations day 1. Some of ours –
•Activity time = tablet/ tv time. Our kids need to be doing something active before they get to chill in the afternoon.

•Treats (sweets, ice cream etc) are treats do not expect or ask for them everyday!!

•Compromise – yes you’ll spend 2 hours at the gym creche but then you get 3 hours at the pool, a pizza and bike riding.

Be organised where possible

•For us the pool bag is repacked ready for the next day.

•Clothes are set out for the morning, including any multiple outfits needed.

•Food is organised- snacks are in baskets ready to grab and there’s an area of the fridge for kids to choose healthy snacks.

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Plan, plan and a bit more planning!

•Camps book up quick

•Weather affects plans, be flexible

•Use all the tools facebook, Instagram, local mom blogs and websites to find activities

•Set budgets- summer break can become very expensive very quickly

Rope in some family to visit or help out

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Take the breaks where possible! Our staycation was 22 hours that was all we could fit in, but was worth it!

Wine, buy it, lots of wine.

Now don’t get me wrong there have been times where I scream at the kids or they to me, I lock myself in the bathroom for a few minutes peace, I forget to cook or shop and I’m always looking for 1 kid – 3 kids are hard to keep eyes on.

Ultimately though I will be happy if the rest of our break goes as well as it has so far!

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☝️ yes, I was the mom who didn’t notice 1 child get in the car shoeless and the other in odd shoes 😂