In which the Four get out of Javea

Once upon a time there was a family that could barely go three months without packing a bag and heading off for a few days/weeks/years. Then they moved to Spain, started school and two businesses in a different language and life became madness. 

Despite the fact that we are location dependent, the cornerstones of travel: adaptability and coping with the unexpected – have been our everyday for two years now . It’s made a family gap year seem like a doddle. 

Some very good, travel-obsessed friends who came in May looked horrified when we said the only place we’d been since 2009 was England, at which point we realised how much we needed to see if there was life beyond the Alicante city limits. It’s really been about head-space and yet more organisation – assessing how to leave everything here so that we can go explore.

The opportunities came in quick succession – friends that invited us to visit with them in the Murcia region to the south and then family who wanted to whisk us away to Valencia for the weekend. Both of which we did. Both of which I will report on when I have found the camera lead and can upload the pictures. Both of which made us realise that the wanderlust was back. Hmmm…2 years….that’s about the same as last time.

All love The Four xxxx

Big School.

This week the Pre-Teen’s UK former classmates all make the big jump to secondary school. Thankfully, I am spared this trauma for another year, as in the spanish state system children stay at primary until the age of 12 (or nearly 12). But it’s got me thinking about how ready she’d be if she were going too.

Her attitude to school has changed a lot since we moved here. While I lay awake at night, she threw herself into a new school in a new language, apparently does not daydream out of the window the minute the word ‘read’ is mentioned, takes pride in her grades and gets upset if she doesn’t do well. I’m a bit bemused, if you really want to know.

I thought to start with it was the benefit of her unschooling year overseas, but I think that’s now been matched with the kind of invincibility that comes from your slack parents having a ‘why not?’ sort of attitude. Then again maybe she’s decided now is the time to look out for Numero Uno.

Something else interesting? In the spanish state system the children are taught from the word go (age 3) that it is the CHILD that is responsible for their work, belongings, appearance etc, not the parent. Parental interference in bag packing is shunned in the mornings here, and their class teacher demands respect and gets adoration.

I feel a little bit redundant to be honest. Which, of course, means she’d be perfectly ready for big school. But I’m still glad she’s not going yet :)

Hope all your new starts are happy ones…

All love The Four xxxx

The Dreaded Summer Hols…

Here in Spain the summer hols are loooonnnngggg – school’s out around mid June and, for us at least due to our town’s big end-of-summer fiesta, they don’t go back until about the 10th Sept. That’s 13 glorious weeks of the little darlings with you 24/7. Hmmmmmmm….

Sadly for me amusing the kids in the school hols started way before I was even pregnant – the joys of providing childcare for a ‘living’. I’ve always worked all through the summer as that’s precisely when parents need help, so it’s not a big deal, and to be fair the girls have also always ‘worked’ with me – the upside of my job. This year there’s only one whole day a week that they HAVE to come to work with us, other days they run a few errands with us, and they have Spanish lessons two afternoons a week but the rest of the time they’re pretty much free. After nearly a month at home these are my tips for a stress-less summer with two medium sized girls….

  • Invest in vast art and craft supply box – e.g. one of everything that Hobbycraft has to offer – and get over the fact that (washable) glue on your sofa throw is a small price to pay for a lie-in.
  • Don’t try and go anywhere before 10.00am – it’s not worth the wrath of the Small One interrupting that craft project and the Pre-Teen will only stumble out of bedroom blinking like a vampire at around 9.00am if you’re lucky.
  • Try and involve an outdoor activity such as using the swimming pool 3 steps from the back door, but be aware that for some reason doing your nails with the curtains drawn in the sitting room is way better.
  • You can remind them that if they don’t eat breakfast now they’ll be starving later but it will fall on deaf ears. Saying ‘I told you so’ when they ask for food as you’re leaving the house at 10am doesn’t make you feel good.
  • Rearrange your schedule to fit around the daily episode of ‘Glee’ shown on mainstream TV.
  • Draw up a ‘chores’ timetable but be realistic – there’s only so much housework a child can do between painting nails and watching ‘Glee’, plus of course as you say the ‘ch’ of chores they will throw themselves into the pool and pretend they don’t have a clue what you’re on about.

If you have boys, then none of the above is relevant;  they will trash the arts and craft box, will be attached to some kind of screen a lot of the time, need a good stretch of Tumble Time even though they may be way past toddlerhood, and have  to be walked daily to avoid pesky energy build-up. Always feed if in any doubt…

Happy Holidays everybody!!

All love The Four xxxx

Fatigue and the Travelling Family

My friend Victoria, currently slumming it on a fabulous 9 month family rtw trip, sent me a message the other day about homesickness. How much she missed her friends, did we have the same issues? How did we cope with it whilst we were travelling with the kids? It really got me thinking about how we’ve managed with so many miles between us and the loved ones – it’s particularly relevant this weekend – and in discussion with my OH we realised that fatigue is one of the least talked about aspects of long term travel.

‘How’s it going on your round-the-world trip – silly question – it’s one long holiday isn’t it?! was one of the comments posted on our blog about 3 months after we left. Yes it is, it’s wonderful, no work, no school, free to do what we want, whenever. And it sounds churlish and ungrateful to moan about ANYTHING when you’re doing something so amazing. BUT. There’s no doubt that long term travel can be exhausting – and with kids even more so – especially if you are continuously moving on; packing and repacking everything you own every 3 days, trying to keep track of passports, paperwork and other essentials such as favourite blankets, the lego set Grandma just sent etc, plus co-ordinating travel and sleeping plans for the next few days. It’s basically a life of 2 week adventure holidays where you don’t arrive home and settle back into your creature comforts.

Even back in the BC years (Before Children) we travelled with breaks. As  post-grad travellers we spent 2 years meandering the world with various working holiday visas and stopped for a couple of months now and then to get a job, settling into the local community (living on a campsite or in some fellow worker’s spare room), making friends (including the people in the campervan next door who took pity on us and our trangia and cooked us dinner several nights a week) and living a normal life. A hostel room cannot be the ‘english(wo)man’s castle’ and periods of predictability provide comfort when all around you is new.  It’s worrying that just knowing where the best laundry and internet cafes are and meeting a couple of people you could go for a meal with makes you feel so much better.

On our 12 month trip with the kids we specifically added in ‘burnout breaks’ – including a 3 month break in an apartment in Thailand, and a month in a campervan in NZ (where everything goes in cupboards not in your backpack, and your bed is the same but moves with you). The Thai break was especially good – all of us found friends to hang out with (separately if necessary) and we were able to have visitors to stay, as well as master the timezones and plan our Skype conversations with an element of relaxation and certainty.

I’m really not a fan of organised tours but there are two that stick out in my mind as One’s That Got Me Through various lethargic times . The Green Tortoise in the USA (www.greentortoise.com) and our overland truck in Africa appeared with perfect timing, as someone took over worrying about how to cover the miles and left us to bond with other like-minded souls over the beers and communal cooking.

Beating homesickness for us has always been about creating a life wherever you are currently, and that’s just how it works here in Spain now. That’s not to say we don’t really miss those we’ve left scattered around the world and sometimes it just hits us without warning, especially when something unexpected happens and we’re not close enough to be there. One of things we learned on this last trip is that we are a complete unit and ‘home’ is wherever the four of us are. I guess everything else is just gravy.

Take Care

All love The Four xxxx

Semana Santa? Was it….?

Have to say Easter passed us by a bit this year. Sure, we had all sizes of eggs in the shop and the Easter bunny did come and visit, but what we were really waiting for was the end of term. As we have no half-terms at spanish school the girls have only had the 2 week Christmas break since September – they were so tired they could hardly walk straight. So Easter for us was mainly about sleeping a lot.

Despite being on the treadmill for so long, we had more incredible school reports on the last day of term praising attitude and aptitude, on the back of which they managed to wangle a shopping trip…but you know what? I can’t think of anything to buy them that equals the effort and hard work they’ve put in this year.

We had a couple of gorgeous beach days with visiting friends who used to live here (and now live 10 mins from Nanna’s house in England!), then the sun wavered over the easter weekend and rain looked threatening but held off for our Royal Wedding Street Party  :-) This was organised by a committee of Costa Novians, including our neighbours who went down to the Town Hall to get the road closed so we could invite all the nationalities up here to come and party like the Crazy Poms. As well as the Brits we had some Germans, Spanish, Belgians and Dutch, all of whom made it such a fabulous evening:

We had lots of bunting and decorations, live music, BBQ’s to cook on, tea-towels and magnet souvenirs and a bouncy castle for the kids, and plenty of Cava and other beverages flowed freely creating a brilliant atmosphere and plenty of fun!

The mad birthday month is up next – hurrah – bring on the pool parties!

Take Care,

All love The Four xxxx

The House Rules

Visitor season is upon us…

One of the great things about living overseas is the number of visitors you get – it always amazes us that our friends and family want to come and see us as much as they did back in Blighty. We LOVE having people here and we realise it’s a lot more complicated than a couple of hours down the motorway now, so like to lay down the welcome mat in the proper fashion.

For the sake of house harmony though we do have a few ‘guidelines’, which we’ve picked from other people and other travels:

1. This is our home, not a guesthouse – we have a spare room and lots of floor space, but it’s possible you or your children might be on an airbed of a night-time; strangely we have not rented a mansion! Use the garden, use the pool, enjoy your stay but please don’t expect luxury – mi casa es su casa.

2. We live here – and so have work, school and other commitments to fit in. During the school year, weekends are best if you want to see us! If we can we’ll try and keep the extra-curricular activities to a minimum when you visit, but life has to go on too. Depending on what’s going on when you come to see us it’s likely we won’t have a lot of time to sightsee with you, but we can point you in the right direction…

3. Continuing on that theme – we are on an ‘everyday’ budget rather than a ‘holiday’ budget. We don’t eat out much, but if you’d like to then we’re happy to recommend places. If you’d rather eat with us, that’s wonderful, let us know, and bear in mind you might be sent on a shopping trip! Breakfast can usually be found in the cupboards and fridge…

4. As well as shopping errands, we love it if our visitors don’t mind cooking dinner once or twice, watching the girls by the pool for an hour or two or hanging out the laundry. Having time to relax with a glass of wine/beer/Chris’ cocktail menu and your company is the best reward of having people stay with us, and it feels even better if some of the chores are done for us. At least you get a good view from the kitchen sink!

5. Transport – we are up on the top of a headland, and whilst you can walk to the shop, a couple of restaurants and bars and the tennis club, the beach is a looong way. For a weekend you could manage, any longer (and if you are a family) and you need a car. From the airport by car we can give you detailed instructions on how to find us, if on foot we simply don’t have time to do airport runs (3 hr round trip) but we’re not far from public transport hubs.

6. With the baby years firmly behind us, we don’t have any cots, highchairs or similar, although we know places that hire them locally. We have a couple of baby gates that we can put across doorways to help you out, but please bear in mind we have quite a few steps and a swimming pool in the back garden. We can isolate it to a certain degree but the bottom line is if you have toddlers you will need to watch them!

So that’s it, hopefully this hasn’t put you off and we will be seeing you all soon!!

All love CRFS xxxx

Little Miss Ellie

Every day we read Ellie’s blog – littlemissellieprince.blogpsot.com - she is a little girl who is friends with our Mummy’s cousin Amy, who came to see us in June. Ellie is a very poorly girl (but a surprisingly good writer :); Ed) and is helping us make sure we can still read in english while we are at school in Spain.

She is raising money for the hospital she is staying in so that other children in the future can be looked after so well too. Please have a look at her blog, we hope she had a good day today, otherwise we will be sad :(

Love from Fin & Sadie xxxx