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You know, it’s strange.

When you’re home-educating, school holidays kinda don’t feel much different to any other time. We had intended to keep up a scaled down learning schedule over the “school holidays” but, quite honestly, I’m enjoying the break myself.

Well, the break from having to whip out the laptops and maths and English stuff each morning anyway. There’s not much else break-like going on.

Just more of the usual work stuff, I guess. Jake has been helping out a bit. He’s earning some pocket money by getting stock updated and put on the website and it’s good for him to start associating real labour with real reward, especially when he is saving up.

We’ve got all his courses sorted for September (his English course with Catherine Mooney and his Maths GCSE course, now that we’ve found a school network willing to accept him as an external candidate next summer. He’s going to have to work hard (something of which we’ve yet to be convinced he is able!) but I believe he can get good passes in both, which will put him in good stead for the college plumbing course he wants to do next September.

Now that I’ve forked out the money for the courses, he’d better work hard or I’ll be docking it all from his wages!

El’s busy being the social butterfly with regular friend meet-ups. It almost makes me glad he isn’t in school with even MORE friends! We’d never see him (or, perhaps worse, there’d always be too many kids in the house!)

He’s had his birthday since we last posted. Someone (may have been me) decided it was a good idea to get him an electric guitar for his birthday.

What was I thinking?

Truthfully though, it sounds really good. He spends a bit of time, every now and again, teaching himself something from YouTube and the guitar itself makes a good sound (used with the amp we already had for his beatboxing microphone)
I did research decent makes for beginners (on a small budget!) and managed to find a half-decent one at a reasonable price (ex-display model) so I’m glad he enjoys it.

Whether the neighbours enjoy it as much…

So, yeah. Not much else has happened really.
We’re counting down the days until we go back to Portugal for our holiday though. It feels like a long time coming. We thought about trying to book a few days away somewhere (anywhere!) during the summer but, jees, those prices?!

Even a last minute booking in some dodgy caravan park (static vans) was over ÂŁ500 for the week! Sod that. I’d rather save my money!

Anyway, at least the weather is half-good. I say “half” because it’s doing it’s usual “can’t-make-its-mind-up-what-to-do” thing, as British summers tend to do, but at least we have had some nice days. It’s not like we’d be out in the sun much anyway, even if is was nice. Eliot and Jake miss The Lighthouse though. Our neighbouring pub (The Stag’s Head – it’s only about 5 doors away from us) is a poor substitute, but we have been in there a handful of times now, which we’d never done prior to moving.

It’s a handy watering hole on the way back from walking the dog…occasionally at 11pm!

This one obviously wasn’t taken at 11pm!

Anyway, only about 3 weeks and we’ll be getting back to our school/work juggling schedule again.

I’m not sure which I prefer!

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It’s certainly safe to say that this year’s “end of school year” update differs significantly from previous ones.

You’d think that measuring “success” would be harder without tests and grading but actually, I think that it’s much easier. Instead of relying on a school book, a test, or a teacher to tell me, I can SEE the progress first-hand and that’s FAR better. I can watch Eliot get the answer to a sum quicker than I can (it’s happened once or twice this week, but I blame my brain having more to do than his!) and I can SEE Jake smile when he sees something he likes or watch him laugh when he plays with the dog or see the resolve in his face when he assures me things are going to get better.

That, to me, is better than a report card full of A’s any day of the week.

Eliot is stunning me with his progress. Clearly he’s ready to learn this stuff. Some of it is definitely below his age group but it’s stuff he didn’t have a clue how to do 2 months ago. According to the site stats on the website we use, his maths age has progressed 9 months in the 2 months we’ve been educating him at home and I can see the progress every single day. The mental stuff gets quicker; the times table sheet gets referred to less often; he’s learning stuff.

Praise be!

The English is coming on slowly. I’m trying not to sit and do it as one long session each day but we grab a worksheet and do “underline the nouns/verbs” or “their/there/they’re” or “It’s/its” practice. It’s the little and often approach but it is sinking in. It’s all alien to him and definitely a full lesson would just switch him right off.
It’s baby steps.

And while we have extra time to spare, we can investigate how a 3D printer works…

The newly-acquired 3D printer

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Or practise shapes and space, in the tent, with Blokus.

Or make a Lego holiday home!

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Or sneak off on the motorbike while the sun shines!

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Or to Blyton Raceway to watch Supercars (there were Lambos, Porches, Audis and even a Maclaren on track but the boys have photos of those!)

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Or study the friction of the different tyre types on Playmobile vehicles!
(Yes, I lost!)

So yeah. What with kids and school and work (and an impending VAT return due), it’s been pretty busy.

On the non-work side, we did get the garden pretty much finished. Gravel is all done, shed is built and in position, greenhouse is moved etc. We need to sort the decking out really but that’ll probably wait until next Spring now, I think. It’s “possible” the oil tank may be leaving us so that’ll free up another area of the garden which we can use somehow. We’re just waiting to see how that all pans out before doing anything much else.

Meantime though, I think it’s looking pretty good 🙂

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What else have we done?

Well, we’ve booked a trip back to visit Portugal in October. It’s just Nik, Eliot and I (Jake is being juggled amongst family members back here) but it’ll be great to get back for a trip. Eliot is super-excited about re-connecting with his school friends and Nik is just glad to be making a(nother) trip back.
Me? Yeh, it’ll be nice. But I’m OK anyway. Hopefully the weather will hold out. It’s before half term (when it usually rains) so fingers crossed.

Something else Eliot is super-excited about: it’s his birthday tomorrow!

My baby will be 12.

My baby who gives me this…

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and this…

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and this…

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He’s smart and opinionated, passionate and enthusiastic, utterly, utterly bonkers and drives me totally crazy, but we love him anyway!

So I’ll just finished with a Happy 12th Birthday to my boy.

 

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You know how school terms seem long in the UK?
Well, I don’t think I ever actually truly appreciated the point of “half term”… until now. They don’t have half term breaks here in Portugal and the Christmas break seems like a lifetime away.

It must seem like only minutes since our two went back to school after their 3-month-plus summer break, but I am so over it already. With both boys having early starts (El starts at 8.25, and Jake has to catch a bus at 8), I’m finding out that I don’t function well, if at all, on 7am starts!
The worst part is that the mornings go…on…for…EVER! We’re child-free from 8.30, more or less, and that extra hour of “work” time in the morning means I’m reaching for the kettle for my “elevenses” when it’s barely 9.30!

Mind you, even Eliot experienced how interminably long a day was here when he was off sick last week. By 11am he was looking to the clocks, swearing that they were moving backwards in time. It does feel like that sometimes!

(Eliot is fine now, btw. He had some sort of throat infection or laryngitis which resulted in his being quite unwell and without a voice for an entire week! Eliot being silent is actually quite disturbing, it turns out!)

So anyway, we’re adjusting to new work schedules, I suppose. Earlier starts with earlier finishes. It’s all compounded by the fact that my eBay account has recently been banned from selling (long story: my fault) so we’ve lost a source of work/income along the way. That’s been a whole other challenge that is still ongoing and yet another thing to which we need to adapt. I can only be thankful that I had finished our Christmas shopping before it happened. Now, if the boys could just stop growing and requiring new clothes…

Speaking of Christmas, I am looking forwards to it. Not just the lie-ins, but the whole break from the norm. Work will be scaled back in general (there will be no dispatch from Jesters which invariably means fewer orders. Great for Christmas and New Year, less so for January income!) and we will ALL have a bit of time off. We’ve (well, I’ve) decided I am not doing a full turkey dinner this year. Quite honestly, it’s a pain. We’re going to do an all-day party food/snack buffet type Christmas. I like that idea much better. I can bake stuff (which I LOVE!) instead of cooking (which I LOATHE). Sounds like a plan. We also have Nik’s sister, Donna, here for the week, so that’ll be a change too.

We did look into eating out for Christmas dinner instead. You can imagine how that panned out!

A lot! That's how much!

It is difficult to think about Christmas while it still feels like summer some days. Sure, the weather is changeable at the minute, but, when the sun shines, it’s warm. Still over 30C in the sun some days, depending on wind direction. Having said that, there is a definite weather shift at the moment and, although I’m still getting my laundry dried outside most days, it’s definitely cooler once that sun goes down. We’re looking forwards to being able to light our wood burner. The dark evenings just make the fire seem right, don’t they?


We’re holding off at the moment though.
There’s something definitely NOT right about lighting the wood fire in the evening when you’re still sleeping with the balcony doors open and no duvet on the bed!

I think that’s all our news really. Nothing much is happening at the moment. We’re struggling a bit with work being a bit quieter this time of year (sales from the countries that are enjoying their Spring/Summer season right now never quite make up for the fact that it is Autumn/Winter in the Europe!) so I guess we’re not going to be doing anything mind-blowingly exciting any time soon!

If anything does happen, I’ll be sure to let you all know!

 

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In some ways, it feels like we have been here forEVER, but in other ways, it’s hard to believe that four whole years have gone by already!

I suppose I should do a bit of a general update really. It has been a while and, while much of the past months have been “same old, same old”, stuff has happened as well.

For example, school finished for summer – over a MONTH ago!

Jake’s last day was 3rd June, I think, and El finished classes on 30th May, only going in on the Monday and Tuesday after that for half-day events and school trips. That already feels like YEARS ago!

Actually, I should start with school updates, shouldn’t I?

Eliot passed his year 4 exams – BARELY! Like, by 2%. God knows how he is going to cope with year 5, but I think he is ready for the change of school. The big school (which now does years 5 through 8 – more about that in a minute!) is right around the corner from us, and I think even he is ready to move onwards and upwards, although how he will do with a year 5 curriculum is anybody’s guess.
At least he is starting in year 5 with a decent knowledge of spoken and aural Portuguese, which is more than Jake had when he plunged in at year 6!

So yeah, that’s good anyway. Eliot moving school is definitely a big step.
He’s a big boy now. Hardly my baby any more (although I still call him that, and he’s fine with it!)

My big boy! Now, who put that beer there??!!

My big boy! Now, who put that beer there??!!

Jake is repeating year 9. He actually could have taken exams and probably passed all of his failing year 9 subjects, but we (Jake and I) both decided that it was better that he repeated the year. At 14, he is quite young to be moving into what is the equivalent of doing 3 year A-levels/college, so I’m pleased to have him in year 9 for a bit longer.

That news would have been even better if it wasn’t for the fact that they are stopping teaching year 9 (academic subjects anyway) at Das Naus (the school next to us).
We were quite looking forwards to having both boys in the same place, with no worries about transport, but now Jake will have to go elsewhere for year 9.

He’s chosen Gil Eanes (there was more than one choice in town) and we’re fine with that. Hopefully, we’ll get him signed up in a few weeks without any problems (hahahahahahahahahahaha – no, seriously!) and he’ll just have to use a bus for school. He’s quite old enough to do so, and the whole experience of having to actually “commute” to school will do him good.

Fortunately, he isn’t bothered about it all. He’s quite content to repeat year 9, not at all bothered that he’ll be repeating it in an entirely different school (a lot of his friends are going to the other one) and isn’t bothered about using the bus.
Oh well, I suppose indifference is better than him hating the idea!

My "mature" teen on a rare sighting outside the bedroom!

My “mature” teen on a rare sighting outside the bedroom!

What else has happened?

Wendy (my sister) came to visit for my birthday, which was nice. We spent a few days eating, drinking and generally lounging about, all of which was great fun! She then flew home and signed for her first ever house! Having lived in rented accommodation since she left home, finally putting down roots and buying a home is a HUGE step for her!

Way to go, sis!

My new skinny sis on her visit (well, she’s not a new sister, obviously, but she IS newly super-skinny!)

We’re super-busy with work (always good) and we have very few visitor bookings this year. None who need to stay with us anyway, which is even better, because it means that the boys get to keep their own space. Recently purchased bunk beds for El’s room make it slightly less disruptive if we have to move Jake into there, but it’s much nicer not to, obviously, and for Jake to keep his own room.

Not that Jake is much bothered really, because, well, he’s an indifferent teen and doesn’t much bother about anything (except chores. Boy, does he mither about those!)

Oh yes, we went to Jerez for the MotoGP at the beginning of May (I really HAVE been slack about updating this blog!).
We left Jake at home (with plenty of food supplies) and drove over from Friday to Sunday.

We had a completely awesome weekend. Drive took us about 4 hours, we stayed in a decent enough apartment (rock hard and creaky beds aside!) in Jerez and watched fabulous racing, including a race from the unstoppable Marc Marquez!
We took soooooooooo many photos, I don’t even know where to start, but here’s a few.

It’s weird to think that Marquez is now 8 wins for 8 races! It’s quite mind-blowing really. Am looking forwards, as always, to the race this weekend to see if he can make it 9 for 9!

And speaking of this weekend, we are off to Seville for a long weekend (we go tomorrow: Thursday) for Eliot’s 11th birthday.

Having driven past it twice now, first en route to Gibraltar and then on the way to Jerez, we’ve realised it’s actually quite close, and there’s an apparently very good theme park and water park, called Isla Magica, there which should a) make a great day out for El’s birthday and b) quench our long-deprived need to a return to Orlando!

We’re doing Isla Magica on Friday and have Saturday free to either go for a second day or mooch around Seville a bit. Even Jake is coming with us this time. It wasn’t optional (being a birthday celebration weekend ‘n’ all) but he doesn’t seem to mind. A few days in the “real world” will be good for him. Even if he doesn’t own and refuses to wear a pair of shorts. So he’ll be baking and melting in the 40C which is forecast in Seville this weekend!

Teenagers, eh?!

I think that’s our news really.

I know I’m behind with my Gibraltar A to Z, but quite honestly, at this point, it probably won’t get done. Don’t hold your breath anyway. It’s not THAT good LOL

I’ll try to do a Seville post sometime after we’re back. Maybe one for the trip and a separate one for Isla Magica. Depends what we get up to and whether it warrants more than one post. Might just do a picture post. We’ll see.

And speaking of pictures, let’s have some sunny, blue sky posts. I know the UK has been enjoying some (can I say “unseasonably”?) summer weather lately, and our summer pretty much here to stay until about October now, so I’ll try to keep sharing the sunny pics for when the “real” British summer arrives (you know, the one where it rains for days on end.)

Just so y’all know what you could be visiting if you popped over to see us!

It’s always nice when people come here on holiday and we get chance to meet up. A school friend of mine recently came to the Algarve with her family and it was fantastic to see her again, after 20+ years, and meet her brood!

So yeah, if you ever visit the Algarve on holiday, give us a yell and we’ll show you this lot!

View from the pool table at our local – The Lighthouse on Lagos Marina

Across Praia de Batata, Lagos

Our beautiful “green tiled shop”, complete with the Jacaranda tree in bloom.

View from the Science Centre and roof of the market building on the Avenida

Nik’s bike when he took it up to the Autodromo race track for the World Superbikes last weekend

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It’s taken me a while to get chance to sit down and continue this A to Z. I’m starting to think that the entire alphabet is going to last more than a year. That’s something I never could have imagined at the start! Still, it’s a nice project to be getting on with and a bit of motivation to do more than just post photos on Facebook each time we do something fun!

Anyway, I’ve had my P topic for a while. Actually, I had several ideas for my P topic but lately which one to choose has become clearer.

P is for Priorities

In order to make our move to Portugal, we had to take a good look at our priorities.

Our life in England was comfortable. We had modest income (topped up with tax credits) to allow us to be self-employed and spend some time with our boys but we constantly felt restricted. There was little around us locally that inspired us, as a family and it’s no secret that we’d had itchy feet for a long time.

A move abroad, however, would come with huge sacrifices and definitely required us to look long and hard at our priorities.

In the UK, we could live comfortably in our own home and not have any real worries about money. We had our own 3 bed home with large garden in a pretty outlying village. We had a nice, smart, modern car. We could be in full control of our own business. We could visit family and friends whenever we felt like it. We would be in as much control of our lives as is possible to guarantee in this day and age.  Despite this, we weren’t settled.

In Portugal, there is always a concern that we won’t make ends meet. We work hard to ensure that our business makes enough money to cover our basic living expenses plus a little extra but, in order to do that, we have had to significantly change the way we work. We’ve had to sub-contract out various parts of our business and rely on others working with us. This is a scary position to be in, I can tell you.

We also now live in rental accommodation, something we’ve never done before. Our housing situation is also a little out of our hands as we are constantly aware that our landlady could decide to sell, if she so wanted (fortunately, she has other, empty properties she could sell first and that’d be difficult enough in a stagnant property market!) We had also had to take in tenants in our UK house and this puts another financial strain on our household. All well and good while the tenants are in but a huge burden should they decide to move on.

We own an old banger of a car. But not a cheap car. Oh no. There is no such thing as a cheap car here in Portugal. We now own the oldest car we’ve ever owned (it’s 15 years old) which cost us the most we’ve ever paid for a vehicle!

We’re now half a day or more from family and UK friends. The boys have lost contact with many of their school friends they grew up with and we’ve all had to find new friends in a foreign land.

Life here isn’t easy, by a long shot. It’s financially unstable and, at time, emotionally draining.

However, at the same time, it is beautiful and full of new opportunities.

Ponta de Piedade

Ponta de Piedade

Despite having less money, we are surrounded by things to do.

With the beach just a few minutes walk away, we can visit all year and enjoy the ever-changing scenery it presents us.

A trip to the beach in July

Meia Praia Beach in February!

The boys have both made new friends in school and Eliot, in particular, is happy to find friends where-ever he goes. He can be bossy in TWO languages now!

Boys playing with new friends at the Skate Park, Lagos

We have made some great friends ourselves and now get to spend quality time with them too, often enjoying outdoor visits, picnics, meals and new places together.

Our newly made good pals Dave and Aly (wave, guys!)

As well as making new friends, UK family and friends visit us here which is something that never happens in England!

My little sis on one of her (many!) visits

We get to learn about and share in a new Portuguese way of life, with it traditions and festivals.

Loulé Carnival 2012

And, as the Algarve typically has few weeks of bad weather per year, for 90+% of the year, all this happens in the sun, of course!

Sunrise on Meia Praia Beach

So, yes. We’ve made sacrifices with our move to Portugal.

We’ve sacrificed income, control, our own home, a nice car, ease of communication and having family on our doorstep.

In return, we have beautiful days, fabulous places, great friends and regular visitors.

A fair trade-off? I’d say so.

It’s all about priorities, innit?

It’s a hard life but someone’s gotta do it!

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Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity

 

Seneca – Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD

It’s been a while, I know. Life has been busy and my poor blog seems to always be bottom of the to-do pile!

However, with the possibility of it being a good long while before I’ll have chance to blog at all again, I thought I’d do my “O is for…” while I can!

I have had my “O is for…” topics for a while but I did nearly abandon them altogether. I may or maynot explain why but, for now, I’m sticking with them…

O is for Opportunities and Optimism

It’s a tough life…

Two things that Nik and I have both heard a LOT since we moved to Portugal 2 years ago are “You’re very brave” and “You’re very lucky to live there”.

To be quite honest, I think neither luck nor bravery played much of a part in our decision to move to Portugal or the fact that  we are still here 2 years on.

The whole process was a lot less about being lucky or being brave and a lot more about seizing the opportunity to do something a lot of people either can’t, won’t or just don’t do.

I suppose I could agree that we are fortunate to have such opportunities. Our work means that we have been able to move away from the UK and still continue to run our businesses, certainly, but it has come only with a lot of planning, preparation, research and, to a certain degree, cost. Financial cost. A big financial cost, in fact, but one that, for us, is absolutely worth it 100 times over. Fortunate? Maybe. Lucky? Nah.

I don’t think we were particularly brave either. Again, research and planning coupled with a hefty dose of optimism I think is more accurate.

There have been many places along our journey where, even with the best planning in the world, we could have failed (for want of a better word) but, so far, so good. We have tenants in our UK home, paying rent to cover our mortgage. We have a successful business, providing us with a modest income, just enough to live on here in Portugal. We have a good business relationship with our suppliers and a fantastic business who handles our dispatch in the UK. Our children have settled in, made friends and done well in Portuguese schools. Our rental property is perfect in every way etc etc.

Optimism is still key though. We have to be optimistic that our delicate web of work, life and other things will stay in balance and continue to aid our life here in Portugal.

It’s pretty accurate to say that if even one of those threads in our web gave way, it could be life-changing but, then again, isn’t that true of everyone’s life? Where-ever they are?

For example, my sister was recently made redundant from her long-term job as a family lawyer. Her life has changed completely now. We recently lost my father-in-law to a fairly short-term illness. That has changed a lot of lives. My sister-in-law broke up with her Portuguese husband and moved back to the UK with their now-4-year-old son. Again, lives changed.

There’s certainly nothing unique about our delicate house of cards. It’s just where we have chosen to enjoy those cards that differs from others’, I suppose.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to wake up to perfect blue skies nearly every day of the year? Who wouldn’t want to be able to make spur of the moment trips to the beach after school? Who wouldn’t want to live somewhere that people enjoy visiting (and, indeed, many people pay thousands of pounds to visit!)?

Are we lucky to have such opportunities? Or did we just seize the day?

Are we brave to move our young family from the UK and into a Portuguese lifestyle? Or are we just optimistic that our life will find its own balance as long as we keep working at it?

I’ll let you make your own minds up

 

 

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It’s funny. Until yesterday, I actually didn’t have an idea for my “M is for” post at all.

Then, much like the proverbial bus/train, 2 came along at once! First, along came “Money”. I toyed with the idea for a while but wasn’t really convinced that it was really what I wanted to blog about. It’s very personal and, while I’m sure people are interested in other people’s money business, not really quite right.

Then, in the shower (don’t all good things come from a shower? Well, apart from Bobby Ewing, I suppose!) another thought came to me. Mistakes. Everybody make’s ’em. Mostly, we don’t like to admit to ’em but they’re there. Usually for everyone to see.

So here we go…. it’s a brief post…

M is for Mistakes

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” ― Albert Einstein

He had something there, huh?

What mistakes have you made lately? You don’t need to actually tell me, obviously. Sometimes, just admitting them to yourself is enough to enable you to learn and move on. Mistakes are, in my opinion, an essential part of every day life. I’m not saying that making a mistake should be on your daily to-do list or anything but I do think that without mistakes there is little or no growth or real learning.

For sure, if there’s anyone out there living a perfect existence with no mistakes ever, I certainly don’t want to know about it, thank you very much!

Sometimes, I do think it’s better to try something, even if you then find out it isn’t for you, than never try anything at all. That much the great Al and I most certainly agree on.

For example, moving abroad! (see, there is relevance, eventually!)

When we decided to up roots and move to Portugal, it could have gone one of two ways. Either, we managed just fine, settled in and loved life here…. OR … it was the biggest mistake we could have made.

Now, lots of things could have made this a big mistake but the main 2, for us, are…

1) Money

If our business failed (or fails, it’s always a possibility and is our driving force every day we are blessed to be here!) we’d be jobless. Portugal, like many places, is not a place to be jobless. There are no jobs here. Not for expats, on the whole. There are plenty of Portuguese out of work and willing to work for Portuguese minimum wage (remember J is for Jobs?) so why should anyone employ someone expecting double that? It is an ever-present reality that, if we ever ended up without our UK business employment, we would have to move back to the UK.

2) Children/Education

This would be the only other main “kicker”, I think. If the boys had truly hated it and not settled into Portuguese school life, we would most definitely have had to consider the possibility of moving back to England again. Difficult call to make when you’re talking about balancing the needs of two children (needs which may differ wildly!) but definitely something we may have had to deal with.

However, where are the actual mistakes in either of those 2 scenarios?

Personally, if you have a dream, I truly believe that you should follow it. If that dream doesn’t work out (or, worse still, comes crashing down around you) is it not better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all?

Rather aptly, a quote from Brazilian author, Paulo Coelho! (perhaps the quote was even originally made in Portuguese!)

I’ve umm-ed and ahh-ed about reading one of his books in Portuguese, actually.

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