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It’s inexcusable really, and I can’t use “I was busy” as an excuse for every hour of every day, can I?
I guess it’s been a combination of not having chance and not wanting to actually blog at all.

It is so very much harder to continue this blog here in England.
It feels almost fraudulent and so I may let it slide in its current form.
But while I make that decision (which may happen during the course of creating this post), I’ll catch you all up.
I’m aiming for brief catch up, but I make no promises!

As you know, we – Nik, Eliot and I – went to Portugal for a 9-day holiday at the beginning of October.

Eliot and Nik were super-excited about it and they loved the whole trip. The accommodation was booked in the area we’d lived in so it was like being home… except when it wasn’t.

We did plenty to keep occupied as much as we could afford (holidays are EXPENSIVE, aren’t they?!)

We played minigolf. Twice actually. It’s great fun and reasonable value if you do the full 18-hole course (honestly, DON’T bother with the 9-hole unless you have toddlers)

We – well, Eliot – played in the pool. Not bad for October, eh?

He even took his skateboard (we’d had to check a suitcase in especially to take it!)

He met with school friends (I don’t think WordPress.org allows me to embed the video but Eliot has it posted  here )

We met with most of our friends we had made while out there: a shout out to Dave and Aly; Phil, Julie, Luke and Jasmine; Peter and Lesley; Matt; Antonio and Rita; everyone at The Lighthouse and apologies if I missed anyone.

“Did you eat at The Lighthouse?” I hear you ask.

Well, dur!

We ate at all the places we knew we liked to eat and went to all the places we knew we liked to go and Eliot and Nik had a fabulous time.
I know you’ve noticed by now so I’ll go ahead and answer that question in your heads: not really, no.

I think if it had been anywhere else, it would have been a holiday and it would have been fine and great, but being on holiday in somewhere that was home.
Not so much.
It felt awkward and every time they were loving “being home” I was feeling worse and worse about the decision to move back to the UK. The more they had fun, the worse I felt.

I’ve told them that next time they can go without me, and I mean it. I actually don’t want to go back to visit again.

Maybe when the campervan is done.

The van is progressing slowly. Naff weather has hampered progress a bit and, even thought we have, for the time being, moved on to internal works (we’re currently installing electrics and final fixing ceiling panels with their vinyl coverings and lights) it’s still so cold in the garage that it’s not much fun out there. We’ve resigned ourselves to being a bit out of action until after the snowy weather for now. No point making it a chore! It’s supposed to be fun!

So we’ve done some van bits and been working and schooling and oh yes, let’s have a school update then!

Eliot is coming on well. We had been concentrating quite heavily on his maths but we’ve scaled it back to 2-3 times a week now and it’s keeping the interest up.

He’s been home edding since the start of May now so that’s 8 months although 2-3 months of that has been summer/Christmas vacations, I guess, but in the 6 months we’ve been learning, his maths age has gone up from about 9yrs 10m to about 11yrs and 8m. That’s nearly a 2 year leap in 6 months which is phenomenal. I wish he could see just how far he’s come!

I’m taking a gently, gently approach with English. We’ve learned some interesting stuff, the usual yawns about nouns, verbs, adverbs etc, but more fun was trying to remember the WORD onomatopoeia (I’m going to thank my computer for its spellcheck at this point!) from one lesson to the other, and I’m currently tackling something specific that he has trouble with: comprehension.

He’s frequently said that adult conversations (and movie dialogue etc) is completely alien to him and I think he just needs to read/hear more, so I’ve started reading to him.

Yep, at 12-years-old, I’ve started reading to him! I’ve chosen a book he likes to begin with – A Minecraft storybook – but I’ve encouraged him to ask about words he doesn’t know and phrases he doesn’t understand and I think it’ll definitely help.

So that’s Eliot!

Jake – who turned 16 this December gone! –  is studying hard (!) for his Maths and English GCSEs which he is taking this summer. He’s had decent grades in his English assessments so far and we’re hopeful he’ll pass both easily enough (he’s brainy; he should!).

It should be enough to get him into Lincoln college in September to study…well, here’s news actually… not plumbing!

He’s now decided he’d prefer to be an electrician and we’re behind him 100%. Plumbing would be excellent and he’d do well for work, I’m sure, but being an electrician could be so much more flexible. He could end up employed doing something off on a tangent from electrical work or he could ultimately become the self-employed electrician that he hopes to be, but I do think it’ll offer him many more opportunities.

Either choice is good, but electrician is the one we’ve applied to college for.

I love that he has goals!
Jake has life goals!

Sheesh, after they year we’ve had, I never thought I’d say that!

What else happened?

Jake drove his first car: a Lamborghini Gallardo at a local track day. That was fun!

And we went to the motorcycle show where Eliot could sit on any bike he wanted which was ALL of them…TWICE. He LOVED that!

We (well, in fairness, mostly Nik) removed our open log fire and replaced it with a wood burner.

We went to a gaming convention which was something of an anticlimax but Eliot enjoyed meeting Jacksepticeye (he’s a YouTuber!)

What does 2016 hold in store for the Hands then?

Well, the van is on course to be finished by the summer (of 2016, I hope!) so we’ll be using that a bit to make sure we iron out any snags before we head out into the wider Europe.

There’s school, of course. Jake has exams in May and June and we’re hoping he’ll get some work experience in over the summer before he has to go to college (we’re also hoping college accepts him!)

There’s work. There’s always work. This isn’t a bad thing when you run your own business!

Oh, and I’ve signed up for a beginners Sign Language course at a local training centre. There’s an advanced course later in the year too so I’m hoping I’ll enjoy it enough to follow-up with that one and then, who knows?!

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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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If I thought for one minute that things would be back to ‘normal’ when we came back to England, how completely deluded I was.

I suppose, it depends on your definition of ‘normal’, but ours (well, mine) was working from home, kids at school, same old same old just with fewer sunshine and beer breaks (booooo!)

I guess I was partly right.
I was also dead wrong!

After a shaky start with Jake in (or not in) school, we settled into something that works for us for now. Jake does 2 hours (ish!) of Maths in the morning and then 2 hours currently learning coding or 3D design in the afternoon. He’s signed up to a great Maths website that he seems to be getting on with OK (after trialling several) and he’s working his way to starting GCSE Maths study, alongside English next year or soon after.

Exams weren’t in our initial plan, but then Jake decided he wants to do plumbing. That’s all well and good but he’s going to need him some GCSE Maths and English passes to get into college and so that’s what we’re working towards now. Whether it’ll be next summer or after that, I don’t know, but it’s a target and, much more importantly, an ambition. That’s quite huge for us actually. It’s certainly not even in the ballpark of what we’d have expected Jake to show an interest in, but hey, world needs plumbers!

So we have a sort of plan for Jake. That’s good.

And so on to Eliot.

He settled in well at school. He’s a social sort and made plenty of friends. And that’s all well and good but… it’s difficult to know how to get down how things went in my head but I think it boiled down to two words: Parents’ Evening.

Eliot was excited for us to come and especially so because the first teacher we were seeing was the dance teacher and he was loving dance, having been asked to join the lunchtime dance group. So we trotted along to see her and that’s about where it all started to unravel. The one thing she had to say, which seemed to take up her EVERY last word about Eliot and dance, was homework.

Homework!
I mean, honestly. Homework??
Now, I have a beef with homework at the best of times, but seriously? In Dance class?

I expected to hear the same from every teacher but didn’t really. Lots of how Eliot is a ‘very sociable and popular child’ but he ‘needs to focus more’, is ‘very easily distracted’ and should ‘concentrate in class’ and blah blah blah yada yada.

Quite honestly, what they want is for Eliot not to be Eliot but to be some good little worker bee to line up with the rest of the hive and enable them to churn out one more obedient sheep at the end of year 11.

No. Thank. You!

Eliot has never been the best in school. Anyone who knows him will know this, but he’s not stupid. Not by a long shot, and school was making him seem that way. It made him feel incapable and dumb and, coupled with the fact that he was so very clearly 4 years behind in the important parts of Maths and English from being in Portuguese school, it didn’t bode well for the long-term.

He may not be academically gifted but the boy is clever and he needs to see it. We needed to get back to basics and school wasn’t doing it.

My brain coped with about one more week of school and then it spontaneously combusted and, after a long heart to heart with Eliot (who was very mature in his reasoning for staying in school as well as being out of it) we de-registered him too.

It’s been a rocky start but we now have some sort of thing going. We found an absolutely awesomely fantastic maths website called Maths Whizz which is perfect for Eliot. It assesses as it goes and has been brilliant at filling in some really fundamental gaps in his knowledge. We’ve lots more to do but the fact that I’m even managing to get him to do an hour each morning on it during school half term speaks for itself!

It’s quite ingenious really.

If I could find an equivalent site for English, that’d be even better! Currently, we’ve worked on Nouns and used the free Grammaropolis Nouns section as an aid. It was a bit of fun but rather too childish really. Not quite what we’re looking for and I’m undecided whether we’ll pay to use the rest of the site. It worked, I suppose, but I’m still looking.

Meantime we’re still bouncing back to nouns every once in a while and I’m tackling his spelling (which is , quite honestly, atrocious. Partly due to not being educated in English for 5 years and partly due to the only reading/writing he had done in that time being picked up from chatting online: definitely NOT the place to learn!)

So anyway, it’s an hour of Maths, 15 minute break and 30-45 mins of English each morning – the important academic stuff – and a less structured couple of hours in the afternoon doing science or something more fun! He’s doing well with it so far and I’ve been amazed at how quickly he’s responding to learning this way. I can see huge progress already and, perhaps as importantly, HE can see real progress and achievement. It’s measurable in his Maths and it’s lovely to see.

That’s huge too.

So, I’m juggling my days with helping Eliot in the mornings and fitting work in before that, during the boys’ lunch break and after 3 when they’re both finished. It’s tricky sometimes but it’s working and it’s definitely beneficial.

What else?

That’s all so big that not a lot else has gone on really. Nik went back to Portugal for a week for the Jerez MotoGP (the git – we all went last year) and I had a very long weekend away at Wendy’s when we both went to Nottingham for 3 days to see John Barrowman Live. It was great!

See how close we were?! Second row!

We ate lots, drank lots and loved the show! Music was great and John is a great entertainer (and very, very funny!)

It was a fab weekend!

Oh, other news. We’re having solar panels fitted to the house. Slight irony really that we’re having them fitted here after living nearly 5 years in a country with a zillion hours more sun, but we were looking at financially viable ways to provide us with more economical power and this is the first step.

Our oil central heating (we’re off mains gas here) is not cheap to run. We went through 500 litres of oil (about £350-400) in less than 6 weeks when we first moved back in and that was with the heating on 6-10am and 6-10.30 pm. So we were STILL freezing in the office all day! We had to bump the heating down to 2 hours morning and evening instead (did that while it was still cold: mid March, I think) and so now we’re even colder in the office all day but we’re not using so much oil. We’re hoping that, with the solar PV panels, we can run any excess into a storage heater for the office (usual approach is to run it to the immersion, and we may or may not use that option instead) but either way the money we save/earn on electric, we can use towards our oil.

We’ve gone with WeRSolarUK by personal recommendation. We noticed that one of our nearby neighbours had panels fitted (last summer) and he’s said the benefits have been very good. He recommended the company and, even though we did shop around and get another local quote, we were certainly impressed with what WeRSolarUK could offer for the money. I’ll report back with an update at a later date!

We’re also looking at getting out oil boiler replaced with a more efficient one and sorting out our whole hot water system which is horribly inefficient at present.

It’s all a work in progress but it should result in a nicer, warmer workplace without increase in overall cost beyond our initial loan payback. We’ve borrowed over 4 years, but the system should pay for itself in around 6-7 (based on our home in particular) and carries on paying out from the Feed-in-Tariff for 20 years in total giving an overall return on investment of a considerable amount higher than having it sat in the bank!

It’s been a big step for us: borrowing from the bank. Mortgages aside, it isn’t something we’ve ever done. We’ve never had a personal loan as a couple (Nik had one before we met) so it’s been actually quite nice to know that we’re still credit-worthy!

We’ve been spending some time working on the garden here too now that the weather has improved. We had a huge (approx 70ft) Christmas Tree removed that had been in the garden for over 40 years and was causing a nuisance both our side of the boundary and next door. The needles made the garden a mess and the thing was enormous! We got it cut down and spent some considerable time clearing away branches and needles.

Under the tree : Before

You can see how big the job was! The debris filled the garden!

Oh the needles. We have gravel directly beneath where the tree stood and 10 years of needles (since we put the gravel down) had fallen in amongst the stone, making it squashy, dirty and grow weeds! (in the needle mulch itself)

After the tree and branches had all been cleared from the garden (luckily, our garden is very long itself), we set to sieving the gravel. We sieved about 10 square meters of gravel and it’s so much better now. We certainly cleared a LOT of needles! I’d guess about 6-8 big green garden wheelie bins worth! Back-breaking and time-consuming work but it looks SO much better for it.

While the tree itself didn’t shade us from the sun (it did next door though!), it did, of course, cast shadow and significantly obscure the skyline. The difference now it’s gone is amazing! The garden feels even bigger and lighter and much less claustrophobic for having it gone.

Now we’ve got that sorted, we’ve replaced the shed (building new one afforded us both the opportunity to get sunburnt on Saturday!)  and just need to clear the old one and shift the greenhouse off the decking and into its final place next to the new shed.

It’s getting there.

Anyways, that’s probably enough waffle for now.

Suffice to stay we’re still here, and we’re hoping for many more sunshiny days like Saturday!

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Now isn’t that just the million dollar question?

If you’d told me 3 months ago that I’d be sitting typing this from our old house at Knaith Park, I’d have laughed at you. Hard.

And then laughed some more.
Because it would have been a ludicrous thought.
Ridiculous.
And I’d have told you so.And then I’d have laughed a bit more.
And probably drunk some more wine.

Yet here we are.

Nik is working on his ‘new’ van in the garage, I am on the laptop in the office, El is at school and Jake is…not.

We did get them both registered in the local school at they started back in January. Well, I say ‘they’.  J never really started properly. It very quickly became apparent that just expecting him to pop right back in to an English school – ANY school – was really not going to just happen.
And so he isn’t.
In school, I mean.

Currently, he is on a 4 week study-at-home period and school have sent work home for him to do while we wait(ed) for an appointment to come through with CAMHS. Well, they sent some ridiculously long maths sheets, and a couple of other things which I can only assume are perhaps English stuff (one definitely is, one I’m not sure what subject it originated from! It’s more like Business Studies!) which he’s worked through gradually, but oh my god how DULL! To be sitting at the kitchen table for hours on end doing maths worksheets? Really?

I mean, I love maths as much as the next maths geek but even I’d get bored with it (J actually doesn’t mind), and really, what are we achieving? He’s missed term 1 of year 10. He’s missing term 2 of year 10. Even if CAMHS could work a miracle, I honestly cannot see him going back to school this year, let alone this term!
And then where are we?A teen in year 11 having done NO GCSE work in school whatsoever.

No, I’m sorry, but that won’t do. The timing is all icky and it just won’t work.

That leaves two options.

1) Assuming miracle cure from CAMHS, he starts back a year at year 10 again. This is a bad option because a) miracle cures don’t exist and b) who wants to go back a year.

2) We homeschool him. (That hyperlink probably answers a whole ton of your questions right now!)

There, I said it.

The more I research it and talk about it, the more it seems like the only option. If he were in year 9 even, it’d be less of a problem but he stands more chance of learning anything properly if we’re doing it at home than the way things are going currently.

Exams are dependent on finding a school that will allow private candidates to sit them (a lot do but we may need to look at Lincoln or Scunthorpe) but it’s doable.

I can do Maths with him. I’m fairly certain we can get through Maths GCSE (or IGCSE) between us. We’re both strong in that area and I’m confident he can do well.
For English, I will source an online GCSE course such as Catherine Mooney. Her course comes highly rated and recommended. It’s not my forte, and I would not feel at all confident judging/assessing any written work.

We might look at a combined science GCSE but we might not. I’m more keen, from an exams point of view, to concentrate on areas in which he has genuine interest. We’re looking at IT-related courses. Perhaps ECDL and following some courses based around 3D design and printing. Something that he might have actual enthusiasm about.

Makes sense, right?

We perhaps don’t need to go quite THIS far back to basics!

Part of me is sad that my bright teenager has ended up losing the opportunity to excel in school.  I know he would have done, under the right circumstances.

But these circumstances aren’t the right ones.
I honestly believe that he WILL still excel, but in his own time; on his own schedule and not in some school-timetabled-cookie-cutter-universal time-frame.
We’re having to look at ‘education’ in a whole other way, and I’m using the opportunity to create something for J that he can USE, something he can be interested in and about excited about doing each day. Whether it works or not remains to be seen, but the status quo isn’t working so why keep fighting it. The outcome could be a lot worse if we do.

Aaaaaanyway, on a chirpier note, El has settled well into school. He’s made new friends and has a few favourite subjects (Drama, PE, anything in which he can make a mess (Art, Cookery, Tech generally)) and seems OK. Some days he’s loving it. Others he’s tolerating, but I think he will be OK for now. He takes the bus to and from school each day and seems to have grown up quite a bit with the move. I need to keep reminding myself to keep a reign on him though. He’s such an independent little thing that it’s easy to forget that he’s only 11 (I forget, he forgets, it’s a group thing!)

So we are sort of settled. Business is good, and we have lots of ideas to make it better and grow. We have J’s initial appointment with CAMHS. We’ll see what they say about him. It won’t change my school decision but I will discuss it with school so they understand the problem. I can’t see them being able to accommodate him and keep him on track, even if he does find himself able to return.

If you’d told me 3 months ago that I’d be sitting typing this from our old house at Knaith Park, I’d have laughed at you.
If you’d then told me that I’d be planning to deregister Jake from school and homeschool him, I’d probably have called the men in white coats for you and helped them load you into their van!

Funny how life goes, huh?

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Goodness knows, I’ve asked myself that a lot since we moved here in July 2010.

There’s no denying that moving to a different country with children is a very difficult thing to do. However much you tell yourself you’re doing it for “the greater good”, there are worries and doubts at every step of the way.

Obviously, these doubts and worries are not helped by plunging those children into a foreign language school environment. In fact, I think that language is, and probably always will be, our number one hurdle.

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There is only so much preparation you can do before moving to a foreign country. You can visit and research local areas, amenities, schools etc. What you can’t do, unless you happen to be fluent in a second language already (that’s you AND your family, of course) is remove the language barrier completely. Some basic language skills in advance are a good thing, of course, but they really won’t prepare you for what it’s like to be surrounded by it 24/7!

I’d be lying if I said that our boys’ education hasn’t suffered in some way. Jake used to be a Maths whizz in his UK school. Now he struggles, even in this subject. His first 2 years here, he actually did really well. He passed both years and seemed to be doing ok. He’s been having one-on-one Portuguese lessons at home, for an hour a week, for around 18 months now and these have definitely helped. Jake has gone from “I am NEVER speaking Portuguese” to being (or claiming to be) fairly confident. He says he doesn’t feel that way any more. That’s definitely a step in the right direction.

In his first term of year 8, however, it seemed like we’d taken huge steps backwards. He went from only failing the “least likely to scrape through” subjects, to failing, well, nearly all of them! 6 negatives on his end of term report were a real shock. They’ve prompted change though and I’m hopeful that the changes we’ve made will help. His end of second term report will tell us, I suppose.

Eliot is also struggling. He was held back last year and remains in year 3. This was a good thing really because he needs the extra time in the lower classes and his teacher tells us he has improved a fair bit. There’s no denying his verbal Portuguese skills are confident but reading and writing lags behind. His reading in English, however, is very good (something which bemuses us because nobody has actually taught him this!) and that’s reassuring. His Portuguese reading will catch up. Now he just needs to learn to spell. Either language would be good!

Jake’s last report plunged me into doubt and regret, of course, and renewed all the “are we doing the right thing?” feelings. I actually ran through my mind how returning to the UK could be better. For Jake, perhaps the move back wouldn’t be a problem in his education (in fact, the stuff he’s learning/studying here is far beyond the UK equivalent school curriculum) but it would be a huge problem for Eliot. When we moved here, Eliot was held back a year. He was also held back again last year. This means he is currently in year 3 (which, in Portugal, isn’t a problem as there are many 9 year olds in year 3) but his UK “peers” and old school friends are in year 5. Even if we returned to the UK next school year, he’d be at least 2 years behind everyone he knew and that can’t be a good thing.

Does that make me feel any better? Does it hell?!

It’s not just the kids that throw up doubts and worries, of course. Work is a constant fear. Running our own business remotely puts a lot of pressure on. There’s no steady income. If we don’t get sales, we don’t make money and, if we don’t make money, we can’t transfer it here to live on! We don’t make a huge amount of money (we pretty much live off our 2 minimum director’s salaries here) but  we still have to cover that transfer each month. Most months, it’s OK. Some months, the quiet ones (and don’t all businesses have those?!) are quite unnerving. As anybody who relies on this sort of self-employed income will know, it’s hard and a constant worry.

Oh hell, that really sounds like it’s all doom and gloom! It’s not of course. Aside from money worries and kids, everything is fine!

*insert maniacal panicked laughter here*

There’s a fine line between worrying unnecessarily and sticking your head in the sand.

Here, have a sunny photo to brighten things up!

My beautiful boy. January 2013

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I’m already in the WordPress dashboard, having done my next “Personal A to Z of Portugal” post so figured I might as well do a family update while I’m here!

The boys finally (can I emphasise that word enough? Does bold, italics underline do it?) went back to school on Monday 17th September.

Considering they’re been off school since 15th June, it has been a long, long 3 months of summer. Eliot has spent 7 of the 13 weeks at Click Kids Club, which has helped both him and us and Jake has spent most of his entire 13 weeks in his bedroom, as teenagers (well, nearly!) do, I suppose. The sun has shone pretty much incessantly during the entire summer, of course.

Click Kids dolphin watching trip

Eliot and I did a trip to London, as a birthday treat for him, to visit Aunty Wendy. We had all sorts of visitors, my aunty and uncle and their friends who all stayed in a small town fairly locally, My Mum, Nik’s Mum and Nik’s sister and her son, who celebrated his 5th birthday surrounded by his Portuguese family and his English family.

We did a trip to Aqualand, towards the end of the holidays, which was a great way to round off a long, hot summer!

The not-so-rapid Rapids

My preferred pastime

It’s been quite a busy summer, in fact. Coupled with the fact that it is also our work busy season! As business slows down for the autumn (something which is both a relief and always a worry at the same time) and the boys go back to school, we can start to get back to some sort of normality again.

The boys seem to have settled in ok to their new school years.

Eliot is, of course, at a completely new school altogether, as I mentioned in an earlier post. However, when we went for our introduction day, on the Friday before term started, we discovered that his entire school HAD indeed been sent to the same school and, in fact, they had also kept all the students together. Not only does his new school class consist of everybody he would have been with in his old school but he also has the same teacher! He’s in a new environment but surrounded by familiarity. Best of both worlds, I’d say! He’s loving his new bigger school with all its places to play and new people to get to know. It’s definitely a good thing for him.

Jake had a bit of an upset when the new school class lists were released because he has been moved into a new class away from the people he has been with for the past 2 years. This is mostly due to his subject choices are requirements (choosing Music over Photography and requiring a different Portuguese class to most) and, while he was not pleased at ALL about the change of classmates, he seems to be coming to terms with it gradually.

He had another slight upset in that he has most of the same subject teachers as last year and his head of year (DT – diretor/a de turma) is his Maths teacher who he, well, let’s just say he doesn’t favour her much! He finds her intimidating and scary which isn’t good for the teacher who is supposed to be your “go-to-person” if you have any problems! I, however, find NO school teacher scary (I just have a problem with schools themselves!) and will have no qualms about giving her what for if she upsets my boy!  He’ll be ok, I think. Certainly, there are a few students from his previous year who it will benefit him to be away from!

So, we head into the new school year making new starts. New schools, new classes. Bring it on!

Gratuitous blue sky shot!

 

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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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