Days 123-148 : Don't read this if you want to know about Norfolk

Norfolk is lovely. It really is. And I'm not going to intentionally tell you anything about it, because I'm sure it's all been written before and besides some people at Norfolk county council get paid for writing nice things about Norfolk.

Not a broad and very cold - but beautiful none the less

I'm going to write about us. It's been a while since I blogged because writing is something I enjoy doing when it's optional. Like lighting fires  - that's something I like doing when it's optional. After 2 weeks of having to tend solid-fuel stoves in order to stay warm I really don't feel like lighting fires anymore. After 2 months of blogging once a week-ish, it started to feel like a chore and so it hasn't happened for a while.

And now I'm back, and looking forward to sharing with you some of the joys and trials of travelling with kids, in a motorhome, for a year. I think that as a family we agree that the last month has been better for us all than the month before that. By "better"  I mean primarily emotionally better. Quite possibly days 95-125 were healthier physically for us, and we're at a phase of life where that's not our no. 1 priority.

The are two obvious reasons why things have been better. Firstly, we've not been camping in a motorhome for most of the time. Secondly, our children have had frequent opportunities to play with other children. Perhaps unsurprisingly it turns out that the hardest thing about being in a motorhome with your three children, is being in a motorhome with your three children.

Life doesn't look like this very often

Now might be a good time to tell you about our daily routine. Since we were in Cornwall we've been trying to bring structure to our endless free-time by starting each day with a family meeting. We have adapted a concept introduced through Positive Discipline, and it goes something like this :

Family meeting - Agenda/Minutes (we don't actually take minutes, this is just for your benefit)
Welcome, reminder of the date and day
Prayer for the day
Bible verse + appropriate thought for the day
Worship song (unless other people would hear us singing)
Météo de la journée - emotional weather forecast to say how we are each feeling. E.g. Cloudy, sunny, rainy with storms moving in fast, etc.
Complements (we try to thank/praise someone for who they are or what they have done)
Problem solving (this is where you bring any difficulties you have with other people in the family)
News + weather
Jobs (we allocate chores on a daily basis - yes and we argue with the kids about it on a daily basis)
Plan for today
Plan for tomorrow

Learning point 217 : Dogs are a distraction in family meetings.

Meetings typically lasts for 20 minutes. We are flexible with the time spent on each section, although the structure stays pretty much constant. Sometimes we do it in 2 minutes, and occasionally it lasts an hour and a half. Meetings don't happen as often as they should when we are staying with other people, but life is usually easier when they do happen, however short.

It was thanks to family meetings that we figured out that we needed to spend more time with other children and that we need to have time out of the motorhome. With hindsight maybe those two things should have been obvious before we even set off however by giving our children a place and time to spell out their problems we were able to realise that we needed to prioritise those things more than visiting English Heritage sites in Norfolk.

On the beach in Happisburgh - with other children!

Family meetings are challenging. They happen about 9:15am and at about one in three meetings there is either mutiny, or children go AWOL, or someone has to leave and come back again. And for our family at least it would be impossible to go on with this trip without them. The variability in content and structure of our days; the intensity of our exposure to each other; the fact that parents make most of the major decisions unilaterally; the simple truth that the things children want to spend time doing are not the things adults want to spend time doing - all means that if we don't regularly talk though our time together then we drift apart and one way or another annoy and upset each other.

An ecstatic Myriam with two new friends, in a brewery...

So for the last month we've been staying in houses, and either with friends (thanks Steve, Jenny, Katie and Seren) or finding other groups/families to play with. As we all start to feel better then we actually enjoy spending time with each other and our relationships strengthen.

On a personal level I'm starting to be able to identify situations ahead of time that will send me into anxious control-freak stress-monster Dad, and be brave enough to ask at family meeting if we could avoid that situation or do things differently next time. This whole trip is a giant learning experience, and the kids are getting a great education from it too.

Oh and the 2000+ seals at Horsey including new-born pups were amazing - you should go and see them.

But only in winter :-)


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