We’ve nearly survived another school holiday. Nearly. It doesn’t matter how much we try to prepare ourselves for these regular and massive disruptions to our well tuned weekly schedule, we’ve never managed to get school holidays right. These school holidays were no different.

What makes the school holidays hard is that Matt and myself don’t get holidays. Being self employed (or employed at all really - unless you're a school teacher) the school holidays mean that we just are working with the kids around. I’ve tried putting Frank into a couple of different holiday programs (on Alice's daycare days) but to be honest they all suck. The last couple of times I’ve gone to pick up Frank from such programs he has been in tears and once with a black eye that no one seemed to care about! 

The best we can do is make a few plans - we swap kids with friends and try to achieve some balance between working, hanging out with the kids and actually doing some holiday activities and not just sending them up to the ‘hangout room’ at work - which is just a spare office with a telly in it. The kids would absolutely love to be in there 8 hours a day but it's a fine line between giving the kids what they want and benign neglect.

The first week of the holidays was good with some well placed kids swaps, playground visits and grandma taking up the slack with a couple of nights of sleepovers! Matt and I even got to spend some non-work related time together which is rare these days. We had pulled off our first week of the holidays with a good balance of work, play and even some adult time! Alas the second week, was not to work as well.

The second week of school holidays had a few things against us. 

Firstly was a perfect storm of financially hardship - the rising cost of living (freezing Ballarat has basically doubled all of our outgoings), an increase in rent and a temporary reduction in income has meant that we faced the last week of holidays with $200 in the *Splurge account.

Secondly I had my period which meant that my emotional reactions were set to 11. FYI, my scale is based on reactions to Disney movies (because that is the most consistent cultural reference I have in my life right now). A (1) means I can watch Moana and feel this really positive connection to the Pacific and the enduring courage of the main character. A (5) means I’m going to openly cry at the end of Frozen 2 when Anna realised that Elsa isn’t dead. A (10) is that I can’t even listen to the Encanto sound track without crying while singing - which is actually a really hard thing to do as singing and crying don’t go well together. 

I was sitting at a precarious (9) when we went to pick the kids up from Grandma’s.

The original plan was to have lunch with some city friends since we were so close to Melbourne but we made a last minute pivot and decided to take the kids to the Lego Discovery Centre which we had heard about. Frank LOVES lego and we thought this is the perfect memory making event that a family should do in the school holidays.

I needed a bit of convincing when I realised that it would completely blow our budget with tickets costing $194, leaving us with $6 for ‘splurging’ but shit, it was the holidays and this is the sort of thing we wanted to do as a family. We booked in for a 1.30pm session and drove to Spotswood (a station 20 minutes out of Melbourne) and caught the train into the city. 

We arrived at Melbourne Central with enough time to quickly get some lunch from the food court and make our 1.30pm session time. As we ate the Abortion Rights rally started to march past us on the street below. The kids obviously wanted to know what was going on which led to a rather confronting conversation I had to have with a 5 and 6 year old about how when a woman is pregnant she has a choice whether she has that baby or not. It’s a woman's right to make decisions about their own body and how the American government was taking that choice away. Alice was cross and talking to her about this, and imagining all the women in the US (and other countries of course) who don’t have a choice made me cry again. Imagine if Alice didn’t have a choice. God, it's making me cry right now.

By this stage it was 1.45pm and I hate being late so we had to pull ourselves away from the protest and the heartfelt life lessons and go play with heaps of lego which is actually a pretty big emotional switch to make in hindsight. Now some of you will be reading this thinking, but Jess, why were you in Melbourne Central? The Lego Discovery Centre is in Chadstone, a horrendous shopping mall 15km away from Melbourne. 

This is what we were about to discover. 

You see Melbourne Central has a new massive lego store that we’ve been watching get built everytime we come into the city. When we brought our tickets online there was no mention of the location, even the ticket receipt had no mention of the address so we assumed it was in the new Melbourne Central store - it was called the ‘Lego Discovery Centre Melbourne’ after all - not discovery centre ‘Chadstone’.

There was a line of people waiting to get into the lego store and when it was our turn we walked in and noticed that there was lots of lego but not much of a discovery centre. I asked the person ushering people into the store what was going on and he just looked at me and smiled - “oh you're in the wrong place! The discovery store is in Chadstone!”.

I told Matt the disappointing news then I walked outside of the store to cry again. We had just blown our last $200 on NOT going to the lego discovery centre. As I walked around outside the store desperately trying to find a number to call to see if we could move our booking or refund our tickets I was met with a shitty internet connection (which is one of life's most frustrating first world problems) which meant I couldn’t find any of the information I needed to because my bloody phone wouldn't load. There was now a massive queue that snaked back for miles to get back into the lego store so I couldn’t actually get back to my family without waiting for 10 minutes and the protest had ended so there were hundreds of people welding signs covered in uterus’s all around me.

It took all of my stress management tools to get me back to a reasonable state. The kids didn’t really care that we didn’t go to the discovery centre. They had been on a train ride, seen a protest and got to have Macca’s for lunch. As far as they were concerned the day had been a success. My tearful intervals didn’t seem to distress them too much which I’m going to take as a good thing and a sign of their emotional maturity…

The backfiring of this day is a common occurrence for every single family I know - when you have the best intentions, you go out of your way to do something special for the kids and the event or day or trip turns out to be a complete disaster! It can make you regret ever trying to do something special in the first place but such as life, we’ve got to get back up and go back for more - it's either good news or a good story right?!?

In conclusion to this particular tale, we got a refund from the Lego Discovery Centre with just enough time to purchase tickets to Sovereign Hills Winter Wonderlights. The kids had a blast but in hindsight taking kids who are particularly sensitive to overstimulation to the equivalent of a rave for children might not have been the best idea. Especially with two over-tried parents but it's school holidays right?!?!?

*Splurge account is a Barefoot Investor idea where 10% of your pay goes into an account to be spent on fun stuff.

Video of the week
A Procrastinator’s Guide to Finishing Things.
Podcast of the week
Hitting the Mark: Shit that I knit: Christina Pardy
Font of the week
Criolla Sans: Font of the week by La Compañía

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