That long expanse of summer holiday fills some with joy and others with horror. For those of us with children who thrive on routine, the summer can be a difficult time. They find it hard to adjust to the differences and anticipate September transitions to new classes and new schools.

Enter the summer holiday schedule.


Using the summer holiday schedule

This is an easy-to-edit Word file that I update every year. It’s not complicated, just the dates from the end of one term to the beginning of the next, with an activity or two marked on for each day. a the moment that tends to be about as much detail as they want, though we also have a Twinkl visual timetable on hand for days when they need a bit more clarity about a simple day at home (‘But what are we doing after lunch?’).

I use them in the Christmas and Easter holidays too, because Joanna and Charlotte thrive on knowing what to expect. If I could add a meal plan for the entire holiday that would make them happier still.

Here’s ours for this summer (click for larger version).

How I fill the summer holiday schedule

This is Joanna’s first year at a residential summer camp (I’m not sure which of us is most excited about this prospect) so that was scheduled first (purple). Charlotte will be spending a few days with my parents so we can have some time off (pink). Then the SEN activity club the girls love – I booked as many slots as i could for that (yellow). Then because I’m talking part in the self-carecamp in Yorkshire at the end of the holidays, we’re turning that into a family holiday by hiring a cottage nearby, which fills out the last week (green). We’ve just renewed our national Trust membership and are determined to recoup the cost, so I scoured the magazine for local child-friendly activities (brown).

Being outdoors is great for Joanna and Charlotte, so, weather permitting, there are also a smattering of days where it simply says ‘park’ and ‘garden fort’. (Note: this is an excellent garden fort kit that keeps them occupied for ages, especially when combined with an old shower curtain for the roof. Highly recommended.)

The rest is filled in with things like a ‘jobs and rewards day’. This is code for ‘get them to tidy their rooms, do the hoovering and clean the bathroom, which is pleasingly endorsed by their OT, in return for a small supply of Freddos, new crayons and those awful magazines with plastic tat attached’. There’s also a pyjama day. This basically means ‘you can watch DVDs while I do all the laundry from the holiday and if you stay in your PJs it means you’re not creating any more for me to wash’.

Your own summer holiday schedule

Of course your family’s schedule will look different from ours. You may not have childcare. You may have exotic holidays. Maybe yours involves a lot more time at the beach, the swimming pool, or the ice cream shop. (We can but hope, hey?) But scheduling your holiday in advance takes a huge amount of stress out of the whole business. It gives children a sense of certainty about what to expect, and it helps parents not to flounder in the face of weeks of nothingness.

To make your own, I’ve produced a blank template. You’re welcome to download and edit it to suit your family’s needs. Some people do a text-only one like mine, others like to add clipart or their own drawings. Whatever works for you.


Download yours here:  HLM Blank summer holiday schedule 2017 (MS Word)

More tips

If your children struggle with the back-to-school transition, you might like to try a couple of things we do. First, schedule a school visit to the new classroom for the end of the holidays, to go and say hello and refamiliarise them with where everything is. We arrange this with the headteacher in July (so it’s not yet on our schedule above). Second, plan something fun for the first weekend of term, and include that too, so that it doesn’t look like the fun stops when school starts up again.

I’d love to hear how you get on with this summer schedule – or summer holiday planning in general! Leave me a comment or let’s talk on social media.

Before you go…

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PCOS is really common, especially in the adoption community, and can cause weight gain amongst other symptoms. Enter specialist eating plans to help lose the weight and improve the other symptoms. If you like your meals to be heavy on the science and intense on the planning front, The PCOS Diet Plan could be just the book for you.

Review PCOS Diet Plan

My PCOS experience

I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) at the age of 17. The person doing electrolysis on my rampant facial hair (picture Evan Baxter’s ‘It just keeps growing back’ scenes, if you will) suggested it would be a good idea to investigate the possibility with my GP. After numerous blood tests and ultrasounds and being prodded about Down There by student doctors (mortifying), the diagnosis was confirmed, I was handed a prescription for Dianette, and off I went.

It wasn’t until later that I read more about PCOS and the association with weight gain. I was a bit overweight as a teenager and as an adult have managed to lose large amounts of weight with Weight Watchers a couple of times, but it is a battle and on top of the trials and tribulations of adoptive parenting (read: I eat when stressed) I have not yet been able to conquer it again since the girls arrived.

PCOS and adoption

I know that many people come to adoption having had issues with fertility and that PCOS is a common problem. I ran a poll on Twitter:

The result: more than a third of my Twitter followers who took part in the poll have a PCOS diagnosis. This is higher than the average in the overall population (estimated at 10%), and especially when I didn’t ask only women to participate in the poll! It wasn’t conducted in an especially scientific manner. But it is broadly in line with what I expected, ie that there is a higher-than-average prevalence of PCOS among adopters. With that in mind, I tried out this book to see if it’s worth a go.

The Book: First impressions

If you’re either (a) really into nutrition or endocrinology, or (b) love to do a lot of detailed homework before starting something new, it’s more likely you’ll enjoy the first section of the book. I found it like wading through treacle, which, given the emphasis on avoiding refined carbs, is probably not the effect the author was going for. The first half of the book is not dissimilar to an academic paper, with lots of citations of various studies and long latinate science vocabulary that explained the why and took a long time to get to the ‘what to do’ element. I’m fine with a couple of chapters of it, but spent at least an hour’s reading wishing the author would cut to the chase and give me some sample menus so I could see what I was dealing with.

The PCOS Diet Plan: what’s it about?

The short version is that women with PCOS should aim for a plate of food that is 50% non-starchy vegetables, 25% protein (eg chicken or fish), and 25% wholegrain carbs, with yogurt of milk as a snack between meals. The long version (and it is a lot longer) involves ‘carb budgets’ and using one of the diet/nutrition apps (I used MyFitnessPal) to work out how many calories you should be on for your height and weight and then dividing those up between carbs and proteins. I’m used to having all these details figured out for me by Weight Watchers and just dealing in points, so it made my head spin a bit.

If, like me, you’re a frazzled adoptive mum looking for simple steps to lose a few pounds, you might want to pass on The PCOS Diet Plan.

I wanted to love it.

I tried it out for three days.

It was just too complicated.

I ate fewer carbohydrates, was alarmed at how much sugar there is in a mango, and had to faff about entering nutritional values into the app. Yes, I lost a few pounds. But I couldn’t sustain all the faffing on top of an already bonkers lifestyle (y’know, the CPV and whatnot). For people with more time and inclination, I’d say go for it, but it’s not for me.

The details
Professional Reader

The PCOS Diet Plan
Hillary Wright
Ten Speed Press
£14.18 (Kindle £14.99)
Published 2 May 2017

Disclaimer: I received this book free via NetGalley in return for my honest review.

Before you go…

  • If you found this post helpful or interesting, please vote for it. Thanks! 🙂
  • You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. I love to talk to fellow adopters.
  • You can also sign up here to receive my monthly newsletter. It contains my recent blog posts, my favourite adoption-related blog posts by others, and relevant resources from around the web.


We are now 24 hours in to the summer holidays and things are more or less on track.

The girls have now been with us for four Julys. We have established that Joanna in particular Does Not Like Them, and that the last day of the school year is especially hard for her as she says goodbye to her teachers.

  • First year: Bit her nursery key worker and hit some other staff as a statement of ‘I’m going to reject you before you “reject” me’.
  • Second year: Cried at bedtime for a week when she left her reception teacher.
  • Third year: Cried as soon as she was out of sight of school and at bedtime for three days because she missed everyone.
  • This year: 20 seconds of crying outside school, much sobbing and clinginess at bedtime on day one… we’ll see how long it lasts.

We always skip the leavers’ assembly in order to avoid prolonging the goodbyes, so I collected them from school at 1.30, emergency calming-down bubbles on hand (but not deployed), and whisked them off to Sainsbury’s for a bit of distraction. They chose some new crayons to take on holiday and some ice creams, then we went home, they ate the ice creams, and I revealed that I had added Madagasgar (an old favourite) and Gangsta Granny (which is Joanna’s class’s first topic next year) on to their Kindles. They promptly plugged in for two hours, suitably happy and distracted. Parenting win.

I was able to field questions about plans for the holidays by producing the summer holiday schedule that I’ve used with them for a couple of years now (see large version here).

Summer Schedule (image)

Joanna (age 7) can read this and understand it well, and I create it primarily for her benefit so that she knows that there is a plan.

Charlotte (age 6) struggles with the concept of time, frequently mixing up ‘yesterday’ with ‘tomorrow’ or ‘three days’ and ‘three weeks’. This schedule doesn’t completely solve the problem but it does help as a tool for explaining (repeatedly!) how many days there are until we go swimming, etc.

I don’t stick to it rigidly, and I don’t include a lot of detail that is likely to change, but the stuff that’s booked up in advance is enough to give us a sense of structure and sanity, and this really helps with the transition from school time to holiday time.

You can download a copy to customise and use yourself from my resources page.

Tomorrow: the ‘magic’ activity chooser.



seven, components, self-care,

Image by Leo Reynolds

The work on my book The Seven Components of Self-Care continues. I am loving writing it and am excited (read: also mildly terrified) at the thought of getting it out there in the world. The book expands on the series of blog posts I wrote and includes tips and case studies and all the good stuff people said they wanted when they filled in my survey (more of that in a moment).

Case studies
I have a few ideas about people I think would make great case studies for certain sections of the book, but I also want to cast the net wide open and see if there are others who I’ve not encountered yet! I’d love to hear from you if you are an adoptive parent who makes a particular effort to include one or more of these things as part of looking after yourself:

You don’t have to have everything sorted, I’m not looking for perfection, just someone who has a plan of action of some kind and is working on putting it into practice. Do also please share this post with anyone else you think fits the bill and ask them to get in touch with me. You can do that through the comments below, or via Twitter, or by email. I’m really excited about sharing lots of people’s successful strategies with the wider adoption community so we can all find self-care that works for us.

Important note: don’t let concerns about privacy/security issues stop you taking part. I take that stuff seriously and will give you a pseudonym if you prefer. Any interviews will happen by email, partly because I am Just Not A Phone Person, and partly because you can then ‘hide’ behind whatever email address you want to use.

Survey results
I am so grateful to everyone who has taken the time to fill in my survey about what they want to see in this book. I have read every comment and taken it all on board and will do my best to meet expectations and fulfil wishes as far as possible. At the time of writing, I’ve had 70 responses, which I consider a great result. I’d still love to reach 100 to feel that I have a really broad set of opinions represented, so do please keep sharing the link: 

What have I learned from the survey? In summary:

  • Support and space are the most popular of the seven components.
  • People are more interested in practical tips than expert advice. Noted.
  • Everyone loves Sally Donovan’s books (me too).
  • There is very little self-care advice for adoptive parents available.
  • Guilt about taking time for self-care is a common issue.
  • The availability of appropriate/affordable childcare is a really big issue.
  • Many people find that ‘standard’ self-care advice doesn’t apply to adoptive families: it’s too idealistic, impractical, and patronising.
  • One person who completed the survey is really angry about my self-care book and wanted me to know that she would not be buying it. Noted. But also that X and Y are what should be in the book she’s not going to buy. Thanks for your feedback. 

For those of you who are starting a new term tomorrow, may you have happy manageable transitions! If, like our family, you still have another week to go, I hope your sanity is still intact, even if your chocolate supplies are depleted. Let’s do this.

PS Don’t forget to let me know if you (or a friend) could be a case study! Thanks. 😃