I knew I was home when I found myself sitting in Starbucks yesterday with son one needing a wee, son two needing a poo, son three wafting bad smells from the nappy department and son four demanding his milk at the top of his voice. My husband was counting the minutes until he could escape the mayhem for the peace of his office, and I was counting the minutes until bedtime - normality had been restored.
Still being away was no picnic and our first holiday en grand famille was an interesting experience. Week one veered from one extreme to the other. One day found us huddling in the front of our car, babies on our laps sucking ravenously away on overdue bottles, watching torrential rain wash down the windscreen as we waited patiently for it to abate so we could escape the vehicle for the delights of a film about cheese (don't ask).
Another day we watched our boys race across a pristine swathe of golden sands, the sea glinting jade and malachite green, waves topped with glittering surf, crashing like a million tiny diamonds onto a sun drenched beach. They explored slick black rocks, peering into the mirror bright rock pools spotting tiny fish dart for cover at this alien invasion, marvelling at the clusters of shining ebony mussels clinging on for dear life until the tide covered them in deep green privacy again.
Son number one mastered the art of skimming stones, delegating the job of finding the perfect round pebbles to me, and body surfing. He and his little brother were slick as otters as they rushed through the surf to catch the perfect wave. Their hair dried stiff with salt, their lips blue with cold and their sleep at night one of exhausted joy. They licked home made honey ice creams, warmed rain chilled hands on hot, salty deliciously greasy chips and had the perfect British summer holiday.
As ever if the boys were happy, so were we, although I did somewhat long for those long, lazy days of relaxation that holidays used to bring pre-children. Even with four adults to care for our four children, the days were still packed with the usual round of chores, damage limitation and diplomatic wrangling that make up the life of a mummy of many.
We did snatch one golden afternoon exploring an idyllic honey farm, exploring a crystal stream clogged with wide open white lilies, watching the bees put our industry to shame, and gorging on fluffy, still warm from the oven, scones topped with generous dollops of whipped cream and sweet slick of honey - a short lived moment of gluttonous bliss.
Week two was an altogether more commercial affair, as we opted for that frazzled parental fall back - organised fun - and booked into Center Parcs. I can quite see the appeal of the place, its a pretty setting and about as child friendly as you can get (if you ignore the vertiginous hills that no child under the age of 10 could even attempt to scale on a bike), but it's just a little bit processed for my liking.
The boys loved the pool, though a word of warning to any other parent who finds themselves as foolishly overburdened with children as us - don't try to take them all swimming together, as that way disaster lies. I was in tears when my husband left me alone with all four for 10 minutes, convinced that at any moment at least one of my precious boys would disappear into the maw of the wave machine. But it's eye-wateringly expensive, busy, rushed and crowded and as for the food, let me just say that I now know where Britain got its reputation for swilling on muck.
To (badly) paraphrase Meatloaf, I would do anything for my kids, but I won't do Center Parcs again.
So now it's back to reality with a bump and my washing machine hasn't stopped spinning since I opened the boot of the car. Still it's three more weeks to go before we do it all again and pack up the kitchen sink once again for our second trip of the summer, though this time it's to the South of France so here's to less rain and better food.