Skydiving Toys, Window Pictures & Finding Freedom Again

Yesterday was one of those days my children insisted on starting before the caffeine had made its way into my system ๐Ÿ™‚ Over breakfast, we made a parachute for one of the girls’ toys. I had seen it on the blog “No Time for Flashcards” and wanted to attempt it myself. Any form of construction doesn’t come naturally to me, even if it involves cutting and sticking, but it was quite simple to make. We just used a napkin and reinforced the corners with sellotape, threading string through them and tying them together. We made little armholes and my daughter decided her baby doll would be the skydiver. It kept the girls entertained for a long time, dropping it over the banister from upstairs and watching it sail to a smooth landing on the floor ๐Ÿ™‚

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The kids helped me to make some homemade playdough and I gave them some real sprinkles to use on them. They “baked” at the table and made lots of different pastries and desserts, adding sprinkles at the end. I like mixing toys with “real” elements of cooking, etc to add more interest to it for the girls. They love playdough in any form, but when they get to add herbs, spices, sprinkles, etc, it definitely captures their interest for longer.

I had ordered colourful adhesive paper for the girls to make window pictures with. You just cut whatever shapes you like out of it and let them peel the backing off and stick it to the windows. It peels off again easily so you can change your scenes and it kept the girls busy for hours ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s funny how taking a simple concept like stickers and transposing them to a window suddenly makes it much more exciting ๐Ÿ™‚

We had booked Mount Stewart before the weekend, so we went on an afternoon adventure there. It almost felt like things had returned to normal when we were there (apart from the one way system and the extreme levels of organisation.) I actually found the visit less stressful than usual because the trails were clearly laid out with arrows and I get lost easily ๐Ÿ™‚ We walked around the lake and saw the white stag, the girls climbed trees and went out to the little islands. The swans were there with their cygnets and the girls loved watching them on the water. They found a little corner enclosed with bamboo and pretended it was a house and that they were pandas ๐Ÿ™‚ We have a book about a dog that makes a giant pile of leaves and jumps into it with his friends, so they recreated that underneath a huge tree and then made “mud angels” on the ground ๐Ÿ™‚ I love all the flowers and scents in Mount Stewart and the fact that it feels like we are abroad when we visit it. The fact that we hadn’t been able to go there in a while made us appreciate every moment of it more. I brought the girls’ nature bags and they collected petals and leaves to litter the house with ๐Ÿ™‚ I might encourage them to make some nature collages or drawings from them as an activity tomorrow ๐Ÿ™‚

We finished the day quietly with some homemade pizza and I baked some bread for this week using a new recipe. My kids liked it but informed me that they still prefer sliced bread from the shop. If I didn’t enjoy baking so much, I’d wonder why I bother ๐Ÿ™‚

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Wooded Walks & Stopping For Flowers

I didn’t get a chance to document what we did yesterday, so I thought I’d share it with you today ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve been making the effort to still get ready by about nine o’clock (ok, a bit later at the weekend.) But I find that getting dressed up, putting on make-up and going out for a walk first thing lifts my mood. We are mostly self-isolating, only going out for walks in remote places or if we need something from the shop.We drove to a forest near a village in County Down and the fact we’d arrived so early meant we were the only ones there, apart from one dog walker in the distance ๐Ÿ™‚ I didn’t know my way around, but that was part of the adventure. I followed the girls and just tried to remember where we’d left the car so we could get home again ๐Ÿ™‚ We found logs laid out around a fire pit. The girls wanted me to light a campfire, but I had nothing to light it with, and I don’t trust myself with anything bigger than a candle anyway ๐Ÿ™‚ So, we just sat down around it and pretended to light one instead. I had brought some coffee and gingerbread men and water for the girls, so we had a free snack while we were there ๐Ÿ™‚ There were a couple of dens someone else had built there. But the thing that kept the girls entertained the longest was a puddle with two planks balanced across it, like a little bridge ๐Ÿ™‚ They spent ages climbing across it, practising balancing and creating more obstacles on it with bits of wood and leaves ๐Ÿ™‚ They also used sticks to measure how deep the puddle was, so it was vaguely educational as well ๐Ÿ™‚ We followed the paths which were visible, but muddy. Next time, I’ll remember to bring wellies ๐Ÿ™‚ But squelching in it was part of the fun. I have felt less worried this week about the girls getting messy and wrecking their clothes, probably because I know no one else will see ๐Ÿ™‚ I had brought a leaf sample book from the Woodland Trust so the girls could try to identify leaves. We built a den of our own and climbed the hill, taking a shortcut back to the car, as by then the girls were both worn out. The weather was perfect while we were there and it was nice being out in the natural light and feeling the sun on our faces.

On the way home, I stopped at one of the little honesty box farm shops to see what they had. They had some anemones they had cut and were selling them in bunches. We brought some home and put them in a vase at the window to cheer things up for ourselves and our neighbours ๐Ÿ™‚ The girls are becoming gentler with things and my older daughter looked after the flowers on the drive home without pulling the heads off them ๐Ÿ™‚

At home, I made the girls some noodles and one of my girls completed her magazine while the other one wrote “creative writing” sentences about our morning and the things we’d done. She drew an accompanying picture. It’s a bit like journalling for kids and will be nice to look back on in the future.

Afterwards, the girls asked to paint and did pictures with spring colours, like candy egg pink, blue and yellow. The girls used the colours to make seasonal pictures with daffodils, blue skies, etc.

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Then, they played in the garden for a while. Their favourite game is to โ€œcookโ€ soil and leaves in our old barbecue and serve it at the outdoor table for someoneโ€™s pretend birthday ๐Ÿ™‚

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We followed it with a film afternoon, watching a kids’ movie with popcorn, sweets and coffee (for me.) I need something to sustain me through this period ๐Ÿ™‚ I made some homemade pizzas and chips and the girls continued their film throughout dinner. The benefit to making your own dough is you can make the pizzas into any size you like. The girls requested “baby pizzas,” so I made small ones for them, You can also freeze the dough after it rises and defrost it for use another day, or to make homemade dough sticks or doughballs. (You can make your own garlic butter or dip for them too.)

I spent the evening baking and cooking/freezing food before it expired. ย I made some flatbreads, a huge loaf of bread and some pizza dough. I lit a candle in my window for everything thatโ€™s been happening and took some time to just sit and think.

Apart from a small bunch of flowers, we spent no money yesterday and didn’t see a soul all day, but in many ways, it felt like a richer day than if those things had been possibilities.

 

Walks by the Sea and Water Bracelets

Today, the morning stood out in stark contrast to the world around us. It felt fresh and the skies seemed to open up. I love the fact in Springtime the sky seems to lift higher and it feels like we aren’t closed into a grey box anymore. We got up early and got ready to go for a walk. I’m finding that starting the day with a walk makes the girls’ energy levels far more manageable. Otherwise, they’d be dismantling everything in the house and fighting with each other and driving me crazy ๐Ÿ™‚

We drove to the seaside and went onto the beach. I was surprised by how few people were there. I’d expected everyone to have the same idea as a location for a “remote” walk. We walked along the shore and the girls threw rocks in the sea, built miniature sandcastles with their hands, decorated them with shells and filled the moat with water they’d scooped up with sea shells. I liked seeing what they came up with in the absence of a bucket and spade ๐Ÿ™‚ They also started jumping in the shallow water, and I just let them get on with it, even if it resulted in wet feet, because it feels like we all have so little freedom at the minute. The Stena Line passed by and it whipped up the waves and the girls pretended the tide was chasing them and ran away squealing ๐Ÿ™‚ There were a couple of dog walkers out, but other than that, it was deserted, and we had the beach to ourselves. We stayed for a while, just absorbing some sunlight and looking at the view.

Afterwards, we went to a local health food shop to get a few things. I’d forgotten how much I like going there. I’d got into a habit of convenience shopping instead of supporting local shops, and I’m trying to break that now. The girls loved going there too. The lady who owns it is so friendly and has a box of toys for kids. We got some spelt pasta, which I’ve never tried before, some biscuits, yeast, chai tea and oat milk, so I could make myself some Starbucks-style lattes ๐Ÿ™‚ The lady very kindly gave the girls a lolly each and they were so excited about them ๐Ÿ™‚ I have already noticed the girls becoming a bit less demanding, and I think the simpler lifestyle will do them no harm, apart from maybe missing the social side with others.

I picked up The Simple Things magazine and a couple of magazines for the girls. I know a lot of people think kids’ magazines are a waste of money, but I find that it settles them and it makes us sit down at the table together to work on them, and they’re educational too. For some reason the cheap toys in them provide more entertainment than any toys I’ve ever bought them. They’ve been playing pizza restaurants all day, in between other activities, with a pizza that slices into quarters and comes with a box, loyalty card, menu etc. You could recreate it with cardboard if you wanted to, for a cheap activity to do indoors, cutting out and colouring the different toppings they can add. It might keep them busy for a few hours creating the toppings ๐Ÿ™‚ The girls have been taking “phone orders” and set up a desk in the living room for their takeaway ๐Ÿ™‚

When we got home, we did some word games and I helped them with their magazines for a while. We had some coffee and snacks and I’ve set up a snack shop. I’d seen the idea for it on a friend’s social media ๐Ÿ™‚ We have a list of snacks and prices and they get a pound each in different change so they can practise counting out money and learn about budgeting for the day. Once their money is gone, they aren’t allowed any more. It’s a good way to ration snacks, and then when they run out of change, you can announce that the shop is closed for the day ๐Ÿ™‚

I dug out some stencils we had in the cupboard and the girls used them for a while. I also had a book we’d borrowed from the library about beating boredom for kids. It has some great ideas in it that don’t require materials. I find most kids’ activity books require you to make a special trip to the shop to source all the parts. The book has simple things like drawing a picture without lifting the pencil from the page, making paper cup telephones, taking fun photos, inventive ways of blowing bubbles. If anyone wants me to share some of the ideas for them while they’re indoors with their kids, message me and I’ll send you them ๐Ÿ™‚

The girls played on their bikes in the garden for a little while to get some fresh air and I hung out some laundry. I usually shove everything in the tumble drier because I don’t have time to hang out laundry and iron it all, etc, so it was nice to have the time to do that for a change. I find it quite a restful chore when I actually get around to doing it ๐Ÿ™‚ I made some fried rice for lunch with leftover rice from yesterday and the girls devoured it. They’ve been constantly hungry since they stopped school; maybe because they know that snacks are accessible at any hour of the day now ๐Ÿ™‚

After lunch, we made water bracelets with a set I had got my daughter for her birthday. You just put stoppers in a tube, fill it with sequins and beads and then fill it up with water, adding a charm before you seal it. One of my daughters wanted me to help with hers and I realised how therapeutic they are to make. They should make them for adults too. I think it would lower all our stress levels at the moment ๐Ÿ™‚

I made myself a vanilla oat latte and got a chance to do some writing while the girls watched TV. I had already made bolognese for a handy dinner. I’m going to use some of my time in the house for batch cooking – not because I’m hoarding ๐Ÿ™‚ but just because I find cooking days relaxing. I lit my white chocolate candle and was bombarded with constant questions – which made me glad I’d prepared dinner in advance for once ๐Ÿ™‚

The girls have started a new game where they skate with one rollerskate on – like a mini skateboard. I’m half amused by it – half waiting for an accident to happen :/ Before bed, they wanted to play races in the living room. I started shouting ready, steady and something silly instead of go and it turned into a new game, like ready, steady, tiny baby chick poop (probably not the best game to discourage toilet humour) but they ended up lying on the floor laughing and I didn’t have to get up and got to drink my tea while it was warm ๐Ÿ™‚

I don’t know what we will do tomorrow yet, and usually I have everything somewhat planned out. But I’m actually happy to let the day unfold as it decides to do without my interference ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

 

 

 

A Glimpse of Homeschooling and Making Some Home-Baked Treats

I decided to keep my kids off school today. My daughter was disappointed because she was meant to have a nature walk this morning. So, I decided to take them for one of our own. We went for a walk on the greenway and stopped to spot and take pictures of signs of Spring along the way. They donโ€™t usually seem to enjoy walking unless there is the promise of a playground at the end of it, but they are adapting to the way things are at the minute and seemed happy to go out and look around. I found calling it a โ€œschool tripโ€ and making jokes about how I was their new teacher seemed to help. We made a rough schedule of things to do while they are off to keep their routine in place and try to eliminate the bickering that comes with boredom ๐Ÿ™‚

I was amused when my younger daughter sat down on a wall and started to unpack her backpack. Iโ€™d thought it was empty and sheโ€™d just brought it for show but she had brought her toy kettle and cups so she could make โ€œteaโ€ while we were there ๐Ÿ™‚

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After a long walk, we sat down with snacks and coffee and my daughter did โ€œcreative writingโ€ and came up with sentences about our walk and the Spring-like things we saw. Then she used the photos of flowers weโ€™d taken to draw from. It kept her busy for a long time ๐Ÿ™‚ My other daughter coloured and cut out pages from a learning ABCโ€™s box that we got at Christmas time and hadnโ€™t really used yet. I also dug out a kidsโ€™ magazine that had come with our National Trust book. It is about the differences between the seasons and has little doors kids can open to see what they can do in each one. The suggestions for Spring are some things we can do even with social distancing: finding your first spring Blossom, counting the types of birdsong you can hear on a walk, growing a cress head in an egg shell and getting up early to watch the sunrise, as well as hunting for daffodils, making a nest out of twigs, feathers, etc, looking for a carpet of bluebells and identifying birds.

Afterwards, I got out a cookery book I hadnโ€™t used in a long time. Itโ€™s called A Girl Called Jack and was written by a single mum living on a tight budget. It has some good recipes that use up things that you tend to already have lying around your house. So, we made peanut butter thumbprint cookies. I liked the idea of the kids being able to be more involved since it was a simple recipe and they got to make thumbprints in the cookies to fill with jam ๐Ÿ™‚ My older daughter read out the measurements to me for numbers practice and then they ate the leftover jam while I washed up ๐Ÿ™‚

I drew some clock faces with times written beside them so they could practice drawing the hands on, and I was surprised by their enthusiasm. Itโ€™s weird how once you label yourself their โ€œteacherโ€ they start listening and being receptive to what you say ๐Ÿ˜€ I have a feeling it wonโ€™t last though.

I had to go out in the car to drop something off so we stopped at an honesty box farm shop at the side of the road. There are quite a few just off country games roads if you look out for signs for free range eggs. We got some eggs and jam there the other day and today we got some barbecue sauce and potatoes ๐Ÿ˜‰ I love how homemade they look in the little jars with gingham fabric ๐Ÿ™‚

When we got home, we had some hot chocolate with marshmallows and continued to divide up puzzle pieces. Weโ€™ve started a 1000 piece puzzle that is composed of six Disney scenes, so weโ€™ve been working on separating them to make it easier to begin. Iโ€™ve never done a large jigsaw before and I hadnโ€™t anticipated how time consuming it would be, so this is the perfect time for it, since all we have is time ๐Ÿ™‚ (I still have my doubts about my ability to complete one but we will see.)

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The girls had some down time while I wrote part of a new book Iโ€™m working on. There were constant interruptions but I somehow still hit my word count for the day ๐Ÿ™‚ – although it is quite dark subject matter and Iโ€™m thinking something more uplifting might be a better idea in the current situation!

I cleared some space in our living room and put records on while my kids played โ€œroller discosโ€ in their roller skates. (My next door neighbour must loathe us by now.) It helped to tire the girls out and they actually looked as tired as they would after school by the end of the day ๐Ÿ™‚

Iโ€™ve been using up the food we had in the house, making simple dishes and trying to stretch food so we can stay away from the shops for a bit longer. I made spaghetti mixed with sardines in tomato sauce for lunch and it was surprisingly delicious ๐Ÿ™‚ The girls even ate it. For dinner, I used up some chicken goujons Iโ€™d got at the butchers, with rice, veg and the barbecue sauce we got at the farm shop ๐Ÿ™‚ We finished the day with stories and I hope I can keep up the same pace tomorrow ๐Ÿ™‚ Iโ€™m thinking of making some lists of things to do indoors to inspire myself and others and keep everyoneโ€™s spirits up ๐Ÿ™‚ With a little resourcefulness, having our routines altered doesnโ€™t have to upturn our worlds.

A Busy Weekend of Budget Activities

This weekend, I decided to try a spending freeze. I managed to find a few things to do with the kids that werenโ€™t costly.ย After I picked them up from school, we went to the Gruffalo trail at Colin Glen Forest Park. It was a grey afternoon that felt like it was bordering on twilight at three pm, so apart from a few lone dog walkers we were the only ones there. The girls enjoyed searching for all the characters from the Gruffalo and that was the first time weโ€™d been there together.

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When we go for a walk in the cold, I tend to bring coffee and snacks with us, so we had a biscuits picnic on a bench we found. It was a strange outing. My kids loved uncovering all the hidden creatures and playing Pooh sticks at the riverside with twigs we had no hope of spotting further downstream. It had a spooky kind of feel to the place that reminded me of the opening scene of Rebecca with the drive to Manderley. But gladly, the rain stayed off until the moment we got into the car. There was a memorial for someone that had died there and that prompted a discussion about death with my kids. I donโ€™t shy away from such conversations with them but it all turned a bit moody and morbid ๐Ÿ™‚ But everyone cheered up when we found the Gruffalo at the end of the trail and some painted rocks that someone had hidden there. The girls took them so they could hide them elsewhere for someone else to find ๐Ÿ™‚ When we were leaving, my daughter discovered a nut and decided to make a shelter for it to keep it safe for a squirrel we had spotted ๐Ÿ™‚

I took the girls to a screening of Paddington 2 at a local cinema. It was free as it is part of the kidsโ€™ club. I brought some snacks and got to enjoy warm coffee, seated ๐Ÿ™‚ Afterwards, I had hoped to take the girls to the park, but the weather was against that idea, so we went to a board game cafe instead.

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They have a good range of adultsโ€™ and childrenโ€˜s games. The kidsโ€™ food is reasonably priced and the girls had sandwiches while I had tea and got to eat a traybake without having it snatched from my hand ๐Ÿ™‚ We tried to work out a few games with complex rules and my kids arenโ€™t fans of patiently waiting while I read the instructions, so we settled on one with penguins you balance on a rocking pirate ship and a fish-eating shark game ๐Ÿ™‚ It was a good way to spend a dreary afternoon and my kids were begging me to go back.

Today, we set out to Rowallane. I think getting to scan National Trust cards at the machine is one of my kidsโ€™ favourite things to do in life. They had some crafts indoors, so my daughter set to work colouring a robin, before cutting it out and making wings. My other daughter followed the paw print trail on the floor and roamed after doing a couple of squiggles on a page. I have one crafter and one wanderer and sometimes itโ€™s hard to contain them in the one space ๐Ÿ™‚

We walked through the Walled Garden and my kids looked for an appropriate place to hide the rocks they had found on Friday. The weather was cool and sunny, with a low, blinding sun hanging like a bare lightbulb ๐Ÿ™‚ But I was glad of the brightness and fresh air after a number of hours indoors with my kids dismantling the furniture. We walked to the stile they love to climb over and the spring ground. They enjoy running down the hill and climbing on the rocks. I grew up near Rowallane and showed them the trees I used to make dens under. They found some especially muddy puddles to jump in and were using giant leaves to clean their wellies off afterwards. I love seeing their creativity coming out and how much they enjoy the simple things we do. We had some snacks and I got to sneak into the secondhand bookshop before we left. I never come out empty-handed, so I have some more books to add to my ever-increasing to-read pile.


We didnโ€™t spend much money this weekend but got to have rich experiences. Iโ€™ve realised that my kids need to be allowed to run freely in open spaces or their excess energy is directed towards our living environment instead. But the fresh air and space does my head as much good as it does their limbs. One of the biggest struggles I have with parenting is being mentally present all the time. I can be emotionally present, but mentally, in a daydream, thinking of all the other creative things I want to cram into my day. Stopping to look at nature with them definitely helps to root me in the present.

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