Finding Quiet Moments in a Busy World

Now that the madness of Christmas has been replaced by the madness of the school run, I find it just as necessary to find moments of tranquility around us. It feels like the world is always hurrying along, and I want to intentionally take time outside the rush to observe things and stop us missing what is important.

Based on my  mum’s recommendation, on my daughter’s last day off preschool, I took her to an asian supermarket. It has a cafe upstairs that serves bubble tea. This is a drink I search far and wide for, and every time I finally locate a premises that sells it, it closes down. I must be one of the few people for whom tapioca floating in tea sounds appetising (or other people haven’t discovered how much fun it is to drink – it’s like tea and chewing gum in one.) I had one of these while my daughter was adventurous and tried guava juice (before loudly expressing her distaste for it, but at least she tried it :)) We also tried a green scone that was coated in coconut. I always like to try new foods and purposely choose whatever sounds the weirdest to see if I like it. It was a drizzly and depressing Monday that epitomised the January feeling for me, and finding the cafe with all its interesting decor and wall hangings brightened the day up. We sat at the window, overlooking what was likely-a queue of enraged road users, chatting and enjoying our last Christmas holiday moments together. Afterwards, we looked around the supermarket to see what unusual items we could find. I didn’t know how to cook half of them, but my daughter enjoyed trying to identify them all and making me aware of where the sweets were, in case I had failed to notice.

I’ve been trying to spend plenty of time outdoors with the girls, even in lower temperatures. We went to a local park and followed it with a walk on a woodland trail they have there. They have little wooden animals hidden in the woods for children to find, fairy houses, wishing trees and wood carvings. I got an intro to the joys of the teenage years when my daughter complained about us having to go for a walk for the first time, but sitting on a throne and riding on the back of a pretend badger soon cured that. I like the message on the throne – it reads “when it rains, look for rainbows, when it’s dark, looks for stars.”

 

There is a library near our house that I make a point of visiting every week with my kids. It has a whole downstairs dedicated to children’s books, a miniature soft play-type area and a colouring table. It seems to be underused, but the staff are so friendly and the librarian often has coffee, juice and biscuits for the adults and kids. I like the fact that we don’t feel any pressure to hurry up and get out and that there is such a warm welcome every time we go in. My kids also enjoy their bedtime story event, they hold lego mornings and other craft activities. I love finding hidden and underpopulated events that are creative and cheap to attend 🙂

Apart from that, I have been making a point of finding writing time, lighting candles, listening to music and allowing creativity to come at its own pace.

A Week of Simple Holiday Activities

This week I’ve been trying to tailor our activities to match our post-Christmas budget. I want to save some money for a trip we are going on in February. It has proven more difficult this year to find local events without high entrance fees. Even calling into the Christmas market and getting some food and a drink can quickly add up. So, I’ve been trying to centre our activities around what we have at home, memberships we have, nature and places that are free to visit.

At the weekend, I took the girls to the Ulster museum. We parked on the other side of Botanic Gardens so we could walk through the park while it was dry. I think walks in cold weather refresh your mind much more than summer day ones. Inside the museum, we went to the art room. There is a lady who works there whose style I always admire and she is so welcoming and has so much patience for the kids. They usually have a drawing-based activity at the table but at the moment, paper snowflakes have taken over. The girls enjoyed making them and I realised that is a craft we have never done at home. It is so simple and requires no trip to the shop to stock up on craft supplies. The staff had hundreds of snowflakes suspended from the ceiling, and looking at them made me realise how many creative possibilities there are with them. It would make a good afternoon-long activity for bored kids. They were punching hole patterns in the finished snowflakes with needles and my kids were really focussed on creating regular patterns. In the same room, there is a light box with translucent blocks for kids to build with and a dressing up room. My kids ended up making friends with another child and playing in a tent, putting a pretend cat to bed. There were plenty of adults making snowflakes too and the position of the room at the top of the building means you have a good view of the gardens and the neighbouring area.

276BFBF7-591A-4CC2-A173-D8238C6DA2EA.png

Afterwards, we went to the under the sea part, where you walk through a darkened tunnel and look at the underwater creatures. It’s so simple but my kids always find it magical. There is a nature room where kids can use microscopes and touch the displays. Finally, on the bottom floor, we went to the toy room and looked at the old toys and the dolls houses decorated to depict different eras. I always love taking the kids to the museum. In the summer, it is near the rose garden and there is the tropical ravine and palm house right beside it.I have very energetic children so I’m a proponent of any activity that tires out their legs and their minds, and this does both in one visit 🙂

Days at home are a good time for getting out any unopened craft presents your kids might have got for Christmas. Today, they opened a kit to make a clay family. It took a long time but kept them well entertained, especially with all the laughter at how our people turned out. The kit came with little bead eyeballs to add to the dolls and they made a big difference to the appearance of them. It reminded me that you can use different materials combined with play doh to draw out the activity and hold your kids’ interest. I used to give my kids objects to decorate play doh with and they always loved doing that 🙂

DC9AD7C8-C38D-4DA7-9769-544079029AD6.png

We also had a colouring/coffee/magazines session at the table. I put on some jazz and the girls coloured in and had a drink out of their Christmas cups while I filled my system with caffeine and used an adults’ colouring book 🙂 There were plenty of interruptions, but I find that if I do something in some way creative or using my hands while spending time with my kids, they are much more interested in what I’m doing and it inspires them to do something similar, or to start something else of their own. My older daughter has an adults’ colouring book she has started doing now. I find it holds her attention for longer because it’s more challenging and detailed, and she feels more grown up using it 🙂

74D919A3-6A01-44CA-B2AB-9A2AFD3A97D7.png

This week, we also finally got round to making salt dough decorations. They aren’t just specific to Christmas and you could used themed cookie cutters to make them for different times of the year. I find if you do anything involving rolling and cutting at the kitchen table it’s easier to manage and kids can do it more independently than standing at a counter. After baking them in the oven, my kids painted the salt dough and then used ridiculously big glitter shakers to decorate them. After letting them dry, I threaded them onto gift ribbons so they could hang them on the tree. You could also package them up to make cute presents for relatives.

C20C8802-03BB-4EF1-A246-4E0B997F8B16.png

My daughter wanted to paint the pictures that you fold in half to create a full picture. Lots of butterflies were made, and then they progressed to flowers and Santa’s. The mess of craft time with my kids is worth it to me for the enjoyment they get out of it, even if it does sometimes result in my shouting 🙂

I always dread January a little. It feels like a bleak month once all the Christmas lights have been taken down and everyone is on a tighter budget or dieting to make up for feasting at Christmas time. I think it’s important to introduce new ideas and things to look forward to, no matter how simple they are. So, I am going to compile a list of ideas of things to do with my kids, new dishes to make and places of natural beauty to visit. I don’t make New Years resolutions, but this year, I might just aim to come up with inspiring ideas to take the icy edge off January.

DDF25EA9-D73B-494A-809D-707988F7D0D8.png

Little Ways To Make Your Day Good

Having A Good Day In Little Ways

I’ve been making extra effort lately to take small things under my notice. I’m not naturally observant when it comes to my surroundings; I’m too distracted by my own ideas and other people, so I have to force myself to focus on my environment. I don’t want to miss something worth seeing.

I was thinking today about intentionally taking time to stop and notice things, in the hopes that my kids will grow to do the same as adults.

Here a few things we did that gave me a little bit of joy:

Stopping To Look At The Sky

There was a rainbow facing us when I was driving, so we pulled over to take pictures of it hanging over the rooftops. My daughter was so excited about it; I don’t know if she has ever seen a real rainbow before, than in Peppa Pig. It it was special seeing her reaction to something we could have just unthinkingly driven past.

57B91DFB-6E4A-4482-A87B-B27223C31238.png

Cheering Up Your House On A Budget

We went to the pound shop, which is one of my favourite things to do with my kids. We got some daisy fairy lights and a light-up bunny to make a little Easter display. My kids loved helping put them up and they only cost £2 🙂 It looks a bit like a bunny disco, but in my view, that’s not a bad thing. I might keep it there year-long.

A Snack With A View

I got my daughter a snack in the pound shop and I had a £1 cup of tea in a food court. It has a good view over parts of the city and the hills. If I can’t immediately get into nature I like to watch it from a window and remind myself that it’s still there sometimes 🙂 My daughter enjoyed pointing to things through its dome-like window. You just have to look beyond dismal shop fronts to notice it.

Free Soft Play And Warm Tea

Another bonus to the food court is that they have a play area that your kids can run about in while you get to sit and enjoy your drink. It was much less stressful than a café that considers children undesirables and regards you with disdain until you close the door behind you 🙂

Reading A Free Magazine

I picked up a free magazine with lists of kids’ events and ideas of free things to attend. It included craft ideas and some of the articles are really well written. You can find them in a lot of shops and might pass them by, but they give you a lot of interesting information you mightn’t have come across otherwise.

Driving In A Sun Shower

I drove to a friend’s house and it was a lovely drive because the sun was making its way pushily through grey cloud. There is something I love about sun showers: the meeting of two opposing seasons in one sky. And driving past nothing but fields feels really freeing.

Which little parts of your day did you like the most?

E084675C-8CFB-4607-ABDD-3DB2A85CF72B