Posting Letters and Guided Drawings

I needed a gentler sort of day today. I feel like we have been cramming a lot into our days, and although it works well as a distraction, the exhaustion has hit me a bit. This morning, after having some breakfast, coffee and managing to squeeze in a few hundred words of writing, I put on a live PE video for the girls. The idea was to tire them out in the living room, but they showed little interest in it and ended up rollerskating instead. I guess it is just trial and error – figuring out what will interest them and what won’t. To be fair to them, PE was never my forte either 🙂

Afterwards, the girls decorated the envelopes for the cards they had made for their friends. We went for a quick walk to a nearby postbox so they could post them. It seemed a bit silly, since one of the friends lives within walking distance of our house, but I think the postbox added an element of novelty to it for the girls 🙂 I remembered writing letters to penpals as a kid. I had one in England and another in a different school to mine. We wrote each other regular letters and finally met in person for a shared school trip. That’s a fond memory, and I think it’s good for the girls to experience some form of that in the modern world 🙂

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I did some schoolwork with my daughter when we got back while my other daughter completed some of her magazine. I’ve noticed that they have been sitting for longer when I refer to what we are doing as “school.” Although, they still tired of it after an hour and asked for TV 🙂

We went for a short drive to the roadside honesty box again 🙂 They seem to have expanded it now – maybe they are getting a lot of custom. It’s a good way to buy what you need without having any human contact 🙂 I got some huge kiwis, a loaf of homemade whiskey bread (which I’m curious to try) and a jar of homemade bolognese sauce.

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After we got home, we had some lunch and then the girls watched a recording of a live art show. The fact that a little girl was involved in it seemed to hold their interest 🙂 They learned how to draw unicorns and Batman and were completely engrossed in it 🙂 I hadn’t used guided drawing before with them, but I will again 🙂

I photocopied a page of my daughter’s magazine so they could both make matching letter holders. They just had to paste them to cardboard, cut them out and paint the legs to hold them together. I don’t know if they have any letters to put in them, but I might dig out some birthday cards etc for them to put inside 🙂 For once I was glad of the junk box we have that is filled with cardboard and empties itself every time I open the cupboard 🙂

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Finally, the girls had a play in the garden and I tackled some of the housework. I’m noticing our piles of clutter are worsening since we’ve been in the house and I think we might have to build an extension to contain them all in by the time September comes 🙂 I’m taking some time to myself to write, drink tea and let my children entertain themselves. I feel the need to just sit and “be” for a change and to allow myself some time for creative output too.

Slow Days and Homemade Lemonade

Today was a slow-moving day, centred around the house. I received a lovely surprise basket of chocolate from “the girls” (my parents) for Mother’s Day. It cheered me up because I’d thought it was a package with a returned dress I had sold in it 😀 I went for a quick walk with the girls early this morning to buy lemons from the fruit shop. My daughter had been requesting my homemade lemonade, so I decided the extra vitamins wouldn’t do them any harm at the moment 🙂 I got a moment of peace to make it, which is rare in our house. But it feels like the girls are slowing the pace they live at (sometimes) to match the world at the minute.

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I found a glass bottle I’d got from IKEA to store the lemonade in. I added the juice of 2 1/2 large lemons and the zest to about 700ml of boiled water in a measuring jug. While it was hot, I stirred in a generous amount of honey to taste (it was at least 1/4 of a squeezy tube) and stirred it well. After it had cooled, I transferred it to a bottle and put it in the fridge to chill. In the hours it spent sitting, reaching the right temperature, I was asked tens of times if it was ready yet 🙂

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We tuned in on Facebook to Wee Bookworms to watch a live video of a reading of Peter Rabbit by a lady who works in the bookshop. They are on every Saturday morning at 11.30am for kids. I also ordered one of their activity packs each for the girls. They’ll be so excited when they see them arriving in the post 🙂 

I changed the beds and aired out the house, which always uplifts me and continued to move the piles of clutter to different positions in my kitchen 🙂

For lunch, I made some hummus to go with the flatbreads I had made last night. It was a simple recipe and tasted really good. My kids didn’t agree, but they devoured the flatbreads anyway 🙂 I’ve been looking out for flour when we’ve been in the shops and haven’t seen any in a while. Luckily, I had some left because I tend to bake bread every week anyway. But I was thinking of options for when we run out and remembered you can blend porridge oats and use them instead of flour – Just a tip I remembered if anyone is in the same boat. You can also use polenta to make American cornbread if you have any. My hummus – it tastes better than it looks 😀

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After lunch, we had some quiet time, playing dominos and I made myself a caramel latte 🙂 I’m not missing my takeaway coffee as much as I thought I would. I tend to get it when I’m writing, but I’ve realised there are cheaper alternatives and the one I made today tasted the same 🙂 

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We put on some yoga music and the girls did some kids’ yoga, whilst climbing on me as I attempted to do it! It’s cute actually – my daughter taught me all the poses she uses in nursery, like happy baby, ice skater, tree, happy and sad dog and kitty, etc. I made them an after-yoga snack of fruit and water. Then they headed out to the garden to burn off some excess energy. I hung out the laundry, which has, weirdly, become one of my favourite things to do. They played in the dirt and made food out of soil and water 🙂

We finished the day with some bolognese, stories and playing restaurants. I’m exhausted now, but simultaneously, looking forward to tomorrow. I say that in the spirit of finding the good in a difficult situation, rather than discounting the severity of it.

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 🙂

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 🙂 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 🙂 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 🙂 The lady very kindly gave the girls a lolly each and they were so excited about them 🙂 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 🙂 The girls have been taking “phone orders” and set up a desk in the living room for their takeaway 🙂

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 🙂 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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂 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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂 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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Stopping to Look at the Sky

My daughter was sent home sick from school last Friday and before that, I’d been running around a lot. It forced me to slow down and spend some time in our house. Sometimes I’m so busy driving myself to produce things that I forget about the importance of taking time out.

A couple of days ago, I drove to the seaside and brought homemade coffee and a donut and sat and listened to Jefferson Airplane while I watched the sea and the sky. I always have something to do in front of me: writing, my phone, an activity with my kids, housework, a book to read. I used to spend vast periods of time sitting on my bed listening to music, writing in journals, or just thinking and looking out the window as a teenager. Ok, that was a different way of life, but I never allow myself to do that anymore. So, I forced myself to sit in quiet contemplation with no buffer between myself and the present moment. And it was uncomfortable, but also important. Afterwards, I went for a walk along the seafront and couldn’t help noticing how many runners were pushing themselves to achieve around me. It feels like everyone is rushing around in life, not particularly enjoying themselves, but doing it anyway. I’ve decided to schedule in time to sit still without distractions. It’s as important for creativity as it is for my sanity 🙂

We had a couple of days in the house, and I was glad of the craft projects and games my daughter had got for her birthday. She got a Build a Beetle game that she is obsessed with. I like Orchard kids’ games. The simple concepts allow them to quickly grasp the rules so they don’t lose interest before you even start playing. We finished off some birthday cake while we had a game 🙂

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She had got a play doh set that included facial features, limbs and accessories to add to the creatures you make. It kept the girls busy for a long time. I’m enjoying the fact they’re becoming more independent and that we can have more grown up conversations around the table while we work on our respective projects 🙂

I had a stack of magazines I hadn’t got round to reading in about a year 🙂 I love magazines about creativity and mindfulness (even though the word itself irritates me :)) Flow magazine is expensive, but it has so many inspiring articles in it, and as my sister pointed out, the images in it are so unique and beautiful you could frame them and use them as decoration around your house 🙂 I only get it now and again but it often comes with extra items like journals, postcards and mirror stickers with inspiring quotes on them. I found some unused postcards inside that I plan to use for friends or family. I’d like to revive the tradition of hand-delivered cards and postcards. I spotted this quote in the magazine and it felt fitting for the mindset I was in at the time.

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So, I let myself enjoy reading at the table and chatting to the girls over coffee 🙂 We didn’t have to rush anywhere and I didn’t force myself to be “productive” and by the end of the day, I could feel the creativity starting to grow again in its own natural environment.

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Later that day, I got out my sewing machine and some second hand dresses I’d bought that didn’t fit and cut them up to use the fabric for other things. I made a cape for my daughter and a skirt for the other one and they spent the rest of the day parading around the house in them. 

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A Weekend of Watching the World

This post is a bit of a latecomer, but I’ve been editing a book this week and it’s taking up most of my time. I spent most of last weekend absorbing what was happening around us, in a bit of a daze. Sometimes I just need a break from running around and being busy to give new ideas a chance to grow.

My daughter is really interested in making clay creatures at the minute. We found some air-drying clay in the pound shop and she’s been creating things with it. I also got some plasticine without giving her any instruction and she cut it into thin strips and made a rainbow and mermaid using that technique. I like seeing what ideas kids come up with without adult interference. I also picked up a kids’ book from the library about growing things and learning to cook. The gardening basics are suitable for me, considering my lack of luck with keeping plants alive 🙂 I’ve also been planning on teaching my kids some basic recipes. We have always baked together but I like the idea of them learning how to cook simple things without much help.

My older daughter had an event at her school one evening. so I used it as an opportunity to take my younger one on an ice cream date. She ordered a Peppa pig milkshake and we sat at the window, watching the activity in the street. It made me realise we don’t go out together much after dinner time because she was intrigued by people out and about after dark 🙂 I think it’s important teaching kids how to sit in contemplation and wonder about things. They don’t get enough down time anymore, and observing the world or sitting with nothing to fill the void teaches them how to handle boredom and to come up with creative ideas of their own. We sat for a long time and I had some ice cream mixed with white chocolate 🙂 The shop has recently come under new management and they have snow cones, which I don’t think I’ve seen before in Northern Ireland.

On Sunday, we went to the Chinese New Year celebrations at the Ulster Hall. The hall was decorated with parasols and lanterns and bunting. The event only cost £2 per person and it lasted for two hours and was composed of dances from all different cultures. As well as Chinese dragons, drumming, martial arts, gentle traditional dance with parasols and ethereal costumes with sleeves longer than wedding dress trains, there was break dancing, a man who juggled hats and caught them with his head and Irish and Ulster Scots dancing (I didn’t know that was a thing.) I was surprised how long the girls sat still for, rapt. I think the live music and dancing held their attention far longer than a film or dialogue-based show would. I found that it helped me switch off and forced us to be in the moment, which was needed after the hectic week we’d had. The girls think everything is an adventure when we take the Glider to get there anyway.

Afterwards, I just made fakeaway pizza for our family. I’ve noticed that if I’m preoccupied or my mind is too much elsewhere, kneading dough helps to slow everything down. My kids always want to help too. I guess it’s like play doh on a grand scale. This weekend I’m considering planning some nature-related outings, to allow us some headspace and time to absorb more ideas from the world around us, and just to get some mental rest since physical rest with kids is never an option 🙂

Ordinary Days

I think there is a lot of emphasis placed on always doing things with your kids nowadays. I’m not very good at sitting still for long periods of time, so keeping them occupied suits me well. But lately if we have a busy week, I like to have an ordinary day to wind down from it and let my kids have the room to be creative.

When I got up today, the first thing my kids asked me was “what are we doing today?” Sometimes I think if we have a lot of busy days, they come to expect it and become more entitled, so I like to offset it with uneventful days too.

Today, I let my kids watch TV, they played in the garden and made a pretend barbecue with flowers, stones, leaves etc. I like to see what games they come up with when I allow them the space to do it. I sat in the garden with them, my writing and a cup of tea. I think it’s good to let your children watch you doing something creative of your own. They need to know you have value beyond serving them snacks sometimes 🙂 They usually show curiosity about what I’m doing when I do write/read/make things in front of them. My daughter usually joins in with an idea of her own. Today they were drawing pictures of some lilies in our garden.

We had to go out for a little while to do errands and we stopped at the pound shop and one shop on our way out. Even if you are trying not to spend too much money, I think it’s good to treat yourself to one pound treats 🙂 I got the girls a couple of canvases to colour and decorate and I got some chocolate and Yankee candles that were on sale.
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I think music and candles are important. They make you feel like you’re treating yourself when you don’t have the time to do it, and you can enjoy them whilst occupying your kids. Sometimes the best times I have are when my kids are happily playing (before they inform me of their next fall-out!), I’m listening to music, dreaming up ideas and enjoying the aroma of a new candle, coffee and cooking. My multicoloured hydrangeas make me happy too, with my new unicorn lights 🙂 Sometimes it’s important to just enjoy whatever your version of ordinary is.

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Difficult Weeks and Simple Distractions

This week has been really draining. My daughter broke her finger and had to get an operation yesterday, so I decided after two days of waiting in hospitals, we were due a relaxing day in the house. My sister had sent us a fairy garden to assemble, so we decided to put it together. I had to improvise and steal soil from other plants, but we managed to get enough to hold it together. My daughter enjoyed planting the grass seeds and assembling the little house. There was a pebble path to add, a washing line, little figures and fairy dust. It’s a good way to gently spend the day when you’ve had a taxing week. I’m a firm believer in the power of crafts to get you through difficult situations. Every time I’m feeling low, I try to create something positive out of it. Then, when you look back on the situation, you aren’t left with only negatives – you have made something worthwhile because of it. Even if it is just something to decorate your house with, a way to entertain your kids or some treats to enjoy in the house, it helps lighten the atmosphere around you.

It looks like we will be having a quiet few weeks while my daughter is recovering and her hand is out of use, and I plan to use it as an excuse to do all the projects I put off. I learned recently that drawing while my kids are awake is a good way to get their attention. They always want to get involved and draw their own pictures of the same things/ help to colour in. I think returning to activities that require creativity and the use of your hands are a good way of stripping everything back and removing your stress. Too often we are absorbed by electrical devices and forget about what’s important. Even though the last couple of days have been so tiring, sometimes events like that put everything into perspective and you realise the time you typically waste on useless worries.