Gentler Days

I name this post gentler days because of the slower pace of life we have all been forced to take. I’m finding sticking to a schedule, albeit a looser one, is helping us to pass the days, and even enjoy the unique gifts they bring with them

Yesterday, we started the day with some exercise and outdoor time to increase the chances of my children sitting still for schoolwork 🙂 We did some of the girls’ yoga for kids and had a dance party to my  records in the living room 🙂 They played outside on their bikes for a while so I could sit at the garden table with a cup of coffee and gather my thoughts 🙂 With the onslaught of questions, it doesn’t really work, but I still try 🙂 The girls practised skipping and played with their bubble guns and I noticed that our tulips are close to coming out to cheer up our garden 🙂

My older daughter practised her spellings for the week by making the letters with play dough. It turned into a play dough session with my other daughter making me “pancakes” with various toppings 🙂 My older daughter had a reading activity about a kangaroo, so we ended up making play dough kangaroo families 🙂 I find that interspersing schoolwork with play related to it in some way increases their concentration. I like the fact my daughter made hats for the kangaroos too 🙂 We visited the national geographic website for kids and read some facts about kangaroos. I didn’t know that the baby ones are the size of a grape and that they can jump 9 metres. The girls tried to recreate that in our hallway 🙂

My friend had sent us a scavenger hunt you can complete with kids around the house. They enjoyed racing off to find the essential objects and proudly showing me what creative choices they’d come up with 🙂

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We made some more flatbreads for lunch and the girls helped me with the mixing. I think I’ve discovered my new addiction and probably won’t buy flatbreads from the shop again 🙂 I made what the girls called “snacky lunch“, where I set finger food out and they help themselves. I dug out some miniature cups I have that I’d forgotten for the girls to use. They liked having their own little tea cups and it felt like a tea party 🙂

Today, we started the day with outside time in the garden again, as well as dancing and kids’ yoga. We filled up a bird feeder to try and attract more birds to our garden. I’ve noticed a robin and some blackbirds making frequent visits the last few days, and the girls show an interest in them too.

One of my daughter’s school activities was to write a book review of her favourite book, so I adapted it to include both of them. They each chose their favourite book and we read them together. While my older daughter made a summary and answered questions about it, my younger one drew a picture of hers from the cover. They had to rate the book out of five stars so I got my younger one to draw her stars and colour them in 🙂

Afterwards, we watched a Maddie Moate recorded live show about birds. There was a quiz and a craft project for making your own bird feeder. The girls seemed genuinely interested in guessing birds by their song and spotting birds in our garden.

For lunch, I decided to try a new recipe to use up wilting lettuce we had, so I made a soup with potato, onion, garlic and lettuce in it. I blended it before the girls got a chance to look at it and was surprised they actually ate it and said they liked it. (They still don’t know there was lettuce in it.) It tasted like leek and potato soup, but a little thinner. I’m trying to grow more lettuce from the lettuce ends that were left. I’ve put them in a bowl of water to see if they grow back. I’d seen people doing that with root veg too and was interested to see if it’d work for us. I’m grateful for the fact this last week has made me more aware of food and waste and unnecessary trips to the shop. I always liked cooking from scratch and baking, but it’s made me more inventive in using everything up.

My younger daughter’s preschool had suggested some activities for home, so we decided to try one today. We made a sensory garden/farm. I used an old tub and the girls enjoyed scrunching Weetabix into it to make pretend soil. The instructions said you could use any crushed cereal or soil. We made a tin foil “pond” and then I gave the girls empty plant pots and we went on a “school trip” into the garden to collect leaves, stones, twigs and anything else the girls found for the garden.

The girls came up with their own way of decorating the garden. They put stones as rocks around the pond, leaves, twigs planted as trees, a couple of flowers, and some weeds hanging over the side as “ivy.” When they’d finished, they added toy animals to it. I think it’ll provide hours of entertainment if I can manage to dissuade my daughter from eating the Weetabix soil 🙂 There are aspects of life that are difficult at the moment, but I’m glad of the extra time it has given me with the girls and the projects we wouldn’t have had time to do otherwise.

 

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 don’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 “school trip” 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 🙂

I was amused when my younger daughter sat down on a wall and started to unpack her backpack. I’d thought it was empty and she’d just brought it for show but she had brought her toy kettle and cups so she could make “tea” while we were there 🙂

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After a long walk, we sat down with snacks and coffee and my daughter did “creative writing” and came up with sentences about our walk and the Spring-like things we saw. Then she used the photos of flowers we’d taken to draw from. It kept her busy for a long time 🙂 My other daughter coloured and cut out pages from a learning ABC’s box that we got at Christmas time and hadn’t really used yet. I also dug out a kids’ 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 hadn’t used in a long time. It’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 🙂 My older daughter read out the measurements to me for numbers practice and then they ate the leftover jam while I washed up 🙂

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. It’s weird how once you label yourself their “teacher” they start listening and being receptive to what you say 😀 I have a feeling it won’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 😉 I love how homemade they look in the little jars with gingham fabric 🙂

When we got home, we had some hot chocolate with marshmallows and continued to divide up puzzle pieces. We’ve started a 1000 piece puzzle that is composed of six Disney scenes, so we’ve been working on separating them to make it easier to begin. I’ve never done a large jigsaw before and I hadn’t anticipated how time consuming it would be, so this is the perfect time for it, since all we have is time 🙂 (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 I’m working on. There were constant interruptions but I somehow still hit my word count for the day 🙂 – although it is quite dark subject matter and I’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 “roller discos” 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 🙂

I’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 🙂 The girls even ate it. For dinner, I used up some chicken goujons I’d got at the butchers, with rice, veg and the barbecue sauce we got at the farm shop 🙂 We finished the day with stories and I hope I can keep up the same pace tomorrow 🙂 I’m thinking of making some lists of things to do indoors to inspire myself and others and keep everyone’s spirits up 🙂 With a little resourcefulness, having our routines altered doesn’t have to upturn our worlds.

Small Thoughts to Make You Smile

I felt the need to write a positive post today. I like to reflect upon the good things that have happened in each individual day in spite of what is going on around us and it feels particularly needed at the moment.

One of my daughters was off school today for exceptional closure and the other was in preschool, so I got to spend some quality time with my older daughter. We are rarely alone together and it was strangely calm without my little whirlwind there 🙂 We were glad to welcome her back at pick-up though.

I wore my most vivid outfit to counteract the darkness surrounding us 🙂 We took advantage of the beautiful weather and walked to my daughter’s school. It was eerily quiet with the primary schools closed, but the sky was an amazing shade of blue and it was nice to bypass all the usual traffic. I took some pictures of how peaceful and blue-skied the morning was.

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I’ve decided to make greater effort to support local businesses. I tend to go through phases of doing so and then I return to a shop where I can buy everything in one place. So, we went to a local butchers and fruit shop. It was a good opportunity to use the cute fabric vegetable bags I got from a market a while ago 🙂 The fruit looks so much fresher and my daughter enjoyed selecting fruit and veg and putting them in our bags 🙂 I also got taking to a lady in a queue, which wouldn’t ordinarily happen when you’re rushing around a major supermarket. I’ve decided to just go with the flow and embrace a simpler way of life for now. Not everything about our fast-paced living is a positive thing and I think some time for meditation could do us a lot of good, mentally.

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My daughter and I had a coffee date in Tim Hortons. (She requested it and I decided she’d more than earned it after the miles of the walking.)  She loves gingerbread men and I was amazed that she finished it and her entire cup of hot chocolate before I’d even finished my coffee 🙂 Of course, we had to sit on the highest stools there.

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This evening, I’ve been writing and thinking of recipes and ideas I can share in the coming weeks. I brought out my old cure for sadness tonight – wine and Percy Pigs 🙂 I’ve been limiting the amount of time I spend reading the news and taking the  time to listen to dreamy music, light candles and fill my world at home with things to feed my soul.

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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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