Sunday, 5 July 2020

An Evening at the Beach

The sun has been shining and our little corner of the world is surrounded by beaches so we are usually able to find a quiet one.  We decided to head there on the afternoon of the Summer Solstice and celebrated the longest day of the year with a BBQ on the beach and a swim in the sea.  The children all chose some new sun wear  which was gifted from Reima and it was one of the best evenings we have had in a long time.

It was 9pm before I could peel them away from the water.  The beach had lost its appeal a bit in the past but I think the lockdown and the closing of a lot of places has made us all appreciate the nature around us a bit more.  I have seen people get more involved in their local forests, discover new fields and footpaths and get to know their areas more.  For us we have tried different beaches to normal to avoid any crowds and the children have rediscovered the love of the sand and the sea.  They have been much more confident in the water than before and I love watching their imaginations as they play in the sand.

Archie managed to find a dead fish which provided a lot of entertainment and discussion (basically a science lesson?) and they were all fascinated to prod and poke it and ask about how it had washed up here.  Finn and Cora loved climbing all over the rocks and Dylan wanted to be in the water all day and refused to take his shoes off.

The Reima swimwear is all UPF 50+ protected and I like the long sleeves option to know the boys are more protected.  All 4 children chose their own and Finn was so excited to see his pink top when it arrived.  Dylan is easy to spot in his bright orange and I love how you can see their personalities through their choices!

For my family, this is what this section of lockdown is all about.  Spending time together, enjoying each other, staying outdoors and in our own space but having the freedom to be here.  I have got into better habits of bringing all our own drinks and snacks after everything shut and it means we are spending less and have more freedom on where we go (the main sands have ice cream huts and chips etc but this beach doesn't have any food or drink ammenities).  I hope that when the children and I look back on this time, these are the memories that last.

Reima swimwear is available on their website and the sizing is best to base on their heights rather than ages.  (All the children are wearing the correct sizes for their height bracket but only two are in the correct age)
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Friday, 26 June 2020

The Night Before Four

As usual, bedtime has been a battle.  I don't know if it is the situation with lockdown or if you just don't need so much sleep but every night you are the last one awake, desperate to spend every moment  you can with me.  I wake up each morning with your face pressed up against mine as you have climbed up into the middle of our bed in the early hours.

I have just re-read the post I wrote on your last night as a two year old and I could easily copy and paste it all as you really haven't changed much.  For the third year in a row you have asked for a real dog for your birthday and for the third year in a row you are going to be disappointed in the morning. Your back up ideas were squirrel chocolate or a McDonalds happy meal so you can definitely have one of the three! You are so wonderfully loving and grateful though so I had confidence that whatever we chose for your special day would be appreciated.

You are the girliest girl in some respects, you love all things pink and fluffy and I could see over lockdown how much you missed playing with other little girls.  At the moment your favourite things are The Lion Guard and The Lion King, anything with dinosaurs or dragons and your baby dolls.  You collect small things, parts of toys, individual characters from sets and you keep them in little boxes and play with them that way.  You have the most random collections but they obviously make sense to you and you love to play.

At three you loved to draw and write and you are doing so well with both.  You really surprised me the first time you wrote your name out the blue without copying anything and since then you have written it everywhere.  You love to draw pictures of people and dragons and I think you are going to love this side of school when you start in September.  You are the opposite of your brothers here who all preferred numbers at your age.  

You are kind and loving, you make friendships easily and talk about your best friends all the time.  When we go out you gravitate towards other children and will strike up a bond with anyone.  Your three best friends are all going to big school with you and I hope you carry on so close.  You may be one of the youngest and smallest starting school in a couple of months but your personality won't be.  

You would rather be naked at all times and your hair trails behind you, usually looking like you have been dragged through a hedge backwards.  You will rarely tolerate a hairband and if so it won't be long before you pull it out.  You are so comfortable with who you are and what you like and I admire that in you.

You tell me everyday how much you love me and my baby girl, I love you too.  I can't wait for the adventures of four but before they start, I want to pause, just for a moment to soak up everything you are now; fierce, loyal, loving and kind.  I want to remember the way you stroke my face in the morning, the feeling of your arms around my neck as we are re-united after nursery, the way you climb straight into my lap the moment I sit down, the way you try and read along with me when I tell you a story, just murmuring sounds as you haven't yet mastered all the letters.  You will never be this small again.  The clocks will move forward and so will you but I never want to forget this wonderful stage in your life.

Baby girl, you are more loved than you will ever know

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Thursday, 25 June 2020

Life in Lockdown - An Update

When I started doing a weekly update about our life in Lockdown, I just hadn't imagined it lasting this long.  Taking a photo every day felt like a way to keep up something I enjoy (photography) alongside recording this strange time but as we settled into this new normal, it got harder.  I love looking back now at those early weeks where I had so much more enthusiasm for home learning and so much more anxiety around the whole situation.  Unfortunately both of those have dwindled and now I feel happier having days with no plans, being at home, enjoying the slower pace of life and I also have less energy for home learning when trying to balance it with everything else.

We also made the decision to send Finn back to school on June 15th and he now does 4 days a week.  Dylan is going back next Monday and Cora is back doing two morning sessions at nursery.  Lockdown doesn't look quite the same for us anymore and whilst we are still social distancing and avoiding many of our usual places, there is a bit more freedom and a little less stress.  I want to continue sharing how we are doing but not in the same daily structure.

I have lost track of which week we are on now, but we have started going out more.  The older boys were getting more and more reluctant to leave the house and I could see how it was affecting both their mental and physical health so I am building it into our week more and we are lucky enough to be surrounded by beaches so we can usually find a nice quiet one.  We still have plenty of days where we don't go out at all and we have fallen into more of a routine with our home learning now that Finn is at school.  The structure that the school run brings to our day has made us all more productive I think.

I still find that things can feel very extreme.  Without that social side that I rely on to help me process my feelings sometimes, I still find myself having quite extreme highs and lows.  Some days I think this is such an amazing opportunity to really stop and enjoy my children without any outside pressure, without any commitments elsewhere, and other times I feel so exhausted by it all and I just want to hide under a duvet all day.  The Corona Fatigue is definitely real, but with more time outdoors it is definitely getting to me less than it was.

The news that the world is opening up a lot more as of July 4th has also lifted my mood. We won't be rushing out to cinemas, museums and restaurants but knowing that there are options when we do need to break up the monotony is a comforting thought and when we are ready we can access more entertainment and more normality. 

These photos do not show an accurate representation of the past 3 or 4 weeks at all, they show the highlights, the moments I felt inspired to take out my camera, the best bits of the week.  Know that there were arguments, battles, stand offs, afternoons spent watching films as I lost the energy to parent, a drive through mcdonalds  and quite a bit of time where I was sat in my hammock with a book whilst the children played on the xbox.  These photos are also mostly of Cora who is happy to have her photo taken more, the boys pick and choose with that so don't appear as much.

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Wednesday, 17 June 2020

The Ordinary Moments in Black and White

I have always been a fan of colour in my photos, I like them bright and bold which usually matches the way the children dress but I was playing around with some that I took and decided that I quite liked them in black and white.

After a day spent indoors, I felt like we all needed to stretch our legs and run around so we walked down the road to the beach.  It was busier than I expected but nothing like it has been during the day and I could pretty much let the children run free without worrying that they would be anywhere close to another person.  That bit of normality felt good, I don't want to be nagging them to constantly avoid people and reminding them of the two metre rule.  They were not only happy to be out, but they were happy for me to take pictures, sometimes telling me exactly where they wanted their photo taken.  

They chased seagulls, threw stones in the sea and climbed all over the rocks before finding the perfect spot to launch themselves into the sand.  We ate biscuits and talked and it felt like the kind of thing we may have done that evening anyway until I remembered that Tuesdays usually mean after school swimming for Cora and then Cubs for Dylan which means we actually spend the day running back and forth to the three schools, clubs and everything else.  One of the best things to have come from Lockdown for us is the change of pace for a while.  The freedom to go out late, to fit our day around us rather than having to fit us around the schedule is refreshing.

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Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Life in Lockdown - Week 11

I think one of the things that made Lockdown easier so far was the weather.  We have had the driest Spring in years and the sun has shone almost every day.  It has meant that the beaches have been packed but it has also meant that getting outdoors, fresh air and vitamin D hasn't been a challenge and if things get difficult in the house, we have had the garden to come to.  The weather has changed this week, temperatures have dropped and I have seen a shift in mood on my social media that mirrors mine.  I hope that next week we either have adjusted better mentally to the changes or the sun comes back out!


It was the first day back after half term and I felt like we should start out good so we loaded up Reading Eggs on the laptops and they each did about 40 minutes of work.  I then asked Archie to write three sentences and you would think I had asked him to pull out his own teeth the fuss he made.  There was 30 minutes of arguing followed by three minutes of actually doing something! I made the decision today not to send Finn and Cora back to school and nursery on Wednesday, something I have been thinking about for days now and I feel much lighter having finally made my mind up.  It is something we will reassess constantly but for now it isn't the environment we want to send them back into.  It does mean I feel more pressure to be teaching at home though, so let's see how today's good start continues!


I had lots of little things I needed to do today, prescriptions to collect, food shopping to buy and others which meant the children were mostly left to their own devices whilst Ed attempted to work and supervise them at the same time.  It was nice to get out and away for a little while and it was nice to tick all the things off my to do list which had been building up as it just isn't easy to do with all four children around.  The day seemed to disappear without us having done anything so after dinner I took the kids down to the beach for a run around.  It was so much quieter than it has been during the days which meant I could give them more freedom to run and explore without being anywhere near anybody.  It was lovely and warm still and I think this is something we need to do more often as it was lovely to run and jump and play together without the stress.


I don't remember baking much as a child (although I am sure we made fairy cakes at least) but I do remember icing biscuits.  My mum would get out some rich tea biscuits, mix icing sugar with water and give us whatever she had to ice and decorate them.  I remember eating them for pudding on a Sunday evening whilst watching Scrapheap challenge and choosing which ones were for my parents too.  As the lockdown has progressed, our energy for baking has started dying off but they loved this, it was easy to set up and there was very little mess.  We did a little bit of learning work today but as usual we kept it brief and spent much more time playing!


Today we mixed their favourite thing (technology) with mine (being outdoors) and went on a long Pokemon walk.  We met up with my mum who also plays and all three boys walked along with their eyes firmly on the little screens catching and battling.  The weather is so much cooler that we wore jackets and only just made it back before the rain started.  Things are slowly starting to open up in the community and I did decide that we would drive to Mcdonalds for a drive through for dinner.  I wouldn't even say we were missing it particularly, but the novelty of doing something different and of not having to cook was just so appealing and the children were all really excited for their nuggets, chips and Trolls toy.  


There is no photo today.  I couldn't find the motivation to take one.  The kids didn't get dressed, we didn't do anything and there are only so many photos I can take of them watching TV in their pants.  My friend called it 'Corona Fatigue' and I am sure it is a real thing.  The monotomy of life can be exhausting, the lack of purpose sometimes can be so tiring and I think it is natural to crash every now and again.  I think these days happen in 'real life' too but you still have to get up and do the school runs and so even without anything else, it feels a little bit productive.  Now those necessary journeys that might pick us up are gone and it is a lot easier to sit and dwell on the down days.  I am embracing this slump rather than fighting it and hoping that next week is better.
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Sunday, 31 May 2020

Life in Lockdown - Week 10

We should have been away this week on a holiday that was organised months ago and whilst I completely understand and respect why we can't be there. it is still sad to miss out on something you have been looking forward to.  I have been thinking this week about the people who should have been getting married though, he may have spent weeks, months or years planning something special and I am devastated for them.  Safety is obviously the priority here but I think it is ok to be sad about what has been lost too, this time is hard for everyone.


Technically it is half term and we should have left the house early this morning as the sun was rising and sailed on the ferry to France for a week away with my whole family celebrating my Mum's 60th.  I feel sad that we can't be there and the children are upset too but it has been booked for next year and it is nice knowing we have something to look forward to.
 I still hadn't got rid of the box that my hammock arrived in so we decided to re-purpose it as a canvas.  I gave the children paints and paintbrushes which they started using but within a minute or so they had progressed to finger painting and within two it was a form of whole body painting.  Maybe we should call this art week?


The sun was shining and with the hope that the bank holiday weekend traffic was over, we braved the beach.  I know that the beach is quite controversial at the moment, but for us it is one of the nearest places we can go to be outside (less than 1 mile from our house) and we know the quieter parts.  We had no problem staying 2 metres from anyone and it was lovely to be outside in the sun and paddling in the sea.  Well for most of us, Archie is practising at being a teenager so sat in the wagon the whole time.  I wish we had local woodlands and fields but we need to drive for most of those whereas the beach is on our doorstep and I think as long as we avoid the hottest days and weekends, it should be easy to visit and stay away from other people.


Cora loves to draw so today we decided to try a few 'Draw with Rob' videos.  Two loved it and joined in happily, two watched for a few seconds and then went in the garden. We drew super bears and then a whale with a rainbow and I have to admit, I quite enjoyed it too! I have no real artistic talent but he made it easy.  In the afternoon I needed to pop to a shop in town for a couple of essentials.  I could leave the boys at home plugged into the x-box knowing they would be easy for Ed to supervise whilst he worked but it is impossible to leave Cora so she came with me.  It took around 10 minutes to get into town and we went into one shop.  As we were queing her little lip started wobbling and she needed a big cuddle as she told me 'I really miss home'.  I must admit to wanting to laugh, I mean we had only been out a few minutes and we have spent allllll our time in the house but it obviously feels like a safe space to her and when we were in the shop I kept reminding her that she had to hold my hand and not touch anything.


For the past few weeks it has been so difficult to get the children out the house but ever since we visited the rocks last week, they have been desperate to go back so we walked there today with the wagon and they loved it again.  I think the freedom of climbing all over the place must be so refreshing after being home for so long and I enjoyed watching them although it was much windier than I had thought.  In the evening we had a film night with little pots of treats which they really loved.  There are a lot of film nights at the moment but they don't all come with marshmallows and Maltesers!

Today on the news it was announced that they are hoping to open all schools to all students in only a couple of weeks which has really made me think about how precious this time has been.  I know that if this was reality it wouldn't be as nice, but in a way I don't want it to end.  I am loving the freedom and the pace of our life at the moment, getting to spend so much time with my favourite people and the privilege of watching them change and grow,  I know that I am in a privileged situation and I also know that the return to school in June will not be mandatory but all the changes on the horizon are making me think back on the past 10 weeks where it has been just us,


It was my Dad's birthday today and so it was a bit of a strange one. We were supposed to all be in France together and I can imagine how our day would have looked, full of fun and family time.  Even if we weren't away, we would have gone round for a big family meal and some games at tea time but instead we had to make do with the lockdown version of a birthday, through the house party app.  The children love playing Bingo so we did it through the app as my Mum had already delivered cards, cake and party bags for all.  They loved it and Finn managed to win twice.  We all missed seeing their Grandpa and I hope there won't be too many more family birthdays celebrated without being able to spend time in the same house or garden. 

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Thursday, 28 May 2020

Life in Lockdown - Week 9

I think when Lockdown started, we had no idea how long it would go on for and writing a little diary through it like this seemed like a good idea.  As the weeks have stretched on, I have found it harder to pick up my camera each day and write something new when life just feels so repetitive.  In some ways it has got easier, I think we have fallen into our groove, working out how to be together 24/7 but in other ways it gets harder, as our motivation, especially mine is starting to dwindle and the days feel much longer.  I want to keep going though, because one day this will all be something in the past and I want to remember it.


We started the week with the best intentions and the children had to complete some learning based tasks to earn time on the x-box later in the day.  They fought me down on each one and did very little actual work but the day went better with the structure of at least attempting it.  We are all a fan of lazy mornings now, I have always been a night owl and hated getting up so our days all look similar, with mornings spent lying on the sofa watching TV, drinking coffee in bed and generally having quiet time followed by activities and play in the afternoon and then some gaming or screen time after dinner.  It probably isn't the best set up but everyone is happy with it at the moment.


We were sent a box of science experiments from Einstein Entertainers and it came with a 30 minute Zoom call where the professor talked us through a few of the experiments.  The kids really enjoyed it and so we decided to declare it science week (only in the loosest academic sense).  They made slime, paper helicopters and planted sunflower seeds as well as marvelling at the rainbow world through their science glasses.  They started the call overflowing with energy and ended it engaged and calmer. The afternoon was uneventful but I can see them finding new ways to play together, the older children getting back into toys when they want to.  I managed to even get some cleaning done whilst they played - something I haven't spent enough time doing over the past 9 weeks!


Today was a really good day, the kind where everything seems to go right and I wonder how I haven't been appreciating this more.  The sun shone and we did experiments rather than battling school work and then explored somewhere local that we haven't been before.  They played beautifully, enjoying each other and climbing on the rocks and in the bushes.  I went for a run and my leg didn't hurt from my previous injury and I spent the evening chatting to my friends over social media.  A combination of the kids behaving so well, watching their sibling bonds developing and the sun on my skin has given me enthusiasm and a sense of happiness.  I know there will be more hard days ahead but I will be clinging on to this lovely one.


I made an impulse purchase yesterday which meant that today's science lesson was in suspension, otherwise known as sitting in a hammock.  The weather was too nice to be inside so we played in the paddling pool, swung in the new hammock and had a really rather lazy home day including a socially distanced chat over the back fence with one of Dylan's friends. Finn didn't bring any reading books home from school and wasn't really able to read any that we owned but we acquired a bundle this week and he has been loving reading the right level books again. Reading online or bits of pages wasn't as interesting to him as picking up a book and being able to sound out every word and he is so proud of himself.


I decided to put a little bit of effort into our final day of science week so we played sink or float with random items in the paddling pool, shot rocket balloons around the garden guessing where they would land and then played with magic bubbles which stuck to everything and resulted in a lot of giggling! It still wasn't particularly educational but the kids loved it.  It seems strange to say I am totally ready for the weekend when really, it is no different to any other day at the moment but it still feels like it, probably because I have a second parent around for some of the weekend! 

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