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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Thursday 21 May 2020

The Ordinary Moment - Climbing Rocks

Ordinary has taken on a new meaning over the last few weeks, the days at the beach, the trips to the playground, the time with friends that were once ordinary have become something of the past and something to look forward to doing again sometime.  Our ordinary moments now are mostly in the house and garden and occasionally somewhere quiet outside and they are exclusively with just the people I always live with.  About once a week I take the four children out somewhere and we have tried to find new places to go that aren't as obvious as the beach and not as busy as the park near our house.  I had run past these beautiful rocks earlier in the week and admired the vibrant flowers and so when we got the point in the week where we needed a change of scene, we headed over to them.

I remember hanging out here as a teenager, walking down from my best friend's house just up the road, but it has been years since I have been back and it took all our usual hang outs shutting down for me to remember it.  The kids were excited to be out and somewhere different and they wanted to touch and look at every flower.  Despite me telling her more than a hundredd times not to, Cora still picked three flowers which she then carried around for the entire day and brought home with her.  We talked about how important it is to not pick flowers so that everyone else can enjoy them and it eventually went in!

It was one of those days that I am just so grateful to have.  I think it was a mix of the sunshine and exploring somewhere different but the children acted more like best friends than siblings, they walked and chatted together, they made their own games on the rocks, the bigger ones helping the smallest and then finding 'den' houses in the bushes.  I stood on the sidelines as they climbed and played without me, exploring their surroundings.  

Finn and Cora had been sent an outfit each from Little Green Radicals in the softest organic fairtrade cotton and they were perfect for the outing.  The bigger two weren't as interested in being photographed on the day so I just took pictures of the little two and I loved capturing this ordinary day out with my favourite four people.

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Monday 18 May 2020

Life in Lockdown - Week 8

I feel like I am running out of comments as we end the eighth week living in Groundhog day.  The days and weeks are all starting to blur a little and I can generally tell the photos apart by the effort I am putting in as a parent, full of baking, crafts and gardening at the beginning, TV, free play and lazy afternoons more recently. I think it was inevitable really and I like to think even the most involved parents are suffering a little bit of burn out after a while.  I hope that next week we can find a better rhythm as I think more structure in the day is better for all of us.  


As the weeks have gone on, my attitude to home learning has relaxed so much that I don't really attempt it much anymore.  The kids have become more reluctant each week and my energy for the battles has run out.  We did a few online learning games this afternoon and then I got the little two baking three ingredient biscuits, the kind where you throw it in and mix with your hands.  They are easy, tasty and they love rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in.  Regardless of anything academic, today I cooked a slow cooker butternut squash dhal and a chicken curry for the kids with all the sides and three out of four actually ate it! We can't win everything so I am happy with a dinner that is scraped off of the plates for once.


I decided not to attempt schooling today but also to ban screen time and just see what happened.  The day felt so much longer without structure, the afternoon seemed to go on for hours but at one point the boys decided to draw some of the characters from their favourite game and I was amazed that they chose to come to the table and do something like this.  They mostly played games as a gang of four that involved turning my house into a tip but overall, apart from the fact it was a really long day, it went ok.


We decided to go out and run around a green space today and it did everyone good.  They are still reluctant to go outdoors most of the time but they are so much happier for it and sleep so much better after a few hours of being in the sun.  Today I also had a phonecall from nursery and an email from the school as Finn and Cora are allowed back into their respective settings from June 1st potentially.  The schools wanted to know whether we will be taking up the places but in all honesty, it came as a bit of a shock and I wasn't ready to make the decision right away.  There are two conflicting ideas in my head and the 8 weeks of lockdown have taken away my decision making skills.


Today we learnt the art of spending all morning in bed watching TV.  If they ever want to be lazy teenagers, this is a skill they need to master so really I would say this is exceptionally advanced for their age group.  Mid afternoon it was all a bit too much and Dylan fell asleep on the sofa.  Being a pretend teenager is exhausting! After he woke up, everyone was a bit emotional and my motivation was at an all time low so we decided to spend the rest of the day on the sofa watching Disney films.  As much as I feel like I should be 'doing' something with them everyday, just like me, sometimes they need to do nothing all day and hopefully we will make up for our laziness tomorrow (reality of this is highly unlikely!)


So this picture is cheating really, it is actually from Saturday.  Friday passed without anything to take photos of and as we stayed at home, the children were naked nearly all day.  We attempted little bits of educational online games, we played in the garden and we watched more TV than I should probably admit.  Some days we do ok, some days we achieve things, others we merely push through hoping the next one will be better and Saturday was lovely, leaving the house as a family of six for the first time in many weeks.  On friday everyone laughed and smiled, everyone brushed their teeth, everyone ate three proper meals and everyone eventually went to bed. That was enough.

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Thursday 14 May 2020

The Corona Questionnaire

I have seen this on my Facebook feed, a set of questions that people are asking their children, getting to know their understanding of what is going on, their mood through it all, their reactions and I wanted to ask mine, but to make sure I can always look back on their answers, I have decided to put it on here, so here is my 13 question Corona questionnaire and the answers each child gave. . . 

1)What is the Corona Virus

Dylan - Poorliness
Archie - A virus which is the most bad one, because it spreads really quick
Finn - It is why we can't go to school
Cora- I don't know

2) Who is the Prime Minister

Dylan - I don't know
Archie - Donald Trump
Finn - I don't know
Cora - I don't know

3) How many days have we been in lock-down? (correct answer is 7 weeks and 3 days when I asked)

Dylan - 50
Archie - 2 weeks and three days 
Finn - 42 weeks
Cora - Shows me all her fingers

4) What is Mummy wearing?

Dylan - Clothes
Archie - Clothes
Finn - White t shirt and pink + white trousers
Cora - Pink and white

5) Do you want to go back to school?

Dylan - Yes
Archie - Kind of
Finn - Yes
Cora - No

6) Who is the first person you are going to hug when lock-down ends?

Dylan - Cora
Archie - I don't know if I will hug anyone but probably Daddy
Finn - Harvey (school friend)
Cora - Dylan

7) Where is the first place you want to go when it is over?

Dylan - France
Archie - On holiday
Finn - The playground with a zip-line in
Cora - Stay at home, I really like being at home with all the fun things to do

8) What do you think we can do to get rid of the virus?

Dylan - Stay at home and be healthy
Archie - Stay inside
Finn - Stay at home until it has all gone
Cora - Poo on it

9) Is Mummy a good teacher?

Dylan - Yes
Archie - No
Finn - Yep
Cora - Yeah

(real answer is no!)

10) If Corona Virus was an animal, what animal would it be?

Dylan - An elephant
Archie - A pig because they always splash in mud which gets dirt and viruses all over them
Finn - A lion
Cora - A dog

11) How did the Corona Virus start?

Dylan -  People didn't wash their hands
Archie - In Scotland?
Finn - With germs
Cora - I really don't know

12) If you had to wear protective clothing to help you, what would it be?

Dylan - Armour
Archie - A glass suit
Finn - Armour made of diamonds
Cora - A dog t shirt and a dog hat

13) Are you happy?

Dylan - yes
Archie - yes
Finn - Yes
Cora - yes

At the time of Answering, Dylan is 8 years 9 months, Archie is 7 years 2 months, Finn is 5 years 2 months and Cora is 3 years 10 months 
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Celebrating 75 Years since VE Day

Friday was the 75th Anniversary of VE day, the day we celebrate the end of World War 2 and Victory in Europe.  I still remember learning about it ahead of this day in 1995, having a huge party at school where we all dressed up as children of the 1940s and interviewing my Aunty's neighbour who was an evacuee.  I hadn't realised it was such a big anniversary coming up until the week before, I think the threat of Coronavirus being more of a big topic but we had a little time to prepare.

We printed out pictures to colour in and talked about the war.  Dylan is only 8 so it was an introduction really for all of them as it isn't a subject that has come up before. Aware that my skills do not lie in teaching, we resorted to watching Horrible Histories episodes as we discussed it and coloured in.  Later that day, we had a hand written note through the door letting us know about a little street party that some neighbours were planning.  Each household looking after themselves, being separate but together in our own way.

We hung some bunting on the garage and stuck up our pictures,  We dressed in red, white and blue and prepared our own cream tea, with scones, strawberries and the lockdown staple - banana bread.  

We spread out a blanket on our driveway and watched as the local families did the same.  Each household staying in their own space, with their own food and drinks, their own decorations covering only their property but we were all celebrating alongside one another.  I could wave to neighbours I hadn't really met yet, shout greeting across the street at those I know and chat across the wall to my next door neighbours who probably know all the children's names a bit too well having had to listen to me shouting at them for seven weeks.

This lockdown has shown the power of community and it seemed a perfect way to celebrate that in the current situation as well as thinking about everyone who lost their lives in the war and all those that are still fighting and dying around the world in ongoing conflict.  A party, even a socially distanced one was a wonderful way to stay positive and I hope that in 25 years the children will look back with fond memories the same way I do.

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Monday 11 May 2020

Life in Lockdown - Week 7

As we entered the seventh week since Lockdown began and started the countdown until Sunday when we would be given a bit more information on the next steps, I reflected on how I have changed over the weeks.  The anxiety I felt definitely peaked at the beginning when I felt trapped but as the weeks have gone on, I have learned how to be calm at home, how to accept that rather than being stuck I am safe and whilst the anxiety still kicks in, sometimes not being able to have my own space all feels a bit too overwhelming, overall I have become more comfortable in my own skin, with my own thoughts and in my own house.  I still feel so much guilt about how I could be doing it all better but I accept my own limits too.  At times I realise I am really enjoying it (at times I am also ready to run away from it all and hide for a while).


Things that have been a struggle today - Getting the kids to wear clothes.  Getting the kids to engage in learning.  Getting out of bed in the morning.  Getting the kids to eat a healthy dinner. It is a case of picking my battles and when I asked Dylan whether he could do some reading, he was happy to do so as long as he could choose the book.  Reading is reading and if it is a Fortnite guide that contains actual words then I will take it.  It was a slow day, a lazy one with little snippets of doing something alongside a whole lot of doing nothing.


Finn's school set the class a challenge, they needed to make a bug hotel and whilst Cora got a lot more involved than Finn did, he was more than happy to take credit.  Other than cutting up toilet rolls and egg boxes, we took a day off from learning and went for a little local walk to enjoy some of the sunshine.  The kids have been off school for the equivelant of the summer holidays already and I can see many parents are starting to struggle.  This is a long time to be together 24/7 and a long time to be doing a job we are not qualified for.  My approach to home learning is constantly changing and my plans for the rest of the week are far more based about learning History and context than fractions and adjectives but just as important in my opinion.


Today we started learning about World War 2 in preperation for VE day on Friday.  By started learning, I mean we coloured in a VE day celebration poster to go in the wall whilst watching a Horrible Histories program on the war.  We discussed briefly evacuation, fighting in the trenches and ration books and the children were interested and engaged.  I went for a walk the night before to chat to a friend (through a window and a 2 metre distance) because I really needed it and I know they need it too so the afternoon was spent on video calls with friends and playing computer games whilst having a facetime conversation.  It is their way of bonding and so important to them all.


I am working with Sea Life London and so we printed out their work sheets today and tried something different.  The ideas were engaging and encouraged the kids to be creative so they followed up the learning on sharks by drawing a big rainbow shark together.  I had let work stuff slip a bit - kind of inevitable when I have four children and no real respite, so I let them watch TV most of the day whilst I tried to get on top of emails and some jobs I had to do.  It felt good to sort it out although I am going to have a lot to do once they go back to school and I can do it in peace (I have to take breaks in the 10 minutes of work I snatch here and there to do things like feed plastic cheese to a cuddly toy snake).  I can't imagine how full time working parents are balancing this! I am finding it hard enough doing any form of work and caring for them all and their different needs! I am in awe of anyone getting through this and remaining sane.


Being VE day, it was a bank holiday and that meant no pressure to do any home learning, which means I didn't need to come up with a fake excuse as to why we weren't doing it anyway.  We did however experiment more with our baking, adding some white chocolate chips in our banana bread (definitely something we will be repeating!).  It was a wonderfully sunny day and we took part in a socially distanced street party that involved us staying on our driveway and shouting across the road.  Community has become so important throughout this pandemic, understanding how we can support one another, both mentally with smiles and words to those suffering from loneliness and physically, by helping with shopping and prescriptions so it felt right to celebrate as one.  I know many people across the country caused controversy by failing to stick to the guidelines but we did it within the boundaries and the kids learned a little bit about why.  It was a good end to the 'school week'

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Monday 4 May 2020

Life in lockdown - Week 6

Every week I feel a bit more relaxed about it all, but every week I still feel emotionally up and down.  I am finding more time to do things that make me feel better in myself - mostly running and reading at the moment and I am trying to let the children do the same, even if the things they enjoy most are computer games.  In the absence of physical friendship, this is what they are left with and they try and time their gaming time to when their best friends are playing, keeping up this mutual activity.  It isn't the work life balance that is the issue for us, but I am finding that getting through this difficult time and making it something we look back on with a smile means finding the right balance in it all.


I came up with a new plan in regards to motivation today.  The only thing that they really want to do is play on the xbox so I made a list of learning tasks they could do and how many minutes each one would earn them and suddenly they were sat at the table asking if there were any extra tasks.  Why did I not think of this at the start? I didn't push it, they probably spent only about an hour each doing learning activities but it was without a battle and I will call that a huge win.  We all stayed in today but whilst the boys were having their well earned screen time, Cora and I redrew the hopscotch out the front of our house along with various other obstacle courses that she drew up and made me complete.  Having one on one time with them is harder than ever (pretty much impossible during the week) so it was lovely to play with just her.  My self challenge this week is to find ways to do something alone with each of them, even if it is just for half an hour.  Wish me luck!


I tried the same tactic as yesterday but it didn't work quite as well.  I think that is the problem with all this, everytime I think I have found something that works, it stops working.  I have a lot of appreciation for how hard it must be for teachers to keep them engaged everyday when each child is so different.  I am still struggling with the guilt battles around doing enough in regards to home learning and I can't see that ever disappearing, much in the same way being a parent comes with a constant guilt.  We did something and they all played well.


We had made some bracelets before from a small kit but I had ordered some more beads and today we sat down and they all made them.  I want to say it was all about the fine motor skills but really it is seeing them enjoy things and be creative that I want to encourage and this was a relatively cheap and easy activity.  I hadn't really taken any photos today and this one is far from perfect but here they were, making, creating and using their fingers.  It poured with rain most of the day which oddly meant the children spent more time in the garden than usual. They got absolutely soaked and then traipsed it through the house but they loved it.


By Today I had lost all motivation when it comes to home learning and if I am not putting in the effort then they certainly aren't either.  We had a ridiculously early lunch and then set out for a walk.  We bought flour from a little zero waste store that still has it, fed the donkeys and had a wander through the fields.  The bigger two are still really resistant to the idea of leaving the house, not because they have anxiety about the virus, but because they can't go anywhere they want to or see their friends, the little two are not much more keen and ask to go out more often.  This is tough to balance as I am on my own with them all week whilst Ed works so I need to come up with a better plan for this.


There was minimal school work done and we quickly moved on to printing out pictures of their favourite gaming characters to colour instead. I am putting this down as pen control and calling it educational.  I realised that my 3 year old spends more time with a pen in her hand than any of the others and I think I could happily home educate her! I can't believe it has been six weeks of this already.  It feels both like it has flown, and like this has always been our reality. I am torn between a desperation for them to go back to school so I can be reassured they are learning and a love for this 'new normal' that gives me so much time with my favourite people without all the pressures and running around to schools and clubs.  I don't know how or when we are going to come out of this situation but it is going to be hard for all of us when we do.

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