What to do in Quarantine

Since both the U.K. and South Africa are in, essentially, full ‘lockdown’ now (movement restricted, shops and businesses closed), I’ve decided to dedicate a few posts as promised to what it is we, as a family, are doing to stay sane during this extended quarantine.

First things first, we have to acknowledge how incredibly lucky we are right now. As I said in my last post, my in-laws’s home is not a bad place to be quarantined – second only to being at home. I know most people probably won’t have easy access to the space that we have, and I can’t claim it as my own so this is in no way a smug post. What I can do is share ideas which have worked for us, and which can, hopefully, work in smaller spaces, too.

My mother-in-law, since she moved to this house 20 years ago, has become a keen gardener. She’s had the girls helping her with doing the borders – if you have a balcony, terrace, or even a big, sunny windowsill, this is definitely possible.

She’s given me a tutorial in the best things to plant for little kids – they can get their hands dirty AND make the place look lovely! Kids love knowing they’ve been involved with something they can see; they love feeling proud.

Firstly, please, don’t be put off if you only have a sunny window. Secondly, you may think that, in quarantine, you can’t find seeds etc, but most can be found either at your local supermarket or on Amazon. Finally, these are super purse friendly, even after all the corona virus nightmares. If you don’t have a plant pot, find a decent size, deep bowl – make sure to gently drain it the evening after you’ve watered, to make sure you don’t get stagnant water in the bottom.

The best flowers to start with for kids, and ones that yield pretty flowers, are probably sunflowers (seeds available at every supermarket with your fortnightly big shop, on Amazon for less than £3 or Takealot where you can get an entire 2kg for R149) or Nasturtiums (Amazon for £5 or Takealot – R99 for a bulk pack, also including sunflowers!).

Both can be planted in a small-ish pot, either on a windowsill, on a balcony/terrace or in your garden. Make sure to keep the seeds far enough apart, treat them lovingly, and watch them grow! If you have access to a bird table, or space for birds to land, then, once your sunflower has lived its beautiful life you can pop the spent head on the table and watch all the birds flock to nibble on the seeds in the middle. Nasturtiums are, as I’m sure you know, the edible flowers you see on cakes and cheese boards. Plant them now (before the end of April) and they’ll flower all through summer. They’re a no-brainer for kids – they look pretty and they can eat them afterwards!

Other easily bought options are herbs (you can buy them already planted in small pots at most supermarkets), which you can pop on a kitchen window and eat straight from the pot. Rocket seeds are easy to get hold of, and can be grown in 3 weeks (plus, it’s a year-round herb). It can be eaten straight from the pot, and occasional ‘thinning’ (i.e. eating and tasting, so nobody can see) only helps it grow better. French beans and carrots are also easy to grow, and start in small pots – and Sweet Peas are great fun if you want another cute little flower – plant them now, and they’ll flower from May until October.

I understand gardening might not be for everyone, but it’s a fun way to keep kids entertained and concentrating. Another, really easy way to amuse them, especially the younger kids, is to feed the birds. You might think that sounds overly simple, but why not mix it up a bit? Fat balls and suet-based feed (available at bigger supermarkets, on Amazon and Takealot) last for ages. You can make a bird-feeder out of old wire coat hangers, or buy from the same places. My girls love watching the birds (and squirrels, ahem) eating the food they’ve put out for them, but they also really like dividing the food out, too.

It can be difficult trying to keep children occupied when they’re not allowed out of your property (even in the U.K., we can only go out once a day for exercise purposes) – and trying to do things other than screen time can be trying. Much as we’re resigned, for now, to letting the girls watch more telly than usual, we’ve still started saving ideas to do over time. Tomorrow, we’ll be making banana bread. Watch this space!

Oh, Corona…

I know, I know. You must be so very sick of hearing about the damn Corona Virus strain, Covid-19, by now.

Did you know that coronaviruses have been around for decades? Approximately 30% of common colds are caused by a strain of coronavirus. It is not new – SARS was also a separate strain. This strain is Covid-19, and, so far, it’s turning out to be a little bit more severe than people originally thought.

As I’m sure you’ve realised, we’re still stuck in the U.K. With CV19 causing countries, including South Africa, to close their borders, we’re fully expecting to still be here until at least May. Part of the worry about schooling has been taken away, as there are no longer schools in operation anywhere we want to be, but that now leaves us wondering how, exactly, to keep two kids entertained for the next few weeks without museums or soft play centres!

Thankfully, we’ve become almost dab hands at the homeschooling game. I’ll write a whole different post on our favourite activities for children. We’ve found quite a few things we enjoy doing. This post is just about one.

We have fallen in love with country walks. I know, that sounds weird – we’ve always been big walkers. Our dogs get walked daily, when we’re home, and I take them on at least one big trek per week.

Since we’ve been here, however, Stevie has decided her favourite place is out in nature. This is fantastic for all of us – well, apart from Elia, who is decidedly more of an indoor type of person. And we are incredibly lucky: short of being home, my in-laws’ house is definitely the best place to be quarantined. We are surrounded by vast acres of Yorkshire countryside and national park glory. I’m sure it’ll get stifling, eventually, but for now we’re fully enjoying our surroundings. Stay safe, everyone!

To Wean or not to Wean…

The title of this may be slightly misleading to some. The term ‘Weaning’ has different meanings, but both boil down to the same thing.

When you begin to wean, as far as I was brought up in England, it’s when you start your baby on solids. But the majority of people also seem to understand Weaning as meaning stopping breastfeeding. Both terms are actually correct – Weaning (solids) is the beginning of the end of the breastfeeding journey, no matter how far away that may be, because baby no longer relies solely on breastmilk for nutrition.

Now we’ve got that out of the way – this week we’ve started to very gently wean Elia. Weaning meaning the solids version. She meets the full readiness checklist, as suggested by KellyMom (my bible when it comes to infant feeding):

• Baby can sit up well without support.

• Baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not automatically push solids out of his mouth with his tongue.

• Baby is ready and willing to chew.

• Baby is developing a “pincer” grasp, where he picks up food or other objects between thumb and forefinger. Using the fingers and scraping the food into the palm of the hand (palmar grasp) does not substitute for pincer grasp development.

• Baby is eager to participate in mealtime and may try to grab food and put it in his mouth.

On paper, she is 100 percent ready. Yet… she’s just not that keen. Last night, she nibbled on a strip of chicken, chewing away happily. She gobbled a piece of Swiss chard without a blink. It was lovely to watch. But this morning, and the rest of today, she’s not been that bothered. She had a nice chomp on a chicken leg bone (so much like her sister). She had great fun playing in the scrambled eggs and avo I gave her (I didn’t see any enter her mouth, but her breath had a distinctly eggy smell afterwards).But here’s the beauty of Baby Led Weaning – it really doesn’t matter. As we did win Stevie, we want Elia’s experience with food to be fun. Especially at such a young age, it’s more about her tasting her foods, playing in them and fully understanding the fun behind eating. It’s messy and filthy and the dogs definitely put on some weight when Stevie was younger, but I love it. We don’t have to rush – when she’s ready, she’ll show us. And, if she’s anything like her sister, she’ll be eating like a grown-up at 3 years old (and by that, I mean eating when she’s hungry, and declining when she’s not). No, seriously – I’ve never seen anyone that size shovel so much food into their mouths in one day. Little food monster!

When Did my Baby Become a Child?

I’ve been busy recently. Not busy with work (I’m still desperately trying to stick to my not-working-until-June plans, but I’m finding it difficult to turn options down!) but busy with my kids.

Something has happened to Stevie. A few weeks ago, she became whingy and stroppy and I was worried, for a minute, that I had the ‘threenager.’ It would be about right, karmically – I missed out on the ‘terrible twos’ and it makes sense that I’d be given the threenager in return. But, if that was the threenage stage, I understand it, now, and that makes it easier to handle.

She woke up at night. She cried for no reason throughout the day. She wanted to nap all the time, and was really relying on ‘boobies’ for sleep – more so than she has for a while (but not as much as when Elia was first born). I found myself wondering where my happy little girl had gone! Okay, so the strops with the folded arms and the pout were seriously cute, but still…

Then, almost overnight, the change had happened. First of all, she asked me to do her hair like mine. Of course I did – but this wasn’t a once off. For anyone who doesn’t know, Stevie has always hated having her hair sorted – but she has started asking for it. She chats non-stop – all day, every day. It’s exhausting but also amazing – and challenging. I find myself having to use my brain every time she asks “why,” which is about 254789 times a day. I refuse to be the “because I said so!” mum. I walked into the lounge the other day to find her cuddling Elia, who she claimed was ‘scared of the Neverbeast.’ Uh huh, we all know who was really scared, Stevie.

I have seen the biggest developmental change in my first baby girl. She has, somehow, turned from a toddler into a little girl. The most perfect little girl I’ve ever seen. Yes, she doesn’t shut up, and she still has mini-tantrums when she’s tired, but she looks at me and says “I love you, Mummy,” with such feeling, that I can forgive her everything. I love that she’s at this stage – and I’m excited to see where she goes from here!