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!

Peppa Pig (kinda…)

If anyone in the Gauteng area with children has somehow managed to miss this, Peppa, George, Mummy and Daddy and their friends are at Emperor’s Palace for a few days. And, as a part of her third birthday present, Stevie and I went on a Mummy and (eldest) Daughter day to watch it.

I have been so excited for today. Since we’ve had Elia, Stevie has been very Daddy-reliant, as you’d expect, and I’ve been dying for us to do something nice, just the two of us. Stevie was excited for the Peppa Pig portion of the day – I was excited for her excitement.

Emperor’s was heaving. I have never seen so many giddy toddlers in my life. We managed to get ourselves a snack box, a George cuddly toy and a magic glow stick before taking our (fantastic) seats. Stevie had just woken up from a nap on the way, so she was taking a while to come round / but she seemed happy to be there, taking in the whole atmosphere.

The first half was fantastic. The compére, ‘Anna,’ was very charismatic and her voice was great – and the puppets were nice and realistic, exactly what someone Stevie’s age would enjoy. Everything was very interactive, and the end-of-act-one section was excellent, with giant, bouncy beach balls floated across the crowd and bubbles floating down from the roof everywhere! The kids were going crazy! Well… most of them. Hmm. Something wasn’t quite right here.

We went to the loo in the break, but before we could buy a ‘busy pack,’ we were called back in again. On the way we passed our friends, Alésia and her daughter, Nikki, who wasn’t feeling or looking great. Then we sat down. The second half started where the last one picked up, with great singing and dancing and entertainment for everyone to join in with.

But unfortunately I couldn’t really pay attention to this bit, and nor could Stevie. She cuddled into me, not wanting a drink or any of the snack pack (I had eaten the crisps already). Something wasn’t quite right here. And, unfortunately, 20 minutes before the end, I ended up with toddler vomit down my top, doing a quick shuffle out of the theatre with a very lethargic (and disappointed) little girl.

So here, my review comes to an end. Neither Stevie, nor I, knows how the show came to a close. We managed to snag ourselves a queue-free busy pack, which was great. But the fun was over, as Stevie seemed to have the bug that has taken over the school (I don’t think it’s listeriosis, no panic! She’s fine now). We quickly called Daddy to come fetch us, and she slept the whole way home, cuddling her cuddly George.

I honestly thought I was more disappointed than Stevie. But, hey ho, we had fun and she enjoyed what she saw. But she did, honestly, break my heart when she felt better later on, and said, “Mummy, I’m not sick anymore. I want to see Peppa Pig.” So, disappointment all around but she obviously enjoyed the show. I actually enjoyed the show. And, therefore, it gets top marks from us.

Peppa Pig Live is at Emperor’s Palace until the 2nd April, and tickets are still somewhat available at Computicket.

A Perfect Tuesday Morning

We’ve had a bit of a manic week and weekend. Most of it good – we had plenty of nice parties and events to go to at the weekend, plus my sister (Auntie Georgia, cheetah sister) and her man were in town, so we had lots of family time. But Cleo, our big dog, got a haematoma in her ear which has now become infected, and Stevie and Elia both decided to shout at me on Saturday – all morning – so it’s been just a bit much.

So, this morning, I woke up with the sudden realization that we have to hurry up with Elia’s passport paperwork (thank god we called to sort that out yesterday) – and this made me realise just how close I am to going back to work. Back to travelling and being away from my family.

I decided I’d get up and do the morning again this morning, to have some quality time with the two of them – and this happened…

What a way to start a Tuesday morning! We read books and watched Paw Patrol and snuggled until school time. It really cheered me up, so I thought I’d share it. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Boredom and After School Activities

A piece of writing went viral last week on the problem with organising your toddler’s day after they’ve finished school.

Stevie’s preferred after-school activity.

And it made me think.

Right now, with Elia so small and needy, it’s easy to organise every last aspect of Stevie’s life, to keep her occupied whilst I’m busy with Elia. But what if I’m giving her too much to do? A few days ago, Pete and I were busy and she brought her Duplo brick through to the lounge and happily played with them for hours. On other days, she’ll ask to paint or play with her Play-Doh. And, yes, at times she’ll want all of my attention, and sometimes have a breakdown if she doesn’t get it – but, surely, that’s a really important part of life for her to learn?

Oh hi, Rome!

I used to think I was doing her a favour when I organised things for her to do. But, having watched her deal with her own boredom by requesting to go in the pool, or play hide and seek, or help Daddy around the house, I can see that by letting her decide what she wants to do, I’m giving her a really important responsibility to control her own fun. In effect, she’s teaching herself a valuable resource for later life. So, from now on, she can decide what she wants to do on an afternoon, if possible (but not Tuesdays – horse riding is her one requested hobby, so that’s staying). Let’s see how it goes…

The Great Christmas Tree Debate

Today is the 27th November. I know this, because that means, in 3 days’ time, it will officially be DECEMBER.

Obviously December is exciting for us, this year, for more than one reason. And my poor little unborn child is, unfortunately, going to have to live with sharing his/her birthday with Christmas for the rest of his/her life. But, that won’t stop the rest of the family getting excited.

And, yesterday, I caved. I gave in, I succumbed – I let the two over-excitable buggers put up the Christmas tree. A whole month before Christmas. It’s a travesty.

When I was a kid, the rules were that we got my sister’s birthday out of the way (12th December) and then, only then, could we put up the Christmas tree. Which is understandable – and we’ll probably, one day, have to implement a similar rule (unless this baby comes in its 40th week, in which case – sorry for you, kiddo). But the longer time went on, and the older we, the kids, got, the earlier we were allowed to sort the tree. And the tinsel. And the mini decorative trees. And the dangling, icicle lights from the roof (very, very popular in England, I’ll have you know).

So the new rule became the 1st December. And that is a rule I’ve tried to stick by since the ripe old age of 17, when I became a home owner myself. On years when we spent Christmas here in South Africa, my tiny, mini, hot pink and sparkly tree would be our Christmas companion until we flew. I had a couple of real ones, but when Pete and I moved in together, we spent one Christmas with his family in Leeds and went all out. But never, and I mean NEVER, before the 1st December.

This was our amazing, real Christmas tree one year in London.

Cue motherhood. Cue Stevie’s school already hanging all their decorations. Elf on the Shelf started 2 and a half weeks ago. Every shop we go into, she sees “Christmas ‘dations” as soon as we walk in the door. She’s been opening the decoration drawer since Hallowe’en. And yesterday morning, when I woke up, something came over me. And I decided that we could do the Christmas tree.

We popped on Now That’s What I Call Christmas (note to anyone – this edition is the worst Christmas album, ever), painstakingly built the rather enormous, fake tree, and that was that. We’re seriously lacking enough Christmas lights for my liking, and we could do with some more baubles, but all of a sudden, my house looks so festive. And I like it! It twinkled away in the corner while we watched telly after Stevie’s bedtime, and she got so excited to see it again this morning.

I really wanted to watch Love, Actually last night, but our Blu-Ray player decided to break 3 days ago. Now on to that problem…

Gelli and Slime Baff – review

Wow – so I get sent things to review every now and then, but this is easily the best thing ever that I’ve been sent.

Zimpli Kids have two new products – Gelli Baff and Slime Baff – to entertain kids at bath time. Gelli Baff turns the water into tiny jelly particles, before you use their special salt and rinse it happily down the plug. Slime Baff turns the bath water into gunge. Then, theoretically, you just add more water to disperse – but we found scrubbing the slippery bottom of the bath with soap got rid of the last bits of goo.

So, I popped Stevie in the bath (or baff?) on Monday afternoon, armed with a bag of pink ‘Gelli’ powder. I wasn’t really expecting a lot, to be honest, but she loved it. She thought the jelly was amazing to squeeze and squish between her hands, she liked filling up her buckets and cups with it and watching it go ‘splat’ and she was also fond of coating Mummy’s knees in the stuff. We spent an entire hour in the tub with this product. It didn’t hurt her skin, it stayed jelly-like all the way through, and even I enjoyed playing with it. The colour was a very consistent pink (her favourite) and it smelled lovely. Stevie was devastated when we had to get out, and immediately asked for “more jelly.” RESULT!

Then, last night, we popped four kids in the Slime. My bath was a bit more crowded, but this also went down a treat!

The slime took a little bit longer to turn to the correct consistency, and I thought we’d have a failure, but once it got there, they were sold. Riley is the same age as Stevie, 2, whereas Jordan is almost 6 and Maggi is 8. I definitely found that the older kids preferred the slimeyness to the younger ones – Stevie spent most of the time massaging slime into Maggi’s back, and Riley just did her own thing in the tub. Maggi wanted to take slime home, and Jordan was insistent she enjoyed the slime “the most out of everyone!”

There was slight confusion, as I said, when trying to dissolve the slime. It didn’t want to dissolve!

I waited until the kids got out before I tried again, with hot water this time, and it did help – and the soap on the bottom of the bath to get rid of the scum worked. I’d recommend the leaflet maybe include that info (as it does the salt info in the Gelli leaflet).

Gelli and Slime Baff will be available at Toys ‘R’ Us in South Africa in about 2 weeks – just in time for Santa! All 3 of us mums who tried the product said we’ll be popping some in stockings for Christmas. It’s great sensory play for kids, it’s clean and easy to get rid of, they feel like they’re making a mess even when they’re not (it’s stain-free) – what’s not to love?! Something that can keep my very busy daughter happy in one place for a whole hour is good by me. Product definitely approved.

ZimpliKids.com

Jump Gravity

Recently, although not as recently as I thought, a new ‘trampoline park’ opened in Bedfordview.

Since Stevie was about 13 months old, every week we’ve taken a trip to Rush trampoline park in Greenstone Mall. She loves it, Pete might love it even more, and it’s great exercise for all three of us. They have toddler hour most days, where all three of us (before I started to ‘show’) could jump for less than r300. However, in the storms in October, parts of the roof of the mall collapsed on top of the trampoline park, this rendering in unusable – and no word has been released as to when we can return.

So the advertising of the newer park, at Bedford Centre, couldn’t have been timelier. We chose to pop along, after making a quick phone call, at 10am on a Tuesday morning – when Stevie doesn’t have school.

We found the place deserted. When I asked the lady behind the counter how busy it’s been since opening, she assured me that from Thursday to Sunday it’s heaving. So I suppose we were just lucky to have the place to ourselves. We were monitored by a first-aid trained supervisor, and Stevie and Pete (of course) went off to explore.

Gravity is laid out completely differently to Rush. Where Rush is a giant floor of connecting trampolines, with a separate room for basketball and balancing, Gravity’s trampolines are laid out in very specific sections: the basketball hoops are all in their own netted enclosures, the toddler area is very clearly defined and the foam activity section is along one side away from the ‘bouncy’ parts. Whilst this worked perfectly for us, while it was quiet, I wonder how well it would flow during peak periods.

My two monsters (yep, I’m including Pete in that description) enjoyed the athletic trampoline the most – basically two competition-bouncy trampolines surrounded by high, padded walls you can jump on to. If there had been more people, Pete would’ve particularly enjoyed the dodgeball section. However, unlike Rush and other trampoline parks, the rules are very clearly laid out – dodgeball must be played properly, queues must be adhered to.

We paid r240 for Pete and Stevie to bounce for one hour. The price list says children 4-7 are r110, but on querying this I was informed that “nobody assumed kids under 4 would come and bounce, so that will be rectified.” The lady in question also mentioned that they may be taking the price down further for toddlers. This does make it more expensive than Rush to bounce, but there is definitely more to do, and a designated toddler area for under-6s.

There is also a zip line and a climbing wall available at an extra charge, which we didn’t try out yesterday but will in the future.

Jump Gravity is now open at Bedford Centre, Bedfordview. For bookings call +27 61 522 3240 or email booking@jumpgravity.co.za

Their Instagram handle is @jumpgravity