Day Nine

Tuesday 31st March. I wish that somehow the newspapers could print that this whole thing has been a twisted April Fools Joke, I know that isn’t going to happen but I can’t quite believe the news today. Before the news came on the radio I was happily dancing in the kitchen with Arlo before breakfast.

Then the news started and today whilst I worked on a PowerPoint presentation for work I kept an eye on the updates whilst Arlo was again with his dad, who sends me updates throughout the day.

According to recent figures over 1789 people have died as a result of COVID-19. It seems unbelievable that in 24 hours over 380 people have passed away, and that the press conferences with our chief Medical officer Chris Whitty continue to reiterate that we are not yet at the peak of this outbreak.

The hope is that the extreme new rules are limiting social contacts between people and therefore preventing the virus from spreading too quickly. This would put too much pressure on the NHS and so the plan is to delay the curve. This means we are likely to be experiencing social limitations for up to six months. We’ve only had these rules in place for a week and so it remains to be seen as to how effective this has been in the UK so far.

I have to say that I had been anticipating this, however because the initial press conference communicated that these changes would be in place for three weeks some people have been shocked by this new update, nonetheless ‘most’ people seem to be sticking to the rules.

I say most because the hot topic on radio phone in’s has been news of house parties of up to 25 people being dispersed and also still of the police having to send groups of people home from public parks and spaces. The police are also conducting random checks on car drivers and asking people to explain the reason for their journey. If it’s not deemed essential then you risk being imposed with a £30 fine.

Today was another bright and sunny day despite all of this hanging over us and Arlo remains oblivious. He has mentioned his cousins and nursery and the shops now a few times but he is very easily distracted and I’m keen to make sure that he doesn’t remember this as an anxious or scary time.

I created some laminated sheets recently for some of my small business customers and decided to print a few extra’s out for Arlo. He is a long way off from being able to read and write but he sat still and focused on his penmanship for a few minutes. Squiggling over some letters of the alphabet and then colouring in the shapes of letters in his own name.

We also managed to squeeze in another Easter themed craft activity after our dinner, but we haven’t finished yet and so I will have to save sharing pictures until the morning. It’s been a mad March and although I’m trying to continue with a cheerful and positive I know that by the end of April I will be looking back at a month of sadness for so many people.

Day Seven and eight

Wow. We have made it a whole week and I can’t quite believe it. It’s now a common occurrence in this household for Arlo to slip out of bed as soon as he hears that Grandma is up and about for their jam and toast breakfast date.

One positive out of all this is time. All those times I’ve resented having to rush out in the morning to get to nursery before hitting rush hour traffic en route to work are a distant memory. I used to pack so many things in to our weekends just to make sure I was creating valuable memories for Arlo.

So this Sunday we did jigsaws over the two course breakfast with the toast followed with a huge fruit salad, before come commencing with some Easter inspired painting and craft activities before re-locating to the play room where Arlo invented his own little game.

He asked me where a small fish lived and I responded “in the water” – and then he placed the fish onto his little wooden “small world” pond. After this he decided to empty the entire bag of over one hundred schleich animal figurines and rummaged around for other fish and water animals.

After this he found some elephants who didn’t live in the water and so I quickly had to find his green wooden shapes to be the grass, then subsequently sketch a quick tree on to a sheet of craft paper for his squirrel and bugs and then find some brown felt because his pigs needed mud.

He was happy sorting out his animals for quite a while in to different environments and then doing some role play with them too, so I prepared an early tapas style lunch before his dad arrived to take Arlo out for some fresh air on his bike.

On sunday afternoon we enjoyed some of grandma’s freshly baked scones and a nice Sunday roast and eventually had an early bed time.

I purposely avoided the news on Sunday, and kept myself busy looking through Pinterest and Instagram to find new ideas. I did a spot of online shopping, ordering some craft supplies and garden toys for Arlo to keep him occupied.

Monday was another bright and early start. I went to the supermarket very early, just as Arlo was leaving for the day with his dad. This arrangement is fortunate for us right now, I can get on with working from home whilst Lee is furloughed and has the free time.

The local high street was eerily deserted on Monday, no queues to enter the car park, no queues to get in to the shop or even at the checkout and the shopping restrictions have eased – you can now get more than 2/3 of an item because the panic buying has stopped, I managed to get everything we needed before heading home to log in to the laptop.

Arlo bounded through the door on Monday evening full of energy (no surprises there). I sat him down quickly with some little wooden rabbits and a little palette of carefully selected colours. My top tip when painting with kids of to give them 2/3 colours which work nicely together – otherwise you will inevitably end up with brown!

Grandad was outside clearing the patio which was intriguing to Arlo and so he slipped away from the table, put his wellies on and went outside to ‘help’ – despite the rain! That reminded me of some bulbs and seeds I had bought for Arlo, (which we have saved for another day).

After dinner we all sat together in the living room, browsing through old magazines and talking about previous craft projects, I did some paper crafting and Mum decided to get out her crochet and show me how it’s done, so before I knew it, three hours had passed and it was bed time. I think these kind of hobbies are going to be very useful at this time because the hours just drift away.

We were concerned to see two ambulances arrive at a neighbours house on Monday evening, with the paramedics taking every precaution with full protective equipment being worn. The blue lights flashed silently for over an hour, a stark reminder that despite enjoying a relative few days of blissful ignorance indoors, that we are in the middle of a crisis.

The current UK figures suggest that 1408 people have passed away as a result of Corona Virus, however the press reports that these figures are likely to be inaccurate because this only relates to people who have died within a hospital and not those who have died in their own homes or care home settings. The office for national statistics will be releasing a report tomorrow which I am sure will contain alarming figures.

Day five and six

I didn’t have the time to write up a post yesterday because I was busy playing with Arlo for most of yesterday. Friday was a fairly uneventful, I had a video-conference with my colleagues first thing and it was strange to see my boss in a hoodie at home! Arlo spent most of the day with his dad.

The general atmosphere now seems to have changed, most people have come to terms with the situation, taking the advice very seriously. It was alarming to hear the news that our Prime Minister and also the Health Secretary have both tested positive for COVID-19 and to also see our death toll reach over 1000 on Saturday afternoon.

I’m expect further “lockdown” restrictions to be announced soon, and I don’t see this coming to a conclusion anytime soon, guesstimates from the experts on the never ending news broadcasts suggest we will be living this restricted lifestyle for twelve weeks or more.

The more startling news is that alongside the NHS nightingale being constructed in London, there are also plans to build similar intensive care structures around the country, including in Birmingham – alongside a morgue in an aircraft hanger at the airport – this perhaps explains why we saw Chinooks fly overhead whilst in the garden during the afternoon. Various contractors have been sharing clips on social media about the work they’re doing in these places and the reality is setting in for many of the people who were stating originally that this is all a big fuss and “it’s just the flu.”

We have spent some time watching video clips from Chester Zoo who did Facebook live broadcasts from various animal enclosures to keep the nations children amused. So many companies are offering free access to online resources for everyone – from lessons with dancers to sing-a-longs with baby groups, and then lots of printable resources, interactive apps and craft ideas. These are amazing for older children, and I’ve been sharing as many as possible with friends and relatives.

We took a walk to the local valley on Friday afternoon for our daily exercise, near the horse riding school and were fortunate enough to be able to see the horses in the fields – not going to our favourite children’s farms and the safari park has been the worst for Arlo because he loves animals so much, but we’ve invented lots of games with out toys to keep him busy.

Grandma created a new rainbow design for him to wear on a t shirt, featuring some of his favourite things and then on Saturday morning we spent some time playing with numbers and colours before watching a little bit of tv, he’s had such a busy week that he wanted to lie back and relax – and I don’t blame him.

We head out for our Saturday afternoon walk to a local reservoir, pausing to feed the ducks. The weather seemed to take a turn and no one was around as we walked through the woodland. It’s so strange to be out without all of Arlo’s cousins and to not speak to anyone else at all, I really appreciate that we live near to some wonderful open spaces and I’m making sure to get outdoors every day.

Arlo was running loops around me, the walk was mainly uphill and he was exhausted so had a long nap and still went to sleep fairly early, and I fell asleep beside him last night. The clocks changed and we woke up this morning an hour later – so it’s officially British Summer Time now. It’s certainly going to be an unforgettable one.

Day Four

I thought I would have run out of things to write about by now, but we managed to pack quite a lot in to another day at home.

The sun was shining from 6am and so we woke up and started a little craft activity, painting our sun catchers in the playroom together before daddy came to pick Arlo up. I’m so grateful that this gives me the chance to continue to work from home and get everything done.

Meanwhile I asked my mum to come up with a rainbow drawing for me to put on a t shirt for Arlo and she spent ages working on the cutest design. One good thing about all this time is getting the chance to be creative again. She also created a window mural to say thank you to our postmen and women for continuing to work through all of this.

I went to meet Lee and Arlo at a nearby park for my daily exercise and we ended up walking for over an hour along a bridle path – almost 7000 steps which must be about three miles. For the first time we did encounter other people along our route and made sure to step aside and maintain the social distancing guidelines.

Arlo is used to greeting everyone with a cheery hello, and in normal circumstances we stop and chat with every dog walker and families in parks but we had to politely wave and say “good evening” from a distance. I didn’t really think about this type of scenario, it goes against all the manners we have taught our son to not be friendly but ‘needs must’.

During our walk the Chancellor was broadcasting live about the support the government plans to provide the self employed, another huge package designed to help people struggling financially as business has practically ground to a halt for many people right now.

Arlo was exhausted by the time we got home and fell asleep before 6pm (he never does this on a normal school night). Last night we also took part in a round of applause from our doorstep. The idea being for the country to show support for the NHS and it was incredibly humbling to hear the clapping echo down the road and then to see everyone’s videos on social media.

It’s amazing that in these times, people can come together to demonstrate their support for one another. It certainly does mean a lot to everyone putting their lives at risk on a daily basis. As it stands there are 11,658 confirmed cases here in the UK and last night the government confirmed that 578 patients have died with confirmed Positive tests for COVID-19

Day three

So the sun sets on a fairly uneventful day in our household. Arlo was at his daddy’s house when the announcement by the prime minister was made on Monday evening and so I woke up early to head out to the supermarket on Tuesday.

Thankfully there are new rules in place, everyone queued up outside and was very respectful with regards to social distancing. There are lots of security guards present and tape on the floors near the tills to make sure people stay 2m apart. The fresh food shelves were abundant, but some products like loo roll and tinned food remains out of stock, nappies and baby milk also seems in short supply which is a worry for many.

In our household we are determined to continue to eat healthily and with fresh food for as long as possible – this first stage of the “stay at home” regulations is set to last for three weeks and I anticipate further restrictions after this – so I tucked into my smashed avocado on toast and savoured every mouthful before settling down to work on the laptop.

Our work team scheduled a “wellness” call – a video call with everyone just to chat and catch up which is a fabulous idea and I suggest anyone from home takes the opportunity to connect with others using technology.

In between various admin tasks I checked some personal emails. Throughout this time Arlo is unable to attend nursery. They are closed for everyone except the children of “key workers” unable to find an alternative. The nursery it seems would still like to invoice parents and asked us to continue paying fees for the duration of this crisis or we risk losing our place once normality resumes.

No idea at the moment if this is an option for us, can I work from home with a toddler? Will Arlo’s dad even get paid? People all around the country are asking questions, because despite all of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s assurances, none of the financial procedures he has defined to help people through this have been set in place. Slowly new updates trickle through – the deadline for car’s due their MOT’s has been extended by six months for example.

In the meantime we are staying at home. Arlo is too young for any rigid “home schooling” but like any other day in this household we have an array of crafts and activities for him to enjoy. He seems content joining in with meal preparation, grandma has been baking fresh cakes every day.

With the glorious weather we have been experiencing, the garden is a fabulous place to spend time. Arlo has a mud kitchen, I bought lots of plants, seeds and fresh herbs and Arlo has been having some quality time bonding with his grandad and learning how to pot plants.

I chose to go for a walk in the local park on Tuesday evening which was lovely, we had the place to ourselves and watched the sun set over the hills – but Arlo was distraught when we had to turn and avoid the play area. Closed for public safety – to prevent children and families gathering in groups and risking passing on this dreadful virus. Trying to explain to Arlo that he couldn’t play on the slide was tough – Now we are going to choose places with no play areas for our daily exercise.

As it stands there are currently 9529 people with the virus in the UK and 463 people have unfortunately passed away. The news reports are a stark reminder that the worst is yet to come. With “NHS Nightingale ” having been set up at the Excel Exhibition Centre – videos shared by contractors helping to set up the 4000 beds inside such a vast space are circulating on social media.

The worst is yet to come but we’re trying to keep ourselves busy and make the most of the opportunity we have as a family to spend time together and do some creative projects.

Day two

So Monday was glorious. For the first time in months we started the week with clear skies and sunshine. Arlo spent the day out and about with daddy (in safe secluded woodland) whilst I commenced my first week of “working from home” on the laptop. At 9am I was busy trying to log in to a new IT system.

Working from home brings its own unique challenges – coping with social isolation and staying motivated is challenging to say the least. I made sure to get up and dressed like any other day. It would be easy to sit in my pyjamas all day but I don’t want to slip in to bad habits.

I spent a couple of hours on my laptop, checking and responding to emails. I made sure to check in via WhatsApp with my work teammates and I made myself a little schedule for the week. We have access to a wealth of e-learning from private providers and also from Linked In. These helped to break up the day.

Meanwhile daddy took Arlo out to another deserted place where they fed the ducks and did some den building – sending me picture updates throughout the day. I was sent email updates from our nursery with regards to their closure and the expectation that fees would still be payable throughout this crisis.

Today lots of shops and businesses announced they were closing their doors – McDonald’s offered free food to NHS staff and across the country people risked their lives to gather with friends and enjoy a last Big Mac. There are posts on social media from most high street stores announcing closures, donating food to local charities and NHS workers and communicating with their staff. These closures were taken on voluntarily in the hope that closures would discourage people from heading to local high streets flouting the social distancing guidelines which have been advised.

There are strong messages coming from all world leaders and the World Health Organisation to maintain social distancing but still people ignore this advice and crush together in crowds at supermarkets. This picture was shared in the local News and shows scenes at the Burnt Tree Island Tesco. Despite offering a dedicated NHS staff hour, hundreds of people flocked to the store on Sunday morning and stripped the shelves bare once more.

I popped out to get some fresh air around lunch time alone today. I’ve got a list of podcasts now which people have recommended and I’m going to make sure I take the time out every day to step away from the screen and get some fresh air whilst I still can. I paused at our nearby duck pond and I decided to take some pictures whilst listening to a newly downloaded mindfulness podcast.

My family members and I have all been taking pictures of our local parks. We have seen news reports that the changes to lifestyles in China due to this pandemic have over the last few months reduced pollution levels, that dolphins have appeared of the coast of Sardinia in Italy and that the canals in Venice are now clear instead of their usual murky colour. I hope that we can look back at these pictures of spaces in our city we have taken this last week and compare the changes in a few months time. One positive thing to come out of all this might be that reduced pollution is good for our environment.

I’d been trying to peel away from the news throughout the day. I left the TV on but muted in the background as I continued a second stretch of e-learning. The constant breaking news updates are actually causing more stress than is necessary, it seems as though a lot of the information is being repeated for the general public who are slowly coming to terms with the reality of this pandemic. It’s extremely difficult to disconnect with breaking news updates flashing up constantly as countries around the world update their infected rates and death toll.

Our prime minister last week delivered a press conference update every evening at 5pm. Each day new advice was given to the public but yesterday evening the 5pm update was postponed, whipping social media in to a frenzy with rumours and information about a “lockdown.”

Shortly after 8.30pm it was announced by the Prime Minister that no one is allowed to leave their house unless it is for an essential reason. Very few businesses will remain open, and you may leave your home for work, to shop for food and to exercise once a day. You are not allowed to gather in groups outside of your home. This changes everything. Last week it was just advice. Now there is a new “Corona Virus Bill” being pushed through parliament and the police have powers to enforce the new rules.

Tomorrow I will be unable to work from home effectively as I will be taking care of Arlo. We are also unsure what this means for our co-parenting situation. I am currently awaiting official updates to the government website for clarification on how/if Arlo would be able to split his time between both of our households through this. Right now I expect that Arlo will be unable to visit his dad at his home, but according to the guidance it might be permissible to continue outdoor walks together as long as it’s just the two of them.

I do not know what this means for us financially either – the government have announced billions of pounds of support for people to get through this but no one knows exactly how to tap in to this funding for support with paying the bills which are on the table right now. I’m not sure if I am eligible for any form of funding as my ability to work is restricted due to the unavailability of childcare and not for sickness reasons. Arlo’s dad is a chef and so he is currently out of work and awaiting an update from his employers as to wether they will apply for a grant to pay him 80% of his wages whilst in furlough.

There are lots of other people waiting for updates and clarification on their unique circumstances and as we as a nation are slowly coming to terms with the reality we face it’s becoming divisive to say the least. Everyone is worried about money, about their health and about their loved ones. It’s creating a lot of tension and stress.

I am already looking forward to the opportunity to leave the house and get some fresh air, but so worried that the decision to leave our home could be the difference between life and death for others.

The first day

Today marks the first day of the national school closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic which is currently affecting countries across the world.

In an attempt to restrict the spread of the virus our prime minister Boris Johnson has closed all schools and educational environments including Arlo’s nursery.

It’s an uncertain time for all and we don’t know yet if our country will be “locked down” further restricting people’s activity and social interaction.

Arlo is now not going to be going to nursery. We have a huge array of toys and activities to do at home to try and keep his little mind busy. Luckily at two years old he is blissfully unaware of the widespread panic and real life implications of this pandemic.

Yesterday morning I drove to two different country parks in an attempt to get him some fresh air. The places we usually visit are secluded and never busy, we might encounter one family or a few dog walkers whilst trekking up hills in the middle of nowhere but yesterday car parks were full.

I don’t blame families for wanting to get out and about – enjoying their freedoms whilst they still can. Especially when the weather this weekend was clear and sunny for the first time in forever. It was however disconcerting to see people gathering in huge groups at popular beaches and national parks – ignoring the social distancing guidelines.

We eventually found a relatively secluded country park and walked around – taking the woodland walk over into fields where we found ourselves totally alone. I took pictures of the pond and the fields and hope to be able to revisit these places again to see if the water clears as the inevitable lockdown will no doubt reduce pollution levels.

It was hard to explain to Arlo that we wouldn’t be going into the “play areas”- too many children and families in close proximity means that this kind of activity could be dangerous, and in countries such as Italy who are at this stage most affected by the virus – these kinds of parks are now closed to the public.

Some councils in London have closed their parks because this weekend was so busy and the National Trust who earlier last week announced that they would keep parks open with free car parking have had to U-Turn because so many people took advantage of this well intended offer.

So here we are on Monday morning. Today our government are busy passing new bills and I expect that the daily announcements from our prime minister will bring more closures and more restrictions to our liberty, because the British public have been unable or unwilling to follow the advice so far.

Before this happens I’m going to head out today and see what I can find in terms of craft supplies, projects and activities we can try at home together. Arlo is such a bright little thing and always keen to learn more. He always wants to play and nursery has been a wonderful experience for him.

The enrichment that nursery provides is something which is priceless to me. Every day Arlo comes home and his vocabulary is extended, he shows me how he can count, tells me about books he has read and all about his friends. On Friday as I picked him up for the last time he proudly gave me an amazing Mother’s Day Card and a little potted plant too.

I’m confident that I can find ways to keep him busy for as long as this takes and I will be utilising all sorts of online resources along the way and sharing them with you all.

Yesterday I found out about a fabulous idea called “Chase the rainbow” – families are making rainbows for display in their windows. The intention is that this is a wonderful craft activity for children and that whilst we are unable to attend play dates and our usual social engagements, children can for the time being walk (sticking to social distancing guidelines) and look out for rainbows.

Grandma created this wonderful rainbow for us and we appreciate it very much. I think we’re going to try and use this time to channel our creative energies as a family.

If anyone has any eyfs ideas we can try at home it would be wonderful to share. This blog also marks day one of our journal, and for my own well being I will be taking the time out every day to write, share my thoughts and step away from the overwhelming noise of the media.

Me time

In response to my “what issues do you face as a mother in 2020?” question a friend of mine on Instagram shared:

“I feel as though I am shamed or looked down upon for wanting ‘me’ time”

I felt it was appropriate to share this immediately (anonymously) to open up the opportunity for women to share their feelings, experiences and advice and I have decided to share some of the responses here:

Everyone deserves some me time. Make sure you look after yourself

Your mental well-being matters. You need to look after yourself as well as you look after your kids ❤️

Everyone needs time/space. As long as your kids are safe and happy there’s no issues

Everyone needs some me time and it doesn’t make you a bad mum for accepting some help

Don’t listen to it… you need you time…. never lose sight of the person you are 💕

Ignore them. You time is important for you and the children!

Being a mam is it’s own job. You wouldn’t work with no breaks! You deserve and need them – XO

To be the best mum you can be you need to be the best YOU you can be. Everyone needs a break

Go for two nights and cut the judge Judys out!

So there we have it. The overwhelming response to this was one of positive support from other mums. I think we all understand and recognise how important it is to be able to recharge the batteries and also maintain a sense of personal identity.

I’m trying to think about what I like to do when I have some ‘me’ time and I have to admit there’s nothing better than being able to have a long soak in the bath, and then wash and blow dry my hair without interruption. I need to get myself out more!

Umberslade Adventures

Tucked away on the very outskirts of Birmingham is this lovely little outdoor adventure playground. My sister invited us out one Sunday morning – she sent me the postcode and told me to pack a lunch, we had no idea where we were heading, but we were looking forward to a day with the wildlings (aka the cousins).

I put the details in my satnav and must admit as I navigated the winding road through the woods past the paint balling props I was beginning to wonder what I was letting myself in for but we were pleasantly surprised when we found out what this place was all about.

There was a small entry fee of £3 paid in a little hut at the entrance to the grounds and free parking available. Additional activities are bookable with time slots – from zipwires, archery scavenger hunts and scaling giant trees!

We wandered along the paths, and were surprised to see the sight of my nephew in front of us hurtling down a zipwire exclaiming with delight…. Arlo was a bit too little for this activity but the seven and four year old loved it! With a friendly guide helping them get into harnesses and hard hats it was their first exposure to any activity like this and certainly not for the faint-hearted.

We gathered together at the mini obstacle course and spent hours racing each other, Arlo and Paloma hurled themselves up and over a huge A frame, the entire course was reminiscent of the Tough Mudder style obstacle course’s and the perfect for all ages to play. We did get very muddy, but this is all part of the fun!

Right along side this was another play area, this one included ropes and pulleys, so was more about testing our balancing skills than our strength – This was something we could time ourselves as we raced around in attempt to better our personal times and award an overall winner!

Exhausted after all of this we took a well earned rest, visiting the Deer Hut Lodge for refreshments persuading the team members to give us some clues for the scavenger hunt, then having a little stint on the trampolines before heading out into the woods.

We went on a 45 minute trek, finding the outdoor forest school clearing, searching high and low for clues and also took our time to build some awesome dens in a clearing with lots and lots of twigs and branches.

The route took us back to the playground and the older kids went to complete their archery activity with a lovely guide patiently explaining how to load arrows and deftly dodging out of Lincolns way as he misfired and then it was Logan’s turn to conquer the biggest challenge of all, climbing one of the tallest tree’s I’ve ever seen and then abseiling back down and of course Laura had to attempt it too!

I can honestly say there was something for everyone here and we will be visiting again to enjoy all of the different outdoor pursuits. The facilities were clean, the area was well maintained throughout and the extremely friendly staff made our day even more fun. Extremely good value for money and it’s easy to forget you’re on the outskirts of a huge city. Great value for money for families on a budget and you can take your own packed lunch too.

Umberslade Adventures

Cutthroat Lane,

Solihull

B94 6SE

Visit the Website to find out more.