Week two: reality bites

Here we are at the end of week two, and cabin fever hasn’t quite set in yet – though I think the novelty of being at home has definitely worn off for the Horde. They are missing their friends, especially as we can see and hear some of them over the garden between us, and they are used to being in and out of each other’s houses. Limiting screen and chat time is frustrating for 13-year-old Thing 1, too, as she is used to working with her friends at school.

I – like so many other parents at the moment – have a renewed respect for teachers (and I used to be one!). In my case, it’s down to the really hard sums and various parts of speech that Thing 2, in Year 6, is expected to know. I got 1% on a fractions test in Year 7 and my relationship with them hasn’t improved over the years, so to be confronted with ratios and lowest common denominators and so on was a bit of a shock to the system. We muddled through, I think.

I have kept to my 7 – 2 working pattern, apart from the odd afternoon meeting (Thing 2: “They aren’t the people you usually talk to! Do you even know them?” – at least the internet safety chat has sunk in) which gave us the chance to try some new recipes. Thing 1 made gnocchi for lunch one day, Thing 2 made chicken, mozzarella and pesto filo parcels, and Thing 3 made cornflake cakes. 1 and 2 managed to make bread together one afternoon without all-out combat, and we tried making flatbread to go with meatballs too. I convinced them to eat cauliflower (#winning). All three of them have been painting, helping their dad in the garden (I think he is hiding from the chaos) and enjoying the sunshine.

Thing 2 and her latest creation – a gift for her nephew

When not negotiating tricky fractions or the perfect tense, I have been exploring the value of makerspaces for children as a way to increase their creative confidence – one book, The Nerdy Teacher Presents: Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces by Nicholas Provenzano, had me thinking about the potential for this way of learning as part of the planned school residency. It also has AWESOME geeky pop culture references.

As someone who was always encouraged to try things, to potter about as my dad built stuff in the garage, I think opportunities to make – to make things, to make mistakes, to go back and explore what you did wrong – are vital to children’s development and the growth mindset that’s so important to making it as a human being in the 21st century. It’s not something that can be tested in a SAT at Y6, for example, although project outcomes can be, so allowing children to fail has been off the agenda – children have been spoonfed knowledge and test content, which is great for school league tables but hasn’t done a lot for the children themselves. Project based learning is definitely on my mental agenda at this point, and how that can be condensed into a museum context, when our time with the students is limited.

Easter holidays start now

As the head of this here school, I declared an Inset Day on Friday so we started our break a day early.

Tuesday was a difficult day

Part of the reason for this was for the sake of all our mental health. Thing 3 has been quite unsettled, sleeping badly and having nightmares, which – as a very pragmatic little soul from the day he arrived – is very out of character. I also had a very bad day on Tuesday: one of the worst I have had for a while, with high anxiety levels and very low mood.

I am missing my daily commute: for me, this was a decompression between work and home, a chance to stop being ‘work me’ and be ready to be ‘mum me’. That hour of audio books or music and crochet makes a huge difference to my mental state. I’m usually pretty good at multi-tasking, but trying to be both my ‘selves’ at once is proving challenging at times. Still, no more SPAG and maths for a couple of weeks!

And hey, who am I kidding – I miss being in work as much as the kids being in school. I love my team, and the office dynamic – having people to throw ideas around with, chats over boiling kettles and seeing all our lovely visitors. I get great joy from my work – interacting with teachers and children, seeing the wonder on the faces of our smallest visitors. Although the Teams app and Zoom are good for seeing faces, the spontaneity isn’t there. It’s been lovely to have the odd chat with colleagues which didn’t come with an agenda, and I definitely feel the lack of the lunchtime walks to Victoria Park to see the dogs and ducks.

It’s hard not being able to see friends, too – the other people in the village, and also my nurse friends who are on the frontline at the moment. One lost a colleague to Covid-19 this week, and we can’t reach out and cocoon her. She is quite naturally angry that people are ignoring the rules – the scenes in Epping Forest and other parks this weekend have proved that people are not taking this crisis seriously. My parents, in France, are in full lockdown and I wonder how long it will be before that has to happen here too – 90% co-operation and 10% enforcement doesn’t seem to be working.

I am still running (or I was until my Achilles tendon did something odd yesterday at mile 3) but going out at 6am, when the only people I am likely to encounter are distant dog walkers. I see a lot of rabbits, too, and was lucky enough on Monday to spot a herd of about 30 deer grazing on the common.

A very fuzzy picture of deer….

How’s that to-do list coming on then?

It’s actually been quite a productive week!

Today I spent a few hours in my shed, sorting through fabric remnants – a lot of cotton left over from various projects was donated to a woman in the village who is making fabric masks. She is not charging for them, other than to cover materials. I know they have been in demand, so the fabric has gone to a good home (along with some sewing patterns I know I won’t use!). Some yarn also made its way down the road to a friend’s daughter who has caught the crochet bug.

I’ve managed to tick two things off last week’s list! One, the purple jacket, only took about an hour’s work so I have had no excuse not to finish it before. I am not sure I followed the pattern instructions but it looks OK, so I am happy.

The purple jacket – Patterns by Gertie for Butterick.
Purple gabardine lined with taffeta – it’s sooooo soft.

The second finish was the Attic Windows quilt. I wanted to back it with a red fabric as a contrast to the navy, but couldn’t get enough as there has been a run on polycotton fabrics for hospital scrubs (I have signed up to make some for one of the local trusts, who are desperately short of them – one of my nursey friends tagged me in a Facebook post, and today I washed and dried lots of fabric so I can get started in the afternoons this week). Where was I? Oh yes.

I decided to add a border of red rectangles to get the contrast, and then repurposed one of the kids’ old duvet covers to make the back. I cut it in half and then turned one piece through 90 degrees and stitched them together to get enough width. I also added applique cats – they look quite small at the bottom of the quilt, but the perspective of the night sky is probably what the world looks like to cats anyway, or so I like to think!

Ready for quilting and binding

Another project that shouldn’t have taken as long as it did! The first 25 blocks were hand sewn on the Central Line, which started a lot of conversations, and then a woman in a quilting fabric shop told me I was doing it all wrong, so I felt all disillusioned and put it away. For 12 years. The other 35 blocks were machine sewn last week, as they were all cut out, and I can’t tell which ones are which for the life of me from the front. So, nuts to you, lady in the quilting cotton shop.

The finished quilt has been submitted for inclusion in a book about making at home during the lockdown (more here: https://wideopensea.co.uk/athome/). It’s not perfect and I now see why you start quilting from the middle, but I am happy with it – I am also happy that the process of this caused Thing 2 to want to learn to sew.

Because it’s totally impossible not to start new projects, as well as signing up to make scrubs I also put together another quilt top – only to use up the squares, honest!

Using up charm packs.

I’ll also be making a few of the Frontline Hero bears for some friends, I think.

And that’s it from me for the week – here’s Bailey, doing what cats do best. Same time next week!

Kirsty x

“If it fits….”

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