So this half term holiday has been a bit odd. Usually, at February half term, the boys would be in a holiday club somewhere. Usually, as the end of the holiday year approaches, I don’t have enough days allowance to take the whole week off. Usually, himself and I might take a day to spend having a treat adventure somewhere. Otherwise, himself buys extra days and he might usually spend the week with the boys while I work through.
This February, something different has been going on. I’m not sure how but I have loads of days holiday leftover and it’s a use it or lose it situation before the end of March. So there we were, me and the boys on holiday from work and school while himself worked through (well he took Friday off). On top of that of course we can’t go anywhere, see anyone or do anything.
This is now our sixth school holiday since COVID came into our lives, our sixth break from school with us all in the house. Back in the before times the boys would always always have been in nursery or in a holiday club or even staying with grandparents. We’ve all got used to school holidays at home, the boys staying busy and quiet (above all quiet) while some combination of their parents work. We may never send them to holiday clubs again. Or maybe they’ll be back there in a flash once it’s all safe again, enjoying varied activities and seeing other children, running around and being noisy.
This February we made our own fun and let himself work in peace.
The boys’ school is running a bake off style competition over halfterm. So large boy got straight in there on the first day with an amazing lemon curd layer cake.
He was given Delia’s Cakes for Christmas by my parents, after spending swathes of time at their house in August poring over the pages. He read all the recipes and provided running commentary of who in our family would like which cakes. When school sent out a flyer by email announcing the Great Virtual Bake Off, he was immediately determined to enter – but which cake to bake?
Coffee and walnut? No because he doesn’t like nuts.
Cup cakes? A bit simple for a baking competition?
Fruit cake? Yeah, no way.
Eventually, the lemon curd layer cake was settled one, we bought new tins especially and my shopping list swelled with ingredients.
I won’t pretend that I left him in the kitchen unattended, but he did all the weighing and mixing and read the recipe by himself. The sponges went in the oven, weighed to be the same quantity and he started the lemon curd. Then he got bored and distracted by small boy watching TV so I was left stirring the lemon curd mixture for half an hour. Worth it though! I sliced the two sponges in half to make the four layers but that was the extent of my involvement. Large boy turned out to be meticulous over spreading the whipped cream icing.
Not to be outdone, small boy got his bake on and we made some flapjack too.
Building a race track
It wouldn’t be a school holiday in this house without the Scalextric going up. The boys got their own basic track for Christmas in 2020, so they put it up themselves and built a grandstand along with some various other support services. These included an aquarium (classic motors racing-related activity right?), a transporter carrying lions, and a farm supplying the race track fast food stands with fresh cows and pigs.
Oh and a mountain top zebra pen, possibly related to the next activity…
My old boss, who left my company at the start of September, had sent me a link to a wild animal spotting initiative called Zooinverse. Until now this was categorised in my head as one of the things I don’t have time for and I hadn’t even looked at it. In retrospect, this was a foolish pre-judgement as the boys love it. They spent at least an hour, maybe two, each day on several of the projects – finding and tagging fish was quite calm, but the definite favourtie was Snapshot Grumeti.
Identifying all sorts of wild animals, including lions, giraffe, elephants, bustard, zebra, and baboons is apparently very absorbing. Figuring out how many water buffalo there are by counting legs or telling the difference between zebra’s tails, legs and rather extended penis was a whole other conversation!
We made sure we had a decent walk, at least 3km, every day. We did our usual loop round the local nature trail, took a different route looping round one of my running circuits, dropped in to see the progress of a new park, visited our rock snake and gave it a good tidy, spotted a beautiful rainbow.
Oh we do love painting rocks (and more rocks) and hiding them. We always take some with us when we go away on hoilday – though sadly we’ve never seen anything from anyone having found them. Having tidied our snake we set about re-painting some of the sad rocks we’d rescued after they’d lost any previous designs. We got the paints out and splashed it about (the kitchen table bears a slight green tinge where large boy sits, oops) then lacquered them as usual. Quite a good set I think.
Over the weekend at the beginning of half term, large boy announced that he wanted to find a better Chinese take away for our weekly treat. He decided to use GoogleMaps to look up local contenders, he decided on the best looking one and announced its name – only to find its the one we use already. However, in this process he discovered street view mode. After a day of looking at our house, the route we can walk to school, and his grandparents’ houses, he had the brainwave of visiting famous landmarks.
He found a list of the world’s 150 most famous landmarks and set about visiting them all. The Eifel Tower, Mount Rushmore, Buckingham Palace, Old Trafford, Yellowstone and many other locations are now on his list of places he’s “visited”. Then he discovered that you can get inside the Natural History Museum in London, he’d been there for real on his sixth birthday so he spent hours showing small boy around the halls.
We went hunting for good virtual tours of museums and found the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum which the boys totally loved. They toured the Natural History Museum in London too on GoogleMaps and we tried a few others (Smithsonian natural history, Boston aquarium, Georgia aquarium and more) but nothing could beat those two.
The boys spent most of a morning touring these two museums, looking at all the skeletons and trying to identify them since they don’t read Japanese. They had loads of fun making up scenarios about what was going on in between the dinosaur models: were they friends? fighting? on an adventure? hunting down another dino? or trying to escape?
The usual trauma of large boy struggling to know what to read next reared its ugly head. He started a compilation of abridged Shakespeare that my brother gave him for Christmas but only lasted 3 or 4 plays, he refused to continue with various older books that my mum has given him, turned down loads of suggestions, steamed through easy readers that bored him, and generally grumped until he got hold of some new choices on the CloudLibrary app – they aren’t on his school reading scheme so he won’t get points or words towards his total but never mind that. The important thing is that he remains absorbed by reading.
Meanwhile small boy pushed onwards with the 13 storey treehouse book, entering probably his fourth week reading it. His determination was undiluted though.
We all three non-working members of the household spent significant periods doing very little productive. The boys had their screens every day at 4pm until tea time – well except Friday when we put down a screen embargo and were met with grumps and sulks about boredom. I played some Lego Star Wars III and did loads of blogging – that counts as chilling for me. Plus jigsaw puzzles, colouring, Alexa trivia questions, watching birds in the garden, building a power treads track, coffee and cuddles, Exploding Kittens, snakes and ladders, lots of busyness doing nothing.
How about you?
How was your half term? What did you get up to? Did you all survive unscathed, sane and vaguely sober?