Snapshot of a Strange New World

Just your average day:

9 am: It’s time for PE with Joe. We are not good at being organised for 9, so I pause the screen while one child gets dressed and one child asks me if he takes part in the PE class, does that mean less enforced outdoor exercise later. You know all those kids who are chomping at the bit to get out and run around? None of them live in my house.

10.15 am: I do a book club via Zoom. It’s a corporate book club, and I was supposed to go  into their offices. Now that they’re all working from home, we did it by video, and it was brilliant.

11.30 am: I hoosh all the kids into their rooms to start today’s school work packs, mute my top 18 WhatsApp groups, and get back to work on book 4.

11.35 am: First of seven pre-lunch visits from children. This is a good number. Last week, we were averaging 57 visits an hour.

1 o’clock: Lunch, and a re-group to write plans on my imaginary whiteboard. The real whiteboard has been ordered from Easons but hasn’t arrived yet. Everybody claims they’ve done today’s workpacks, I’ll take their word for it. One child has been doing basic German on her tablet. One has been Skyping her friends. One is charging his Nintendo, because tonight he gets to play Minecraft with his bestie. We made Wednesday night a pseudo-weekend night for the duration of this strange new world. I have a feeling that soon every night will be a weekend night. But whatever works, right?

And on that note, below are tips and recommendations and links to all the things that have been working well for us – my favourite resources, activities,  TV shows, dinners, cake recipes, films, kids’ books, grownups books, audiobooks, and websites. Basically, the things that are getting us through:

What we’re watching

TV: Godfather of Harlem

Okay, this is my biggest recommendation. It was on RTÉ in January and February, and we had series-linked it because someone told my husband it was good. It’s like Power meets Mad Men meets The Sopranos: set in Harlem during the 1960s to the backdrop of the civil rights movement, it’s a fictionalised series about a real-life drug kingpin called Bumpy Johnson and his friend, Malcolm X. You get all the tension and violence that comes with any gangster series, but gloss and glamour too, and beautiful 1960s clothes and a fantastic soundtrack. The opening credits alone are worth a watch.

Before that, we watched Narcos Mexico Series 2 which was possibly even better than series 1.

Films: Spencer Confidential and Broken City

These are both Mark Wahlberg films and Mark Wahlberg is exceptionally Mark Wahlberg-ish in both, but they’re decent, watchable films, both on Netflix.

What they’re reading 

My youngest has finally broken out of his set list of authors and tried The Person Controller by David Baddiel, as recommended to him by his sisters. He loved it (after resisting for a long time) and is now reading Animalcolm by the same author.

My ten-year-old just read  Swimming Against the Storm by Jess Butterworth who also wrote Running on the Roof of the World; she highly recommends both. She’s also started reading the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and recommends other recent reads Wild Spark and Bright Storm by Vashti Hardy.

(My eldest is reading every YA book ever written and promising me there’s nothing too inappropriate in any of them.)

What I’m reading

I’m reading an advance proof of a book called The Last to Know by Jo Furniss – I’m really enjoying it, look out for it in August 2020. And as soon as my book order arrives, I’ll be reading Adele by Nicola Cassidy and Our Little Cruelties by Liz Nugent.

What I’m listening to

American Dirt by Jeanine Sutton on Audible. It’s brilliant. And having recently watched Narcos Mexico, I’m half thinking I’ve become fluent in Spanish and all things Cartel.

What we’re baking

My eldest made Oreo Brown Cheesecakes and hand on heart, these were the nicest cakes I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. They take a bit of work, so you need time and patience, or failing that, a child who is patient enough to do it unaided. The recipe is here.

I love The Cake Mum website and Facebook page for recipe ideas, especially traybakes. We’ve got into an afternoon tea habit, and these lemon cakes are perfect for it: as are these pecan blondies.

What we’re doing for exercise

We used to walk to school for exercise. I used to have 12,000 steps a day just from walking to and from school, and I can’t believe how much I miss it. So here’s what we’re doing instead:

PE with Joe

Every weekday morning at 9 on The Body Coach YouTube channel, or do it later in the day if the live 9am session doesn’t suit. It’s a brilliant way to start the day, and the stiffness is just about starting to fade.

Yoga with Adrienne

I’ve never done yoga before but figured now is a good time to start. This is a really simple YouTube tutorial for absolute beginners. (Thank you Jenny Flanagan and MindTheBabyBlog!)

Go Noodle

My two younger kids do Go Noodle movement videos

Other than that, we’re going for socially-distanced walks around the estate and the kids are playing football on the green with my husband. I’m trying to get out for a run when I can, so I live in running gear. But sure there’s no point in dressing up in jeans anymore, is there?

What we’re cooking

Another hand-on-heart-best-thing-I’ve-ever-eaten: I made Pork Satay in the slow cooker after Life on Hushabye Farm shared the recipe (she made it up) on Instagram. Scroll through her Instagram to find it – it was INCREDIBLE.

I’m making mostly comfort food – like Chicken Broccoli (recipe here) and Chicken Taleggio (recipe here) and at the weekend, my husband made truffle chips  (potatoes sliced into chips, cooked in oven in oil and salt, tossed in truffle oil and parmesan after they were done) and I don’t think I can ever eat normal chips again.

What new things they’re trying 

Teach yourself typing

My youngest wanted to learn to type and I found this for him: It’s fun and easy and you can make real progress (until the novelty wears off, as it has done)

Teach yourself German

My ten-year-old wants to learn German – I found this website with basic vocabulary and videos (all free) and she’s also using Duolingo on her tablet.

Audible stories

As you may have seen, Audible have made dozens of kids’ books free to listen to – there’s a decent mix, and even if you won’t find a huge selection of well-known books, there’s something for every reader in there. This is the link: Audible Stories – just click in and press “start listening”

What we’re ordering 

If you’re running low on books for you or your kids, you can order physical books by post from the following websites: (free delivery worldwide)


And of course, Amazon for paperbacks or ebooks.

PS Borrowbox is a great free resource for borrowing ebooks and audiobooks – it can be difficult to find what you want at first, but if you reserve titles, they’ll eventually come your way.

Also on order: one whiteboard, coming soon. I hope.

It’s the weirdest time, though, isn’t it. I have moments every day where my brain takes a huge leap, forgetting and remembering, asking, “Is this really happening?” And despite having theoretical extra time at home, I find I still don’t have enough hours in the day to do all the things I need to do. And I’ve realised my plan to spend one-on-one time with each child each day is unexpectedly difficult. And fitting in work and exercise and cooking and making sure everyone is okay is HARD.

But amid all the worry and the fear, there are sprinklings of nice things too. Like today, watching two of the kids who rarely spend time together playing tennis in the garden. Watching my youngest reading a book in the sun. Noticing the lengthening of the evenings and realising if we must do this, if we must live in this strange new world, I’m glad it’s spring.

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Author: Andrea Mara | Office Mum

Blogger, freelance writer, author, mother - muddling through and constantly looking for balance.