Children's author Natalie-Reeves Billing reflects on the importance of enjoying the simpler things in life, especially during these dark and unprecedented times.
One thing I found to be most disorientating at the beginning of the 'world pause' was the inordinate amount of time we now had, and crucially, what to do with it.
It’s certainly a strange one! Everything around us has ground to a halt. So, now there should be ample time to meditate, decorate the spare room, and write that great American novel, right?
You see, for those of us with kids, there are a few little monsters in the ointment. So, how do kids fit into our greatest chance at personal transformation? The first month of lockdown for me was conducted almost entirely on autopilot. It was all too big, too close to home. There was no time to analyse the data coming in. I was carried away in a monotonous routine of news conferences and parliamentary briefings; reacting in a piecemeal fashion to the stimulus around me.
Online support groups popped up everywhere, I even made one myself. People need a way to feel useful, validated, and connected, though the world we once knew may be losing focus. After that, something clicked. A desperate need to create order in the chaos. I wanted my life back, or at least a part of it. We have no control over the things that happen outside our door, and that is why we need to control the things that happen in it.
There are familiar things that can be maintained, and it’s essential we make space for them. After all, these are the things that get us through.
And so, a pattern emerged at last and ideas formed. Ideas of how to make space in this new reality. Creating little pigeon holes for everything important to me. It is a system based on variety and consistency. Routine and balance are my routes through this.
I got out the calendar and made plans. When ideas leave your head and jump onto the page, they become real, somehow. Looking at a completed calendar gives your brain a visual cue; a little endorphin hit. The dotted calendar serves as road map through these crazy times. A goalpost. An end date. We have to find ways to reason with our brain, and giving it bite-sized goals is an excellent bargaining chip.
Alongside homeschooling, family time, and work commitments, I have now made space for fun. No one can argue with it when it’s up on the wall.
Today’s fun was Monstrous Snack making. I was skeptical at first. Cameras, kids, and cooking… arghhhh! Still, once we got started, the time flew by. The sun, the sky, the birds, and happy children covered in sticky fruit juice and melted chocolate - does it get much better as a kid? No elegant outfits to stain, no after-school commitments pending, just us, living it up.
Maybe things aren’t as complicated as all that. Perhaps that’s half the problem. I have created so many layers around myself, it takes a long time to scrape them all off. But underneath, there is a shiny, healthy, contented place, and I count my blessings that I have had this chance to rediscover them. Stay safe, people.
Bonus: A Recipe for your Little Monsters
I couldn't just throw out the term 'Monstrous Snacks' without telling you how to make them! Here goes:
APPLE MONSTER SNACKS
Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 0 minutes
Metric US Imperial
· 3 Granny Smith apples, quartered
· peanut butter
· sunflower seeds
· 4 strawberries, sliced
· googly eyes
Using a paring knife, cut the middles of the quartered apples to look like mouths. Eat the middles (so not to waste!). Spread the mouths with a little bit of peanut butter and stick the sunflower seeds into the apple to create teeth.
To make the tongue, place a strawberry slice into the mouth. Then use a dab of peanut butter on the back of the googly eyes to adhere to the apple. Serve. Use chocolate chips or blueberries for eyes, and piping or marshmallows to fix them to the apple peel.
You can use any kind of crisp apple for this recipe.
Serve these Apple Monster Snacks with Peanut Butter Truffles.
Thank me later! Natalie x