Today is Friday, I think.

Woke up yesterday morning with a bright red toe.

If you draw a line at the base of your big toe, right where I imagine it would be amputated, everything above it was bright red.

My first thought was, ‘Well, what the fuck is this?’ Closely followed by, ‘I can’t see a doctor at the moment, for this, for anything really.’ And then the reality of it all smashed into me….again.

I spent an obscene amount of time checking on my toe throughout the morning, taking one of my last citirizine pills, and it finally faded back to something resembling my normal flesh colour. It’s now 12:15 pm today, and it’s itching. I keep looking at it.

And so these days go. A good day, followed by a bad moment. Weirdly mornings and evenings seem to be the worst.

My real comfort is that my kids seem relatively okay with all of this. I’ve barely even interacted with them today, so busy they are living their life and creating fun for themselves.

They’ve adjusted to video calls with friends, to living only in our house and garden, to not touching their Lego magazines when they come through the door.

I’m doing okay too. I don’t feel happy or relaxed much of the time, but honestly I don’t think we are supposed to. This morning I mindlessly shoved a second cinnamon raisin bagel in my mouth while almost-crying, sat on the floor in the kitchen.

Yesterday I shaved most of my hair off. It’s become a joke that we will all shave our heads or cut our own hair, and indeed I know quite a few people who have. I’ve wanted to shave my head a long time now, and my friend almost did it for me at two am a few months back. But if not during self isolation, when?

None of us know how to get through a global crisis. There’s hardly anyone alive who lived through the last pandemic, and those people were too young to have any memory of it. What will happen to the toddlers of today, who will possibly be spending a big chunk of their lives only with their immediate family? How will this impact them? How will this impact any of us?

My hopeful friends predict the end of capitalism, a kinder society, a return to a greener way of life.

Me? I don’t know.

I oscillate between reading everything I can get my hands on, trying to become better informed, and totally pulling back from it all. I’ve not found a happy medium yet.

Last night before bed, I watched videos of people in my country sobbing about their dead mums, friends, family. One of a grown man heaving with shuddering breaths, crying that he was unable to comfort his mum when she died, that he couldn’t cuddle his family together in their grief, broke me.

I didn’t sleep last night.

I have no plan for today, aside from what I keep saying to my children : We’re going to just do this, one day at a time. Today, we get through today.



I joined Intagram years ago, posted about seven photos, then disappeared. Partly because i was poor and had a shit phone, partly because I’m well and truly sucked into facebook, partly because I didn’t see the point.

Then I started a daily, ongoing scavenger hunt with my children. We find things that are surprising, beautiful, weird.

So I went back to Instagram – but am too technologically stupid to know how to link to my account. My username is alisonmariemay, with the colourful t rex profile picture.

I posted some of the stuff we found. Things that delighted me, things I did not expect, things I noticed.

And it’s occurred to me: this is nothing more than a glorified gratitude journal. For I am grateful for the unexpected rhino covered in sequins, visible from the roof of a parking garage in Birmingham. I am aware of how awesome the stepping stones across a river, leading to a really old castle look. I am laughing when I find weird altars of animal bones on my children’s chest of drawers.

Again, I don’t know how to link. But come find me if you want. I am finding more purpose and more gratitude every time I find something that makes me laugh, or say ‘what the fuck,’ or just makes me more curious. So in that way, this little Instagram account with essentially no followers makes me thankful. It’s colourful, and honest, and full of tiny moments I probably wouldn’t think much about if I didn’t post the pictures.

But sometimes life is about the sparkly heart sticker you find in the park, sometimes it is about finding a tiny moment of joy so that you may survive the larger moments of darkness.


I posted this picture online, and I wanted to write the word ‘perfect,’ but I held back. I have so many problems with that word. Is it something we should aim for? Is it realistic? What does it look like, how does it feel, will I make others feel awful even as I feel suspended in the aftermath of a good day?

But you know what? There are perfect moments. And my children are lucky, perhaps, to not realise how perfect their childhood is.

Today we went to a friend’s house, and another family met us there. Three families, seven children, a few big fields and some time around a kitchen table. If that isn’t perfect, I don’t know what is.

My children have the freedom I felt every day after school and on the weekends, except I was mostly alone or with my sister. My children are mostly with other lucky children. And on this day, they strode through purple grasses taller than they were. They befriended caterpillars (and mourned unintentional caterpillar deaths), they climbed trees, they threw grass seeds at each other.

Of course there were small moments of drama, but there were these larger moments. Like the one in the picture. There they are, these small children in the picture, free and exploring and happy.


Not Back to School week 2015.

This is our third official Not Back to School week – though in my mind, every September has been a NBTS time as the kids never were in nursery, preschool, etc. That’s a contentious view to hold, I realise, as many people seem to think if your child isn’t school aged you can’t possibly be a home educator. I disagree. (But let’s leave that discussion for a later time!)

So my children would have been entering Year 2 – in the UK, the years thus far are Reception (USA= kindergarten), year one, year two, etc. Children start school a year or two earlier than they do in the US. My Facebook feed is full of the children of my American friends – children older than M and S – entering Kindergarten. Whereas mine would be entering second grade at just turned six. It’s nuts.

Unfortunately, the phone on my camera has died a nasty death….those of you on my Facebook feed may still be treated to really blurry and light heavy pictures, you lucky ducks. Maybe I will share some here, too. But what have we of the no school fame and glory been up to?


We had an appointment early morning which we all went to and enjoyed, more or less. Kids then had swimming lessons, and we played with their friends in the pool after lessons were finished. Both won the Swimmer of the Month in June, so I was unbelievably pleased to see that this translated into two free lessons! Swimming is our most expensive thing we do. We then did Tang Soo Do in the evening, and that’s always lovely. We’ve been going there for approaching a year and a half, I think, so it feels like a real little community.

In the evening S took out her play car – a saga my facebook friends were forced to experience blow by blow – and Suzy and M jogged round the block a few times while S chased them in the car. Lots of chatting with neighbours, etc.


Pottery class! This week it also incorporated some drawing lessons on shading, followed by a noisy play in the back garden. Our HE pottery class is followed by a second one, and as a group we are capable of some serious noise on what is otherwise a peaceful street.

Afterwards we went to the annual Not Back to School picnic. This year’s seemed especially nice as I met a bunch of new people who were absolutely lovely. I also got to chat with some people I adore but very rarely get to see. S spent most of the day off with her two closest friends, while M was determined to throw himself into some new friendships and games. He had some great successes, and some great failures. My heart felt like it was on a rollercoaster most of the day. We were there for hours and it felt bad to have to drag ourselves away!

Afterwards we went to gym for S’s solo gym class. This time last year, she was still attending the toddler classes and was terrified at the thought of going to the ‘big kid’ classes. Over the span of the last eight or nine months, though, she not only joined the big kid classes, but has now been moved up to the advanced recreational classes. England is obsessed with levels, qualifiations, certificates – so I can say with pinpoint accuracy that S has earned five badges on the British Gymnastics Proficiency Awards scheme. It starts at level 8 and works up to level 1. She’s currently working on her level 3 badge – and had her first advanced class last week.

She looked like a toddler compared to the others. Her little training group compromised of a girl who looked about thirteen, and three kids who looked to be about 9-11. At just turned six and very petite, she was absolutely tiny compared to the others! But how she’s grown – rather than her confidence being knocked by being in a class with kids who looked like fricking circus performers, she absolutely loved it and lit up.


Since the kids were toddlers, the one activity I’ve always wanted to do with them was Forest School. We never managed to attend one, and then last week I found out that one geared towards HE kids runs, basically, on our front step. I’m keen for us all to meet new people and forge new friendships; we love the people we know, but it’s also nice to spread our wings a bit. So off we trundled to the woods.  (Though M was rather worried about going to a place with the word ‘school’ in the name, as he said it would be boring! When I explained it meant playing in the woods with new people, he was so so so so so so so excited.)

It was amazing. I can’t think of a better way to spend a chilly, sunshiney afternoon than sat around a fire eating s’mores and laughing with friendly, relaxed people. The kids were amazed at trying flint and steel to spark flame, ran off to explore, found tyre swings, made new friends, screamed like banshees brandishing sticks and running, helped make a fire, drilled holes into logs. We all left happier than we’d been going in, and how many things can you honestly say that about?

We then went to the gym class the kids take with their friend M2 (yes, my codenames probably need some work). M2 and S are now on the waiting list to move to the advanced class, and M is completely pleased and excited to have a gym class on his own. A gym dad I’m friendly with said that M is becoming his own man, and he may be right. After warmups, all forty kids line up on the side while the head coach divides them into smaller groups for the other coaches. Recently when S and M2 were selected, and the coach asked M if he wanted to be in their group. M mouthed, ‘NO!’ very emphatially and and made the international symbol for ‘No WAY, you must be crazy’ (or ‘help me, i’m on a boat and it appears to be sinking!’) at the same time. He’s definitely moving towards more independence from twinship and is so outgoing and friendly. During last term’s class when the coaches get to talk to parents. three individual coaches all made a point of coming up to tell me how much they liked M – they said he makes them laugh every time he sees them. He is a funny little charmer.

After class, I took the three kids outside to be greeted by my friend R who had an actual baby squirrel in a box. I know. She rushed off to drive the squirrel to a sanctuary – I know – and we went to the park to play. Queue Suzy sending me a text asking me to feed the kids before piano lessons, queue me panicking because I’d completely forgotten they had piano lessons.

M has recently started piano, S started before the summer. Their teacher remarks to Suzy constantly about how different they are. S sits quietly, pays attention, and progresses neatly and without fuss. M wants to chat and chat, is up and dancing with the teacher while they clap to learn the rhythms, etc. Makes me laugh.


After a quick trip to the post office to collect the Lego set M has bought with his pocket money, we were off to a local huge skatepark and playpark to meet with a few other home ed families. It was so frreaking hot it was unreal. The kids brought along a sword, a scooter, and two buggies loaded to the hilt with babies and related accessories. Their friends all brought a similar amount of stuff. We set up camp on the edge of the skatepark while they all ran off to do whatever it is small children do when left to roam freely in semi-dangerous places, and we met another random home edder we’ve never seen before.

We then moved to the playground/park while the adults watched from a distance and tried not to move too much. *wink* It was actually really relaxed and fun – right till I realised we were going to get a parking ticket if we didn’t leave at that exact second. Came home, M built his Lego set, we put the catepillars a friend has given us outside for some sun, the kids did a lot of small world play, and then watched a show together. This was our first home time all week! Phew.

Then both migrated to the garden. S was out there all afternoon into the early evening. AND THEN SHE HAD AN ACCIDENT.


Thanks to the laundry prop falling onto her face, we had an amergency dentist appointment. Her teeth were knocked badly, and one fell out during breakfast. A section of her top teeth looked all wonky and crazy, and indeed – the dentist has said one has been knocked into such a bad position that it is likely to affect her permanent teeth. She took about seventeen gazillion pics of S’s teeth on her phone. We go back in twelve days (to give the teeth some natural recovery time, if possible) for an x ray and possible tooth removal. The idea distressed S so much that the dentist has suggested we may want a referral to have it done under general anethestic in hospital. FUN FUN.

Afterwards we came home for some rest and recouperation. This is the first year we will be booking up free places during that schools/home ed film festival in November, and we decided to watch Night At The Museum to see if this was a film franchise we’d want to book in for. It was a nice, slow, non-scary way to end an incredibly busy week!

We had Tang Soo Do in the evening, then went with one of their TSD friends to a park round the corner from the Dojang. Dynamics can sometimes be squirrelly with twins and one friend they both like, but after a tearful start it all ended well.

And thus ends the first five days of their third Not Back to School Week! The weekend was even busier, so we’re looking forward to a less intense week.