Andrew was gone this weekend, from 6am on Saturday until midnight tonight. He took the car to the airport, so the girls and I were homebound. It was also freezing and raining, so we probably wouldn't have gone anywhere anyway. Still, staying home alone for two full days, with no human contact (aside from the sort-of human kiddos) or scheduled outside activities, is not easy. Yesterday seemed to last a million hours. The girls had little interest in any structured activity, though we did do some Sculpey (tiny pies, tiny fruits) in the morning. Otherwise, we just hung out in the basement. We made a long banquet table out of Keva planks and arranged all our tiny foods on it, for the enjoyment of Playmobil pandas and other animals. We built stuff from Magna Tiles. I was frequently ordered to "be Princess Celestia" (a My Little Pony) and talk in my "pony voice." The day. Dragged. On. For. A. Million. Hours. After a full day in the basement I felt as torpid and foggy as if I'd been poisoned by carbon monoxide. Maybe I was. We do, after all, spend most of our time within three inches of the boiler.
Today was better, lasting maybe fifty hours instead of a million. First thing this morning I broke out an as-yet unopened Santa present, a "science" kit from the Dollar Tree that involved a packet of tiny round specks that would supposedly grow into "water marbles" or, as the girls eventually called them, "gel balls." We filled a few containers with water on the kitchen table (in the basement, of course) and poured in the pebbles, and waited. It didn't take long for them to start morphing into bumpy things weirdly encased in clear slime. The girls loved them. They played with these "gel balls" as they continued to weirdly grow, eventually becoming pleasing, smooth, round, squishy balls that floated and bounced and squipped through their fingers. We had out tea sets and glasses and tupperware containers. We put the balls in an empty bin; we put them in a water-filled bin. Their entertainment value did not diminish the rest of the day. We had a break for a snack around 10:30, and a break for lunch and naptime, but otherwise the girls played with the gel balls. (When Lucia went up for quiet time, after being told she couldn't bring the gel balls with her, she told me she would just lie on her bed and think about them.) I finally had to force them to clean everything up so we could have dinner.
And yes, water was everywhere, and gel balls will be in our basement corners forevermore, but you can't ask for more from a $1 item, especially because the gel balls seem like they'll last awhile. This weird activity saved me today. (And I was reminded of an important parenting tenet: when in need of diversion, fill a shallow storage bin with water, provide cups and bowls and spoons, and just step aside.)