• Uncategorized

    Level Two Love


    This will be my last post for the COVID-19 diary I’ve been keeping over lockdown, and I’m looking forward to resuming my usual blogging ways.

    New Zealand rejoiced as we moved to Level Two on Thursday. We are that much closer to ‘normality’.

    We surprise our parents with a quick visit to Whanganui, arriving unannounced in the evening.

    There are many, many hugs. The grandparents have been totally desperate to hug Miss E and Master D; lockdown has been hard for them. My MiL has found it particularly hard as she is on her own. Physical touch is her love language and the lack of hugs got her down as the weeks went on. Fortunately she was able to break her bubble in Level Three and hang out with her bestie, but friend-hugs aren’t quite the same as the enthusiastic, leaping-into-arms hugs she got from Miss E and Master D. You are much less likely to crack a rib from a friend-hug.

    Full body-slam-grandkid hugs are back!
    Oma gets put to work on the swing

    We stay with friends who have lots of space for us. They have children of a similar age to ours, and they are thrilled to have friends to play with again. Because their location is not somewhere they can walk safely around the neighbourhood, their children haven’t left their property the entire time over lockdown – although they are on a lifestyle block with tons of room to play.

    Because our friends + family would be more than 10, we are unable to celebrate all together. We have to spend the day staggering our time so that everyone gets an equal share of our time. Master D demands to know why we can’t stay for ‘twelve nights’. He is enjoying being back with his friend Z.

    But we have online church to get back to, school to get ready for, a new job to prepare for, and we must head back to Wellington.

    The trip does us all good. The change of scene is needed, the hugs are wonderful, the conversations are welcome. We come back with our tanks filled.

    The children are nervous about starting school. Parents are discouraged from coming on the the school grounds, and those who do must download a tracing app. The children have to line up on marked crosses and sanitise their hands before entering the classroom. They are told not to ‘freak out’ if they accidentally touch someone, but to go and wash their hands.

    My children come home talking about avoiding ‘moist breaths’ over their classmates. I can’t get out of them how their day was or what they talked about in class. But I do know the school was prioritising play and re-establishing connections, and I imagine COVID stories will feature for quite some time. Master D, in the meantime, comes home with serious bags under his eyes, and is already asking when he can have a day off!

    I have found my new job to be very energising – and definitely got the job thanks to my writing and blogging skills. The hours are flexible, and easily worked around the needs of my family, so I am very grateful to have it!

    Most people have no idea how difficult it is to find part-time work that is actually family-friendly. I’m serious, go check your local job search website. The majority of part-time jobs expect workers to be available to come in 24/7 (often on a casual basis), and almost always include weekend work.

    It may sound strange to you, but I’ve been saddened to read over and over again reports of workers being able to ‘reconnect’ with their children over lockdown, or for the opportunity to ‘slow down’ from the busyness of normal life. I am not bagging working parents at all(!), but surely the pandemic has highlighted how much the way in which we work and do business has to change? To stop treating workers like they don’t have family, or other commitments in their lives? Getting any work/life balance is impossible for most people – one of those things always loses out. When it takes a pandemic for workers to be able to spend quality time with their families then something is terribly wrong.

    While Level Two has reunited me with my loved ones, I am nervous of what is to come over the next few months. The recession, the job losses, the hardships. Life is not going to be ‘the same’. Nor should it be, but it is my prayer that good things will eventually emerge from this worldwide mess.

  • Uncategorized

    Day 16: The last day of Level Three

    I catch up with several people online. We are all looking forward to moving into Level Two tomorrow, even the more introverted ones.

    We are planning a quick surprise trip tomorrow to my home town to reunite our children with their grandparents. They have missed each other greatly. Zoom hasn’t worked for my kids, they only last a minute or two on a call with family, but they have been asking and asking when they can go to Whanganui, and when is it okay to hug Grandpa again?

    The government reports zero COVID-19 cases again. This doesn’t stop a lot of fearful posts about social distancing etc on Facebook. Understandably many people will be anxious about venturing out again.

    After almost 9 weeks in isolation I am more than ready to get out there. Whilst my time in lockdown hasn’t all been bad, it hasn’t been a cake walk either. I am looking forward to moving about freely, seeing my friends again, hugging my family. If there is one I have learned through all of this, it is that am not designed for the life of a hermit.

    I am however, very grateful that New Zealand is on its way to stamping out the virus. This has come at a huge sacrifice to the livelihoods of many, and we will have to deal with effects of this for a long time to come.

    The need to shop locally has been highlighted like never before for me, and I plan to make future purchases with even more care and deliberation. If the skies in Delhi and LA can clear and the canals of Venice return to blue, we have been shown how the collective actions of individuals can impact the environment for better. My family plans to double our efforts to reduce our waste and carbon footprint.

    Mostly, I think I need time to process this whole event. It’s not until I get distance that I can see the lessons learned during a situation, and this has been an event of Biblical proportions.

  • Uncategorized

    Back to school feelings

    The children’s school has been great at helping them process life in a COVID pandemic, without dwelling on it or scaring them. For their schoolwork today they are asked to draw a picture and write about how they are feeling about returning to school next week.

    Master D gets to work and draws a picture of himself and a friend driving a robot each. I’m not sure if he was trying to make a statement about the increased use of technology in the classroom or the perhaps the perils of artificial intelligence (as one of the people in the robots doesn’t look too happy)? I’m sure one of those options is correct. Deep, Master D, deep.

    Miss E draws a thumbs in the middle (neither up nor down, my little Roman historian). She writes that she doesn’t feel that good about going back to school.

    Worried about her anxiety, I ask some probing questions before she finally reveals her reticence about school…she won’t be allowed to trade Pokemon cards anymore.

    Yeah, I think my kids are gonna be fine.

    We potter about. I make two batches of cheese scones – it is a pain to be gluten free. We are cheese scone addicts I confess, although I must make a batch of plain ones after discovering you can actually buy clotted cream in NZ now. My mother has been waiting to try it for her entire life after reading about it in books.

    Our mail brings a nice surprise for me, a supermarket voucher as a thank you for participating in a university study. I ALWAYS participate in uni studies whenever I meet the criteria as having run several studies at uni myself I know how low the take up rates are. I am also part of a pay-for-taking-surveys site, which is an easy way to make some free money. You won’t get rich, but I have made over $100 this year already just by taking a few minutes each day to take part, and I think that’s not to be sniffed at.

    I spend the afternoon refreshing my social media skills, and taking a few free courses as research for my new job that starts next week. There are some cool new tools I have discovered which will serve me well.

  • Uncategorized

    Welcome to Level Two!

    Will restrictions ease soon?

    We have a good morning of school work. Avoiding the daily Zoom call is working, and Master D has a much better attitude towards school. Today is Te Reo, specifically looking at colours and numbers. Rev G whips out the guitar for several rousing renditions of ‘Ma is White’, and we sing Anika Moa’s ‘Tahi, Rua, Toru, Wha’ at the top of our lungs.

    After a couple of rough days last week, it feels like we have got our groove back.

    We study the seasons and the months of the year – again, I have another song (about the months of the year) in my repertoire. Master D is over all the writing, so I set him the task of writing August, his birth month, which he does with great gusto, and reminding me of the things he would like to get for his birthday.

    I am excited for the government’s announcement at 4pm, hoping they will announce we can move into Level Two. I am so keen, I make dinner early so I don’t have to miss any of the news!

    Rev G and I sit holding hands. Seldom have we felt like we were watching historic moments, but these last few weeks have certainly felt that way.

    I worry that this time will be romanticised in the future, a bit like the Blitz. An elderly friend who was a teenager during the Blitz said it was terrifying and scarred her for life. There was no help, no support, she said there was no choice but to ‘keep calm and carry on’, but it came at a cost to mental health.

    I wonder if we will be fed a narrative of ‘that wonderful time when we were made to stay home and watch TV and play with our children’. Some people have had a marvellous time, but I hope the huge inequalities the pandemic has highlighted are not forgotten.

    A friend works at a Decile 1 school, and said the school has many families who haven’t engaged with the school AT ALL since Term 2 began, and many families who were given devices don’t know how to use them. The digital divide is real. Many seniors have also been left out, unable to navigate online shopping or video calls.

    Another friend is a single mum of three children under seven. This has been the hardest, most exhausting time of her life. All of her support systems and people were gone for a whole month.

    The only people I know who’ve had a great time are young and child-free. I don’t begrudge them, but I hope stories of the lonely, the people who have lost jobs and businesses, and the grieving are not drowned out by those who were living their ‘best life’ under lockdown.

    Jacinda takes the podium and announces that we will indeed move to Level Two on Thursday.

    Thank God.

    School will go back on May 18th (just in time for my new job!), we can travel regionally again, cafes and restaurants and malls can open up again.

    We are a bit shocked to hear that churches are not allowed to open yet. In fact, social gatherings of any kind are limited to 10. Bars are also lumped into this category. I can understand why. Churches, bars, funerals, weddings, concerts etc have been major vectors of COVID-19 transmission.

    Church is a place where people from all walks of life gather to worship, and to have fellowship. There are always vulnerable people in our midst. We sit together, sing together, hug, mingle over morning tea, lay hands on each other in prayer, take communion together. It may be a few more weeks before we can gather normally again.

    I look forward to school returning, both so I can get a break(!), but so the children can reconnect with their classmates and friends once more. Lockdown has been tough on my two extroverts.

    I’m looking forward to seeing my family, to hanging out with friends. Going to the museum; walking where ever I choose.

    And no one hoarding toilet paper.

  • Uncategorized

    Level 3, Day 13: Mother’s Day

    My monkeys

    I am woken by my very excited children; ready to give me breakfast in bed and some presents for Mother’s Day. After breakfast my son climbs in bed for a snuggle.

    “Why don’t you get a book for us to read together?” I say.

    He comes back with ‘Where’s Kiwi Celebrating?’, which is basically a New Zealand version of Where’s Wally/Waldo, and we go cross-eyed trying to find all the characters. They are definitely not the books for you if you have an eyesight problem!

    Like many mums, I had bought my own gift. Not because Rev G is useless, but this year it was because I was ordering things for our homeschool anyway and we may as well save on postage. I bought myself a ‘new’ Sherlock Homes book (a homage, or pastiche book by a modern author), and am looking forward to getting stuck into it. It looks pretty decent.

    My Mother’s Day morning is so much like the ones I remember for my own mother. Beautiful, handmade cards. My son’s reads: Mum To Daniel From. Adorable, he’s only five, and getting the words in order isn’t exactly a priority when you are five. The children wrap some of their own things to give to me: I get some Transformers to play with, and a necklace and two pencils. I am given a small box of chocolates, which the children are almost drooling on as they pass it to me – so naturally they get the lion’s share when the box is opened.

    The rest of the day is lovely too. Church is well attended. I had pre-recorded a children’s talk where I do my best Suzy Cato impression. It goes over well. We are all hopeful that tomorrow we will hear the country is moving into Level Two on Thursday. Almost everyone in the congregation plans to return to worshipping together if that happens. They are eager to see each other again.

    I had ordered my own mother’s gift back in March before lockdown and it has not arrived. I get some supermarket treats delivered instead, and she is thrilled to discover it includes some neenish tarts – her favourites. I am relieved that everything in the order is actually included as Whanganui supermarkets seem to be particularly bad for having things in stock. I hear similar reports from other friends in different parts of Wellington too, but our local supermarkets have managed to have almost everything in stock.

    Rev G and the kids visit Rev G’s step-mum. Rev G’s father passed away almost a year ago now, and she is lonely rattling around in their big house on her own. Her loss has only been exacerbated by lockdown. I don’t go with the others, only because I had already arranged an online catch-up with a friend, but I am looking forward to seeing my MiL soon.

    I spend some quiet time sitting in the sun, reading my new book, thinking this is just what I wanted for Mother’s Day.

  • Uncategorized

    Level 3, Day 12: A visitor!

    We rush around in a frenzy, tidying up the detritus of two months in lockdown. We have an important visitor arriving soon, the first person to ‘break our bubble’!

    It’s…the handyman.

    Yes , we’re happy to see you too

    It is non-stop excitement around here, I tell ya. Our roof sprung a leak in the deluge last Sunday, and our kitchen sink is coming away from the bench. Our landlords have a great relationship with a local builder who did heaps of work on the house for them before we moved in, and he is more than happy to come around to take a look.

    “Can we touch him?” asks Master D.

    I don’t recall Master D ever being in the habit of embracing tradespeople in a hug before lockdown, but it’s a fair question.

    “No”, I say. “But if you keep your distance, you might be able to see him at work”.

    His little face lights up, doubtless thinking about all the awesome tools tradies have.

    Ah, lockdown life.

  • Uncategorized

    Level 3: Day 10 & 11

    Thursday is a much better day.

    The kids do a bit of school work, and some art, and somehow the morning is gone.

    I turn on the TV, eagerly waiting for Jacinda Ardern to update us as to what Level Two will look like.

    It is great news. When we move into Level Two is yet to be decided. But at Level Two means school will go back, most businesses can operate, and we are free to travel domestically again. Libraries, swimming pools, art galleries and museums can open again, and we can ‘break’ our bubbles to see our friends and family once more – although we all need to keep practising social distancing with strangers.

    Roll on Level Two!

    Whether we move into Level Two next Wednesday night, or remain at Level Three a bit longer, is for the boffins to decide. I am incredibly grateful we are almost at the point where we can ease off restrictions. I talk with a friend who lives in Oklahoma, USA where the virus has a hold but many people aren’t taking it seriously. She’s been in self-isolation for two months already, and the end is not in sight. She tells me that in her city some workers at McDonald’s were shot because a customer was angry that they couldn’t dine in! Can you imagine???

    On Friday I hear that I have got the job I applied for, yay! It’s only part-time, and whether it continues after a few months is up to securing a grant. But for now, I will be working for one of the churches in my suburb doing their communications. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the work. It is a small church, but they do some cool things.

    We have a dance party to celebrate, and we finally get out to the beach.

    I cannot tell you how much I have missed the beach. When Rev G and I were considering where we might move to when his internship finished, we had considered Hamilton – but the fact that it is landlocked was a big X for me. I don’t have to live right at the beach, but like many Kiwis, I take having access to a beach almost as a fundamental right. We are very lucky – I remember many of my schoolmates in Kansas had never seen the ocean in real life before.

    Anyway, we all love the trip out to the beach, even though our local one is a bit crappy. It’s black sand, but mostly stones, and it’s almost always windy there, given its close proximity to the Cook Strait.

    Miss E, I swear is part-mermaid, and she runs into the embrace of the waves like she would greet an old friend. The water is freezing, but she pays it no mind. Master D decides to exercise by digging a hole and by filling his pockets with the beach stones. I guess it’s a form of weight-lifting?

    Rev G and I realise that the last time we were at the this beach was 9 years prior, just before we got engaged. It feels like a lifetime ago; I mean that in a good way. The beach is not busy but the walking track nearby it is packed. I’d like to take a walk there myself, but I can’t see how any of the walkers can possibly keep the 2m distance we’re supposed to. I will definitely leave it for Level Two.

  • Uncategorized

    Level 3: Day 9

    Master D wakes us up multiple times in the night. We are so over it. I cannot wait until school goes back, as his body will be knackered from playing and running around all day. We do what we can to keep him occupied and active at home, but we can’t provide the level of interaction he gets from his classmates.

    Trying to get him to do schoolwork results in a huge argument, so we spend a big chunk of the day cleaning, and letting the kids just play. School is not worth the stress, and I’m pretty sure his reluctance is just tiredness from his lack of sleep. The days he sleeps well he has been chipper about schoolwork. He is angry and over being cooped up at home.

    Angry kid is angry
    image via Pexels

    Miss E does a reading app, and flits about singing a long complicated song about not everyone finding their true love, which borrows heavily from Frozen song lyrics.

    Rev G and I struggle for energy today, the interrupted sleep is doing a number on us.

    We go to bed early. I cannot wait for this all to be over.

  • Uncategorized

    Level 3: Day 8…And, I’m back!

    I have a dreadful night’s sleep. Master D sleeps through, so it’s not him keeping me awake for a change! It just takes me ages to get to sleep, so I give up and read a book, finally nodding off around 2am.

    Poor Rev G lets me snooze longer again, it is 8:45am by the time I wake up. But as I get up I realise that I feel much better today, hooray!

    I quickly shower and dress, and get the kids going on today’s school work while I make breakfast. The children do all of their schoolwork quickly, and spend most of the day playing.

    I catch up with my BFF online, who is having a bloody hard time at her teaching job. I feel for all the workers who’ve had to suddenly shift to working online and from home right now – that is a heavy mental load indeed.

    I do lots of jobs around the house while the kids do their work, and even make hot lunches for everyone. It is good to feel normal again! Jobs that felt impossible yesterday I do with ease today.

    Doesn’t grabbing a hedge just fill you with joy? …

    I realise my daily devotions have been lacking for the past few days, so I spend some quiet time with God. This is easier said than done with everyone at home, but I manage. And I listen to Radio Rhema at full volume while I potter around cleaning. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this station, it makes a huge difference to my day.

    It is pouring with rain again almost all day, and I hope the leak doesn’t appear again. Getting any tradespeople in at the moment is an exercise in patience.

    My day is made when a friend from my morning prayer group drops off (contactlessly) a box of feijoas, yum! What a treat.

  • Uncategorized

    Level 3: Day 7

    Master D wakes up multiple times in the night. He is scared. He is hot. He needs cuddles. It takes Rev G and I back to the newborn days, and not in an ‘Aw, how cute is it that he needs us?’ way.

    We’re exhausted.

    Rev G is kind and lets me sleep in, and as I try to get going in the morning, it is clear that I am still not over the bug we’ve all had. Rev G got it first, and it lasted for days. I’m so tired I can barely think – just how Rev G was last week!

    Unfortunately for him, my lack of energy means he has to be on the kids today. He has work to do, so you can imagine Rev G’s stress levels and tiredness from the interrupted sleep! After lunch I lie on my son’s bed as he keeps up a stream of consciousness monologue while he colours in an activity book. He just needs company.

    Master D’s room needs tidying quite badly, but neither of us has the energy to do it. I lie there, trying to summon up the willpower for a cleaning frenzy. It does not magically appear. Does anyone else feel like they’ll have to do a massive clean when all of this is over? I find it almost impossible to keep up with the daily tornado of detritus my children leave all over the house.

    Miss E does her schoolwork, some of which is just using reading and maths apps on the laptop. Although we normally don’t let out kids near apps, today I am grateful for these, as they are keeping her happy and occupied.

    She has had her ups and downs over lockdown, but has mostly taken it well. She is keen to do schoolwork, and is generally just a good, sweet kid. I know she is still scared about the virus, but that anxiety has lessened considerably, and she has adapted to our new normal without too much complaint.

    Master D is a different story. Although his behaviour has been better over the past few days, his anxiety is still quite evident. He is just over it. He’s angry and just wants to get back to playing at school.

    Master D finishes his colouring, so we snuggle on the couch and watch a movie. At the moment he HATES being alone. Even though I’m not 100%, I can at least give him some one-on-one time, and my presence.

    I eagerly watch the 4pm update from our Prime Minister. I thought she was giving us details of what Level Two will be like, but that is being left until Thursday. Still, she is in talks with Australia about a Trans-Tasman bubble – perhaps our planned trip to the Gold Coast in July may still happen? I live in hope…

    I am still confident we will move to Level Two some time next week. Now the end is in sight I have noticed I’m more able to do more high-level thinking, even despite my tiredness today. My word puzzles are easier to do, I’m back to watching my favourite murder-mystery shows, I’m back to reading books. I feel peaceful.