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    Level 3: Day 6

    It’s a put-your-feet-up day

    Today we have the most delicious sleep-in. Master D somehow makes it until 7:30am (late for him), so we blearily tell him he can watch the telly, and manage to sleep for another hour. Bliss.

    Today is the first Sunday off that Rev G has had since beginning his new job in January (ministers are entitled to a Sunday off each term, plus normal leave entitlement). We debate joining another church’s online service but we’re tired. A day off is definitely what we all need.

    The kids and I are still on the tail-end of a bug that’s left us wiped out, so we potter around all day, not doing much. The kids don’t eat until lunchtime, and demand to know why I am serving them lunch when they haven’t had breakfast. I am still in my PJ’s at 1pm. There is nothing that needs to be done urgently today.

    Our house resembles a bomb site; the detritus of children is everywhere. Rev G pits his wits against theirs, trying to get them to tidy up. Predictably, they act as if you’ve just asked them to climb Mt Everest using just a teaspoon for equipment. They are tired. We are tired. There are no winners today, except at least the lounge looks a little better.

    Rev G finds out his COVID-19 test is negative. Just as we thought. We have no idea where Rev G picked up the bug from (he is the only one who goes out for groceries), but regular cold viruses don’t stop for COVID pandemics, I guess.

    The weather is absolutely chucking it down; our street resembling a waterfall. I discover a leak in our roof by sitting right underneath it and getting a huge fright when the equivalent of a small cup of water suddenly gushes onto my top!

    I know our landlords had the roof re-done because it had multiple leaks when they lived here, but this particular leak is in an eave/window box and would have been missed. Fortunately the heavy rain passes so the leak stops.

    We spend the evening binge-watching The Stranger on Netflix, woah, what a good show!

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    Days 3-5

    On Thursday I came down with a bug that Rev G had likely brought home from a trip to the supermarket several days earlier.

    Rev G seldom gets sick, and when he does, he goes into this exasperating ‘deer-in-headlights/not really with the programme’ mode. He doesn’t seem sick as he’s not feverish or coughing or anything of the sort. He just sits there complaining about being tired and being unable to think. I always get irritated by this behaviour.

    What always happens next, is that I come down with it and get it badly. We then realise that Rev G wasn’t just being vacuous mess, he was actually sick.

    After this happening for what feels like the hundredth time in our marriage, we have come to an accord. The minute he starts acting like a brainless ditz, I am sending him off to bed!

    Anyway, this time I came down with a bug that left me a bit sniffly, a bit chesty and extremely tired. We don’t think it’s the ‘rona, but Rev G gets himself tested anyway. The Healthline staff don’t think it’s COVID-19, neither do the medical centre staff, and nor do the testing staff. But they are testing anyone with even one of the symptoms of COVID-19. It is better to be safe than sorry. We should hear the results on Monday.

    Given that we have not had close contact with anyone outside our bubble for six weeks, know no one who is a confirmed case, plus there are zero cases of community transmission currently in Wellington, the chances are this is just a typical winter bug.

    By Saturday I had recovered enough to have a job interview via Zoom, for a part-time role at one of our local churches. I’m quite excited about the role – a lot of it involves writing and using social media, so it is right up my alley. I will hear soon if I’ve been successful or not.

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    L 3, day 2: Cocoon time

    Our day starts out well. I have my early morning prayer meeting, and Master D is up and about and quite chipper.

    That chipper-ness deteriorates after his class Zoom call. Master D gets upset over small things. He cries for 20 minutes because his sister picked a flower from the garden that he wanted. Like full-on wailing, so many tears.

    I realise it is the Zoom calls that are triggering this behaviour, and is why it was so hard to get schoolwork done last week. Master D is really sensitive, and the Zoom calls do not work for him. Perhaps he feels sad or angry or disappointed that he can’t play with his classmates in person, or perhaps he’s not sure about the work expected from him as he can’t concentrate on the teacher during the loud and busy meetings. Either way, it’s not working.

    I know he’s not the only young one finding this method of working to be impossible. A friend says her child gets wound up and angry after each call so they aren’t worth it. Another friend says her child cries and is hard to settle after seeing his friends online.

    I talk to Miss E. She is not bothered if we don’t do the video calls anymore, so I email their teachers to let them know the situation. We will still try to get the work done, but we can do without the constant tantrums and tears that the video calls bring on.

    We go into ‘cocoon mode’ in the afternoon; the kids make me watch “Thunderbirds Are Go!”, which I don’t mind because it’s a great show, but I draw the line at Pokemon. Master D just wants to snuggle with us. They are buoyed by a delivery of new markers, colouring pencils and thermal tops that took a surprisingly short time to be delivered. The school supplies have arrived in the nick of time as our last lot of markers have been ravaged by the children. Amazing how these little things make a difference.

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    Day of Level Three (Take Two)

    As soon as I open my eyes I remember that we’ve moved into Level Three today. It puts a spring in my step.

    There is a flurry of activity across the road from us. Our neighbours house was in the middle of being painted when lockdown came and tools had to be put down. The painters are back with gusto, and the weather is perfect for them. It is a lovely reminder of all the businesses that can now reopen.

    Our local park has been overrun throughout lockdown; so overrun that it is quite stressful trying to maintain physical distancing. We have preferred to use side streets for our walks, but I do miss wide open spaces. We are now allow to travel to parks and beaches in our region as long as we are careful to maintain distancing, so we decide to head to one of my favourite spots in Wellington, the Botanic Gardens. It is a short car ride away, but too far to walk to with children, and I can’t tell you how much I have missed this place.

    There is definitely more traffic on the roads, but the gardens are not unduly busy. Most of the other walkers are elderly, who give Rev G and I grins as they watch our children playing.

    The gardens have many tracks snaking through them, and we take the tracks leading off the main one. They are quiet, we meet almost no one. The children have the ‘dell’ entirely to themselves and play there for quite some time, swinging on vines, performing shows on the stage, and generally just running around a big, wide, open grassy space. It is just what they have needed.

    Miss E wants to see the rose garden, and she is intrigued to discover each rose has a different name, and many have different smells and shapes. Both children visit each rose in turn, giving it a sniff, and reading out the names. We decide ‘summer dream’ is our favourite name. This is learning at its best.

    The day is warm and sunny, and I feel so much better for being able to get out here. We will definitely be back over level three.

    We decide to celebrate level three with a takeaway meal – I can’t tell you how glad I am for a break from cooking. Rev G is a good cook, but he takes an age to get any dinner on the table and invariably injures himself while cooking – cutting himself with a knife, scalding himself with boiling water, dropping a pan on his foot…it is usually less stressful to just cook myself.

    We want to support the small businesses in our suburb, so we get dinner from our local pub and are pleased to see it comes in recyclable and compostable packaging. Takeaway is not something we have often, but this certainly feels like even more of a treat than usual.

    I tune into the news – mostly to make sure we are following the ‘rules’ correctly. There are beautiful stories of families being reunited. One of the women in my prayer group is grateful that her inlaws are taking her young children for a few days as they have extended their bubble to include them. She and her husband have been incredibly stressed, trying to juggle working from home with looking after a 5 year old and a 9 year old. My friend is actually working on something very important for kickstarting our economy at her government job, so I am also grateful she is getting this break!

    Level three. The end of this mess is in sight.

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    Day 33: The last day of Level 4

    I sleep reasonably well, and am cheered by the thought that we will move to Level Three tomorrow, hooray!

    Thousands of coffee drinkers and takeaway lovers will be celebrating tomorrow. I don’t drink coffee, and being gluten free my takeaway options are limited, but we decide we’ll support our local pub by getting a meal. I figure the big chains will survive, but small, independent businesses need our help.

    Today however, the weather is atrocious and this seems fitting somehow. We muddle through the day, Rev G enjoying a day off. We do lots of baking; I do Tai Chi and the kids work out to Go Noodle. In the midst of this pottering, Rev G points out a small job going at a local church. I decide to apply. It is the right amount of hours, and the type of work I find interesting.

    My family Zoom catch up won’t work for some reason. But I know my parents are okay, and they are looking forward to expanding their bubble to include my brother from tomorrow. I hope it is only a matter of weeks before I can see them in person.

    I can’t believe we have made it through 33 days of lockdown. I vividly remember my heart sinking when the time frame for lockdown was announced – how could I possibly cope for that long? I’d already been housebound for two weeks and had found that hard.

    But we have coped. Some days have not been easy – pretty much all of last week was awful – however, we’ve had some great days too. As a family we haven’t imploded, and I’ve had more contact with my extended family than ever before. Rev G and I have helped our children to manage their emotions about COVID-19/lockdown, and their anxiety has significantly decreased.

    What will I take away from this experience?

    Nothing matters more than my family and friends.

    My simple life is pretty much how I want it. I know lots of people have appreciated the chance to slow down and shed all the busyness of life, but I can say there’s nothing I was doing before lockdown that I don’t want to pick up again once this is all over. I’m grateful for that.

    I’m looking forward to volunteering again at my church’s playgroup, and eventually picking up some part time work. I like having time to run errands, and being there for my kids after school. I like having time for writing small group studies and hope my brain is back to normal soon to get cracking on my novel.

    But I hope I never again take for granted being able to get out and explore where I live. Or being able to see my friends, to give out hugs, to sit in a cafe and visit my library. I hope I never again take for granted the good health of my family, being able to travel where ever I wish, to feel the sand beneath my feet as I walk on the beach, my beloved ‘culture vulture’ activities (the museums, theatres and galleries are calling me).

    I hope I never again take for granted all the people who really are essential: the supermarket workers, rubbish collectors, the Police, hospital and rest home staff. You’re bloody brilliant. I know you’ve just been doing your jobs, and you’ve probably been just as scared as the rest of us, but thank you. There are no words really, thank you is inadequate.

    We could not have done this without you.

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    Day 32

    Despite yesterday’s walk up a steep hill, my knee is none the worse for wear. In fact, I am able to walk on it today with very little pain, hooray! I won’t dance for joy in case that jinxes it, but I certainly am relieved to see improvement.

    Online church is well attended. We’ve been getting different families to videos themselves doing the actions to some of the children’s songs, with adorable results. It brings a smile to all.

    I have a quick chat with my cousin who is a social worker at a hospital. She says her work was initially crazy, dropping off groceries and other things to her vulnerable clients (she works with the elderly). Work is less busy now as they are getting few referrals from GPs. No one wants to go to the doctor right now.

    She is part of the COVID-19 response team at the hospital, donning PPE ech day. She is in good spirits – they have not been overrun thanks to our swift lockdown.

    I wonder how this pandemic will change us. Will we see any lasting benefits or will we quickly return to ‘normal’? Will our generation be like my grandmother’s, who went through the Great Depression? When she died, we found used wrapping paper, countless rubber bands and string, a huge stash of plastic bags. All remnants of a generation who never let anything go to waste.

    In the future will we have stashes of pantry staples, hand sanitiser and face masks in case of another pandemic? I expect for many of us the answer will be yes.

    Miss E wonders when she can go back to school. She is desperate for some time away from her brother, so Rev G and I plan to take each child out for some one-on-one time once we move to level three as our recreation options will open up a bit more.

    Tonight is Master D’s turn to run family night. We watch both Frozen movies. Fortunately for me, watching movies never gets old. But I worry about Master D, he is rather listless. Lockdown has been hard for him, and he is not himself. The lack of stimulation from other kids is affecting him, and I hope we can get back to school in a couple of weeks.

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    Day 31

    An early start for the day, getting up for the ANZAC dawn service. I have seldom missed it over the course of my life, even attending them when I lived in London.

    A ‘Stand at your Letterbox at Dawn’ campaign was launched by the Returned Services Association, and many of our neigbours have decorated their front yards and fences with poppies.

    At 6am the service begins. There are 6 people out on our street, not a great number as our street is quite long, but I see lights on in other houses and I suspect many people are listening on their radios inside.

    The day is cool and windy, but fine. We head to a nearby reserve that I’ve read about but never visited before. Online I am told it has a family friendly circular track. It is a stunning walk.

    The path leads up through bush, going up hill for about 30 minutes, and you are rewarded by expansive views of Wellington and the harbour.

    We spend over an hour in the bush; it is just what I needed. The walk is too steep for my knee right now, but I pushed myself and am still very glad we went. I will wait a bit longer before attempting it again, I did spend several sections of the walk having to hobble around like I was 80.

    Miss E and Master D are in their element, flitting about the bush like sprites. They find cicada casings, they claim a hollowed out section of bank as their ‘palace’, they climb trees and make up games.

    I catch up with family online and they seem in good spirits today. Most of my parents’ street turned up for the Dawn Service after my mother made everyone a poppy invitation.

    By the end of the day, the wheels fall off. I have just noticed that Master D has scratched something in the house quite badly – which is bad because we are renting, and bad because, well, we don’t use scissors to deface property ever.

    He goes to bed in disgrace. Miss E gets upset because I am cross that she watched her brother do it and said nothing. She too goes off to bed.

    Rev G’s sermon has vanished and he cannot find it on his computer anywhere, so he spends much of the day rewriting it. It is not for nought, he thinks the new version is better anyway.

    I spend my time doing exciting things like online grocery shopping and cleaning and perusing Pinterest for craft ideas using the limited resources we have. I got rid of loads of craft stuff before we moved – now I wish I had things like scrap pieces of fabric and embroidery floss. I rarely get remorse about things I’ve cleaned out, but this year, boy, so many things would have made a difference to my lockdown experience if I’d hung onto them!

    Hindsight huh.

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    Day 30

    Are you feeling this way too? Perhaps sans hat and vintage case.
    Image via Pexels

    It is hard to get going this morning.

    Despite attending their morning school zoom call, and knowing their work assignments for the day, the kids don’t do any schoolwork. Today is maths day, and they are supposed to be solidifying their work on the water cycle by completing tasks on their daily walk.

    Only a few feet down the road the children dissolve into squabbling, so they are turned around and taken back home. Master D continues to be beyond tired, with red eyes and dark circles under them. Instead of schoolwork, the children play for most of it, and they make crafts. Seriously, we will need another room for all of the damn crafts. We end the day watch curled up on the couch watching Trolls: World Tour (honestly, what a load of cr@p that is, don’t bother).

    Rev G and I talk about how tired we are, and how everyone with kids is saying their kids are going nuts this week. Week Four has definitely been the hardest. We wonder why people aren’t talking about it. Are people afraid of being seen as weak? Afraid of being seen as disloyal?

    Rev G posts on Facebook about the exhaustion he is feeling, and the post blows up with others chiming in to say they are feeling the same way. A friend even calls up, concerned for Rev G! A mutual friend, emboldened by Rev G’s post, does something similar on her own page, and a very quickly someone responds with how grateful he is to see anyone acknowledge that lockdown is hard.

    I’d encourage you readers, to do the same. It’s okay to talk about it.

    Feeling exhausted during the time of pandemic is totally normal.

    There are many reasons for the exhaustion we are all feeling, even if not much has changed for you (you haven’t lost your job, or gotten sick or lost a loved one):

    *routines aren’t quite the same and this can really throw people

    *we’ve had to adapt to extraordinary circumstances

    *many people have faced job or food insecurity for the first time in their lives

    *we are dealing with a dangerous situation that changes on a daily basis

    *we are bombarded daily with negative messages

    *many of us aren’t getting outside like we would for daily commutes to work which means less sunlight

    *we’re not getting the mental stimulation from the people we interact with at work or when out and about…the list goes on.

    My main problem at the moment is overwhelm from dealing with ratty children all day, every day, while feeling bored out of my skull because many the things I love to do aren’t available right now. I’m choosing to deal with it through prayer, listening to my favourite Christian radio station (I love Radio Rhema, nothing but encouragement on there throughout this pandemic!), reading light entertainment, exercising daily, trying a new recipe or doing a crossword, spending as much time outside as possible, and watching murder mysteries (can you tell my mind likes puzzles?).

    I hope to have some brain power to do some crafts as the weeks go on, but right now I just don’t. I think this is because crafts aren’t my usual way of relaxing and winding down. I’ve noticed my knitting friends are knitting up a storm as their way of coping because it’s what they do to pass the time anyway. So don’t feel bad if you haven’t taken up knitting, or Spanish, or macrame or boat building. It’s okay to focus only on getting sleep, good food and sunlight.

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    Day 29

    I am incredibly tired today.

    Rev D decides to shift his day off to today, so he can be ‘on’ the kids. This is very kind, but there is nowhere I can go to get away from the noise. If you’ve met my kids you know they only operate at one volume: LOUD!

    The studio, which is supposed to be ‘my’ space is covered in Rev D’s online church clutter. He needs to work from there right now, but I need a space to be neat and tidy before I can relax – that’s just how I am wired – so going to the studio isn’t an option. The weather is rubbish so I can’t get out for a walk.

    image via pexels

    All this makes me feel extraordinarily grumpy. I retreat to my bedroom, and do tai chi with the volume turned right up so I cannot hear anyone downstairs. I read old YA book of mine; I am only now – after four weeks of lockdown – able to read again.

    I realise my problem is lack of stimulation and overstimulation at the same time. Let me explain.

    I am an extrovert, and I love people. I tend to socialise widely, and need several points of contact (like volunteering, helping at church, a dinner party with friends) throughout the week; especially as I’m not currently working. Zoom is just not the same, not enough. My hobbies are mostly ‘out and about’ hobbies. Although I make crafts from time to time, I greatly prefer things like hiking, visiting museums and galleries, and volunteering with others. So the lack of stimulation is starting to tell.

    At the same time, I am a highly sensitive person, so being around my lovely, rambunctious, messy, noisy children without breaks is taking its toll. Caring for them is taking up all my mental energy. I can well remember how much better I felt once I started to get breaks once they had started kindy. I am a much better parent when I get breaks. Who isn’t?

    There is little I can do about this. I am looking forward to Level Three, as we are allowed to travel a bit further for exercise. We have a beach 15 minutes drive away, and I know a visit there will do wonders for me. A few more parks and trails will be open to us too, and we will check them out also.

    There are some great trails in the suburb where I live, but they are very hilly, and my poor knee just can’t do steep hills right now. Going just a little bit into a neighbouring suburb suddenly opens up new opportunities for me to get out of the house.

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    Day 28

    I have a good night’s rest, but decide to skip my prayer group and catch my more zzz’s.

    The kids are up and dressed by the time I emerge at 7:30am, and both are in good spirits. But Miss E quietly says to me: “Can we have a day off school?”

    This is not like her, I can count on one hand how many times she has not wanted to go to school or kindy. I had been thinking of giving them the day off as her brother clearly needs it, so I say yes.

    We make houses from recycled cardboard tubes, Master D crafts himself a ‘pizza canon’ out of more tubes.

    We colour in ANZAC poppies to stick in the windows for passing children to see. I colour in a more elaborate ANZAC scene; it is therapeutic. ANZAC day is on Saturday, and we want to mark the occasion.

    An American friend reminds me of Pokemon Go, the app that was a craze a few years back. Like most kids I hear, mine are getting sick of daily walks, even though they very much need them. Genius, I think, and I download the app straight away. My children are super into Pokemon right now (don’t judge, I bet you watch plenty of rubbish shows as a kid, I know I did!), and they have a blast catching Pokemon around our garden, and when they are out for a walk.

    In what must be divine timing, a parcel of craft supplies that I ordered before lockdown – when it was clear I couldn’t send Miss E to school with her cough – arrives with air dry clay, cardstock, glitter paint and more. I also had two dresses (I live in dresses) ordered weeks ago arrive, and it is like Christmas!

    In the afternoon, we descend into Lord of the Flies very quickly. The children are utterly sick of each other, and fight over the littlest things. They both throw HUGE tantrums over who’s turn it is to set the table. It is Master D’s turn, but Miss E doesn’t want what he’s chosen, for some reason she wants to use a cutlery set she hasn’t used in forever…

    Cue massive scene of the children screaming and shouting and crying and being sent to their rooms. Over cutlery.

    This is the sort of stuff parents all over the world are dealing with 24/7. It grinds you down. Everyone I know with children under 12 is TIRED. So damn tired. It’s not that you don’t love your children, it’s just the fighting and squabbling assaults your ears, and then you spend ages playing referee. You have to help them manage their emotions, while you yourself are dealing with biggest event to happen in your lifetime. Ugh.

    But it’s not like this everyday for us, thank God. Week Two and Three were actually pretty good. I’m not sure why Week Four has seen a step back to their Week One behaviour – I think the children are simply sick of each other, and sick of lockdown.