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    Day 27

    I have a dreadful night’s sleep. No particular reason. I drag myself to my prayer meeting. I hope I am not asked to pray out loud because I can barely string a sentence together. It takes me a very long time to wake up properly.

    School is tricky today as Master D just refuses to do it. He’s over it. He is a sensation-seeker, and Zoom calls just don’t cut it. He gets into his art assignment which is based on an Eric Carle book, and he does some printing, but that’s it. He has lots of tantrums throughout the day. He is tired, and I don’t push him to do any of his schoolwork.

    The kids go for a scooter, and then help me with weeding the garden. It is a gorgeous day, warm and still. I say a prayer of thanks for this unseasonable weather we are continuing to have. Once we are back in Level One, it can rain all it likes! I promise not to complain. These sunny days make parenting in lockdown so much easier.

    Master D’s day is made when he receives some mail from his friend Z. They both love Thunderbirds are Go! Z’s dad has made a poster with Z and Master D’s faces photoshopped onto two of the Thunderbirds – so funny.

    Miss E has a good day. She does all her work, and then some – making art where ever she goes. She is keen to get back to school; she had settled in well to her new school and has made several friends.

    I catch up with my MiL. She would like to increase her ‘bubble’ in Level Three, but all of her besties have other people in their bubbles. The irony that we moved back to the North Island to be closer to our parents is not lost one me. They are so close, yet so far away.

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    Day 26

    We get woken up by Master D at 6:20am. Rev G and I are trying to ensure we practice good self care, so Rev G goes for a walk up the very steep hill/reverse at the end of our street. I shower and am fully dressed and ready for my prayer meeting at 7am – usually we attend in our PJs. Master D does his morning jobs.

    Schooling is frustrating today. The app/website the school uses has different notifications for the app versus the website. I try to avoid downloading apps onto my phone if I don’t absolutely need them, but it means I don’t get the message about the day’s schoolwork.

    Fortunately we have some worksheets left over from our ‘holiday’ work, that I found on Pinterest. This sheet has the children rolling a dice to create monsters. They love it, and produce some crazy creations.

    There are online petitions from teachers begging the government to keep children at home during stage 3. I don’t blame them. I think the government will be damned if they do move us to stage 3 and damned if they don’t.

    I do Tai Chi; it is my daily replacement for not being able to go out for walks, as my knee is still not up for a walk. I was gratified to read recently a Harvard study on the benefits of Tai Chi, as the movements engage your core.

    I spend an hour on the phone catching up with a friend. She is in a similar ‘boat’ to me – at home with three boys. They had colds in March, and they have all been at home as long as Miss E and I. We laugh about all the ‘odd’ things we are letting our children do: play on devices, watch lots of TV, eat 50 million snacks. My friend wonders how long it will take to undo this. She is normally very strict about device time, sugar, too much TV etc but as she says, we are in strange times indeed, and anything goes if it makes for a ‘happy bubble’.

    My children have a Zoom catch up with one of the teenagers from church. She is one of the nicest young people I have ever met, and I’m so grateful for the love and patience and time she gives to my kids, who she has only known for a few months. C is a dancer, like at a very serious level, and she and the kids spend time dancing together but apart.

    Dancing with C

    We listen to the government announcement. It is as we expect, we will move to level three in a week’s time. Many people are angry, but from my armchair expert’s opinion (meaning I know nothing), I think it is a good decision as the infection rate is now extremely low and there has only been a handful of community-spread cases in NZ throughout this whole time. Some of New Zealand’s (and indeed, the world’s) best minds have been crunching the numbers. I trust them. Unfortunately the government must now handle the perception of risk, and that is a tricky beast.

    We are fortunate that we are able to keep on homeschooling during level three. I’m looking forward to going to the beach – there is one not far away, but too far for us to venture out to during level four as we need the car to get there. My brother will join my parent’s bubble, and my MiL will join bubbles with a friend. She lives alone and is desperate for a hug.

    I’m grateful that New Zealand moved swiftly and early to respond to the virus. We will be able to get to normality faster than countries that were slow to lock down. I feel for my friends in America, the end is not in sight there yet.

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    Day 25

    I get a good night’s rest. I am still suffering from the effects of gluten, but it lessens as the day goes on.

    I can only liken it to an LED bulb that gets brighter and brighter as time goes on. In the morning I am forcing myself to move and shower and parent, but by mid-afternoon I have vacuumed the house and tidied up and prepared the veggies for tonight’s dinner.

    We have online church. Rev G puts an incredible amount of time and effort into those 40 or 50 minutes each Sunday. Despite being an IT genius, every Sunday since we’ve moved online something invariably goes wrong at some point with the technology. We are used to it; no one demands perfection. I notice the number of attendees is regular (and high for the church) – they too, need this point of connection and worship.

    In the evening I have arranged for a Netflix Party with friends, who were ‘keen’. But no one shows up. I’m not gonna lie, it made me feel really stink.

    The kids have had a normal day. I too, feel as if life is almost ‘normal’. It’s funny how quickly we can adjust. I wonder how long it will take us to stop social distancing and treating everyone we meet outside as a possible carrier of contagion.

    image credit

    I’m awaiting the government’s announcement tomorrow with baited breath. Will lockdown go on? Will we ease into stage 3? I think it would be wise to continue lockdown for another two weeks, but I am not in possession of all the facts, and I trust our leaders to make the right decision. They have been exemplary so far.

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    Day 24

    Today was a write-off. Rev G made butter chicken for dinner last night, and unbeknown to him, it had gluten in the package sauce.

    I spend the day feeling like I needed to sleep, but can’t. I spend most of it lying down as gluten takes the wind out of my sails. I watch Manifest on demand, and even though I’m about eight episodes in by now, I can’t decide if it’s any good or not yet. But it is light entertainment.

    I try to do the crosswords and code crackers in my Mindfood magazine, but the gluten has given me bad brain fog. Master D is banned from the TV for the day as he keeps hurting his sister, sometimes by doing something brainless – like throwing a ball right at her eye – and sometimes it’s on purpose. I know he’s sick of lockdown and is anxious, but we still don’t tolerate that kind of behaviour. He plays with Rev G for most of the day, and they make a cute video out of Lego for tomorrow’s church service.

    Yep, another sucky day for me, but nevertheless, we press on.

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    Day 23

    Today is my day ‘off’ the kids. It is just as well, as my knee is killing me. I haven’t left the house in four days and my P.E. regimen is limited to hanging out the washing. It is beyond frustrating to be back at square one.

    Rev G is in charge of homeschooling and has a bad start. He can’t get into the daily Zoom meeting. It is only when the call is almost over that we realise the teacher is setting up a NEW link every day, and we missed it as it was right down the bottom of an email.

    The school uses a communication/story sharing site called Educa, which quite frankly, is pants. Using it as the main method of communication with parents is tricky, because sometimes we are sent direct messages while other times it’s sent as a group story. It makes finding the correct information harder. But it is what it is. There are lots of things to iron out in this new way of schooling, and as the child of a teacher, I am fully aware of the hard work that must have gone into producing the teaching plan.

    I’m friends with one of the mums whose kid is in the same class as my kids. The schoolwork pressure and technical difficulties have brought her to tears today. She knows our school has no expectation for kids to do work if it’s too much for parents, but it doesn’t stop her from feeling like a failure. Lockdown is not a walk in the park at her house, and she finds the relentlessly positive “I’m using this opportunity to be my best self/learn swahili/deep clean the fireplace” social media posts just make her feel inadequate.

    image via Pexels

    She manages not to throw her laptop out the window, takes a deep breath, and puts on the telly for the kids. Lockdown sucks.

    My children’s teacher has messaged the plan for the day so Rev G and the kids go off for a walk to do their maths assignment. They make a tally sheet to mark off all the soft toys they see. They come back with a detailed sheet, including real animals they spotted along the way, like ducks. Both children do some maths on different apps that the school uses. I don’t like too much device time, but it does give Miss E some much needed time away from her brother.

    Master D continues to battle with anxiety. He is terrified of the dark, and hates that many of the rooms in our house don’t have curtains to pull against the dark at night. (I’m not sure what the owners of our house have against curtains, but the lack of them is bizarre. Fortunately my MiL has sourced some for us.) Master D also hates being left alone, which means having quiet time in his room playing with his toys is out of the question.

    Both children are playing up at bedtime, leading Rev G tearing out his hair in frustration. They have been doing this most night for the past few weeks. Neither of our children are great at listening and following instructions at the best of times – like most children, but their shenanigans at bedtime are taking their toll on Rev G. He is angry and exhausted.

    I am sure that it just another way the children’s anxiety is coming out. We are living in scary times. An invisible virus killing people is scary. We have to shelter indoors and change our lives dramatically. It’s incredibly scary, and difficult for children to process this stuff.

    We talk about what we can do to support Master D and his sister. Leaving lights on overnight. Checking in each day with how they feel. Managing our own emotions. Giving lots of cuddles. Trying to be patient.

    The advice about kids returning to school at level 3 has changed to no longer being ‘voluntary’. My heart sinks. For me this may mean I struggle with my knee injury for several weeks, perhaps months. The type of injury I have requires rest, not physio. It is impossible for me to get the rest I need right now. Who can rest when they have young children at home 24/7 who require care, activities and schooling ? I am fully supportive of all the measures we are taking to stamp out COVID-19, but I’d like to scream.

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    Day 22

    School has given all of us a big dose of normality that we needed. Today had a sense of ordinariness that was almost at pre-lockdown levels.

    We all sat and watched Karen O’Leary’s show on the Papa Kainga/Home Learning TV channel – mostly because Rev G and I love her, being big Wellington Paranormal fans. She is her usual deadpan, funny self.

    Then the children have their morning meeting with their class, and are given a quick lesson, with various assignments pertaining to the lesson to go off and do.

    Today’s lesson is on the water cycle of evaporation-condensation-precipitation.

    Master D is given the task of ‘painting’ with water outside to watch the evaporation process. Fortunately it is a warm and sunny day. Miss E joins in and they have a ball. They make all sorts of shapes, and chalk around the outline.

    Voila! Evaporation

    Master D discovers that when chalk gets wet, it turns into ‘paint’, so both children spend at least 30 minutes painting with chalk. Very Montessori!

    Miss E gets a harder task – making the water cycle in a bag. We take a break for lunch, she is very into fruit smoothies at the moment.

    My Mindfood magazine arrives in the mail – fortunately they are not part of the media stable that has recently closed due to the Pandemic. I have never been so glad to see it in my life! It’s always a good read, but I am particularly grateful to get it at this time because it always has a decent puzzle section: crosswords, code-crackers, quizzes, even colouring in! I have a new appreciation for all of these; I find myself unable to read more than a few pages of a book at the moment due to lack of time, and my brain being overloaded. Normally I am a voracious reader, but the pandemic has reduced my brain temporarily to mush.

    In the evening, Master D goes on a rambling monologue about burglars. I realise that this is how his anxiety is manifesting.

    “You’re really worried about burglars at the moment,” I say. “What would help you feel safe right now?”

    He really thinks about it, and then gives us several suggestions. One is that he and Rev G will check that all the doors are locked when he goes to bed. He also suggests putting mousetraps all over the house so the burglars will get snapped. (Can you tell Home Alone is one of his favourite movies?) We compromise, and say that Rev G will put them outside the house where the burglars won’t see them until it’s too late, mwahaha.

    He also suggests that we have zombie costumes at the ready to scare burglars if they get in. We solemnly promise him that we will make zombie costumes at the next family night. And we honestly will. If it makes him feel safe, we will do anything in these extraordinary times. I may have to find an old bed sheet to cut!

    Master D sleeps right through for the first time since lockdown began. We are grateful for the uninterrupted sleep.

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    Day 21

    First day ‘back’ at school.

    It went ridiculously well.

    The children started off with a class Zoom call, which is equivalent to herding cats, but the teacher managed it. The children were set work. Because it’s Montessori, and is a mixed age class (5-8 year olds), they are given the same core tasks, but depending on ability, the tasks get harder.

    Master D was given the task of creating a picture of what he’d been up to during the school holidays, so naturally he drew a picture of himself and Pikachu rescuing a mummy and baby crocodile.

    Miss E also had to do the same assignment, but also had to write about it. She did that in five seconds, and then got on with what she really wanted to do: composing a poem about Easter. Here it is.

    EASTER

    Easter is near

    so do a dance

    because the Easter bunny

    is near.

    And finally Easter is here

    You walk past a bush

    and you realise

    an Easter Egg is there!

    Brilliant stuff.

    The children are surprisingly good about doing schoolwork, and only Master D complains. “I don’t want to do schoolwork!”, he whines, before settling down to actually do his schoolwork for 40 minutes with little input from me.

    They had to do some printing, and we had a good look at the ‘virtual shelves’ created by their teacher, for ideas of what to explore next.

    The Government has created a home school TV network, with some seriously great content and fantastic presenters. Suzy Cato, Karen O’Leary, Nathan Wallis. So cool. Despite saying it is on demand, it isn’t, only the live stream. Rev G works out a way to record it as most of the shows (covering a range of topics, like literacy, history, Te Reo Maori, art, P.E. etc) aimed at younger children are on during the time we do school work.

    TVNZ, if you had shows of this calibre on during ‘normal times’, we might actually watch it!

    After lunch the children have free play time, watch a bit of TV and run around on the trampoline like lunatics playing a new game with Rev G.

    Rev G and I heave a sigh of relief that schooling went well.

    In the evening I am dismayed to re-hurt my knee by the simple act of standing up from sitting on a chair. I guess the tendons are not as healed as I thought. I will have to take it easy again, which is so frustrating.

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    Day 20

    I get up for my prayer group. Everyone is anxious about how they will juggle schooling demands with their paid work. Even though I am not currently working, I’m anxious about it too.

    The parents all have a Zoom meeting with the teacher, who explains what the day will look like. It’s pretty wonderful, low-key stuff with absolutely no pressure for those who are not able to keep up with it.

    I applaud the teacher for all the hard work she has put in to making the online resources. Montessori is structured quite differently to regular school. Tray of ‘work’ are put on shelves for the children to take as they are interested. The teacher has set up virtual shelves, with different areas of the curriculum.

    Each task has bullet points that get harder, depending on the level of the child e.g. a maths task is to identify numbers on letterboxes on your daily walk. Older children can try adding the numbers together.

    I spend much of the day turning our ‘sun room’ into a school room for the kids, making sure all our craft and paper materials are in one place. I am grateful for this space. The kids could work off our dining room table, but it’s a pain to keep moving things on and off it for meals. I also hope it might make a difference psychologically to have a ‘school room’.

    On our afternoon walk I have a hideous encounter with an elderly lady who swears at me because I didn’t give her enough space when I passed her. She was chatting to a friend (not at the recommended distance, I must add), in the middle of a narrow footpath. On one side is the busy road with cars, the other is a cliff face, so there is nowhere else to go. She didn’t hear us saying ‘excuse me’ as we tried to pass her, and got a fright – but I don’t think that warrants yelling at me and calling me a bitch in front of my kids.

    I am badly shaken, and am now anxious about running into her again on our walks. But she won’t stop me. It is becoming increasingly obvious that people – like her – are starting to crack under the strain of lockdown. An elderly friend of mine is tearful that she might be expected to stay home for months when we move out of lockdown. She feels this is inhumane, and would rather risk getting the virus than stay home for months and months. I can’t say I blame her.

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    Day 19

    I realised something the other day – which is a good thing. Over December and January I really struggled with continual tiredness, a feeling of to-the-bone weariness, that went on and on and on. At the time we put it down to my autoimmune disease, and indeed after a blood test my meds were tweaked a bit as I needed more.

    I felt better over February and some of March, but since lockdown I have struggled with it again. This time the reason is clear: my beautiful children are exhausting, and caring for them without a break (as we did between jobs over December and January) takes its toll on me. I marvel how I survived their infancy and toddlerhood. The kids are much easier to manage now, but they are still loud, boisterous extroverts who need a LOT of stimulation. It is no wonder I am weary at the moment. I’m actually pleased to know it wasn’t my AI disease after all!

    I am approaching the next few weeks of homeschooling with some dread. School starts back online this coming Wednesday, and I have no idea what the teacher has planned, and how much of my own headspace it will take up. How much preparation will I need to do? How can my two possibly sit still and learn from a video conference? My brain is full up and I am hoping that the teacher’s plan is low key. My children attend Montessori, so I am hopeful that it is.

    Rev G is his usual amazing self. He sees my exhaustion and tells me he will take care of the kids today. He has plans that involve them being outside for as much as possible.

    I go for a long walk. The forecast was for terrible weather, but it is sunny and warm – another miracle for this time of year. As is my habit, I photograph little pockets of beauty along the way.

    As I am walking I get a message from someone that blows my mind.

    This person has done a lot of thinking over the lockdown and realises that they need God. They have a need for a spiritual side of life and they’ve come to me for advice. This is an Eminem moment for me: His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy…

    I worry I will say the wrong thing. I ask God to give me the right words for this person. I know that finding the right church will be crucial for them, and I pray that they find a church where they are accepted for who they are. Reaching out like that takes guts and a lot of insight, and I am honoured that this person chose me to talk to. I will be praying for them!

    I spend the afternoon chatting to my parents and brother; then soaking in the silence, pottering around, feeling quite content.

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    Day 18

    The day starts early, with two very excited children who discover an Easter Egg in their room when they wake. They surprise Rev G and I by making US an Easter egg hunt, hiding shards of chocolate from their eggs, wrapped in foil.

    I am impressed by their willingness to share! I would not have done this when I was little. Master D is hilarious as he basically takes me to where he has hidden his bits of egg, so there’s not much hunting involved. Too cute.

    They are unaware that Rev G and I have hidden a few smaller eggs around the house, and the children’s excitement almost goes into hysteria as they hunt for them.

    I am still incredibly tired, and ponder turning up to our church’s online service in my dressing gown, but I figure it’s not a good look for the minister’s wife! I manage to shower and dress with a couple of minutes to spare.

    The service is lovely. It is well attended, 60-70 people, and there are family members of the congregation too. Part of the sermon involves sharing what we miss. Grandchildren, friends, school, work colleagues and cafes are high on the list. One member shares how much they appreciate coming together online, and I think how much I agree, and how wonderful it is to see other faces smiling and praying.

    In the afternoon we enact quiet time for the 13,879th time, and this time we have some success. Although, after I am done on a Zoom call, my son moves the kids table into the room where I am, and he keeps up a monologue about various Pokemon as he does colouring in. Impressive.