I miss my home group prayers again, due to poor sleep. But it’s a beautiful day outside again, a blessing. For the first time in several days, I feel peaceful. Knowing the panic-buying is calming down has calmed me down. We have everything we need to get through.
I listen to my favourite Christian meditation app, Pray As You Go, while I do Tai Chi in the garden. Feeling the sun on my skin, I wonder why I haven’t done this before, but being outside has never felt so precious. I pray.
I make the most of being in the garden, and we spend quite a bit of the morning outside. Rev G is pounced upon when he emerges for a break – a Daddy’s work is never done.
Master D decides to make cards for his buddies in Pleasant Point, which unleashes a creative frenzy in both children.
I hit upon a fun idea to give the children something to look forward to and to help them focus on others: kindness mail. We have this garish, musical mailbox.
It is the sort of toy I despise, so mine didn’t have this as toddlers. But we have several babies and toddlers in our social circle in Wellington – which we didn’t have in Pleasant Point. I decided to get a few toddler-friendly toys to stash away from young visitors, as my children will suddenly find that the toy someone else is clutching is their ‘favourite’. Toys they don’t own are the answer! (Yes, I let them play with it.)
Anyway, each morning my children will get kindness mail, with a new mission of doing something kind. I slip the first note inside, and they are very excited by the idea when they find it.
After lunch I text my MiL about how well the children are playing together.
Famous last words.
Master D has several meltdowns. To make matters worse, his sister gets something cool in the mail, and he doesn’t. It is all too much, and all the feelings come out.
Like many children, when my son is stressed, his fuse becomes shorter than usual, and it comes out in all manner of bad behaviour – mostly tantrums. I give him lots of cuddles. I throw out screen-free plans and let the children blob in front of the telly, until Rev G finishes work and can take them out for a walk.
We let them talk about how they are feeling, over dinner. Miss E breaks my heart. “It’s terrifying, I’m so scared”.
I imagine how scared and bewildered I would have been if this had happened to me when I was seven. I too, would have been terrified that my parents and grandparents might die.
We put on a silly kid’s movie, eat chips and snuggle on the couch. The movie is hilarious and is just what I needed.
I have visions of burglars coming to steal our supplies. I have watched far too many apocalyptic movies…
The strange noises I hear turn out to be a rainstorm lashing the house.
How very apt, I think. Even the weather is in sympathy with the mood of our nation.
I lie awake trying not to think about how long it will take before people stop buying up like madmen. What if I can’t feed my babies? I tell myself off for being so ridiculous, but cannot shake the feeling of panic. Again, why do I love dystopian fiction so much? Why am I cursed with a vivid imagination?
At 5am I wake my slumbering husband and demand his reassuring cuddles before I eventually drift off to sleep.
I sleep in so long I miss an online prayer meeting with my home group and an online trivia game with a friend.
The storm has passed, it is a beautiful, sunny autumnal day.
My children are super excited for ‘home school’, and I have an outline for the day. I think I will stick to it because my children like routine. By routine, I mean we will do P.E. first, then read, then go for a walk etc, not a 9:00-9:10 am: Multiplication and fractions sort of schedule.
I plan to do nothing more than read with the kids, and have them write cards to their friends and relatives. We will make crafts, movies, bake etc. We will garden, and dance to Koo Koo Kangaroo. Simple stuff. I really couldn’t give a toss about actual schoolwork. My children are small and schoolwork is not important right now. I am gratified to hear some of my favourite NZ psych/parenting gurus say the same. Focus on being calm, focus on making them feel safe, focus on doing things together. Be patient as they process their emotions in this scary time.
On cue, my son has a huge meltdown after breakfast. I’m expecting lots of this behaviour. But actually, he ends up being fine for the rest of the day. Doing P.E. is a highlight for him.
We spend most of the morning outside. I can’t garden right now except for the odd bit of pruning, so I hobble through the garden, noticing all the flowers that are blooming. I am grateful that a previous owner of our house loved flowers so much.
The kids make ‘training’ videos, obviously inspired by Joe Wicks, although I suspect Joe doesn’t do ‘the butt dance’ in his videos.
Miss E is especially kind and helpful today. She helps me hang out the washing, and tidies up a mess left by her brother after he did an impromptu craft.
Rev G goes into church to get all the things he will need to put online services together. I’m resentful that his mind is mostly on work, and not on his family and make him watch a great clip on Seven Sharp where a psychologist talks about the importance of parents sharing the mental load. I feel like I am the only parent who cares about how our kids are coping with the most stressful event of their short lives.
But Rev G has been madly running around getting things we need before the lockdown too. He does care. He goes past a supermarket and finds it not busy. He calls me to say it is ‘almost normal’, so he is able to get our usual groceries after all. The huge weight in my chest lifts. My primal brain relaxes again – my babies will not starve (not that they were ever in any danger of that!).
Master D amazes me by writing himself a ‘worksheet’. They don’t do those at his Montessori school, so I’ve no idea where he came up with that, but I notice his writing has come on so much. I also notice him colouring quietly when he’s not doing stuff with me or his sister. Master D of a year ago was incapable of doing anything quietly for more than a few minutes. Incredible the difference a year makes.
I notice that I am noticing things more – if that makes sense! I am grateful for so many things: the sun in my face, the Scholastic books that arrived on the last day of school, Zoom catch-ups with friends. I almost never watch terrestrial TV anymore, but I watch the news again, and keep on watching. Jeremy Wells is hysterically funny on Seven Sharp, and then cute puppies being trained as rescue/police/guide dogs etc comes on. I am grateful for the laughs and distraction.
I started blogging years ago mostly as a way of keeping in touch with my friends and family who – thanks to my somewhat nomadic life – are scattered all over the globe.
I suck at keeping in touch with people. I’m not great at email, I despise talking on the telephone, and I have a select group of people that I do video calls with. And I’m an extrovert!
For the next few weeks, this will be a ‘lock down diary’ – so feel free to ignore my posts until normal transmission resumes some day in the future – after all, most of you will be living your own lock down lives too.
I want to record this event for myself, and particularly for my children. My son is only 5.5 years, and I doubt he will remember any of it when he grows up. What is happening around the world, and to us in New Zealand is of a magnitude I’ve never experience in my life time – and I pray I never do again.
On Friday I hugged my cousin S and my friend J, as they left our wee dinner party, for we didn’t know when we might see each other again. It was a surreal moment.
After a moving church service on Sunday, attended by 13 of us, the consensus was that we would continue to meet until directed otherwise by the government or the church. I was quite surprised by this choice, but every single person there was frazzled. Our brains were overloaded with all things COVID-19, and the situation that was unfolding daily. Many of the people at my church work for the government, several of them heavily involved in the crisis response. One person’s job was to run the numbers on the amount of deaths in her field. Can you imagine?
Monday morning is my usual grocery-shop day. Only I am on week two of mandatory rest to help heal damaged tendons in my knee, so I can’t go. Rev G decides he’ll do the shopping on Tuesday. I think this is fine, because I don’t think we’ll go into Level 3 in New Zealand until later in the week.
We manage to get a phone consult for Miss E with a doctor, as Miss E still has a cough which has gone on for over seven days. We are sure it isn’t the ‘rona, but are concerned she may need medicine to shift the cough. She’s already had a week off school. I’d like to send her if I could, as she is totally fine except for the odd bit of coughing. She’s been totally fine for about five days at this point. The only reason I want to send her is because she is new at the school, and just starting to settle and make friends.
The doctor diagnoses a virus – that is not COVID-19 – and says, “Normally I’d tell you to send her to school, but there’s other people’s anxiety to consider at the moment.”
The Doctor is of course, totally correct. Miss E stays home.
As Miss E is quite perky, I sit her down and tell her I don’t think she’ll be able to return to school before lock down begins. She flips through our craft books and marks which crafts she wants to do.
Deciding to save Rev G yet another trip out, I order over the internet the craft supplies we need, plus some Easter Eggs, that we can stash away. I am predicting a sombre Easter.
I go online to check what fresh horrors await me today, to discover I have just caught the tail end of the government deciding to move us from Level Two to Three, and then Level Four at 11:59 on Wednesday.
I immediately call Rev G because I know he won’t have heard the news, and tell him to quickly check how crazy the supermarket is. We have plenty of emergency food, but not a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables since today was our normal stock-up day. I’m concerned it may take days for panic-buying to calm down, and curse my knee.
The shopocalypse is taking place as he drives by, and we decide we can wait!
I thank God for what we do have.
I talk to my children about what’s happening. Miss E (7) watched the news with me on Saturday, so she understands that Level Four means no school. In the last few days I have needed to watch the news, something I have rarely done for over a decade; it’s always far too depressing.
I think I have explained the ‘stay at home’ situation to them. Five minutes later my son asks Rev G to buy him something from the shops. Yeah, he doesn’t get it.
We watch the news together as a family for the first time ever; I’m hoping that it will help the children understand what it all means. That we can’t pop to the shops. We can’t go to the playground. We can’t see their friends. A snippet on the panic buying helps my son to understand why we don’t want to go to the supermarket right now. Even though they have iceblocks.
I immediately start conserving food despite the fact that I know the supermarkets will be open throughout. Our portions are slightly smaller, and we explain to the children that waste just won’t be tolerated. They take it pretty well, and eat dinner with little complaint for a change. My husband and I think COVID-19 may be a game changer for their picky palettes.
Even though we are normally pretty good at using up our food, I suddenly notice outrageous waste. I quickly throw the dregs of a 2-day old cooked chicken and some starting-to-get-manky veg into a pot to make soup. If getting veggies in the shopocalypse turns out to be difficult, this will provide good nutrients. This is my way of panicking.
I have invited my parents and my brother to a Zoom meeting, although we use most of the time getting it set up properly for my mother. I thank God I have a tech-savvy husband who can do that. We have a lot of fun singing songs and generally being silly, and end with a prayer.
Rev G had the hymn Jerusalem stuck in his head as he prepared his sermon. The line, “I shall not cease from mental fight” stands out to me.
I haven’t yet met anyone who is blase about having to stay put for a month. It’s a huge ask to give up our normal lives, but it is absolutely the right decisions. I tell my kids that they are lifesavers.
I am mostly worried about the mental side of being cooped up this long. I am a sensation-seeking extrovert – a person who loves new, novel things. Where ever I live, I can tell you all the things to do in my area, because you can bet I’ve done most of them. Even though I’m a stay-at-home parent, I’m rarely home for a couple of days at a time, unless I’m unwell. I’m not wired that way.
My children are not wired that way either. My son is like me – he needs to get out. He is very, very social, and quickly gets irritated and naughty towards his sister if cooped up with just her for company. Rev G and I have just come off the back of having the kids for over seven weeks when we were between homes, and it was exhausting. We had friends and places to go then too!
I’m chomping at the bit to go for a walk, to exercise, like all the experts are cautioning us to do. Only I can’t right now because of my injury. Hopefully my knee will continue to improve so I can at least get out into the walking track near my house.
Posting my usual updates on how the Dollar Diet is going just doesn’t feel right to me at the moment. COVID-19 is dominating the news, our shopping habits and our thoughts. Many of my friends around the globe are in self-isolation already, and I believe it will only be a matter of time before New Zealand takes that step as well.
I was musing on the enormous privilege that I have as I watched a batch of my made-from-scratch pasta sauce thicken and boil away merrily on the stove top. Does pasta sauce do that to you?
I am very privileged.
I guess I’ve been thinking about this stuff because I am intrigued by what makes my society tick. There’s been a lot of shaming language relating to COVID-19 being flung about, at least here in New Zealand. People are ‘panic-buying’. People are being ‘selfish’. People are ‘overreacting’. People are ‘underreacting’. People are ‘not taking it seriously’. Where is the moral line that separates ‘panic-buying’ from ‘being prepared to stay at home for two weeks’?
Having worked with people on the margins, I am deeply worried about how they will be affected in the weeks and months to come. Those of us who are privileged have a duty of care for them. Indeed, there are many people among us who we also need to check in on. Let me explain.
I am not out there panic-buying because we already have plenty of pantry items due to having a fully-kitted-out emergency supply of food and water. We live in New Zealand. We have earthquakes. Sometimes really bad earthquakes. I was told that this is why New Zealand supplies are faring better than in Australia, because New Zealanders tend to have emergency supplies as a matter of course.
The way I shop and meal plan means we normally have a decent supply of food in our pantry. We have four people to feed. Several friends who live alone have said to me that they needed to stock up in case they had to self-isolate, because they shop almost daily due to only needing food for one. When you live alone, it’s very easy for things to spoil before you can get around to eating it, so I know plenty of single people who shop this way. I used to when I lived alone! So before judging someone for stuffing their trolley, just remember it could be someone in this situation who normally has very little in their cupboards.
The Dollar Diet means I’m able to take advantage of items on special and can afford to buy a few discounted items at a time. It’s not uncommon for us to have several boxes of crackers and soy milk, jars of peanut butter and gluten free pasta in our pantry, because when our frequently used items are on special, I snap them up! I am privileged to be able to do this. Many families and individuals aren’t able to shop like this because there is no extra money. An extra tin here and there is an impossible ask. It’s more important than ever to donate to food banks, soup kitchens and shelters, and to be generous with people in your community. We’re not even in self-isolation yet, but my local Facebook group is full of people offering to help. People are beautiful.
Should the shopocalypse get any worse (although currently my local supermarket is fine…), I am confident in my ability to make what food we have stretch for quite some time. I am a pretty decent cook (having learned the art from my friend R), and know how to use up what we have. This is privilege (not to mention that having a home with a kitchen, electricity, pots, pans etc is a huge privilege in itself…). I know loads of people who might look at their cupboards in despair, wondering what to do with that tin of chickpeas lurking at the back of the shelf, a manky zucchini and half a tomato, and a past-its-used-by-date box of Chinese Five Spice. Many people don’t know how to cook, and are dependant on takeaways and eating out. They don’t have the basic skills, let alone knowing the skills of how to stretch a meal or making things from scratch. If you know someone like that, check in on them.
I am currently housebound – not because of COVID-19, but due to damaged tendons in my knee (probably a knock on of last year’s car crash). I am under strict instructions to rest my knee for at least two weeks. I live with my supportive husband who can get groceries and do housework, and with two children who are capable of getting themselves dressed, fed and passing me the remote control etc. I’ve had friends drop meals around, been inundated with books to read and DVDs to watch. I have people who care and who are praying for me (healing is going well, by the way!). My community is a privilege. There may be sick or immune-compromised people where you are who live alone, and who have no one to ask for help. Again, please reach out to your neighbours and friends – particularly those who are elderly or live alone.
The idea of self-isolating doesn’t fill me with dread. I have a family to interact with. My children are very entertaining, and I’m sure we can fill the time quite happily. But again, many people live alone. Not everyone has a wide circle of friends and a close family. Loneliness is a real problem. Check in with your single friends, with any elderly relatives. Maybe have regular phone calls, texts or Skype etc with those who are particularly vulnerable. Organise a online group with friends to chat and keep your spirits up. Make sure you include your more introverted friends who wouldn’t normally instigate something like that!
Please stay safe and connected, my friends. Think of others, reach out. Be the village.