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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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    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.

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    Day 15

    Today sucked.

    It started off well. We had a special birthday prayer meeting for the son of one of the members. It was beautiful, and he looked like he was having a great time. We managed to get a present to him (something my children thought of, unasked. I love their empathy). He unwraps it and his smile makes my day.

    I went off to have a shower, and when I got out I heard bloodcurdling screams from both children, fighting about something stupid. I try to break it up and get nothing but attitude and defiance from the kids. I’m so tired. I lose my shit.

    Rev G walks in after I’ve been dealing with tantrums, including my own, for about 40 minutes. He is also exhausted and decides to take the day off. He doesn’t work Fridays, so he decides to swap it for today. He helps the kids tidy their rooms and peace is temporarily restored.

    We make hats for tomorrow’s crazy hat challenge – I am ridiculously pleased with mine, because it’s quite funny. The kids come up with some cool creations.

    We make a video to go along with the kids song for Sunday’s service. Then we have our daily Zoom catch up with family. The kids are crazy and rude and not listening. I give up and leave them and Rev G to it. I angry cry for a minute outside, and then go for a walk to clear my head. The walk helps.

    I know I am really tired due to daylight savings ending. Today I’m just sick of my kids. I’ve had at least one of them home without a break for three weeks now, and I’m over it. I’m sure there are screeds of parents feeling the same way. Tomorrow is another day, and I hope I wake up in a better frame of mind.

    My brain is just full. I feel in need of a week at a Fijian spa, or a few hours in a sensory deprivation tank.

    One friend is taking a break from social media as the negativity is all too much. Not one, but three overseas friends of mine are annoyed at how their country’s response to the virus is being perceived, almost as if it is a personal attack on their life choices to live where they are. I notice people taking things the wrong way on social media, taking offence where none is meant – well, more than is usual. No one is themselves right now, and nor should they expect to be. These are extraordinary times, and the lockdown measures, while necessary, do not come without a measure of trauma.

    The kids manage to stop squabbling for a bit. I notice they have lots of questions about scary things today. This is very common when under stress; anxiety about something particular becomes generalised to other things. For example, my son is concerned about burglars, Lady Gaga (he’s terrified of her), spiders, the dark, curtains being open. So many things. I know this is behind today’s bad behaviour. It doesn’t make it any less exhausting to deal with. I resolve to message Lady Gaga for help, she seems like a lovely lady to me.

    The news from the government is promising, the number of new cases is dropping. For the first time I am hopeful that we might get out of lockdown in two weeks – well, to level three in some parts of the country anyway.

    I am too tired to attend our church’s Maundy Thursday online service. As I said, my brain is closed for the time being. My Dad calls up to check on me, after I walked out on the meeting. Bless him. I watch mindless fluff on TV and zone out.

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    Day 14

    I sleep so badly – I don’t fall asleep until well after 2am – so I sleep in and miss my prayer meeting. I don’t know why I cant’t sleep, the past few nights have been fine. I’m honestly not feeling stressed about lockdown anymore; living this way is almost normal. But perhaps there is still lingering stress in my body and this is how it manifests, who knows?

    I fumble to get showered and dressed, and attend a Mainly Music Zoom catch up with my breakfast toast and tea in hand. It is lovely to catch up with a few families and to hear how they are coping. (For my overseas readers, Mainly Music is a faith-based music and movement playgroup that many churches run for under 6 year olds.)

    After that we colour in eggs for the NZ Easter Egg Hunt, that is following in the bear hunt’s footsteps. Someone gives me a link to some Christian-based eggs so we do those too – a reminder that Easter has much more significance that chocolate eggs to millions of Christians all over the world. We display these with our bear for all the hunters in our neighbourhood to find.

    Both my children have been very run down, and I decide to return to our previous ‘smorgasbord’ meals, where I put lots of options on the table, and the kids choose what and how much of it they eat. I don’t know why we got out of this habit, because it works well. Anyway, because the children are run down (which I think is due to the stress of moving/change/different bugs here in Wellington), I am more vigilant about what they are eating than normal, and I want to ply them with as much fruit and veg as possible.

    Sure enough, both children choose way more fruit and veg at their meals today than they would if it was plated up for them. Rev G and I are plying them with vitamins, iron tonic and cough medicine (for Miss E) too, but nothing beats real food. I hope we see some more spark in them soon.

    Miss E is uncharacteristically belligerent and difficult in the afternoon; another sign she’s not well and probably over this whole lockdown thing. Master D is chipper, and entertains me with a magic show. He has a top hat and a cape, and his favourite trick is to ‘vanish’ by swiftly running out of the room. I of course, am impressed by his magical capabilities. I notice that this is the most chilled out and funny he’s been for days, and I’m grateful to see this side of him again.

    I venture out to the supermarket for the first time in weeks. Rev G is our designated shopper but he’s not able to do it today, and we need something urgently for Miss E. I queue for 30 minutes. No one talks or acknowledges anyone else in the queue. I don’t mind. I listen to ‘Focus on the Family’ and Geoff Vines on Rhema. Their calm, sensible, life-giving teaching adds so much to my day.

    I am drawn to this Bible verse – although so much from the Bible is leaping from the pages with relevancy at this time:

    2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Message Translation)

    Therefore we do not lose heart. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

    Despite the circumstances I find myself in, stuck in my bubble; I believe this experience is a powerful teacher, and I believe that God is renewing me day by day. None of us will be quite the same people we were before lockdown, and I fervently hope that many things in our society are changed because of this shared experience.

    After these deep thoughts, I get into the supermarket. The shelves are well stocked and I find all the items I need. I thank the lovely young man at the checkout; he and I have chatted before all this coronavirus stuff. He gives me a grin. “I’m just doing my job”, he says. I tell him about my cousin who works for the same supermarket down south, and how knackered the staff are. “Yep, it’s bloody mad,” he says.

    On the main street I am surprised by the number of cars on the road. It’s not quite pre-lockdown numbers but it’s not ‘The Quiet Earth” either. I wonder to myself if it’s people getting sick of lockdown, but other than lots of cars, I don’t see anyone opening flouting the rules.

    The government announces the release of education resources so all school children have something to do when school ‘starts back’ next week. This includes two TV channels being created for this purpose.

    If you wanted a sign that school will not be back after lockdown is set to (theoretically) finish, this it it. School was shut at stage three, and is seems unlikely to me that we will roll back to stage two (where schools are allowed to open) for several more weeks. Regional roll-outs are on the cards. Wellington has COVID cases, but not as many as in other regions. I am trying not to dwell on when we will get out of lockdown, and I hold that four-week time frame lightly.

    For some reason I want to listen to Tracy Chapman, so I shut myself off in the sun room from the children who are playing a noisy game, and listen to her self-titled debut album. It is moving and angry and sad and important, and is just as relevant today as it was when it was released. I remember the songs coming out in the late 80’s, but I was too young to really appreciate them, or Chapman’s artistry and advocacy (I was busy listening to New Kids on the Block, that’s how sophisticated my musical taste was at the time). I got into her music in my late teens, and ‘Fast Car’ still has the power to immediately transport me to my university days. One of her songs quite literally changed my life – but that’s a post for another day.

    We end the day doing something fun I’ve seen many of my friends doing on Facebook – taking virtual roller coaster rides. Both kids get into a washing basket each, and Rev G and I move the basket in sync with the coaster. The kids LOVE it; Miss E declares that “this is the best day of my life”.


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    Day 13

    The day dawns, bringing grey clouds and strong winds. I make it to my morning prayer group. I’ve never met any of these people in real life, but they are becoming friends, and I look forward to this time each morning.

    Miss E is tired and seems to have picked up yet another cold. She still has a rattling cough (cold induced, not the ‘rona); it’s been over three weeks now. She has been checked over by doctors who say her lungs are clear and she will be fine, but I still worry.

    The kids make cheese scones. Because I am gluten free, we make two separate batches, and it means they can do each step all by themselves. They love it, scone making is so tactile; and there are no arguments over whose turn it is to stir.

    Scone-y goodness

    The weather is too cold to risk taking Miss E out, so the kids do Cosmic Yoga instead. I make a quiche for dinner, and a pear cobbler to use up some of the huge bag of pears we were given just before lockdown. I am Master Chef today.

    All four of us are so tired, which I put down to a combo of Miss E’s bug and daylight savings ending. I always find that one hour time change mucks me around for at least a week.

    I attend a cuppa catch-up with folks from church. They are in good spirits, although some are working in government jobs, responding to the COVID-19 crisis, and they are frazzled.

    I write out a wee plan for the week, doing one or two special things a day. Tomorrow we will colour Easter eggs for the ‘egg hunt’ our Prime Minister, the amazing Jacinda Ardern has decreed. I will do anything she commands. We will also make tortillas – not a command from our Dear Leader. Thursday is making crazy hat for Friday’s family challenge. On Good Friday we have a special stations of the cross prayer walk to do around the neighbour. I am so grateful for creative resources such as this.

    By mid-afternoon all four of us have had it. We pop on a kid’s movie (A Scooby Doo one, which happens to be my favourite show from childhood), and veg out. The kids have done zero schoolwork today and I don’t care one bit.

    Just so damn tired today.

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    Day 10 and 11

    For me the days are blurring into one, and I can barely remember what day of the week it is. Instead of my children needing a break from school and activities at the weekend, they are bouncing off the walls from boredom and lack of stimulation. This is a downside of being an extrovert. My kids need other kids. On the grapevine, I hear that schools might be shut for quite a while, and I wonder how I will cope. I try not to think too hard about that!

    We spend the weekend taking long walks and working in the garden. I live for our walks, and am grateful that my knee is healed enough for me to get out. We take different routes each time, and I love to seek out little pockets of beauty along the way.

    We continue with our craft-making extravanganza – God knows where we will put all the damn things when this is over! Anyway, E makes her own sword, while D and I cut out ninja stars. I can’t believe ninja stars aren’t essential items at the Warehouse.

    The technology we use for church works for me this time, and the service is wonderful. Afterwards, Rev G has been inundated with messages about how meaningful it was, and I am so glad for him. No one has yet produced a ‘101 ways to minister during a pandemic’ guide, and I know he has felt out of his depth. But he is doing really well.

    I catch up with some of my friends for afternoon tea. We all wear fascinators and pearls and tiaras. It was wonderful to see them and to have a laugh. They are all very busy with work, especially now that water cooler discussions have to become online meetings.

    We have a fun family night, playing hide and seek – although I have to bow out early after Master D inadvertently hits me on my bad knee! I am grateful for frozen pizza, which makes dinner feel like a real treat.

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    Day 9

    The weather is bleak and miserable today, and my mood seems to match it. I make it to my prayer meeting, and I am grateful for this encouraging group of strangers-who-are-feeling-like-friends-now.

    Rev G is ‘on’ the kids today, although it is clear that his mind is on his work, and not them. Not for the first time, I feel resentful of how the church seems to be getting the best of him during this time, and not us. I am sure I am not the only spouse feeling this way. Right now is one of the busiest times of the year for the church – Easter is not the time to put in the bare minimum of energy if you are a minister.

    I’m really tired today, and it takes me ages to summon the energy to have a shower and get dressed. But today is ‘Formal Friday’, so I throw on my best dress, and have fun doing my hair and makeup.

    My son walks in from a walk with his father and sister. “Mum, you look really nice,” he says, I think for the first time ever.

    The rest of my family dress up for our daily Zoom catchup, and I have a giggle sharing ridiculous Snapchats with my cousin, J. I am so grateful for technology today.

    All dressed up with no place to go

    My parents, MiL and brother are suitably dressed for our catchup. We share some laughs. Next week’s challenge is making up a crazy hat. My recycling bin was made for a time such as this! Still, everyone is a bit down today, and we are running out of things to say to each other. I resolve to share some jokes or poems etc the next time we meet.

    After the call, we catch up with friends from down south, and film a video segment for our church’s Palm Sunday service. I wrote a rather silly, short children’s play for Palm Sunday two years ago, which we’ve decided to recycle. Recording segments and putting the video has provided some fun and something to do for several people in our church, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like.

    At home we are all a little snippy and shouty with each other. The children don’t eat their dinner, so they are put to bed early. Rev G and I enjoy the quiet and watch more of “The Man in the High Castle”.

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    Day 8

    I forgot to share some April Fool’s snaps.

    We started to prank our kids for April Fool’s last year, once they were old enough to understand what it was all about. I don’t like pranks that are mean; I prefer silly pranks. This year (all ideas from Pinterest) we had to use what we had in the house.

    We put googly eyes on all the cereal containers.

    We froze a couple of bowls of milk and cereal for ‘breakfast’.

    The kids loved it.

    Day 8 was a good day. I felt pretty normal, and my knee is improving again. We did home school in the morning.

    The afternoon was spent zooming friends and family, and going for walks. I did some pruning in the garden.

    Definitely nothing earth-shattering.

    I have seen lots of memes about life in lockdown, and the ones that make me laugh the most are ones like this because it feels accurate:

    All my friends and family without small kids in the house are busy decluttering and cleaning and working and taking up hobbies and having the time to be bored. Not so for us. While we’re not quite the chaos above, I can’t imagine how blimmin’ hard it must to be to be in lockdown with toddlers. I’m pretty sure I would have lost my damn mind by now!

    But it’s not a competition to see who is doing it tough. I think of families who live in small houses or apartments, and I am grateful that we have a big house. Especially one with a separate studio that Rev G can work out of for now. We can at least, get away from each other. I think of people who don’t live anywhere near green space for walking. I think of people who haven’t gone into lockdown with good mental health and worry about how they are doing. I think of people in bad relationships and worry for them too. I think of those who live alone – for some, lockdown isn’t too bad, but for some it’s excruciatingly hard.

    My brother is really angry when we meet online. His bedroom curtains have fallen down, and he is unable to put them back up due to his disability. While his reaction is out of proportion to the incident, his rage does signify the stress we’re all going through. No one is quite themselves right now. Is he going to have to go through lockdown without bedroom curtains? Is curtain rail installation an essential service? Who knows.

    I end the day with doing my Lent study with some people from church. It’s great to see everyone. Some are doing just fine, some are incredibly busy with work, some are finding it mentally tough. One lady tells me the prayer technique I introduced her to last week has kept her sane (it’s the Daily Examen, a spiritual discipline from St Ignatius of Loyola). That one comment makes the blood, sweat and tears of putting the study together totally worth it to me.

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    Day 6 and 7

    Day 6 started off well. I got up for my prayer meeting, and I headed out for a walk with the children.

    I wish I could personally thank the person who thought of the ‘bear hunt’ that is keeping children all over the world occupied. Like rock hunting, it turns a walk into an adventure.

    Miss E counted 39 stuffed animals on this walk, which took us down little side streets we hadn’t walked down before. The people in my suburb have really embraced the bear hunt, as you can see.

    I am thrilled to be able to get out of the house again. My knee isn’t 100% but is okay enough to go for a 20 minute walk. I’ve noticed it is going up (particularly stairs) that exacerbates it, so I can keep that to a minimum. I notice so many beautiful things on my walk, and feel refreshed.

    However, by lunchtime both Rev G and I are feeling seedy. He goes off for a nap, and I am not far behind. I develop a bad headache, and realise later it’s a migraine. I usually get visual disturbances with migraines, but not this time. I have to spend the rest of the day in bed in my darkened bedroom.

    I still feel yuck (headachey and nauseous) when I get up the next day, and I do my best to parent from the couch. A few weeks before lockdown, Rev G and I bought some activity books and crafts in case school closed. I bust one each of these out and that keeps them occupied for the morning.

    In the afternoon, I send them out to the garden to do a nature scavenger hunt. They love it so much they spend the next four house playing outside! I gradually start feeling better, although I worry I am now running a temperature. Our ear thermometer is wildly inaccurate at the best of times, so I don’t really know if I am.

    We worry it might be COVID-19, although given that I haven’t seen anyone but my family for two weeks, it seems unlikely. After dinner I stop feeling hot. Perhaps menopause is starting? Who knows?

    By the time I go to bed, I am feeling 80% better.