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    Welcome to Level Two!

    Will restrictions ease soon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank God.

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

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

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

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

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

    And no one hoarding toilet paper.

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    Level 3: Day 7

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

    We’re exhausted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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    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 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.