Gosh, it’s been a while since my last post! Not planned, but life has been busy.
I’m enjoying my job managing social media and marketing for a local church. The work lets me unleash my creativity, and I have almost total autonomy, which is how I love to work. It’s a high-trust environment – if only all workplaces could be like that!
I find myself baffled that it is September already. Covid-19 has interrupted the yearly flow of life. I have not done half the things I wanted to, nor caught up with all the people I want to see. My brain still struggles to comprehend the pandemic. The fear, the masks, the social distancing, families separated. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I’d like to just take a nap until all this is over!
I was on a retreat by myself in Kerikeri when it was suddenly announced that NZ had moved back into Level 2. My ‘break’ turned into a very stressful time as my flight home was cancelled…then put back on but with no guarantee it would go ahead…
I made it home just fine. And eventually I got to relax, just not in Kerikeri!
So far this year has been spent in lots of pain, thanks to the injuries from my car crash. My knee is mostly better though, and I’m able to get around without noticing it now. I have seen the surgeon who thinks my spine and knee require surgery, but I am awaiting more scans before he can proceed. I find out in three weeks.
The pain has made me tired and irritable and not very social. So if you’re one of the people on my list to visit with, sorry. I will get to you eventually.
All four of us have spent most of the winter catching everything that’s going around. This is normal for us the first year we move somewhere new! Different bugs I guess. Rev G has been very rundown, and has been dealing with coming to grips with his new job, and dealing with settling estates for his father and aunt, and now is in the process of selling two houses! We’re praying for a quieter year in 2021.
But having said that, I’ve met lots of new people through church and the two Bible/Prayer groups I’m part of. My faith has grown tremendously this year, and I’m about to start a discipleship programme that I’m really excited about. More to come on that in the future.
We are enjoying our new church, we feel like we relate well to this congregation, and it’s been a good fit. I’m enjoying the wide variety of theology they embody and the things they are passionate about. I have many ideas of things I’d like to do there, but they are shelved until after I have surgery.
Rev G and I have taken great comfort in our old friendships. It’s nice to just be Donald and Angela, and not the Minister or the Minister’s Wife to our mates. I was reflecting the other day how I find life in Wellington is much more stressful than I remember! I guess I prefer life in smaller places where the traffic isn’t so mental and most amenities are all in one spot. But here we are as a family nonetheless, and I trust that it’s for good reason.
Miss E and Master D are thriving at their new school. Master D went through a phase of not wanting to go to school, after they returned in Level 2, and I was worried that perhaps the Montessori method didn’t suit him. But he got over that, and is happy as Larry now. Miss E has a BFF (her Mum runs an after-school forest playgroup, yes!), while Master D’s teacher says he’s friends with half the school (he’s very, very extroverted). He is now a sophisticated six-year old and likes to leave me little notes saying “Mum you I love.” and “poo”. Poo is hilarious when you’re six.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
I stay up until the wee hours of the morning to secure a grocery delivery slot for my parents. Slots fill up so fast that this is the only way to get one – when a new day rolls over. You cannot get a time slot for at least a week.
I watch Avengers Endgame with bleary eyes, and try not to cry when the supermarket website crashes just after midnight. I don’t give up. I watch a bit more of the movie, and after about half an hour the website is up and running again. Fortunately I am able to retrieve the order, and I discover they have added more time slots that are closer than a week away. I am able to get my parents a delivery for Saturday.
When we get up we discover that our kindness mail is going well. Today’s mission is to do something kind for Daddy. The children set the table for breakfast and get Rev G his breakfast cereal. They have collaborated and given US a kindness mission – we have to sing a song to their Oma. Rev G and I decide to sing ‘You’ll never walk alone”.
I sleep in a bit. My knee has stopped improving, and is usually aching and hard to walk on by the end of the day. Rev G and I decide that resting up must be my focus so that I can eventually go out for walks. My own mental health is starting to suffer a bit – I haven’t left the house since well before the lockdown. I get teary when I think about not being able to go for walks. The tears are simply what lack of sleep does to me, so I also prioritise some early nights.
My knee injury is exacerbated by slopes and stairs. We have about 50 steps just to get into our house from the street, and then about 15 stairs to get to the second storey of the house. So, you can see my problem.
I do my daily Christian devotional and tai chi outside in the sunshine. The weather is not as nice, and rain is forecast for several days. I get outside as much as I can, but it’s not easy because of all the steps on our property.
Rev G theoretically has today off, which is why I am able to rest my knee so much. Even so, he has several phone calls with parishioners, providing tech support so they will be able to be part of an online service this weekend. I give thanks that prior to this job, he worked in IT. Helping people participate in shared online worship may be the most important ministry he does throughout lockdown.
The children are pretty good for the morning, and my daughter makes me a fruit salad, unprompted. In the afternoon my son gets really tired and scratchy, but is distracted by making under-the-sea dioramas with his dad.
I get really annoyed at all the Facebook vigilantes on my local FB page. “OMG, a jogger just ran past me too closely!!!!”, “I just saw two ladies walking together!”, “There are people shopping at the supermarket! Stay home!”, “Why is no one wearing masks outside?”.
I wish I was exaggerating, but I guess this is just an example of how panic stops our rational brain from working.
You are not going to catch COVID-19 from a jogger whizzing past you, although that jogger should have tried to give you more room. Those two ladies probably live together; not everyone has traditional family units. People are allowed to get groceries. There is no reason to wear a mask unless you have symptoms – and if you do you should be staying at home.
Today all four of us are tired and cranky. We watch another silly movie after dinner. Once the kids are in bed Rev G and I start coming up with plans for fun things to do with the kids (we are going all out for April Fool’s Day, for example) and projects that need to be done (like gardening, rearranging the garage etc).
We come up with a plan for the next day which includes chores, crafts, baking and exercise. I think these daily and weekly plans will help us get through. We don’t have to follow them to the letter, but having ideas at the ready takes the pressure off our mental load.
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.
It feels like a year’s worth of living has been crammed into the last two months since we left Pleasant Point.
I’d like to say it’s been a swell time, but the truth is it has been an exhausting ride to get to our new home in Wellington. I hung in there by the skin of my teeth, often counting the hours and minutes until the children started their new school.
Mr G left Pleasant Point a week before the children and I, to finish his last block course for his studies. We had a riotous celebration the day he handed in his last assignment. I simultaneously wanted to leap for joy and burn all of his textbooks, as he has been beavering away at assignments and essays for the last EIGHT years! Not having the spectre of assignments looming large over Mr G and our time as a family, feels like an enormous burden has been lifted.
We decided to depart as soon as Mr G’s internship had finished, despite there being two more weeks of school, Christmas etc – because it was imperative that Mr G got a decent break between jobs. Having your father pass away, your wife be in a serious car crash, plus a workload of several assignments does not make for a fun time. But he got through it, with his usual grace, grit and humour, and earned that holiday.
In his absence, I readied the house for moving. The movers packed everything, but I still had a list a mile long of things I needed to do before the moving trucks arrived.
We bade a tearful farewell to our friends in Pleasant Point. In the weeks leading up to our departure, the stress and anxiety started to show up in the children’s behaviour. Miss E, kept saying things like “I just got a bit of that plant in my mouth, will I die?” I don’t know why, but that’s just how her anxiety manifested.
Master D was even more argumentative and tantrumy than he usually is (he’s very strong-willed, …like his mama). He also stopped eating very much. He’s a very slender child, so it was a worry! My MiL is very wise and remembered not eating as a child herself in response to stress in her life, and I think that is true for Master D as well. Both my children are out-going extroverts who handle change pretty well, but there’s no getting around the fact that moving towns as a child is just blimmin’ hard and stressful.
We spent two weeks on the road – seeing Mr G graduate from his studies, visiting friends and seeing some of the beautiful South Island. There was a major weather event (which we missed!) that closed several main roads, and meant we had to change our route. It was disappointing, but I know we will be back that way one day.
Our road trip was a good one – our kids are good travellers, who are unphased by sleeping in different places. They had a wonderful time playing with the five children of our friends who farm near Gore. It was a beautiful thing to watch my two happily join in a triathlon that the other children were doing, and for them to experience life on a farm. Animals galore! Quad bikes! Marshmallow roasting! What’s not to like?
We spent several days chilling out at Lake Manapouri, which is just as beautiful, but less touristy and expensive than Lake Te Anau. We stayed right on the lake front, and spent most of our time outside walking and enjoying the incredible scenery. We spent a night in Queenstown. I loved nearby Arrowtown, which has retained many of its heritage buildings from New Zealand’s gold mining era.
After two weeks we were glad to put down temporary roots in our previous hometown of Whanganui. On the ferry from the South Island to the North Island, we were informed the church had rented us a house in Wellington and we could move in mid-January!
We spent several weeks in Whanganui staying at a property our friends own, which is right next to their home. Our children are a similar age, and so the five kids had the kind of nostalgic summers one only reads about. Long hours of playing with friends, uninterrupted by adults. Coming home only for food and drink and to reapply sunscreen. Friends just a fence climb away.
It was especially neat to see a firm friendship develop between my son D (5.5) and their son Z (4.5), as D went through a terrible bullying phase as a toddler. The usual object of his toddler rage was poor Z! But now they are great buds. Within three days of being back in Whanganui, among his old friends and his grandparents, I’m happy to say D resumed his normal eating patterns. E’s anxiety tapered off.
We all got sick at some point during our time in Whanganui – which is typical for us when we are exposed to different bugs in new places. I got glutened twice, which took me quite a while to recover from. I didn’t get t see everyone I wanted to – but we don’t live far away now, so there will be other opportunities!
Miss E turned 7 during our stay, and celebrated with a high tea party.
Mr G and I spent two nights away doing something fun and relaxing…jokes, we UNPACKED OUR ENTIRE HOUSE. I’m not sure how it’s possible considering all the stuff I sled/gave away/got rid of before we moved, but unpacking a house seems to get more tiring each time I do it! We wanted the children to be able to arrive at their new home with everything unpacked and ready for them.
My original plan was to return to Whanganui, where we had playdates, friends and family on tap, and stay on there for the duration of the summer holidays with E and D. Whereas many of our friends in Wellington either don’t have children, or were away or busy working/at holiday programmes. But once Mr G left so he could start his new ministry job, E’s anxiety came back. After a few days she tearfully admitted to me, “I know Daddy is okay, but my brain keeps telling me he’s dead.”
We left for our new home in Wellington the next day.
Once we were all together in our new house, she came right again. She was definitely anxious about her first day at school, but she’s had a fantastic first week there, and seems to love it. Long may that continue!
We did a few fun things before school went back (like the Weta Workshops tour, so cool!), but mostly we were just weary, worn out, cranky and tired. Living out of a suitcase for two months wasn’t much fun, and we are grateful to be settled in to our new home, and into life in Wellington. Being back in Wellington is a bit like putting on my favourite cardi that I gleefully pull out each winter – it is comforting, warm and familiar.
We received a heartfelt welcome from our new congregation. I’m sure it won’t all be unicorns and rainbows over the next few years, but I like them very much already. Mr G’s ordination ceremony was a fun occasion and he is now fully-fledged Reverend. It was a fitting conclusion to all his years of hard work.
As for me? I am taking it easy for a while. I need to have back surgery (due to my car crash), so I won’t be looking for work until that’s done. The only trouble with being back in Wellington is that I want to do ALL.THE.THINGS! There are so many shows, workshops, lectures, exhibitions, talks etc on my doorstep, that ‘taking it easy’ might be harder than it seems! I am also helping out at church, so there is plenty to keep me occupied.