• Faith,  Family,  Parenting

    Level 3: Day 2

    I wake up at 3am in a panic. What was that noise?

    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.

    Doing P.E. with Joe Wicks (who is basically Russell Brand’s well-fit younger brother)

    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.

  • Faith,  Family,  Parenting

    Level 3: Day 1

    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.

    I go to bed exhausted from the day’s events.

  • Faith,  Family

    Death, near-death, and life.

    image via Pexels

    It was the worst June ever.

    I was only a few days into a 10-day South Island road trip with my American friends who came all this way to see me, when we got the news that my lovely father-in-law was dying.

    It wasn’t a shock, as he’d almost died back in April, due to heart, liver and kidney issues. We knew he was on borrowed time. He’d been back in hospital for two weeks while the doctors tried to get to the bottom of the problem. Mr G and I had even discussed what we’d do if the worst happened while I was away on holiday with my friends.

    The worst did happen.

    At first we were told he was dying, this was really it. I was in Omarama with my friends. Fortunately we were only two hours out of Queenstown, travelling on a familiar road. There was a flight out to Wellington (where my FIL lived) if we left in a hurry.

    As I was driving my husband called with the news that his dad had passed away.

    There is such a huge difference between knowing something sad and painful will happen, and it actually happening.

    I felt so awful for Mr G, who had a warm and loving relationship with his dad. I was gutted for our children, who will never get to appreciate the vibrant wit and spirit of their Granddad – let alone the loss of a man who was just crazy about them, and thought everything they did was wonderful and marvellous. And there was my own grief, for the loss of a man who I loved and cared for.

    I also felt anger and grief at losing precious time with my friends. We were going to explore part of the South Island I had never been to before. I was so enjoying their company, after not seeing each other for over six years. My friend J and I have been friends for over 25 years, first meeting in journalism class in a Kansas high school where I was an exchange student. J and her mom are so, so special to me. It felt cruel to have to leave them to continue the journey on their own. I still feel angry at losing this time with them, even though it is absolutely no one’s fault. But it is still there, all the same.

    The next few days were a blur; organising all the things that need to be done when someone passes away. My FiL’s affairs were in a right mess, but we experienced the love and care of many, many people in our village.

    Friends had our children over for playdates. Relatives looked after our children so we could concentrate on organising the funeral. We got so many messages of support from all sorts of people. The minister from our old church – where Mr G and I met – took the funeral service. A friend from that church took time off work to be on the sound desk for the funeral. Many of our church friends came to the service. A good friend of mine, who barely knew my FiL showed up to the funeral just to support Mr G and I.

    My FiL died without a will, and it’s been such a headache to sort out, resulting in Mr G being on the phone to family members most evenings.

    Two weeks after the funeral we got the news that Mr G’s terminally-ill aunt was on her way out. Fortunately she pulled through and is still with us. Then two days later I had a spectacular car crash.

    I was on my way to Christchurch, planning to spend the day hitting a couple of shops, before going to the museum and art gallery. My idea of a great day. Mr G had been away for his ministry training and I was going to pick him up in the evening. Then we were off for a few child-free nights to stay in beautiful Akaroa.

    I took the back roads because they are safer….I was singing along to music when suddenly the steering wheel jerked out of my grasp. It took me several seconds to register what had happened – the car had hit a patch of black ice. There was no visible frost anywhere – it was mid-morning on a very sunny day – so ice was the last thing I was expecting. I was on a long, straight road, going around 90kph.

    As the car lost traction, there was nothing I could do.

    My first thought was ‘I’m going to die!” followed by ‘this is really going to hurt!”

    The car spun over to the other lane, hit a concrete race on the side of the road, spun again, hit another race, and then came to a stop on the side of the road.

    When the car came to a stop, I was stunned to find myself alive, and relatively unhurt (or so I thought). I’d given my knee a huge whack on the steering column, and my seat had twisted so it was almost facing sideways, but I was okay. Luckily no cars had been coming the other way otherwise it might have been a different story.

    “NOT TODAY SATAN!”, I yelled. Plus some swear words.

    A lady travelling behind me witnessed the whole thing and called an ambulance, and came to check on me. She told me she thought I might be dead after seeing the accident. She couldn’t believe it when I told her I was mostly okay.

    I decided to stay put in the car because I wasn’t sure if my leg was broken or not. I thought not, but decided to play it safe.

    Another couple who lived nearby stopped and stayed with me until the emergency services arrived, saying that the particular stretch of road I was on was notorious for black ice. And I’d gone that road because it was safer…

    I had a first responder (volunteer) turn up, followed by the fire service and police. The policeman was livid – not at me, but at the local council as he’d told them to grit that part of the road the day before! He assured me the accident was not my fault.

    I was treated for possible spinal injuries which meant the ignominy of being strapped to a board and lifted out through the back of the car.

    An ambulance had arrived, and by the time I was put in it, I realised that my chest and ribs were not okay. Apparently shock does that – you focus on the bit that hurts the most, and just don’t notice everything else!

    The rest was like something out of a movie.

    Being put in the ambulance, loaded up with painkillers, seeing the hospital only by its ceiling tiles (I was not allowed to move, and was strapped to a board for hours), having an MRI, being poked with myriad needles as my veins weren’t cooperating. The nice doctor apologising for all the needle marks. The nurse who stroked my hand and told me how well I was doing. The hospital volunteer who texted people for me because I couldn’t move. The receptionist, who turned out to be a minister herself, inviting Mr G and I to stay with her.

    It was the most horrible day of my life. And I was alone – except for the amazing hospital staff, but you know what I mean. My Mil and my children were home in Pleasant Point. There was nothing they could do, and I didn’t want to worry the kids. Mr G couldn’t get to me until about 7:30pm that night – he’d had no choice but to stick to his original flight from Tauranga. His ministry school kindly organised a rental car for him.

    It wasn’t until Mr G arrived until I finally burst into tears. I had survived a high speed crash with only two fractured ribs, a prolapsed spinal disc, and several bumps and bruises.

    So many bruises

    I was determined to carry on to Akaroa, which turned out to be a good thing as I had three days without my children trying to jump on me.

    Akaroa harbour

    I had never been to the beautiful, french-influenced village of Akaroa before, and I loved it.

    Despite my injuries, and the painkillers making me sleepy, I made the short walk to Akaroa lighthouse. It was a warm, sunny day and I just felt so incredibly grateful to be alive.

    I said many prayers of praise and thanksgiving that day.

    The awful terror I’d had, where I honestly thought I was about to die stayed with me for several days. I am still very twitchy in cars as a passenger, and now I can drive again, I am naturally very paranoid about any roads that have trees shading them. I can’t wait for warmer weather to arrive so I can relax again!

    But several weeks on I am almost back to normal. My bruises are gone, and my ribs are almost mended. Life goes on.

    If you are one of the people who sent me a message of support or a card, or cooked us a meal, or prayed for me, I’d like to tell you just how much it means to me. Thank you so much.

    If you are a pray-er, would you please pray for Mr G? The poor man has had to look after an injured wife, whilst grieving for his father, trying to sort out the estate, plus working, study assignments, applying for a new job (his internship finishes at the end of the year)… It’s a heavy load to bear, although he’s doing it with his usual humour and grace. But prayers appreciated just the same.

    “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30