The first fake family travel day of the new lockdown and we are off to… Germany!
Obviously, we selected this particular destination in order to learn more about the homeland of our Lodger- and with the expectation that she would have a great deal of input. In true teenage fashion, however, it turns out she “doesn’t really like German food”, knows “nothing about my culture” and really hopes she “never marries a German.” Riiiight… nevertheless, she makes her own fake passport, flies the fake plane, bakes the best pretzel and claims to not only have enjoyed herself, but also “learned more than I ever did in school!” So that’s a bonus!
I also manage to redeem my Stollen efforts as not one crumb of this bad boy goes to the ducks. Wunderbar!
After watching a few too many YouTube Videos of a brass band playing in the Lodger’s local park, we end up watching a short kid-u-mentary on the famous German Artist Paul Khee (“who?”) and painting some of his pictures. This is far more entertaining than I imagined and, for at least fifteen minutes, all 6 of us sit quietly painting in the kitchen. I kid you not, after last night’s anxiety fest, this is absolute bliss. Eventually, the kids and the Husband lose interest and do a penalty shoot-out in the garden, whilst the Lodger and I continue to paint. In silence.
I don’t even bother to attempt online Church today, and instead have a brainwave about The Berlin Wall (which the kids were surprisingly fascinated by last night), and the Wall of Jericho. Two pretty monumental images of breaking down barriers. This goes well for a short while, before The Boy starts to lose it and just kicks over every wall we attempt to build before the story can be told, until The Eldest loses her rag with him and we all wind up shouting. Again. There is a lot of chaos, a lot of tears, a lot of noise, but we do end up singing and playing along to “I Raise A Hallelujah” which is good enough for me. The look of trauma on the Lodger’s face, however, says otherwise!
Gosh my expectations are low.
When can we go back to real Church again?!
In the meantime, I manage to deduce that we have actually spent the entire weekend learning together and I have loved it. This new version of “homeschool” 2.0 is something entirely different. Try as I might: it is hard not to both dread and loathe it.
God, help me, because I hate this.
Today, I am fresh from last week’s bitter blow about being on school’s “flag list”, and come in prepared to attempt all work with both children. The Boy is the most difficult, so I start there. He whines and he moans and he throws himself on the ground after every instruction… but the emotion seems to have changed. He no longer seems upset, just lazy. And so I rise to the challenge. We watch a story on YouTube set by his teacher, and while he is “NOT DOING A POSTER!” he does, however, want to collect all of the lookalike toys he can find, cast them in the story and act it out in real-time with a real-life bed and props and loft. I am down with this!
So we make a video for his teacher, narrated and directed by The Boy, and I spend my lunch break editing it. We watch it after lunch and he is as chuffed with it as a boy can be. Later, I upload it to Class Dojo and resist the urge to type “Here… Evidence THIS!”
Once freed, I move on to the Eldest and we manage what I would consider the four essential areas: Maths, Reading, Phonics and English. In all truth it’s probably an hour’s worth of work, max. But she does and half drag it out and the sheer frustration is almost painful!
“So what’s the difference between 91 and 100?”
“One looks like a 91 and the other looks like a 100?”
“Ok. Sorry, bad question. How many numbers are there between 91 and 100?”
“Are you joking? He has 100p and he spends 91p. How much is left?”
“You’re not even thinking about this at all. Just slow down and think. How many pennies would you need to add to 91 to get 100?”
“What? No. OK. Listen. Um. What about 10? How many numbers are between 1 and 10?”
“YES! Great. So if you had 10p and spent 1p, how much p would you have left?”
“YES! Now, what about 91 and 100? How many numbers are between 91 and 100?”
“YES! Brilliant! SO… if you had 100p and you spent 91p… how much would you have left?”
“NIIIINNNNEEE!!!!!!!! NINE! NIIIIIIIIINE!!!!!!!!! IT’S NINE PENCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“You’re so funny Mummy.”
After that ordeal, I go hunting for the Youngest and am relieved to see she is still fully dressed, dry and the walls are intact. We read some games and play some books (or something like that), before it’s time to make tea. Geez.
At the end of today I am absolutely exhausted. But it’s a good, productive kind of exhaustion, and I figure this is just how it will need to be from now on.
Same drill, less enthusiasm.
The Boy is bribed with five minutes on the tablet per sentence, to be accumulated at the end of the day. (By the end he has only really earned the time that he is normally allowed on it anyway, but I see no reason to tell him that!)
The Eldest is also growing less enthused by her work. She, however, is less motivated by the electronics and more by the opportunity to play with toys and costumes and role play- which I am far more comfortable with giving into. Besides which, she gets everyone else involved too. And so her dedicated time begins to decrease… English, Maths, Phonics, Reading. The other subjects start to pile up, untouched, whilst she plays pirates with the Youngest and I wrestle with the Boy.
This is also how it has to be.
In the evening I stay up far too late for the second night running, writing a Murder Mystery script for a Birthday Zoom party next week. It is unwise and also a very trivial thing to be wasting sleep over… but an amazing creative outlet for all sorts of angst! I sit up until silly o’clock laughing at my own lame jokes and imagining someone funnier running with them.
This pandemic is so much easier to bear when you can live happily inside your own head!
We aim to get all work done by lunch time today, in preparation for Bubble Mum and the Bubblettes coming for tea. The kids are on board, and so they both actually manage to complete work together. At the same time. I want to encourage them, but also am wary not to jinx it by saying anything too triumphant. Such is life.
All four core topics are completed by lunch, and so we bake and tidy and I start preparing craft. By three PM the kids, who have never been particularly excited by the Bubbles before, are pinned up at the window watching for the big red pram to come around the corner. I am so thankful they seem to have finally embraced this arrangement!
But also slightly concerned. If coming, Bubble Mum is never late. With some trepidation I open Messenger. No alert, but, as expected… she cancelled. To be fair to her, she sent the message an hour ago, but my phone did not register it. Still. Even by an hour ago, we would have planned our school day around it. The kids are disappointed, and, while I am relieved not to be cooking and catering for the usual chaos, so am I.
I don’t blame her. The Bubblette’s Dad offered to take them off her hands last minute, as he often does, and so any pre-made plans go out of the window as she snaps it up and gets a proper rest. But still, that is hard to support. It is difficult to commit to helping someone who doesn’t always need the help, but is desperate when they do. You never quite know what you are going to get and what you need to give. Which is again hard to manage when running on empty.
The worst part, of course, was that the older kids were expecting to walk her home again and had been assured a late night to accommodate this, owing to the fact that Husband had a meeting. So. No Bubble, but an unnecessary late night and solo bedtime- made even later when someone poked their head out of the window and noticed that it was snowing!
Of course it was all gone by morning, when everyone was tired AND grumpy.
This week is flying rapidly downhill…
In the afternoon, The Lodger pulls me aside for a moment to break some big news. Her long-delayed visa application to her next destination is still on hold, in Germany, until she can physically go to the Embassy in Berlin for an interview. This has been the case for some time and, we all presumed, would continue to be the case until this Lockdown was over. Not so. “I really didn’t want to go back to Germany but they are insisting that this is the only way to get to Africa. The flights have now been released and I can get there… but I need to leave in two weeks time.”
I congratulate her on this step forward, but we both think the same thing at the same time:
“The kids are going to be gutted.”
Conferring with Husband we agree not to tell them until next week, just in case anything changes. As the day goes on, I feel more and more at ease with this plan as clearly, I need time to process these emotions as an adult first.
I don’t want to free my elf!
We like her, a lot, and so do the kids. She has slotted right into our family and, though it was always a very temporary arrangement, the thought of losing her, before regaining anyone else, feels almost like a bereavement. Our little isolation bubble is about to get smaller; her room will be empty and no one else will be allowed to fill it.
A loss without a gain.
I couldn’t sleep last night and got up to read my Bible in a Year book of the week: Joshua. It has some lovely, powerful lines about being strong and courageous because God is with us, but it also contains a lot of genocide. Which isn’t so fuzzy, really, is it?! The words and actions seem to be a thousand miles away from the God we know through Jesus and, while a wiser person could give a good insight into why, I currently cannot. I close my Bible in exasperation and confess I’m too tired for this.
Sometimes all you need is Jesus, but all you really want is Hallmark.
After dawn, it is Husband’s day off and, as agreed, he helps with home-school. Between nagging the Eldest to concentrate, I can hear Husband nagging the Boy to concentrate.
It is thoroughly depressing.
At some point post lunch, he is shouting at the Boy, I am banging my head off the wall with the Eldest and the Youngest is crying over the TV.
“We need to stop this now.” I tell Husband.
“No, this the only day you get my help, we need to keep going.“
“Look around! This is horrible!”
It is. We cannot carry on like this, the atmosphere is miserable.
“Please. Please let’s just sack it off and go out!”
For the first time in a rotten, raining week, the weather is clear so we put on our wellies and go out. We cross the canal bridge and walk deeper into the woods than we have managed before. Lo and behold… it is a childhood dream! (And explains all of the mini motorcycles I see mysteriously disappearing into the woods!) There are tons of little muddy banks- a BMX track I expect- hidden in the woods and trailing all over. The kids run up and down and slide on their bottoms. We see one lone biker do a couple of tricks, but besides this it is secluded.
There is laughter. There is joy. There is air.
God is there.
And, thanks to a lovely, thoughtful friend, upon returning home… there are also sweets!
We put the kids to bed early and introduce the Lodger to our favourite curry house. We also, in agreement, decide to watch our final Lacey Chabert Christmas movie and call it a wrap!
(Lacey Chabert… i.e. Gretchen from Mean Girls. Ever wonder what happened to her?! Well, I’ll tell you. She is now the Queen of Hallmark, and has starred in and produced several Christmas movies with almost identical plots and characters. They are truly and delightfully awful… and we owe our entire lockdown Christmas vibe to her Majesty! Gretch… you are SO fetch.)
At the end of the week… Lockdown sucks. Deep thought is off limits and light escapism a necessity.
As such, I cannot bear to write a blog until now. Which be Wednesday.
Better get started on the the next one!
Much love, thanks for reading. Judge not lest ye be judged! 😉