5.30am and the poor Lodger is still fussing with her case. Turns out it is all packed, but is 5kg heavier than the airline allows and she cannot figure out why. Husband is busy loading everybody into the car when she finally accepts the probability of paying for the extra weight and allows him to load that too. We share one big fat hug- the last one we will get from anyone outside this house for a while!- and say goodbye. I feel slightly anxious about waving my entire family off in the car in the dark, before closing the door and going back up to bed. It has been a very long time since we were separated.
On my way up, I look in to her empty little room and the stripped down bed and wonder when it will host a guest again? I also spot the scales she had been using- borrowed from a friend because I refuse to keep any in the house! I almost manage to walk past, but cannot resist. Plonking my hungry 6am body on the blasted things I am horrified to find myself heavier than I have ever been. Ever. I mean, Lockdown has definitely taken its toll. There are undoubtedly lumpier lumps and rollier rolls caused by way too much cake and food-themed “holidays” and far too little physical activity. But I didn’t think it was an extra twenty two pounds style toll. I mean, it doesn’t feel that much and so I tell myself that the numbers don’t matter.
But the numbers have always mattered. That’s why they’re not allowed in the house!
I try to sleep. I get up and look in the mirror again.
I take photos. (Really).
I cannot work out where that much weight has gone. I look pretty normal for my own three-kids-plus-three-lockdowns body. Up until roughly 6.01am this morning I felt great too.
But… the numbers. The numbers are messing with my head and I fear I’m going to spiral.
It is a disturbed sleep until Husband and the kids come home bearing two rounds of wonderful news! The first being that the Lodger “passed” her Covid test, and the second that her case was an entire 7kg- (15lbs!)- lighter than the dodgy scales implied! YES!
Half a stone I can live with!
Somebody pass the cake!
(Though I really am rather disappointed in myself. Clearly, there are still some demons hiding deep down in there that I really need to dig out and evict…)
When the kids come back they are upset, but not as distraught as suspected. They ask when Lodger will return and I tell them quite honestly that she won’t. But don’t worry. When the travel restrictions are lifted, we’ll get you a new one. You know, like a dead goldfish. Only with international Youth Workers.
Remarkably, they are satisfied with this and begin to put in requests for gender and nationality!
The rest of the day is fairly busy for a Saturday. Bubble Mum drops the Bubblettes round at 10am and comes to collect them after lunch. She returns fresh faced and happy and stays for a coffee while they carry on playing. Husband has a nap and then, with the Bubbles departed, cracks on with the open fire…
It’s time to burn palm crosses to make ‘ashing’ ash again! Probably one of the last ‘normal’ things I remember doing last year before the world tipped upside down…
Husband leads online Church again with the Eldest, while I sit in the background for childcare. The Boy joins in at one point, but quickly descends into ‘poo’ and is swiftly removed! But again… it works. I feel happier away from the camera.
Husband then goes off for Zoom prayers and another service, which I listen to on the tablet in the kitchen while the kids play. Before long, however, the kitchen starts to bother me the same way that the scales did. Except the accumulated grease that this bad boy is packing is real. The surfaces are clean enough but the room is filthy. There are muddy hand prints on the magnolia walls. Food splashes. Paint splashes! Remnants of the boggy garden worn into the cheap lino floor. Evidence of a lockdown well-lived but it is beginning to make my skin crawl. Instead of failing to ignore it while I half listen to a Sermon, I decide to go with it. Wash the walls. Get the steam cleaner out and steam the floor an inch at a time while listening to the Bible reading and the preach and the prayers. Turns out this is actually… therapeutic. The steam rises up like incense; the cleaning of the deeply held dirt like a metaphorical renewing of the soul.
And then this.
Barely one hour later, this also feels metaphorical!
Is it even worth cleaning at all when there are kids everywhere and the return of the grime is inevitable?!
Much like… is it even it worth confessing and atoning for sin at all when the fact you’re going to go and sin some more is pretty much inevitable?!
Well… yes. Actually. I don’t regret it- on either count. It is still refreshing and it is still worth doing! After all, the fact that the first layer of dirt is gone makes the second slightly less complicated… which I think applies to both!
In the afternoon, the Bubbles arrive and Bubble Mum goes off for a quick walk. Again, she comes back fresh faced and happy and this week, offering that time feels like the easiest way to bless somebody in the world. We discuss the difference between last Sunday and this one and celebrate the fact that she is already half way through Bubble Dad’s 4 week absence. She’s doing well and I actually feel privileged to be a part of that today. Praise God!
The Boy is always first with his school work as the Eldest is so good at entertaining herself and the Youngest. Today… they are doing Ballet lessons on YouTube, and it is quite possibly the cutest thing I’ve seen all month!
So much PINK!
Meanwhile, the Boy is practising his letter formation by dipping a stick into wet ash from a fire pit. Because we are a clergy household and that is how we roll…
At some point, the Pre-School call to clarify the Youngest’s fifteen hours free childcare for after Easter. Naturally, this causes a few varying waves of emotion and trains of thought! Firstly, how on earth do you plan now for what life and its commitments might look like by next week, let alone April?! Secondly, what am I actually going to do with all of that time– my first childfree days in seven years!- now that they are actually drawing nearer? (By which I mean, of course, which of the many, many things on my childfree bucket list am I going to do first, as there are almost certainly more than fifteen hours worth!) And thirdly… April isn’t actually that far away.
I spoke to a teacher friend yesterday who had just had her vaccine, and she thought there was actually a chance the kids might go back to school in March. “The lockdown is working and the vaccinatons are being rolled out so quickly… I’d say there’s a small chance they could reopen.” I mean, I am prepared for it to go on until Easter, but even so… that’s not all that far away.
Suddenly, I begin to wonder: if I had known just how fast this time would pass back in January, would I have gotten so worked up about it? There’s no doubt that I allowed the sense of doom to overtake me. Almost as if it was permanent. But… how differently would I have responded if I had only grasped that it is temporary?
In fact, I wonder how many other areas and experiences of my life I would have spared myself stress over, had I just fully grasped the truth of the matter: what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
My eyes need re-affixing.
It’s a gloriously sunny but frosty cold day and so the kids decide that they want to wash the car. What else?!
While out chucking buckets at our frozen windscreen, I spot a pair of ladders approaching over the fence and realise that it is window cleaner day. Now, most of you know the short history of my dealings with the window cleaner, but for those who don’t, here’s the gist: on our first conversation he brings up the Bible and goes home with a book. Second time, he opens up about faith and thoughts he doesn’t know what to do with and we end up praying for salvation in the garden. Third time, it turns out he’s been wrestling with this for years, believes everything but just doesn’t want to commit. (His Jehovah’s friend refuses to talk to him about it anymore, which I think says alot!) Fourth time, I get out of the shower, scream and slam a window in his face.
Evangelism: You never know what you’re gonna get!
Today, I pray before he gets here. I actually kneel down on the kitchen floor and ask for the Holy Spirit to be here and do the talking because I haven’t a clue what kind of conversation I am about to have and feel completely unprepared for whatever I ‘should’ say. (I mean I’ve been watching Hallmark movies since November instead of reading my Bible; my brain has actually turned to mush.)
Turns out I don’t need to say anything, really. The kids are still going wild in the garden, so I make some tea and sit outside. I ask him what he’s been reading lately, and it all comes out. He’s still not made a decision in Christian-speak, but he is different. Since coming here, and calling Mr. Jehovah, he’s been reading the Bible and praying constantly. He doesn’t let anger control him anymore. If someone does something to upset him, he prays. “Someone cut me up this morning, actually,” he laughs, “and you know, I just thought, if Jesus can pray to God to forgive people while He is on the cross; if He can forgive me all of that and everything else, what right have I got to hold a grudge against anyone?!”
I try not to let my jaw hit the floor.
“You are so right. And I actually find that really difficult to be honest. Especially with strangers!”
“Well, it’s between God and you. No point ruining that relationship for someone else, especially someone you don’t know. God’s got it. He says it’s His to repay. So just leave it to Him, you know.”
Ok. My jaw is gone.
How often is it that someone you have been praying for turns around and evangelises you?!
I just say thank you. To him and to God.
Sometimes, we really want to see the big, obvious answers to prayer. To ‘pray the prayer‘ and hear the decision... but to get a window (pun intended) into the way the that God has been slowly and subtly and gently transforming somebody’s life- not least someone you’ve prayed with and for- from the inside out, is a very beautiful thing.
And that’s it. I’m praying more already. Once more a little window is all I need to remind me that ‘it works’.
On with homeschool and the rest of the day looks like this:
But we’ve all learned something today so, who cares?!
Yesterday, Husband got a message. The message. To invite him for a vaccine. Completely out of the blue, as we didn’t think he qualified. He logged on and booked an appointment for 9am this morning! His Dad had it yesterday, Mother-in-Law is booked in for Monday.
It’s funny how you don’t realise you are worried about something until you start crying. Three in a week. This feels like progress.
In my excitement, I text a few friends and the response is interesting. I see a few vaccine posts on Facebook and notice the same: “how come they’re getting it when such-and-such a person isn’t?”
Seems Vaccine politics are another injustice to add to the list of issues brought up this year – and I don’t pretend to understand them! I rarely read the news. But Husband clarifies for me that it is, in fact, bonkers. “You know I haven’t qualified because I’m clergy, don’t you? This isn’t because I’m doing Covid funerals every week. This is only because I help run the Church food bank and am classed as a council volunteer!”
Wow. Later, he says the word on the street is that the council actually over-ordered on vaccines for this week and had a certain number they needed to use within 48 hours. Hence jabbing their volunteers as quickly as possible.
I’m not sure how comfortable that is, from a political point of view. But on a personal one, I can’t pretend I’m not excited. Husband is asthmatic and he hangs out with Covid widows, I’m delighted that he accidently jumped the queue!
This afternoon, the Youngest is cranky and so I manage a sneaky walk to get her to sleep. It is beyond beautiful! So much so that when Bubble Mum arrives, I insist she goes and checks it out too.
“Oh if I lived here I’d have no anxiety!” She jokes. If only it was that simple!
Again, we have a good evening with them and I am really grateful that we get to do this. Last week was hard work, I admit it often is. But this week is a blessing and so I count it as thus. I look over my prayer journals before we moved to this house and one theme runs throughout: “let this be a place of hospitality, creativity and prayer.” It certainly seems so this week, and I am amazed at just how much God has done and allowed us to do with this house during the diseased and restricted 6 months we have occupied it!
Long may it continue.
Later, we walk the Bubbles home and this is another thing that I have come to enjoy. The Eldest and The Boy walk hand in hand with the Bubblettes, in the dark quiet streets, with me at the side and Bubble Mum guarding the rear! We look like a little nursery troupe, but they are all so careful and so well behaved that my heart swells, and the Bubblettes end up so worn out that they give their Mum a peaceful bedtime.
Then, I get to walk home with my older two, one hand in each of theirs, chatting about the day and looking at the stars. I would never ordinarily choose to take them out for a walk through a council estate in the early winter dark, but having a reason to do so is a blessing thinly disguised! Besides which, it’s generally an hour round trip so if we haven’t managed to leave the house all day, at least we get some exercise now!
Back home, we sit behind the curtain in the patio door and continue to watch the stars with a cup of tea to warm up. We then go upstairs and read Little Bear’s Trousers, to the sight and sound of unrestrained belly-laughter. I watch them carefully, and allow the glint of pure joy in their eyes feed my soul.
All in all, there are some real Lockdown 1 vibes occurring here… a rising sense of gratitude and I like it!
Upon deciding I need some discipline in my lockdown life, I get up earlier than usual, shower and read my Bible before breakfast. (Don’t be too impressed, it’s still later than most people get up!)
Praying, I ask God to be with us today. Almost immediately afterwards, I catch sight of the sun out of the back window and decide we can’t stay in. This is not a laptop kind of morning. And I think, actually, it’s about time the kids went to a park. It’s been two months, we have avoided it thus far, but… they are still open. And they do still miss it. But if we are going to do it, I’d rather not do it in half term when the world and her offspring are in there. So off we go, this morning, to my favourite local haunt.
And just LOOK at it!
Beautifully frozen over!
The kids run around, play, absolutely beam at the sight of children their own age. Afterwards, we go to the Drive Thru for lunch and, while I am absolutely not an advocate for fast food… that Happy Meal doesn’t half make them happy!
They manage the bare minimum school work after lunch before bouncing all of the excitement off on the trampoline. It is a high, high endorphins kind of day and they so deserve the treat.
At bedtime, the Eldest and I curl up in my bed and read Harry Potter for two hours and I think I am in actual parent heaven.
Ok so this week has maybe been on the sickeningly positive side. But do you know what, that’s maybe because…
IT’S HALF TERM!
We made it.
Six weeks of “home school” round two is concluded today and personally, I think we have come a really, really long way since week one.
Largely, I think I have managed to dethrone formal education in our daily lives, to the vast improvement of everyone’s mental health. Our school kids are only seven and five, and need a great deal more than school work- and require a lot less of it- to thrive. Something I would always have said in theory, but in practise, took a while to fully and confidently embrace.
By week 6, we do an hour or two, max, depending on the day. But we talk, we read, we walk.. and we play, play, play.
Most importantly, though… I haven’t shouted since about the start of week three.
And that, in itself, is good enough for me!
Much love, Thanks for reading xxx