The unknown is worse than the known, that’s for sure. Today is the 27th December and we are part way through one of our strangest Christmases yet.

Christmas is usually predicable for us, from August (!) onwards we plan when we will visit my family in Cornwall and then decide whether or not to invite Richard’s family for Christmas dinner. I think every year since the extension was done we have invited them over. I don’t like being anywhere other than here for Christmas Day- at least not since we had children. We have done two years travelling the Richard’s parents house on Christmas Day when his Gran was still alive- this must have been 8 or 9 years ago (Tamsin was in Year 3), other than that Christmas Day is pretty much the same every year.

And so was this Christmas, a flying visit and a family meal in Cornwall and then back to Reading to prepare for the inlaws on Christmas Day, Boxing Day with Richard’s extended family and then friends over on the 30th (although this had already moved to possibly the 3rd).

Then Richard has a positive lateral flow test, followed by a positive PCR (confirmed on his birthday). No one is able to come over for Christmas Day and he has to spend the next ten days self isolating. These are the known facts, and that is ok, easily done, we did the same just over a month ago for me.

The unknown is harder to cope with. It is wondering, if, or when the children will catch it, if it has been passed on to anyone else. As we speak, it appears he has not passed it on to anyone else. We are on our last day of 7 days of daily testing and hopefully that is it. We haven’t self isolated- we didn’t need to, but equally we have done a lot of going out or mixing- typical Christmas weather has stopped us feeling like we need to go anywhere. But Christmas has been a bit of a blur, going through the motions and judging the unknown risk of Richard spending time with us against the unknown effect of what happens if you spend ten days watching TV in bed and playing on your phone without speaking to anyone.

Through this all Richard hasn’t been feeling poorly, no more than a cold. I rushed out and bought calpol and lemsip (he seems unable to swallow any pills without making a huge fuss- luckily he’s not often ill) but he hasn’t needed any of it. However, there are more unknowns thrown in, the government announced last week that if you test negative on LFT on day 6 and 7 of isolation then you can stop early. With his ridiculously mild cold I assumed he would be testing negative today and tomorrow, so had started to plan accordingly. No such luck- he is still contagious apparently. And so it is looking like he is not allowed out until 2022.

Christmas has been fine really. I think for my 16 year old it is probably her best Christmas yet, no need to go out, no need to meet people and she got two sets of Lego. It might be ruined later when I insist on us going out in the rain to ‘do something’. The hardest thing at the moment is trying to summon up the enthusiasm and energy to get out with two reluctant teenagers.. it is much easier with two adults. Excuses, excuses.

I’m not sure this has really captured the feel of this Covid Christmas, it has been very subdued and pretty grey and everyone very much doing their own thing- maybe it was always going to be like this with two teenagers- maybe the Covid Christmas is the pattern for the next few years…. but to be honest I’ve quite enjoyed it.

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My bedroom is so dusty- to be honest, this shouldn’t have been the surprise to me that it has been. I am not good at housework, I ignore the dust settling on everything, and I hoover sparingly (also the cat is often on the bed when I want to hoover and I don’t like to disturb him). It’s actually never bothered me before, but now I am wishing I had been a bit more houseproud.

I am sure you can guess what has changed- I have caught covid and am isolating in my bedroom for the next few days. I am on day 3, so I have a week to go. So far, so good, I am feeling ok, my temperature is up and down, and my nose is bunged up, I have an occasional cough. I am wondering if it is going to get worse or if the raging temperature I had on Monday evening was the worst of it. I don’t feel 100%, but I would have gone to work with feeling like this in pre-covid days. I am waiting for the extreme tiredness- I spend most of my life feeling tired, it would be good to catch up on that now.

So far it has been fine being in the same room for 3 days, I am lucky that my husband has been able to be home and manage feeding the children and the cats. I am lucky that I, for the first time in months (possibly years) ,had already done an online shop on Monday and it was delivered on Tuesday. I am lucky that my husband can cook and my children are old enough to understand to stay away. The cats do not understand of course, and seem a bit cross they can’t just wander in and out of their favourite sleeping room. They have adapted though, and have moved to my son’s bedroom.

Having so much time is strange, there is the feeling that I should use it constructively. I have tidied my room, and dusted- this was a bad idea as I then spent 5 minutes thinking my vision was blurry- when in fact it was dust on my glasses. I have sewn guide badges on my daughter’s camp blanket, I have crafted a bit. I have read, I have watched TV. I wonder if I should exercise- I am lucky in that I haven’t lost my sense of smell or taste yet, so am still eating the same amount of calories. Maybe exercise isn’t necessary, I am not sure I want to do it!

Part of me feels like a fraud, this is not the covid that other people talk about. I am very grateful for that, but now to sleep as I have been yawning whilst writing this. (And it’s popmaster time).

Things are back to a more even keel now aren’t they? Vaccines are up, cases are down, schools are back safely. There is an end in sight to this scary, unsettling time. We are still bombarded with covid news and stories- both good and bad but other news is beginning to dominate the headlines. That is good. It is also very sad that many other countries aren’t in the position we are in, but they will be, eventually (hopefully soon). Again and again, I realise how lucky I am to have been born in the UK (even luckier to have been born in Cornwall).

It always amazes me how much the good weather helps, today I feel full of energy and ready to do pretty much anything ( I think also, my 8am swim in the Thames has helped the good mood). One thing I will not be doing is mowing the lawn as we are going to try and do ‘No Mow May’ and let it grow for the bees and butterflies. I think this fits in pretty well with the Lagom ideal. My plan for the next few weeks is to continue working on the garden. It started last year, putting in flowering perennials into the border and growing veg (mainly sprouts) in the raised beds (made out of pallets and rubble bags, of course). This year I have so far created a border for my raspberries- out of an old compost container, we have replaced fence panels, I have bought a couple more plants and we have finally consigned the greenhouse made out of our old windows to the dump.

And that is where I am in the lagom journey at the moment, rationalising the things that are past their useful life- I have had a good look around my garden and at all the things I have kept or repurposed and I have thought about whether we still need to keep it. Is it doing the job is it meant to be doing? Would other things work better if it wasn’t here? The greenhouse, for instance, was really just used as a store for pots, so the windows have gone to the dump (10+ years after we put new windows in) and the frame has been reroofed. It is now storing pots again but in the corner of the garden, out of the way. I have a small pile of things to throw out, old plastic boxes brittle with sunshine, muddy trays from a long ago fridge, originally kept to provide plant trays but I have acquired other things to do the job just as well. I am at the stage where things have to be useful, but also look ok. And to that end I have begun to paint the fence- I have left it in the past, mulling over the environmental problems of fence paint, I have finally decided that I would like a garden with a fence all one colour.. There is a slight lagom aspect as it means that you can’t tell the old panels from the new, I think it will also prolong the life of the fence. When I can work out an easy way to get the photos off my phone I will add them here.

Until then, I will be painting, and repainting the fence!

Today was a day for sitting in the sun and daydreaming about what the garden will look like when it is tidy. It was a day for remembering that a year ago the word Lockdown meant something we practised in school when the bell gave 3 short rings, just in case an intruder got onto the school site- it was the worst thing we could imagine happening to our children back then. It is a day for remembering that a year ago tomorrow it all changed. It was a day for realising we have got through a very strange, challenging year – one that made us see with sharp clarity what is important to us. We have lived with a constant niggling fear for months, and a feeling of sadness and loss for all the time we have had to stay indoors. We have followed blindly the advice given to us, and given up things we would have loved to do. It was a day for thinking about how things can change, just like that, despite all the plans and scaffolding you put in your life. Today was a day for being grateful that we are (hopefully) almost out the other side. I think the sun helped, but today certainly felt like the beginning of something new.

The village where I live is turning itself blue tomorrow, to say thank you to the NHS and Keyworkers, the Water Tower that can be seen for miles will be lit blue in solidarity, our school children are going to school in a rainbow of colours. It seems strange to be acknowledging the anniversary of the start of lockdown- the year has gone very quickly.

A much less emotional post this time- just relief that we are all back in school (well almost, my son goes back tomorrow). The children in school were delighted. They came back in with varied experiences of home learning, for some it is noticeable that they did very little of the set work, for others the settling back into school routines is a bit tricky. But, as in September, it is not as bad as we thought it would be. Children are resilient. I want someone, somewhere to say to them all “Well Done, you’ve been amazing.”

I can not remember a time when I have so willed a half-term to be over. I think I have had enough of all this!

I have achieved several things these holidays, lots of needlefelting, lots of walks, started a new crochet project, had a 16 year olds birthday, and yet the days have dragged. Today is Saturday the first day with any promise of sun, it is already half way through and I am delighted, willing the hours to speed by until bedtime. My son and I have walked to the Triangle to get ingredients for his Scouts zoom meeting and to go to the bakers, I am now just sitting waiting for enough time to pass so I can start cooking lunch. I am fed up with this lockdown.

The fractured nights sleep doesn’t help- all the thoughts that only occur at 2-am rushed into my head- are we doing right by the children, is it healthy to let them watch youtube all day, should we do more family things, why do we have so much stuff, why isn’t all the work done from the extension, why haven’t we painted the kitchen. what are we going to do with the pinball machine….. and so on. All the small things- if they were big things I would have thought about them at a sensible time. So today I am tired and waiting for the day to be over whilst berating myself for wasting time. Sometimes I just need to be nicer to myself.

We are all back to our remote ‘school’ on Monday and waiting for Boris’ announcement about schools- which has supposedly already been leaked and supposedly already been opposed by the unions. I will happily risk a spike in cases for the children to be able to be back at school. I know that going on about mental health sometimes makes mental health worse, but honestly, why wouldn’t we want to let children go back as soon as possible, can’t we see the effects? The rise in more serious covid cases in children maybe might be linked to them being penned up for the last 11 months?? The good news is that the vaccine has- amazingly- reached the groups they were aiming for, let’s get the children back. Please.

I have been very wrapped up in all the things we can’t do in the lockdown, without realising how much more freedom the adults have had than the children. We have only our internal sense of law to govern us- I justified a 20 minute to drive for daily exercise for us all- they do not have the choice or the authority to decide on things like this. My husband has been in the office 2 days a week, I have been at school 4 days a week and supermarket shopping weekly, my children have gone nowhere they could not get to by walking from home- except for the one walk on Thursday where my son met a school friend and they walked and chatted for an hour,( my daughter has done the same- once- whilst I went shopping near the friends house).They have not complained, or questioned and they have done this with no idea as to when it will end or what the end will look like. Let’s get them all back on the 8th March and lets stand on the doorstep and clap them, the 10 million school children who have helped save the NHS.

The first day of half-term, husband gone to work in the office and we are at home, just relaxing. There is something to be said for not being able to go anywhere, it makes things slow done a bit. A normal half-term would make me feel we have to go somewhere and going somewhere means being out by 10am which means hectic and grumpy breakfasts and grumpy children taken somewhere they might not have liked to go……although in normal times we would probably have gone to town and had coffee, not too onerous really. It is 10 30, both children up and dressed. Daughter is making a paper mache pig mask whilst watching you tube, son is possibly just lying on his back staring into space. He is the one most affected by this whole thing.

But today is a good day because it feels like that we are nearing the end of this crazy time. Maybe I am a bit too optimistic, but right now things are looking positive. The amazing news is that the 4 main groups- the very old and the very vunerable have all been vaccinated with their first jab- the expectation now is that there will soon be less people going into hospital and society can start to reopen. We need to remember we are in lockdown so the NHS don’t get overwhelmed.

Today is a good day because, whatever else might happen, both my children have done the longest and most intense half term of remote learning they will probably need to do. The term was 6 and half weeks long- even if they don’t go back on the 8th March the next half term is only 6 weeks long. They have taught themselves amazingly- I can honestly say I have not done a thing and yet they have been to every lesson (I think) and spent most afternoons doing something useful- my daughter is a mean touch typist now. It could have been a gruelling 6 and a half weeks for them, they have been nowhere except for walks around the local area and an occasional car ride. We forget this don’t we- that they have had no say in this and have been much more restricted than the adults. Part of me thinks I have been teaching them compliance to the law, part of me cries inside that this past year has so restricted them. The main part of me is amazed that they have just got on and done what they needed to do- no complaints, no questions, no avoidance. Amazing.

Today I can look out of the window, after the rain has stopped and see Spring starting to arrive. We have had a small patch of primroses for months- but now we have daffodils and crocuses (crocuii?) and even more bulbs springing up. The bird feeders are teaming with birds (mainly sparrows) and ever so slowly leaf buds are appearing on the dormant hawthorns and sycamore. Things will look better in the Spring.

And so I sit here and type, considering where my daily exercise will take me today and hoping my son will come with me. Yesterday we walked through gently iced woods. It took twice as long as he kept stopping to play with the ice or marvel at the way the ice crystals had formed. I forget, that underneath all the maturity he has shown by getting up each day and doing his lessons, by obeying the rules, by just being himself, he is still a child and still craves novelty. Hmm, today is a good day because we are one step closer to being able to let our children start doing all the things they should be able to.

So here we are, one week away from half term. And we are going to make it. Tamsin has a Sixth Form Experience day today, Peter is basking in the afterglow of a good parent’s evening. Covid parent’s evenings are great- all appointments done in 35 minutes without leaving the comfort of our own home. This is definetely something to be continued. Of course there were still the complaints from parents about appointments not being long enough and there weren’t really enough appointments- we were only allowed to choose 7, but as parent’s evenings go this was one of the best.

I have no idea if my children are thriving in lockdown but we are surviving and surviving well. I know they have too much screen time – and yet they don’t seem to mind- they even choose to stay on screens in breaktime. It is silly isn’t it, all this worry that they will be come hardwired to need screens. They didn’t need them constantly pre-covid, they were on them constantly in Lockdown 1, then they went back to school for a term and managed without constant screens, now in Lockdown 3 they are back on them again. When they return I think they will be ok, they adapt, maybe better than us.

The other effects are possibly less easy to shrug off. Teenagers should not be in the house all the time, just allowed out for a daily walk! They should be going more than a mile from their home, they should be able to be go and see friends and get dragged out on family walks with only the promise of a hot chocolate to cheer them up. Who knows what a reclusive generation we are raising. I think this must also apply to adults. I had a dream about going to the cinema last night- it was like a nightmare, so much to worry about. When we were allowed out in the summer I was not too keen on going out.

So we sit tight and wait. Week after next is halfterm, it is my daughter’s 16th birthday- we will be banned from the lounge while she watches a film with friends remotely. Somewhere in that week we might drive to a place and exercise, and wander round with apprehension and watchful eyes in case anyone gets too close.

We are nearly there ( I am of course ignoring the fact there is at least 2 more weeks of this after half term- I am not expecting son to go back this term.) and it will all be OK.

Stay home, keep others safe. x

Hopefully this will be a more balanced post than last time- I will try and control the anger I am feeling about the whole situation. These posts focus a lot on my children and the effect this is having on them – that is where my world begins and ends- not in any gushing, my children are my whole world, type thing, but just because I’m a parent, that’s what we do.

My home-schooling issues – and actually I am going to change that to remote learning issues- aren’t about getting my two to do the school work, from what I can see they are happy to do that. Both schools have provided a morning’s worth of work everyday. They sit and read it, or listen to the teachers or watch the lessons- they do the work that is set. But there is no enjoyment or real engagement in it for them. I don’t home-school them for there is nothing for me to do- I think I am more of a hinderance than a help when I am home. They seem to be doing their remote learning perfectly ok, I sometimes cast my eye over what they have done, it seems ok, I suggest they do more- they look at me blankly.

My remote learning issues are the lack of engagement and joy they seem to have. School now seems to be something to get through- ( they both used to enjoy (or at least not hate) school before). For my daughter everything she is being set now is revision for some hypothetical exams, she has a very good memory and I think she would have revised a little bit for proper GCSEs and done pretty well. I am sure she (and the teachers) will run out of things to revise soon. My son is just easily distracted by phone and apps. The phone has to be available as when they have to do group work, or aren’t sure on something it is a quick and easy way to check with class mates. To take it away disadvantages him- this I found out in the first lockdown. Excuses- maybe- for me not introducing a rule that I can’t police as I am only here one morning out of 5.

So I am not sure I can do much about their engagement in lessons as I am at work. I have decided I need to change my viewpoint on this all. In an ideal world my children would be focussed and working steadily in every lesson, not looking at phones or listening to music. They would rise from their desks every break time and jog gently around the garden pausing only to rescue tiny baby birds fallen from their nests. In the afternoons they would engage in independent learning of such depth and breadth that I would store their work in the loft and they will use it as the basis of their PhD thesis’.

Hmm, so lets look at what they are doing- they are up and ready for school in time each morning. They are attending every lesson and completing the work. They are going for a walk every day. They are working in the same room and chatting and helping each other. We are eating a hot meal at the table together each day. We are chatting to and laughing with each other. They are obeying the lockdown rules, there have been no tears (yet), they have not complained. They are becoming brilliant builders on minecraft and experts on teams and excel and word and powerpoint.

We are surviving and this is not forever. If they ever read this I hope they realise- and remember that they were pretty good really!

There! a much less angry post…. x

Stay safe and stay home.

So here we are, back to remote learning, staring at screens for hours a day and in quiet bits of lessons watching a you tube video. All the bad habits that were let slip in the last few weeks of June and July 2020 are already firmly entrenched in January 2021. I have had to tell my two children not to eat lunch and snack at the computer and to get up and move at break and lunchtime, not to have minecraft and you tube open when it is lesson time.

They are fine, they are working and engaging in lessons. It is just so, so sad this had to happen again.

There are mixed feelings at school about the amount of children we have in school There are a lot of critical key workers who are working from home. But they have to work, I am not sure teachers are best placed to judge how involved a lap top work from home job actually is. We have just under a third of our children in our school of the three Y5/6 classes. This is definitely more than in the first lockdown where we had maximum of 20 children in the whole school. It is a difficult balancing act. There is little doubt that the children in school are getting a more structured, better resourced day. They are getting help from a trained adult when they need it, they don’t have to share technology with brothers and sisters. Again, more unfairness.

Hmm, so our life at home is going ok. Children up before I leave for work, working until lunchtime on timetabled lessons and then ‘something constructive’ in the afternoons. I just feel so sad for them. It drives me crazy that people are still breaking lock down and shielding guidelines yet my children are only allowed to leave the house once a day.

Everyone’s feelings have changed so much since the first lockdown- acceptance has become irritation and anger. The warm fuzzy feeling of staying at home to let someone’s great granny stay alive has become annoyance when the great granny nips to the shop for a pint of milk. I am not sure how my children’s generation will grow up- (they are Gen Z according to my daughter), my son has already decided the old ones we are protecting may have had enough life already. If the first lockdown made us kinder, this one is making us crueller.

But there is little we can do about all this, we are all adjusting to the life we will live for the next few weeks. Amazing feats are being carried out, people are being vaccinated at an incredible rate, and as soon as enough are protected we can go out again and the children can go back to school. Never, ever let it be said that Gen Z are selfish, they are making a huge sacrifice- maybe without even knowing it- limiting their futures so that we can keep more people alive; maybe they also deserve some acknowledgement.