25 March 2020: Lockdown Day -1

It’s Day Minus 1 of corona-isolation.

One more day and everyone will hopefully stay at home. Our family has been self-isolating for a week already, and I guess the frenzy of planning and stockpiling South African families are going through since the official isolation announcement is what I went through over a week ago. Except that I planned for my family to stay home for ten days or so, until we are completely certain that we are symptom free, so we could visit my parents. I didn’t buy supplies for our ten days of isolation, plus the government-enforced three weeks, plus possibly longer.

I start doing stocktaking in my head as soon as I woke up this morning. We won’t have enough of anything. But, I’m not daring the town today. Then our week of isolation would’ve been for nothing.

I turn on the kettle and open the fridge. The Peppa Pig yoghurts are almost finished. No amount of cheese will ever make it. Does cream taste the same after being frozen? How long can I survive without tomatoes? I drink my coffee with a little less milk. I take out the stale rusks, the ones that someone left open. Actually not too bad. I spoon up the crumbs from the bottom of the packet and eat them too. I even drink the last sip of coffee with the lumps in it. I gag a little. But, no more wasting from now on. I might not have the privilege to enjoy rusk crumbs soon.

I decide that we’ll have leftovers for lunch today – of everything. There are three varieties of pastas. If I mix them together and add viennas, the kids will think it’s a treat-meal. The vienna packet was also left open. Usually, I’d throw out anything not stored in an airtight container. I have open-packet-issues. But today I’ll just rinse the possibly contaminated viennas very well and radiate them in the microwave until they burst. Should be safe.

I’m now adamant to work our way through the older food first. I’ll feel more in control of our stock that way. I find some soup in the freezer. My husband’s not keen on soup, ever – especially for lunch, on a hot day, like today. I can’t quite make out what soup it is through the frosted container. From the bits in there, it looks like mushroom soup.

Happy that lunch is sorted, I turn to my students. The novelty of home-schooling is wearing off, so I’ve put up a star chart and promised the kids that we can make small cakes in mugs if they each get two stars. I am excited about finally working through the piles of activity books I’ve stored for when “I’ll have time with the kids”. The three-year old insists on doing pages which are already done, so I end up rubbing out the older kids’ work from years ago. He is amazed by the eraser. Of course he needs to help. He ends up doing no work at all. He gets his stars for eagerness and perseverance.

It takes forever to find a recipe for a cake-in-a-mug. Not because I’m inefficient at Googling. The internet is slower than usual today. There’s added strain on the network by my husband now also working from home. The kids are getting impatient.

We don’t have clean mugs. I use it as a teaching moment about not letting the dishes pile up. The kids sigh. The eldest isn’t interested in baking anymore. No worries. I can rely on the little one always being keen to help. He wants to mix the batter. Regardless of being super careful, the flour is all over the clean floor. I put the kitchen rug over it and pretend to now know it’s there – just for now. He wants to taste the sugar. (As if he doesn’t know what it tastes like.) He promises it’ll be only one spoon. He eagerly grabs the spoon from my hand. The majority ends up on the floor, on top of the rug. I use it as a teaching moment about not grabbing. He doesn’t care. His life consists of teaching moments. I shake the sugar off the rug and gently place the rug over the flour and sugar. 

Mixing the rest of the ingredients goes relatively smoothly. It’s the middle child’s turn to hold the measuring spoon. He licks the full spoon of vanilla essence. Of course it doesn’t taste the way it smells. He tosses the spoon forward. But I am quicker and grab his wrist, tilting the spoon into the bowl just in time before it spills. He is upset because I grabbed his arm too hard. He is too old to believe in better-kisses and I have to promise never to do that again. The little one uses it as a teaching moment – we’re not allowed to hurt each other. I divert their attention to pouring the batter into the mugs. The eldest joins when he hears that the mug-cakes are about ready. Each of the three insists on their mug being the fullest one. I don’t even make an attempt at explaining that they won’t be able to tell the mugs apart once they come out of the microwave.

The recipe says one and a half minute in the microwave. That can’t be right. I put it in for ten minutes. I check. I add a few minutes. Check again. Still squishy. A little longer. They seem perfect. I’m chuffed. I leave them in the mugs to cool down. It’s a disaster. The kids are finally allowed to enjoy their mug-cakes, but they’re rock hard. The middle one offers me R600 if I can bite into his cake. He doesn’t know how much R600 is, but I get the point. They’re completely inedible. We’ve wasted a batch of ingredients and the only reward was the licking of the bowl.

I give them the last yoghurts instead.

I hear “Where did my yoghurt go?” from my three-year old. That’s a fun question. Of course I know where the tub of yoghurt went. I silently hope that it’s not a buttered-bread-effect – that a yoghurt tub CAN actually land with the messy side up. Of course it doesn’t. The last Peppa Pig yoghurt is all over the floor. The kitten licks it up. The little one asks for a new yoghurt. I explain the situation. He still asks. I explain again. He is now willing to eat it off the floor. He is upset that the kitten beat him to it. He is also upset that the kitten spilled the yoghurt on his shirt and hands. I don’t even try to explain and just answer “naughty kitten”.

I decide to make up for the disappointment(s) and take the kids to go swim in our little mud dam. They go in with their clothes on before I could ask them to have fun and swim naked. More washing. The eldest can’t resist and throws the middle one with a mud ball. More like a clay bullet. There’s screaming. I look in the direction of the neighbours. Hopefully they’re out to get supplies. The middle one swears something bit him in the mud. There’s no mark, but it’s downhill from here. The little one is cold and wants to be carried. I manage to convince him that it’s so much cooler if I hold his hand and make fart noises by squeezing his muddy hand, while we both walk home. He is very entertained.

We pass the kitchen’s grey water tanks. All of them complain about the smell. I send them to go rinse in the pool (will regret that tomorrow, the creepy isn’t sucking), while I inspect the tanks. I end up cleaning them. It reminds me to check if the last bit of water in the hole under the trampoline evaporated, like I hoped. It didn’t. And there are two huge frogs inside – dead and party decomposed. I pretend to not notice.

There’s no-one in the pool. I go look for the kids inside. The older two are on the couch, with their wet and muddy clothes still on. The little one is gone. I find him in his “bath in the shower”. He blocked the drain with a towel, so the water could rise. It’s wet everywhere. I call my husband. I’d now rather deal with the laundry.

I fill the washing machine, the dishwasher, and the sink with all the leftover dishes. I drag the kitchen rug with flour and sugar outside. I notice the grass is long. And the moles are now also in the back garden. The dog rubs against me. He smells of dam. I shoo him away. I pick up the cat instead. He is full of knots and needs to be combed. Will have to put pet washing and grooming on the to-do list.

At least the kids love the pasta. But it turns out it’s not mushroom soup, but leftover sauce. My husband and I have rusks for lunch. I allow myself some extra milk in my coffee. 

Just this last time.

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