27 March 2020:  Lockdown Day 1

27 March 2020: Lockdown Day 1

It’s Corona-Lockdown Day 1.

It starts with beautiful, crisp autumn weather. Mother Nature is saying thank-you. Pleasure. Think I deserve that thank-you. Our family has been in isolation for over a week already. You’d imagine lots of board games and lego laughter with the kids, but believe me – it’s not all fun and games.

The last few days’ national countdown to lockdown reminded me a little of new years. I’ve set my mind to some resolutions (as from today). The usual – to drink more water, to not lengthen my to-do list unnecessarily, to consume less chocolate (this would be an easy one, as the stash will run out soon), to be more patient, to be more fun, to feel like 29. I’ll reassess and realign my goals on Lockdown-Day-21, like one would do by February – when it’s fair to forego the resolutions without much social judgement.

I’m off my game today. Was kept up well past midnight by my eldest son. And husband (not in the fun way). Was woken early by my youngest.

Yesterday’s all-day-screen-time-exception somehow resulted in my eldest pulling an allnighter, playing tv-games. He needed the social interaction with his friends – albeit online. So, fun-mom didn’t say anything and endured his preteen chatter (learned many new cool words) and piercing squeals (these will be easier on the ear when his voice breaks, I’m sure) until he finally got tired (or the batteries died, don’t know which).

My husband also enjoyed some overdue social interaction last night. His twin friends had their birthday and they arranged a virtual braai. Blue coolerbox and all. Seriously. All logged in somewhere and group video called for hours – each lighting their fire and having a few birthday drinks in isolation, in the freezing cold. My kind of braai. My husband was having a great time and I was in the comfort of my own home (and favourite clothes), without any expectation to prepare or serve or interact. At one point, I tried to listen to what they’re chitchatting about, but I couldn’t attach an actual topic or theme to the conversation. It just sounded like comments on comments, on comments. Normal man stuff.

Content in knowing that I’m not missing out on anything, I decided to grab this rare opportunity and watch some television. Something other than Peppa Pig, Youtube fails, or sports. My mom mentioned a reality show where lots of people share a house, with the last man standing winning a cash prize. Sounds like the type of light entertainment 29-year-old me can appreciate and a topic I can currently relate to. But DSTV wouldn’t allow me access to Catchup. Our decoder apparently got loadshedding damage. Should’ve sorted that out before the lockdown.

So, I went to bed early. Went to sleep late. The worst way of spending time in bed (if you’re on your own).

And today I’m tired – making it increasingly difficult to stick to my being-more-patient resolution.

Also making it increasingly difficult to be a cooperative patient so early in the morning. I unpacked the Peppa Pig doctor set my youngest got for Christmas three days ago. (Peppa Pig is huge in our house at the moment. Moms of young kids will understand.) I mistakenly set a very elaborative, theatrical example of a doctor’s visit. It blew his mind. We’ve since all had turns, on repeat, to be the ‘president’ (it’s too cute to correct him), while he is the doctor.

I decide that it ends today. I pick up the plastic syringe, thermometer and evil little knee hammer. Both my left and right knees are bruised. (When the jerk is not high enough, you get it again.) He spots me packing up. I inevitably end up on the doctor’s bed again. I’ve always longed for more time with my kids. This is it. This is my chance to play with them until they get bored of me. But three-year olds don’t get bored. I sit through four examinations – all before my first cup of coffee. With the last checkup, I forget to say “dup-dup” when he listens to my heart. He is very upset that my heart is not beating. I grab this opportunity to explain that I need to go to the ICU and should leave the room immediately.

My husband finally emerges from the bedroom. No, allow me to rephrase. My husband finally wakes up from the dead. I didn’t quite recognise his footsteps down the hallway. It was more a shuffle than a walk. He complains about a headache. Emotional debate – do I give a you-deserve-it-chuckle or play good-wife-here’s-an-aspirin? I opt for the chuckle. I do the first part internally and then let only the last part out aloud. Then I also remind him that it’s a work day. It’s important to stay in routine. (Does isolation make me jealous? And does jealousy really makes one nasty?)

My husband and eldest almost simultaneously ask what’s for breakfast. I point to the schedule. Breakfast time is over. They are tired, grumpy, and don’t think I’m funny. I chuckle at my clever jokes-with-a-sting. Serves them right for keeping me up until this morning. Tonight is Friday night. I am going to binge-watch something, anything, and play dead tomorrow morning.

I give up and do a second breakfast round. My eldest doesn’t like the cereal. I’m on the verge of giving the poor-kids-in-Africa speech (can be replaced with corona-food-scarcity soon), but some battles can’t be won. He is eleven. That’s the new thirteen. I don’t negotiate. I remove the bowl, put it in the microwave, and tell him it’s there when he’s hungry later. He snorts and goes to fetch his bowl from the microwave. Where do they learn to snort like that?

My husband sits down with a cup of coffee and too many rusks. I don’t again mention how we’re going to run out of rusks soon. After putting his mug in the sink, he unpacks the dishwasher. There was no mention of a thank-you for publically proclaiming his size and strength in yesterday’s post. I can assume he didn’t read it. So, this unasked for unpacking of the dishwasher isn’t a result of social pressure. He’s been conditioned. I’m proud.

Then he asks me where the grater goes. I make big hand gestures while I silently count on my fingers – how long we’ve been living in this house together. He doesn’t get it and asks again. I snort.

 

With everyone being tired, school starts two hours later than it should. No-one is motivated. The middle one reminds me that it’s Sunday and that we shouldn’t be having school today. I don’t answer him. (Whipped for my indirect white lie about it being Saturday yesterday.) I remember to be more fun. I decide to teach them how to play chopsticks on the piano instead. Am not even going to try describe the result.

I plan a quick clean. One of those types, where it looks clean, but you know it isn’t really. I fetch the vacuum cleaner to suck up a pile of dust I’ve swept to a corner. I bend my big toe as far down as it goes and drag it through the pile to check if there’s anything valuable down there. I’m careful to not let the dust touch the bottom of my foot. I get a cramp and step down anyway. I spot two small pieces of lego. They’re really tiny. One has only four dots and is a quarter of the thickness of a usual lego block. I weigh up the effort to pick them up and to return them to the lego box, which is under another huge crate, under the stairs, behind a push bike – and the possible cost of two such small blocks. Considering the cost of a lego set, they’re probably worth R39,99. I pick them up. I’m glad I did. I also find an earring. Not a valuable one – I buy these in bulk and would never have missed this one, but it’s not the point. If my kids were present, I would’ve used this as a teaching moment about always making the effort to do the right thing.

I’m now on a roll. I find a thin, blue disposable cloth in the sink. These disposables will now have to be stretched a little further, until they actually tear apart and rightfully deserve to be thrown away. I vigorously shake out yesterday’s soggy Rice Crispies. I start wiping the kitchen cupboard handles. I notice the doors are also dusty. I work my way to the doors, the skirtings, into all the corners of the floor. I always explain to my cleaner that one cannot leave these minor tasks too long. The dust becomes sticky with age and is then more difficult to remove. Time to practice what I preach.

I (literally) stand back to admire my hard work. It’s worse than it was before. The cupboard doors now all have water streaks. I use my shirt to rub away the most obvious ones.

The blue cloth is now a rag. I wipe the dining room table, sweeping what looks like an entire bread’s crumbs into one hand. My hand is too small to hold it all. I gently lower my hand and let the crumbs rain to the floor. I’ll run over the floor with the vacuum cleaner. The little one has eyes behind his head. He immediately jumps up and screams for his dad. Mom spilled dirt on the floor. Tattletaler. Shouldn’t they have a stronger bond with the one that feeds them?

I struggle with the washing machine again. Is it paused or started when the light flickers? My gut says paused. I press the pause / start button again. No water runs in. I press it again. Again. I switch the machine off and on. Repeat the process. I open the door and slam it shut – harder than what’s possibly necessary. That works. (Does isolation make me aggressive?)

I look at all the disposable containers and empty jars we’ve accumulated over the last week. They all need to be cleaned. Some are growing things inside. I’d usually expect my cleaner to wash them. And to tear off the labels from the jars. Those were the old days. The old me. This is new-and-improved-me. 29-year-old-me don’t keep old containers. I throw them all away. (Is isolation turning me into a less-is-more-person?)

I am too tired to find my rhythm with the household chores today.

I bake another round of mug cakes with the kids. This time they come out perfect. It really is only 90 seconds in the microwave. We eat them on the deck in the sun and I leave the mugs outside. We walk through the garden to pick flowers for the house. I let the kids choose. Most are half dead. Some are full of ants, but we don’t care. We throw plastic golf balls on the trampoline and jump with them until they all escape through the springs and end up in the pit of water with the dead frogs underneath. We find it very funny. Today I’m fun, 29-year old mum.

Day 1 of resolutions – check.

26 March 2020: Lockdown Day Zero

It’s Day Zero.

Today is the last day of freedom until Mother Nature forgives us and we’re all allowed to shake hands again.

Our family has been self-isolating since the start of last week already, so we’ve had a sneak preview of what’s lying ahead – at least in terms of family dynamics.

I notice this morning that I look exceptionally tired. It doesn’t quite make sense. I am going to bed as per routine, but I enjoy lazy mornings now that’s there’s no crazy hour(s) to rush the kids to school. I definitely get more sleep. Then it dawns on me. It’s mascara. Usually, I wake up with traces of the previous day’s mascara still on my naturally short lashes (sometimes also under my eyes, where the bags hugged my lashes while I slept). After so many days of no make-up, my lashes are unusually clean. 

My goodness. Is this what my face looks like completely naked?

I do a quick check inside my night shirt to see if everything there is still where they should be. My eyes wander down to my thighs. They seem bigger. A lot. So quickly? Well, it’s pretty inevitable. My entire family is home all the time and they constantly need to be fed. Our breakfasts and snack times and lunches and snack times and dinners and bedtimes-but-I’m-hungries just seamlessly blend into one another. The dog is on a serious diet (has been forever, we’re failing terribly), so I’m the one we rely on to eat the left-over crusts, last spoons of porridge, lonely sausage in the pan… It doesn’t help that I’ve implemented a ‘no waste policy’. We eat everything now. Also the soft tomatoes. (Before, I always froze those to use in stews later – just to throw them away when I clean the freezer.) I now eat what no-one else is finishing. It’s for the greater good.

I shrug at my current state. Have never been big on hair or make-up before anyway. Plus, no-one will see me in weeks. I don’t need to manage myself now.


I can make up for it by managing my household.

I feel a sense of urgency to rewrite the schedule I drew up a week ago. I make some minor adjustments based on my new experience of reality. I do it in my best handwriting. There is no office I can send it to to be printed. I redo it a couple of times, because of some small spacing mistakes. How I miss tabs.

I am now in pedantic mode. I call a meeting. I have a bell. It still amazes me how the kids love to come running when I ring it.

In my most authoritative tone, I rumble off a very long list of chores. Each child receives daily tasks – focused on helping each other. There’s a lot of complaining, over-exaggerated groans and ridiculous negotiations from my audience. But, this was expected. Afterall, I’m not new at being a mom. I am prepared. I end the conversation by “hearing their concerns” and reducing the chores to only a few routine tasks. The eldest will dress himself and the youngest, open windows and brush his brother’s teeth. The middle one will make his own and his little brother’s beds, and pick up everyone’s clothes. We’ll have half an hour of communal house cleaning, after an hour of home-school, every day. Everyone is delighted by the reduction of chores and happily accepts. One star for mom.

I kick it up a notch. I employ the same tactic with my husband. (He didn’t come running when the bell rang, so he didn’t witness the game.) I casually mention the elaborated list of household chores. I quickly brush over how our cleaner spends seven hours per day getting it all done, and that, now that I am also teacher and everything else, we will have to divide the tasks. I see him stiffen from the corner of my eye. I don’t make eye contact. I stay nonchalant. This is matter-of-fact stuff. I pause for effect. He is waiting for his death sentence. I politely ask if he would unpack the dishwasher every day. And help with dinner. He can braai. I pause for effect again, as if the rest will follow. Nothing follows. His shoulders relax. He can’t believe his luck. I add that I would then take care of the rest of the heavy work. I emphasise ‘heavy’ a little stronger than the rest. He eagerly accepts his fate.

On the way out the door, he pulls a man-move by asking if he’ll get lucky for every time he unpacks the dishwasher. (Seriously?!) I give my loudest snort and walk away – not quite answering his question. (Let that hang in the air a while and be a motivator. As if.)

I decide to make omelettes. Again a strategic move. There are some tomatoes and mushrooms going off soon. Some cheese has already been grated and went a little hard. Last week’s ham is not so fresh anymore. No-one will notice if I wrap these in egg.

There is no clean pan. I go to fetch one in the washroom sink. I left the pots and pans there to soak. What seemed like a good idea yesterday, resulted in a terrible task today. The soak water is cold. The fats are floating on top. Some formed a solid layer. There must be a clever saying along the lines of ‘yesterday’s laziness taking revenge today’, or something. (Mental note to only soak pots and pans, if I’m planning to finish the job while the water is still hot. This also sounds like a profound saying.)

I turn back to the kitchen to go find my backup pans. Those are the novelty pans that you buy online, but never use. There is a pink sandwich shape one and a teeny tiny red one that will fit a single child-size omelette. Child-size omelettes it is then. Just as I wonder why I never use this pan, I learn that my now oversize spatula cannot turn the omelette and the handle starts burning, because it’s too close to the open gas flame. In the seconds of chaos that follows when I try to move the melting handle out of the way and turn the egg at the same time, without it spilling over the sides of the impractical small pan, the omelette flops. It now resembles scrambled eggs. On a good day, my kids don’t particularly like scrambled eggs. (Why would they like the quickest way of cooking eggs?!) Let alone scrambled eggs with tomatoes and mushrooms now clearly visible. (Moms of small children will understand.) I find comfort in the possibility that it might be like pancakes – the first one always flops.

They all flop. I blame the pan and spatula and hot handle. The kids get scrambled eggs. Someone dares to comment that it looks like throwup. I bribe them with screen time if they eat their food without wasting any. The little one is ‘full’ after his first bite. I eat his leftovers. The other two immediately announce that it’s unfair that he didn’t have to eat all his food. I put myself in time-out. I go to the loo. Two out of three kids follow me there. There is no safe space in my house. I tell them that they can watch YouTube, if they leave now. It works. Yes, I bribed with overload of screen time today. Don’t judge me. It’s crisis time.


It’s very cold today – the perfect couch day. I lovingly close each child with a blanket and make sure they have water and whatever else they can ask for next. I do a quick round of laundry. I made peace with the fact that laundry is a loop. It will never end. I will never get ahead. At least today Mother Nature is giving me a thumbs-up to run the tumble dryer all day – to heat up the house (and to ease the laundry load at the same time). I also give myself a thumbs-up to stay in my pyjamas all day.

I sit down in front of my computer to do the item longest outstanding on my to-do list – taxes (and not even 2020’s).

The tumble dryer makes a strange, rattling noise. It’s my punishment for thinking I’d be allowed to dry clothes the environmentally-unfriendly way, and to believe in thumbs-ups (and to think I’d get my taxes done today). I open and close the dryer door four times. I take out all the clothes. I check all the zips and buttons. I check the inside for loose coins. I try to shake the machine a little to see if I can hear something rattle inside, but it’s way too heavy to move even slightly. I finally find the source of the noise. There’s an unplugged radio on top of the tumble dryer. It’s plug is rattling against a glass vase next to it. Seriously?!

I’m fully focussed on creating the perfect Excel template before I start with the taxes. This time I’m ripped from my computer by the smell of something burning in the kitchen. I left the stove on. Meant to pop a ready-made meal in for lunch and then forgot. The last six months’ oven spills are scorched to ash. Well, will be easier to clean now.

If we have a fire tomorrow, will the fire brigade come? Would I want them to?

The retired cat comes running. He meows non-stop. He is so old, he can’t distinguish between the smell of something burning and food. His nose obviously detects some strong scent, but his brain is de-wired by age. He sways on his feet while he watches me open the kitchen windows. We’ve been expecting him to fall over for the past five years. If something happens now, there’s no vet to take him to.

I become increasingly more aware of the limited access we’d have to service providers during the next few weeks or maybe even months. I immediately turn my attention to where the boys are tugging at each other on the couch, like they always do when sharing a space. If someone gets hurt now, we’d be better off not going to the hospital. I scold them for being irresponsible under the new circumstances. Then I scold them for not smelling something burning.

I return to my computer. My husband walks in. He jokingly comments on how I’ve been in this same spot for four days. (And how does he think the family got fed and the house got cleaned if I stayed in this same spot for four days? I’m getting defensive inside. It’s embarrass-anger. Tomorrow I’ll get dressed before anyone else. Ok, easy now. Tonight I’ll put on different pyjamas. Then I won’t look the same tomorrow.)

I leave the taxes. Instead, I make a list of everything I forgot to buy. Not as if it matters now. We’re not going anywhere at this last minute – then our week of isolation thus far was for nothing. It just soothes me to make lists. (List people will understand.) Cream cheese. Chutney. Wraps. Hummus. Those are luxury items. We should be able to cope without those. Onions. How could I forget onions. And I didn’t fill the gas for the oven. It’ll be empty before the end of this week.

My mind wanders to tonight. It rained last night. That’s another thumbs-up from Mother Nature. I’m allowed a deep bath tonight. We have only rain water and no access to municipal supply, so baths are restricted to when the reservoirs are full. I decide to bath early. Just have to keep the kids occupied, otherwise they’ll all jump in with me and I’ll have to add more cold water than is comfortable. I wonder how long I can extend the kids’ screen time for before I should be labelled a bad parent. I share the good news with the kids – they can watch television ALL DAY LONG. The middle one literally jumps with joy and asks if it’s Saturday. (They usually get screen time slots only over weekends.) I don’t want to lie (at least not at such a direct question) and respond with “it can be any day you set your imagination to”. It sounds profound enough. He buys into it. (Or just didn’t listen to my answer.)

I fill the bath up to the overflow drain. I use the luxury bubble bath I’ve saved for years – for who-knows-what-and-when.

We might not have food soon, but at least we’re running into winter, so we’ll have water. Actually, we have so much to be grateful for. I have great kids. And I am lucky to have an awesome husband, who accepts me just the way I am – pyjamas and all – even in the same spot for four days. He is so super helpful unpacking the dishwasher. And so big, strong, and handsome.

(Not implying that the last two sentences aren’t completely true, but I’ve put those in there to check if he actually reads the posts he’s seen me typing, in the same spot, for the last few days.)

25 March 2020:  Lockdown Day -1

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.

24 March 2020:  Lockdown Day -2

24 March 2020: Lockdown Day -2

It’s Day 64 of self-isolation.

More accurately, it’s Tuesday. We’ve started staying home last Tuesday. I still left the house on Wednesday, which was also our domestic lady and gardener’s last day until who-knows-when. So, technically, it’s been a week of self-isolation, Day 6 of no social contact, and Day -2 of government enforced isolation.

The not-seeing-other-people part is actually not too bad. I don’t have to put on make-up or shoes. Nor bra. The staying-away-from-town part isn’t bad either. I have a full extra three hours every day, which I would’ve otherwise spent taxiing my kids around.

It’s the kids. 

Don’t judge me, I love them dearly. It’s just different having them at home ALL THE TIME. Of course the same happens during school holidays, but this is different. There’s a sort-of buzz in the air that seems to increase their energy levels and reduce their tolerance towards each other. Or maybe that buzz is just the ringing in my ears from the constant surround-sound. I’ve been spoiled to have a quiet house for many morning hours every school day. I never realised that this is a balancing-peace, which increases my strength to deal with the more noisy hours of the day when the rest of the family is home. Do all kids shout when they talk to each other, or did I somehow misparent in that department? Do they do that in the classroom as well? (Mental note to ask the teachers if my kids are the loudest in class. And how she deals with that.)


Yesterday I promised the kids a trip to the beach if they can play the quiet game very well, while I get some admin done. But then I finally managed to catch up on the 30-odd corona-related Whatsapps my mom sends me daily and saw that all beaches are already closed. That’ll teach me to read my mom’s messages first thing in the morning.

To make matters worse, our internet has been off for a few days. The first few days were my fault, because I assumed Telkom is just being Telkom, so I waited for it to magically come on again. Turns out that the guy at the office didn’t pay the bill, so our account has been suspended. (In his defence, we’ve been in credit for such a long time, due to issues on Telkom’s side, and he just didn’t keep track of when the credit ran out.) The devil on my left shoulder whispered it’s because I have “a guy at the office” taking care of these things. She might have a point there. The angel on my right shoulder reassured me that I needn’t be so hard on myself – we still have DSTV.

So, this morning, I decided that instead of getting the kids to help me clean the house, I’ll reward myself and rather allow them to watch DSTV. They couldn’t believe their luck and were dead still and all contained in a 2 m² space, while I had the house to myself. (Ok, to be more honest, the ‘dead still’ came only after I had to raise my voice a little too loud about just having to all watch the same channel, or nothing.)

I am alone (well, at least in this room).

I walk into the kitchen. Expecting not much. Just enjoying the peace. Just going to do a quick wipedown of the counters, stare out the window for a few seconds, maybe see if someone left something in the prep bowl, do some rearranging in the fridge…

There’s a blood stain on the floor. No-one screamed this morning, so it’s not human. This is nothing new. My cat is a gift that keeps on giving. Sometimes the gifts are alive, sometimes dead, sometimes half. He rarely eats it all. So, I know very well to start looking for the source of the stain on the kitchen floor. I find the dead mouse next to the bin. Luckily it’s small. I pick it up by the tail and can’t help but to do an awkward tiptoe-dance. I feel ripples run up and down my spine. (Why, I don’t even know, as I’m not scared of live mice.) I must’ve let out a yelp, because the kids come running. Not even DSTV can keep them gripped anymore.

I let the mouse slip and instinctively kick it away. The middle child immediately catches on, joins in the fun game, and kicks the mouse under the stove. He doesn’t understand why I’m upset about that. The big one can’t stop laughing at the shenanigans, and the little one screams “me too” repetitively as loud as he can.

Ok, so now the floor really needs to be mopped. I knew that might have to happen today.

The floor in front of the guest loo has been sticky for days, so it’s been at the top of the to-do list. However, I broomed so well yesterday, that I thought I might be able to move this task up a day or two.


I sigh. Here goes.

There are a variety of mops to choose from. A handy Verimark one allows you to squeeze out the water without touching the mop. Another (probably also Verimark, I’m a sucker like that) is completely flat and can reach under the furniture, but won’t hold any water. Two others – one with only half its hair. Another without a handle. One that seems intact, but well used. My cleaner prefers the old-school one with the gross hair, that always smells. After the last few days of cleaning the house, my trust in my cleaner’s abilities grew substantially. I reach for the gross mop.

It takes three buckets of clean water to rinse it properly, before I can begin. Only after I threw the buckets down the drain, I realised that I’ll be the one cleaning the way-too-small grey water tank on the other side of the wash room wall, as there’s not Gift coming in tomorrow. Should’ve chucked the buckets out on the lawn.

The mop still smells mucky. I decide to make a plan and find some vanilla essential oil. I stop myself just in time and consider the possibility of making the water and floor oily. But now I’m set on vanilla. I go get the vanilla room spray from the guest bathroom. It takes at least five minutes to try and screw off the spritzer, so I can pour the liquid into the mop bucket. I end up having to cut open the spray bottle. I get a strange sense of satisfaction when I completely mangle the bottle that caused me so much frustration. I empty the bottle into the mop bucket. It smells wonderful. I wipe the spills over my pants (and a little on my hair). At least I’ll smell like clean floor all day.

I drag the bucket down the hallway. (Mental note to buy a bucket with wheels.) I’m going to start on the opposite side of the house and work my way towards the kitchen, ending in the washroom. I take the mop out of the bucket. It’s heavier than I thought. It splashes on the floor. It’s wetter than it should be. I don’t want to touch the mop (at least not so soon in the exercise), so I just spread the water out over the floor. I realise that it’s probably not a good idea to wet-mop wooden floors with such wide grooves. The dust in the grooves causes little streams of mud. I wonder if my vacuum cleaner can suck liquid. I decide that it won’t be as obvious once it dries.

I fetch an old towel, dry the floor, and then wrap the mop in the towel. I give up. This floor didn’t really need mopping. I return to the kitchen. The blood stains are still there, but they’re now dry and less visible. I rub at it with my big toe. It seems to come off quite easily. I wrap the wet towel around my foot, hop on the other, and scrub the floor only where it needs be to cleaned. I’m impressed with my athletic abilities.

So much for mopping today. When it’s due again, I’ll make it a fun activity and give each child a towel to skate on the floors. I take the bucket and mop outside. We have flies. Of course. Gift isn’t here to pick up the dog’s poop. I turn around and shrug.

At least I smell nice.