What matters most

Today is Q’s and my thirteenth wedding anniversary.

I made a joke in my card to Q. that of course it would be unlucky thirteen where we were celebrating during a pandemic. We usually do the traditional gifts, but this year’s selection (lace) utterly defeated me, and I ended up just saying to Q. in the card that at some point in the future, when we felt comfortable going into stores again, I would get him new shoes (which would have laces on them, get it?).

In the meantime, I’d arranged for my Mum (and my aunt, because she is still living with my Mum) to come in to babysit the kids for a couple of hours (since they’re in our social circle) so I could take Q. out for a surprise, gluten-free, contactless pick up dinner from a Mexican restaurant we discovered late last year. There’s a park nearby, so we could sit and eat our takeaway and have one meal where we weren’t interrupted constantly by our children.

That wouldn’t usually be a big thing, but after 108 days without a break from the kids (not that I’m counting), it seemed huge.

Q. forgot.

At lunch we were discussing the plans for the afternoon. I said, “Also, we have to decide when we want to do presents” and a look of ABJECT PANIC crossed his face.

He had absolutely no idea it was today. Wasn’t on his radar at all.

Q. is normally the one who comes up with the best presents on the annual theme, so this is very out of character for him and speaks volumes (I think) about his general mental state after 108 days without a break from the kids. He’s been fielding literally hundreds of messages from his sisters, who are trying to organize a present for his mother, who is having a significant birthday next week, and he told me he’d been thinking about my birthday (which is next month), and, as he said, “I just forgot there was another one before that”.

After lunch, I put the laundry up on the line outside to dry, and then drove downtown to pick up our bulk alcohol order, which I’d placed last night (I had to drive to a location I wouldn’t normally use because they had Q’s gluten-free beer in stock.). While waiting for the clerk to bring out my  (embarrassingly large – hopefully we won’t need to go back to the store until October) order, I overheard someone in the line at the other side of the store commenting on the approaching thunderstorm.

I pulled out my phone and checked the weather app. There was supposed to be a brief period of rain around 3 p.m., with total rainfall of no more than 0.1 mm. Barely a shower.

Right, I thought. I can get home before 3 and get in the washing if it looks threatening.

As I drove home the raindrops started to fall. By the time I turned onto our street, it was genuinely pouring (long before 3 p.m., I might add), and I’d resigned myself to leaving the washing on the line, as it would already be soaked through.

I pulled onto our parking pad, looked into the backyard, and breathed a sigh of relief.

There was no washing on the line.

I ran through the downpour to get inside and found Q. in the kitchen, just finishing arranging all of the laundry on the drying rack.

THAT’S why I married him.

I don’t need presents.

I don’t need cards.

Now, more than ever, what I need most of all is a partner. Someone who tag teams with me when our kids vomit. Someone who pushes the car through snowdrifts so I can get to work. Someone who notices when the sky turns threatening and remembers that there is laundry on the line that might need to be rescued.

Someone who has spent half of every single workday with the kids since we locked down in March because he believes that my work matters as much as his does.

I’m only not drowning because we’re treading water together, both of us keeping our little family afloat in this wild, chaotic, uncertain time.

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Filed under Choose Happiness, COVID-19

Summer Without Summer

School’s officially out here for summer.

It feels like summer. It’s really hot (Q. would disagree with me). It’s light until really late at night and the sun pops up far too early in the morning for the garbage blinds in our bedroom.

And yet.

The markers of “summer” for me are missing.

No treats from the ice cream truck when we hear its music on our street.

No beaches.

No splash pads.

No ferry rides.

No amusement parks.

No fairs.

No museums.

No walks to the library and hours spent perusing the shelves for unexpected treasures.

No adventures out of the city.

No long hikes.

No trips to the playground.

No evening strolls to get gelato.

No pools.

No patios.

No playdates.

I love our summers. They  are especially precious to me because every second one we spend at least half of it travelling to visit Q’s family. I love those trips too, but even though the “winter” of where we visit nowhere resembles our winter, the climate is still not what I would describe as summer, particularly the short days and the way the temperature plummets as soon as the sun sinks lower in the horizon.

There are people in our city who will do most of those things this summer.

The beaches are open, the outdoor pools and the splash pads too.

The ferries are running.

The patios are back.

The ice cream truck has driven past our house twice already.

I can hear plenty of kids playing when I walk through my neighbourhood.

Some people will have something that will look quite a lot like our typical summer (even if it wouldn’t be typical for them).

But we won’t.

Because we just don’t know.

Q. and I cannot get sick. We cannot risk our health and our children. And the number of daily cases does not suggest to us that this is all over and that it’s time to go back to normal. Our city is huge. Everything is crowded. We don’t feel confident we can maintain adequate social distancing at the beach, on the ferry, in line for the pool.

So we choose (at least for now) to stay home. To stay close. To be limited in our range of exploration by the length of time until someone will need to use the bathroom (other than P. who can use the potty that now lives in our trunk for exactly this reason).

We can get books from the library through curbside pickup.

We can get popsicles and freezies and ice cream in our grocery order.

We have water guns and a sprinkler.

We have bikes and scooters.

We have a yard and gardens.

We will have a different sort of summer. A slower, simpler summer.

In the grand scheme of things, just like always, we will be fine.

But I hope this will be our only stay-at-home-summer.

 

 

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Filed under COVID-19

Microblog Mondays: 100 Days

100 days since we picked up our kids from my Mum’s house and started our lockdown.

100 days since our kids were somewhere where Q. and I were not.

That’s 2,400 hours.

108 days since our university announced we were transitioning to online. And online we shall stay, for at least the fall semester and (let’s be realistic here, my university is the size of a small city) likely for the winter as well.

109 days since the province announced that schools would be shut for an extra two weeks after March Break. Ha. I see parents signing petitions telling the province to open the schools in the fall for five full days a week. I’m frustrated by the uncertainty too but we just don’t know enough to know what to do.

Yesterday, we went to my Mum’s house (since she is in our social circle). After 99 days, we went inside someone else’s house. We ate food that someone else had prepared. It felt weird but also nostalgically normal. We also went and saw labmonkey and her household from a safe distance and it was great to see them in person and not over a screen.

Beating this virus is a marathon, not a sprint.

But I’m tired, and I worry we’re barely past the first distance marker.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under COVID-19, Family, Microblog Mondays

Pandemic Updates

A list of my current COVID thoughts:

  • We should have been on another continent by now, our plane only just landed after a journey that, from door-to-door, would take more than 24 hours. Instead, we are at home, where we shall remain for the duration of the summer, and my battles with our travel insurance company to extract a refund for our flights continue (a post on this to follow when I finally have some sort of resolution).
  • My city is able to move into Phase 2 as of today, which means that hair salons, shopping malls, and restaurant patios can all open. I doubt we’ll change anything that we’re currently doing. Our province’s case numbers (while lower) are still high enough that I doubt very much that this is over, even if by “this”, I mean just the first wave of infections. I had to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy on the weekend and I was taken aback by the number of people out and about on the main street of our neighbourhood who weren’t wearing masks.
  • We have absolutely NO IDEA what will happen with the schools in September. Our government released their “plan” on Friday. It told the school boards that they had to be ready for any of three scenarios:  1. Mostly business as usual with new cleaning regimes and some limitations on visitors to the school/activities, etc.; 2. A blended model with students in alternate streams, where one group of students attended one week and then did remote learning the following week (when the other cohort were in class); 3. A repeat of what we’ve been doing since March, entirely remote learning.
    • The government also promised parents that if they chose not to send their kids to school, the teachers would have to find a way to teach them remotely as well.
    • And they made promises about requirements for synchronous, face-to-face learning.
      • I wrote a really long letter to the government when they asked for parent feedback, and two of the points I emphasized the most were that the teachers could not be expected to both teach remotely and face-to-face at the same time, and that synchronous learning was not necessarily a good option for all ages/grade levels, even though parents might want it. Ever watched a group of third graders on Google Meet, where the teachers can’t keep them muted or shut down the sidebar chat that is full of emojis? I have.
      • I can see they read my letter carefully.
    • So basically the government has NO PLAN and is completely absolving themselves of responsibility. They made it clear it would be up to the individual school boards to work within their framework. It’s just like the child care centres, where they ignored all of the recommendations that the child care experts gave them, and then just told the centres they could reopen, with no clear guidelines.
    • Our premier is a buffoon and massively out of his depth. I’m frustrated and disappointed, but I’m not surprised.
    • I will say that E. would probably do really well with a “week on, week off” model with a small group of students in the classroom and consolidation work done at home.
    • And P. is very unlikely to have 30 kids in her junior kindergarten classroom like E. did, so that’s probably an improvement (assuming she gets to set foot in her classroom).
    • Q. and I are so screwed with work if the kids don’t go back to school in the fall.
  • Our libraries opened for curbside pickup!!!! We went last Wednesday (after three months and four days) and picked up 27 books. 17 were for E., 6 were for me, and 4 were for P. The staff were taking tons of precautions (gloves, masks, prebagged books, social distancing markers) and it was super easy. We booked the first pickup slot of the day, which I’m sure helped, and I’ll do that again going forward. They laughed when I told them we’d be back in a couple of weeks. They thought I was joking. (E. had read three of his books by the following afternoon. I wasn’t joking.)
  • Our total self-isolation ended after 85 days, when we were able to add my mum and my aunt to our social circle. They came into town for a socially-distanced visit, and at the very end of it we were able to work out that we could be in the same circle (Labmonkey’s household can’t be in a circle with either of our households since she’s in a circle with her nanny’s household already). So I got to hug my mum! P. wouldn’t hug her, which was so sad because P. adores her Grannie, but E. was ecstatic and talked for the entire rest of the day about how happy he was that we were in the same circle. Mum came back later that week for P.’s birthday dinner and she came into the house and hung out with the kids (and got hugs from P.) and helped me solve an icing crisis, and Q. and I made dinner while there was peace in the living room because Grannie was there and it almost, almost felt like normal.
  • This is E’s final week of school. He is already worried about what the fall will look like and has been advocating to continue with homeschooling. He struggles a lot with the classroom environment and the older he gets the more aware he becomes of his challenges (and that other kids aren’t struggling the same way). Homeschooling is still a hard no for us because: a) we’d have to pull him out of French Immersion and he gets so much out of it; b) it would severely curtail my ability to teach; and c) it would damage my relationship with my son if I had to fight all the battles with him all the time. I told E. that I didn’t think we’d exhausted all the possibilities to make things easier for him in the classroom and said that we’d continue to take it one year at a time. He has noticeably thrived over the past few months with one-on-one attention and fewer distractions.
    • We need a family meeting to talk about the summer and what we want it to look like. We all need a routine, we want E. to continue to do something school-related (right now he’s voted for educational app time (mostly Prodigy) and creative writing in English, and he’s also interested in learning cursive and starting Latin back up with Q.), and we need to set some firmer limits around screen time (for both of them, but especially P.). I want to prioritize being outside as much as possible. For Q. and I, the summer will look much like the past three months have, so we need to set expectations and build a routine that will allow us to continue to function, while still bringing in more fun stuff and giving E. the room he needs to decompress.
  • The cognitive load of COVID has increased as things start to reopen. We have to start making decisions again: what are we willing to do? What are we still not comfortable doing?
    • E’s best friend’s family has made a social circle with two other families with kids in E’s class so that the parents can effectively form their own summer camp and share the childcare responsibilities. It only works because two of the three households have one child, so the three families add up to the allowed 10. There are definitely days where I wish we could do something like that too (and other days where I think I can’t imagine anything worse than having to be responsible for more kids).
    • The dentist office which my dentist joined last year has reopened. My dentist isn’t coming back yet, but I booked appointments for myself and the kids. We’re all overdue (me massively so)  and I cannot risk things shutting down again without getting a new mouthguard as I’m in real discomfort now.
    • I would like a haircut but am not willing to consider that yet. It’s been 14 months, so it might as well look limp and straggly for longer. (I am bad at making haircuts. I FINALLY  realized this spring that it’s because I don’t like getting my hair cut during semester because my students always comment on it, so I had resolved to make sure I get my hair cut without fail in August, December, and April, and, then, COVID happened.)
    • Q. took our car in to get the snow tires taken off since the dealerships were open again. Our car had a mandatory recall on it (not something that prevented us from driving it), so they’d only switch the tires if we agreed to let them fix the recall, which made it a four hour operation. Q. dropped the car off yesterday morning and walked home (the walk took 1 hr 15 min). He then walked back to the dealership this morning to pick it up. We’re not willing to take public transit or get in a cab/Uber.
    • Our dishwasher died and then came back to life again and then died again and then came back to life again (all since mid-March). We need a new one and we’re at the point where we think we’re ready to take the risk to have someone come into our house to install it as our dishwasher-free points over the past three months haven’t been fun. Our dryer died too, but Q. solved that by building a clothesline with the parts that we’ve had stored in our basement for the past eleven years (to be fair, it’s only been three years since the back fence was finished in a such a way to support the line). But we’ll get a new dryer too. And I ordered a new vacuum today because that also died (only four years old, and we’d already replaced the carpet head once- not impressed). Our appliances hate us.
    • I feel bad that we’re not supporting our local restaurants more (but also Q. can’t eat at most of them because he’s celiac). The kids and I might start ordering takeout for lunch once every couple of weeks, on days when Q. can eat gluten-free goodies from the freezer.
  • The kids and I are currently raising four swallowtail caterpillars that we found on our dill. They’re set up in an old aquarium, with all the dill and parsley they can eat, and we’re enjoying watching the stages of their development. We hope we’ll be able to release them as butterflies back into our yard later this summer, that we’ll have helped them beat the odds. It’s a little thing, but it brings me great joy.

Onwards to summer!

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Filed under Books, COVID-19, E.- the tenth year, Family, Grade Three

Microblog Mondays: If he gets it…

We’ve been going for walks after dinner lately, a chance to enjoy the longer days at a time when the sun isn’t quite so blazing.

Last night I told E. about Trump’s statement from his rally* at Tulsa that he’s asked for the COVID-19 testing to be slowed down.

This is E’s take on the situation: “Well, that makes no sense at all. It’s like telling people not to call 911 if their house is on fire. It doesn’t actually stop the fire, it just means that the fire department doesn’t know about it. And that makes it more likely that the fire will get bigger and spread and burn down more houses!”

I think my nine-year-old is more qualified to be president of the United States than the president.

*[On a somewhat related note, can I just say how much I LOVE that those hundreds of thousands of RSVPs were submitted by teens and k-pop fans who had no intention of attending and who used TikTok to spread the word without anyone in the main-stream media noticing. Well played, youth  of America. Well played.]

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under COVID-19, E.- the tenth year, Microblog Mondays

Moving Forward (While Standing Still)

I didn’t get a job this week.

I applied for a job two weeks ago.

I interviewed for a job last week.

And yesterday I got the email telling me that the hiring committee was moving forward with other candidates.

I am a little bit disappointed, but I am also quite a large bit relieved.

I’m disappointed because I was excited about the opportunity. I’m disappointed because I know I could have been good at it, that it would have been meaningful work, that it would have been a way to contribute to my university beyond my teaching and my research. I’m disappointed because I know it would have led to more opportunities.

I’m relieved because I’m not really sure I could have handled that particular job at this particular time. It’s not exactly a low-stress point in my life, and adding a new job (even a part-time job that would have been done entirely remotely) would have definitely complicated things.

When I was first invited to apply, my gut instinct was to refuse outright. But after talking about it with Q., I recognized that I needed to at least put my hat in the ring. One of the factors that has prevented me from applying for more university administration positions (alt-ac jobs) is their inflexibility. You have to be in the office for your set work hours, all the time, no exceptions. No working remotely, no flexible hours, nothing that would make it attractive to someone like me. COVID has changed everything. My entire university has committed to working from home until at least September. It was a golden opportunity to build some experience without having to conform to the narrow working conditions in the collective agreement.

So instead I will keep teaching my course and finishing my book project with Q. and prepping for my two courses in the fall (which will both have to be online), without having to find an extra twenty-four hours for work in my week (because I would have still had to do all of those things even if I got the job).

Nothing’s changed.

But I feel like I’ve made progress.

I flubbed the interview. I was caught off-guard by some of the questions (and I shouldn’t have been) and I know I didn’t do myself justice. I haven’t had a job interview in well over a decade. I’m out of practice.

The position I applied for is in a growth area. There will certainly be more jobs like it in the future. I have a much better sense of what I need to do to present myself as a strong candidate. I have a better sense of what questions I might be asked.

I know my experience and my educational background are good enough to get me an interview. And now I’ll be ready for an interview.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Life after the PhD, Who am I really? (Career Angst)

Raising an Ally

E. has questions about what is happening in the US right now (and the supporting protests around the world).

He has MANY questions.

I am doing my best to answer them.

It is a fine balance between reassuring him that the situation here in Canada is not identical to that south of the border, while at the same time making sure he understands that we, as Canadians, cannot be smug or complacent (or think, as our tone-deaf premier apparently does, that we have no problems with systemic racism. He did backtrack almost immediately, but come on!).

Our work is nowhere near done.

I have been having conversations with E. about privilege. I have been teaching him that his white, cisgender*, male body has traditionally been the body in power in our society, that it is still often viewed as normative, that it is a body that can expect to be welcomed into every space, that it is a body that is given authority just for existing.

I hope he can be an ally, that he can use his voice, with all the power and privilege that will be attached to it by the accident of birth, to lift up others, to challenge authority, to effect change.

I take him with me when I vote (P. too). I teach him that voting always matters, even especially when you think it won’t make a difference. I tell him how young people disproportionately don’t vote, and how older people disproportionately do, and how older people tend to be more conservative.  “Yes!” he said. “It’s like with the election, how if all the young people who could have voted did vote, then the Greens would have won!”

He believes that Love is Love.

That Black Lives Matter.

That Women’s Rights are Human Rights.

That Climate Change is Real.

That saying sorry for the residential schools is a start, but not an ending.

There is so much dark in the world. I struggle seeing the way forward for him, for P., for their entire generation and the broken planet they will inherit.

But in his worldview, in his wholehearted acceptance of everyone’s humanity, there is light.

These kids are going to change the world.

*E. himself identifies as cisgender. His best friend identifies as transgender and switched to using she/her pronouns last spring. E. never, ever uses the wrong pronouns when describing his friend and was honestly shocked when he learned that transgender people encounter prejudice. Kids are amazing.

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Filed under E.- the tenth year, Soapbox

Imaginative Play, Pandemic Style

For most of the pandemic, P. has maintained that the pups from Pa.w Pa.trol (her favourite show) have been living with us. She’s made them bowls and plates and cups for their food. She makes up elaborate stories about what they’ve been doing. Apparently Everest had a bunch of babies (with – shock, horror – Chase!) and Q. very tolerantly wrote out the message on the Mother’s Day card she made for Everest from Everest’s babies (honestly, I think she spent more time on that card than on the one she made for me). The pups have yoga class and dance class and the other day she was ‘teaching’ them her version of algebraic equations (just like E. was doing for school). Her version looked like empty seed packets that had been coloured on with markers and had animal identification cards glued to them lined up against the wall. I originally thought they were all on a field trip to an art gallery, but P. informed me very seriously that she was “balancing the equation” just like E.

Today, she made these:

Those are sinks. The yellow playdoh container in between is the soap.

Now the pups have “somewhere where they can go and wash their hands with soap and warm water for the whole alphabet song as soon as they come in from outside before they can play or have any snack”.

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Filed under COVID-19, P.- the fourth year

Roadmap for a Reader

I’m going to try to post at least occasionally about something that is not related to COVID-19.

One of the great joys of my life is that E. loves to read. I mean LOVES to read. Loves to read in a “take a book everywhere, even the bathroom, have stacks and stacks of them on your floor and several scattered around the living room at all times, disappear up to your room for hours as soon as a new book arrives” kind of way.

He reads the way I read, and it makes my heart happy (even though he’s a “leave the book upside down, who cares if the spine breaks” kind of person and I’m of the “CLOSE THE DAMN BOOK ALREADY, HERE’S A BOOKMARK, AAAAAHHHHH LOOK AT THE SPINE”  variety).

Along with our weekly trips to the library (pre-COVID, of course), and my inability to resist buying books when it’s for the kids, one of the most useful things I have ever done in terms of supporting E’s love of reading is join a group on F.book for parents of gifted children. E. may or may not fit the definition of gifted, I don’t really care. I’m on that group for one thing: book recommendations. It’s a group filled with parents of kids who love to read as much as E. does, and who often read above their grade level. Many of the books he’s loved best over the past couple of years were ones I discovered thanks to the group.

I thought I’d write a post about what he’s most loved as a reader ever since he made the jump to reading chapter books independently. It’s part memory-preservation (for me, because I don’t want to forget what he loved and when he loved it), part paying it forward (in case it proves useful to you, dear reader).

Age 5 (Senior Kindergarten)

This was the year that E. really turned into a reader. He spent most of the year working his way through the various leveled readers available at our library. At that stage he was probably more interested in non-fiction than fiction because he could find books about the specific things he was most interested in (the Titanic, space, etc.).

At the end of the school year he started reading the Ivy and Bean (Annie Barrows) books. There are ten of them and they are wonderful fun and a perfect transition from the bigger leveled readers to a ‘real’ chapter book.

Age 6 (Grade One)

Here’s where E. really got going.

  • Magic Treehouse/Merlin Missions  (Mary Pope Osborne): It feels like there are about a gazillion of these. E. was happy to read them out of order and would just take home whatever was available in the library. He also listened to a bunch on audiobook. I found reading these aloud to be deeply tedious (much less fun than Ivy and Bean). E. stopped reading these very soon after his comprehension jumped enough to let him tackle slightly harder books. They were a great stepping stone, but he didn’t love them.
  • Stick Cat/Stick Dog (Tom Watson): These have lots of (badly drawn, hence the name) illustrations, but they read like a book, not a graphic novel. E. really loved Stick Cat and owns all four of the books. He would often borrow these from the library to reread them even after they were ‘too easy’ for him.
  • The Scholastic Branches imprint, especially the Dragon Masters series (Tracey West): The Branches imprint is designed for kids who are just starting to tackle chapter books on their own. We read a bunch of them, including The Last Firehawk, the Notebook of Doom, Hilde Cracks the Case, Haggis and Tank Unleashed, but the Dragon Masters series was by far E’s favourite (and mine too!). He still reads the new ones when they are published (his Grannie buys them for him), and I will admit to reading them once he’s finished because I also want to see what happens next. I’ll make sure P. gets access to them as soon as she’s ready for chapter books, as I think they’re probably even more accessible than Ivy and Bean.
  • The complete set of books by Beverly Cleary (Ramona, Henry Huggins, Ralph S. Mouse, etc.): We ended up buying these through E.’s school’s Scholastic book order as there were a couple of box sets available. I remember these fondly from my own childhood and they still hold up pretty well. E. liked the books about Henry Huggins and Ribsy the best.
  • Captain Underpants (Dav Pilkey): E.’s best friend wasn’t allowed to read these, but I took the view that if he was reading, it was a good result. And they are sometimes very funny.
  • Dog Man (Dav Pilkey): E. mostly read these graphic novels in French.
  • Geronimo Stilton: These are fantastic for the voracious reader. They are lavishly illustrated and there’s a lot going on with the font too. I think they’d probably appeal to reluctant readers who didn’t want to read anything other than graphic novels. There are literally hundreds of these (and multiple spin offs: space mice, prehistoric mice, journeys through time, land of fantasy, etc.), so every time E. went to the library  he could find one he hadn’t read. These are extremely tedious to read aloud and horrible to listen to as an audiobook, so I recommend them as independent reading (if at all possible). E. read these all through second grade as well, in both English and French (often the French translation appeared before the English one).

Age 7 (Grade Two)

  • I Survived (various authors): I think E. started reading these in grade one, but grade two was when I remember him getting them out just because he liked the series and not because there was a book on a particular disaster which intrigued him. The subject matter can sometimes be a bit heavy, and E. definitely was selective about which books he read.
  • Dragonbreath (Ursula Vernon): These are really fun graphic novels and are a good option if you have a dragon-crazy child, like I did by this point.
  • Little House in the Big Woods (and others) (Laura Ingalls Wilder): E. started reading this series in grade two. We own the complete set and I think he’s read all of them by now. He didn’t love them. I mostly bought them because I had fond memories of reading them as a child. They’re pretty problematic at times (Little House on the Prairie especially), so whenever I saw E. reading one I’d make sure to unpack it a bit with him afterwards. These weren’t his favourites, but I’m glad he’s read them, and I was also glad that he was happy to read a series with a female protagonist.
  • Science Comics (various topics, various authors): This is one of those series I would have never discovered without the F.book group and it is BRILLIANT. Non-fiction graphic novels filled with real science, and a wide range of topics (volcanoes, plagues, wild weather, space, cars, cats, dinosaurs, sharks, etc.). I put every last one of these on hold at the library and I still put them on hold when a new one is published. E. did (and still does) really enjoy them.
  • The 13-Story Treehouse (Andy Griffiths): Another series that E. really enjoyed reading, but didn’t love enough for me to think that we had to own them. I haven’t read any of these myself.
  • Bad Kitty (Nick Bruel) and The Bad Guys (Aaron Blabey): E. has only read these two series in French (as Méchant Minou and Les Méchants) but he really likes them both. We own the complete set of Les Méchants.
  • Timmy Failure (Stephan Pastis): My mum bought E. the first two of these in the summer of 2018, so right after he’d finished grade one. At that stage he felt they were ever so slightly too hard for him (although he still got a big kick out of giggling over the illustrations). Closer to the end of grade two, these were exactly right and he burned through the entire seven-book series. I enjoyed reading these ones out loud.
  • How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell): If I had to choose just one book series to summarize E’s reading life in grade two, it would be this one. He LOVED these. LOVED LOVED LOVED these. We had every single one out of the library for weeks on end. I remember taking a picture with one of the Dragon Masters books sitting on top of How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury, which is the twelfth and final book in the series (and which was easily ten times thicker than the Dragon Masters book), because I was just stunned by how much E’s reading had improved over the course of the year. These are also incredible on audiobook (narrated by David Tennant), and are some of the only children’s books that Q. is willing to listen to in the car without complaint. If these had been published when I was a kid, I would have adored them too. (We also like the movies and E. has watched all the associated shows on Netflix, but they are very different from the books.)

Age 8 (Grade Three)

  • Roald Dahl: I bought a complete box set of Roald Dahl’s books in June last year because a) I knew E. was ready for them, since he’d read quite a few that he’d borrowed from the library the previous year, and b) I’m of the view that all book-loving households should have a complete set of Dahl. Since they’re technically *my*  books, E. is much more respectful of them, so I have hopes that they’ll survive long enough for P. to get to them. What’s there to say about these? If you’re still reading this post, you probably also love books, and who doesn’t love Dahl? There are some amazing audiobook versions (Kate Winslet reads Matilda, Derek Jacobi reads George’s Marvellous Medicine, etc.), which Q. and I also love listening to, but they’re not so appropriate for the really littles (P. liked Matilda but complained that she didn’t like the ‘ABCDBFG’ (the BFG)).
  • Warriors (Erin Hunter): Like the Geronimo Stilton series, there are a gazillion of these (or, at least, that’s what it feels like). Erin Hunter is a pen name for a team of writers who produce these tales of feral cats living in clans. E. LOVES these. Q. can’t stand listening to them on audiobook (they are pretty tedious and definitely not appropriate for little ears given all the bloodshed) and they’re not my favourites to read aloud, but E. adores them. He originally owned only one box set (which I bought last summer to take on the plane), but a few more have appeared on our shelves since the pandemic (he read a bunch from the library in between). His favourite series is still the first (The Prophecies Begin) and he’s reread them heaps of times. There are also series about dogs and bears by ‘Erin Hunter’ as well, but E.’s only keen on the ones about cats. And he’s really keen on them.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Jeff Kinney): E. read all of these this year. I guess some parents don’t like them because their kids mimic the negative behaviour, but that wasn’t an issue for us. E. enjoyed them, but he didn’t love them so much he was begging me to buy them (they showed up in his flyers from Scholastic regularly). I haven’t read them myself.
  • Wings of Fire (Tui T. Sutherland): I first got these out from the library for E. in grade two when he was so keen on How to Train Your Dragon, but he found them to be just a little bit too hard. Early in grade three he read the first six or so, and then he got the box set of six-ten for his birthday and he devoured them. I’m not sure if they were still a bit too hard before or if he just was reluctant to read them because I kept suggesting them (he really doesn’t do well with suggestions). They’re now firm favourites. Again, Q. is bored senseless listening to them in the car (it’s not a great narrator), but I enjoy reading them (and E. even very nicely let me borrow books nine and ten from his birthday box set before he’d read them!).
  • Horrible Histories (Terry Deary): These are history books with the nasty/gross stuff left in. I had a few kicking around that I bought as an undergraduate because they were relevant to my field, and Q. and I purchased one on impulse last year when we discovered there was one about the city where we met. E. discovered them this year and he got hooked. We ended up getting a bunch out of the library, and we bought him a ten-book set for his birthday (if you’re seeing a trend here, you’d be right: E. got a LOT of books for his birthday). Depending on how sensitive your kid is, these might not be a good fit (I was a bit on the fence about the two about the world wars, to be honest), but E. is very sensitive to visual things and he’s been fine with the books. Given Q. and I are both historians, it’s nice to have him reading some non-fiction (even if it is highly selective and somewhat exaggerated at times).
  • The Land of Stories (Chris Colfer): E.’s best friend really loved these, and that was enough of a recommendation for E. to be willing to try them out. Once he started reading them (we got them all out from the library pre-pandemic, so I think we still have most of them in our house), he was hooked. I haven’t read them and can’t say much about them, but they often appear as recommendations on the F.book group.
  • David Walliams: We discovered this British author (who is often described as the heir to Roald Dahl) while we were down under last summer. I think more of his books are published there, or they have a wider audience, or something. They seemed to be everywhere (yes, one of the first things we did was borrow E’s Granny’s library card and head off to stock up) and I’d never heard of him before. E. has grown into his books over the course of the year and now really enjoys them. They’re all (I think) stand-alone adventures, and I think E. tends to prefer a series, which might explain why he was a bit slow to get excited about him. I think E’s favourite is The Beast of Buckingham Palace.
  • Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling): Obviously E. would love these. We own all seven books (of course) but we never offered them to E. We were wary of starting the series and then having him want to continue past the point where we felt he was ready. My sisters (at my suggestion) bought him the new illustrated hardcovers of the first three books as a Christmas present last December. I had this idea we could read them together but there was no way he was willing to wait. He read them again and again and again and again, and then in March we bought him the illustrated hardcover of The Goblet of Fire. He was earning it by doing his work at school (long story) and then the pandemic happened, so we ended up buying it for him when he still had a few “good work days” left to achieve (but he’s done well with the homeschooling since, and he needed something to cheer him up when school shut down). He read that one over and over and over again as well. We’ve watched the four movies and he was ok with them all (although he did find the movie version of The Goblet of Fire much harder to cope with than the book). I’m kind of hoping we can use the staggered publication dates of the illustrated hardcovers to control how quickly he reads to the end of the series, but I also don’t want him to hit the point where kids in his class start spoiling it for him. So we’ll see. I have managed to read all of The Philosopher’s Stone to him and we’re working our way through The Chamber of Secrets now. The illustrated hardcovers are so beautiful.
  • Percy Jackson (Rick Riordan): This was the series that was most recommended on the F.book group as the ‘next step’ for kids who were reading Warriors, and Wings of Fire, etc. I tried a couple of times to get E. interested in borrowing the first book from the library, but he wouldn’t bite, not even after I checked them all out and read them myself. There are problems with the books (especially the first series) and I was very aware of the undercurrents of white supremacy that are such a problem for Classics as a field in general (great article about this here), but overall I really liked them (I usually like a clever retelling of the myths). I bought the first series as an incentive for E. during the pandemic (along with a bunch of other books, including some stand-alone David Walliams’ titles): if he did all his work for ten days, he could pick a new book (my child is only externally motivated. I’m rolling with it.). E. picked every other book first and then, at last, when he had no other choices, opted for the first book in the series (The Lightning Thief). And, surprise surprise (me: not surprised), he LOVED it. He’s earned the first three now and he’ll get the fourth on Friday. I also bought him this book because, in my view, you don’t appreciate a retelling of a myth as much as you could if you know the original. (That series is also visually stunning. He now has the books on Norse and Egyptian mythology too. He also has this one on mythology from around the world which is much more diverse (although I wouldn’t recommend getting the paperback edition through Scholastic like we did because the binding has fallen apart)).
  • Artemis Fowl (Eoin Colfer): Another series that gets recommended all the time on the F.book group. E. got the first three books for his birthday and he’s liked them (I think) but I haven’t seen him glued to them for days on end like happens with the Warriors and Wings of Fire books. I haven’t read them (but I’m planning to!).

And that’s where we’re at! I’m looking forward to seeing what E. will read next. He’s flat-out refused to ever try the 39 Clues series (which is one that gets recommended in the group a lot) and he did borrow The Mysterious Benedict Society (another near-constant recommendation) from the library but he didn’t like it (I’m not sure whether it was content or difficulty that turned him off- it is very thick with smaller print and he’s been thrown by how much harder a book looks visually before.). It’s still on his shelf, so I might take a look at it myself.

Any book suggestions for E.?

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I Wish I Was Surprised

My province’s COVID-19 numbers have started ticking upwards again.

They started their upward swing about two weeks after Mother’s Day.

Am I surprised?

Our PREMIER broke his own rules on Mother’s Day by having a gathering of more than five people at his house.

‘Do as I say, not as I do’ isn’t going to cut it.

We’ve entered Phase 1 of reopening in May, after barely a week of downward-trending numbers, despite public health announcements in April that we would need to see two- to four-week decreases to allow for the easing of restrictions.

It’s like my government just decided it was all too hard and the best course of action would be to just try to get back to normal and push on through.

Well, guess what?

It’s July May and it’s hot and it’s sunny and it’s finally summer spring and announcing we were reopening made people think everything was good. So people flocked to the parks (or at least one park in particular).

And surprise, surprise (me: not surprised), on Monday we were told that, in fact, the province won’t be loosening the five person limit on gatherings anytime soon.

I just want to be able to hug my mum.

I didn’t do that on Mother’s Day because I am following the rules.

I am behaving like a good citizen because I think we are in a serious mess here and I want to do the right thing.

But today I am really pissed off.

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