Category Archives: Grade Three

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

Everything is Fine (So Why Am I So Pissed Off All the Time?)

Nothing like a global pandemic to make you want to restart your blog.

I’m not sure why I’m doing this. I don’t have any more spare time than I did prior to COVID-19 upending our lives. In real terms, I probably have even less than I did during this crazy past semester where I was teaching four courses (summary: completely insane) now that the kids are also at home and I’m meant to be somehow continuing to teach while also supervising E’s new virtual learning and keeping P. from interfering with E’s new virtual learning. (Case in point: I have been writing this post now for four days.)

I guess I’m looking for a space to document what’s happening, to take notice of the crazy new normal, to record our lives in more detail than I can fit into my five year journal.

I have thoughts.

And this has always been the space where I have put them.

So, to start.

This is a post about privilege and about how much I am struggling with managing the cognitive dissonance between the two voices in my head. The voice that says (truthfully) that in the grand scheme of things EVERYTHING IS FINE and the voice that says (also truthfully)  that THIS IS TERRIBLE AND I HATE IT.

First, the privilege.

I have not lost my job. My job is now online, but the course I was scheduled to teach in the summer semester was originally designed as an online course. I did have to convert (with extremely short notice and no down time) all of my courses into an online format to be able to finish the winter semester, but I have taught online before (see: summer course) and I knew how to do it. My learning curve was not steep. It took a great deal of time and I cut some corners but those courses are now finished (except for one which still has an exam running) and many of the grades are submitted.

Q. has not lost his job. He was on sabbatical this year so he didn’t need to convert any courses to an online format.

So there’s the biggest, most giant ball of privilege I can claim. We are both still employed and our jobs can be done from home.

We are able to look after our children. We are able to supervise E’s virtual learning and help him with his work.

It’s not possible to do this while also working a full-time job, of course, so we’ve split the day into two blocks. I have the kids until 12:30, at which point we all eat lunch, and then Q. has the kids in the afternoon until 6, when we all eat dinner. E. does math, French language and science with me, and creative writing (alternating French and English) and French watching/listening with Q. He also does French reading (usually right after lunch) and practices his recorder (usually right before dinner). After dinner, I do bedtime while Q. cleans up the kitchen and then disappears downstairs to try to cram another couple of hours of work into his day. Sometimes I work once both kids are in bed, but not always (or often). If I’m too strung out, I can’t parent well.

Yes, Q. is going to burn out eventually. He doesn’t listen to me. I’ve tried. We missed the original (December) deadline for our giant book project, which is meaningless in the land of academia because everyone misses their deadlines, especially people trying to wrangle eighteen other people into producing two very large edited volumes. But this eats at Q., because he doesn’t miss deadlines, and so he’s been stressed ever since, even though it was always going to happen since one of our colleagues still hasn’t produced a first (!!!!) draft of his chapter and our other three editors all had to be removed from the project since they’d done no work. Q. and I are now the sole editors of a project that will ultimately be close to 300,000 words long and was supposed to have the editorial work split five ways.

And then the pandemic happened.

So now Q. is trying to do the bulk of the work that is left without access to libraries and with a drastically shortened work day.  I’m chipping away at my bits but I’ve only just started to have the time to do this (see above: four courses).

It will all get done eventually, but it’s not going to be pretty.

From a work perspective, EVERYTHING IS FINE because we are both still employed and Q. has probably one of the most secure jobs in the country (as a tenured academic) and I have signed contracts for the fall and even if the university claws those back we can live on Q’s income alone.

And from a work perspective, THIS IS TERRIBLE, because we were both under tremendous work stress before the pandemic happened and the pandemic made things a lot worse. Also the book project is an albatross around our necks. Just say no to edited volumes. We’ll never make that mistake again.

Second giant ball of privilege: E’s schooling.

We have enough devices in our house that E. can always log in to his online classroom when he needs to. We have a printer so we can print out the worksheets that he would rather do by hand (because sometimes typing everything is all too much, especially the math problems which require him to illustrate his answers with diagrams or charts or something). We have high speed internet so when his teacher organizes a virtual meeting he can attend and hear everything and not have terrible lag times or broken video.

Oh yes, also Q. and I both understand French, so we can help E. with his work.

And, let’s not forget that we DIDN’T LOSE OUR JOBS, so we have enough disposable income (especially since our outlays on public transit, restaurants, fuel, etc. are down to zero) that I felt no guilt whatsoever about purchasing a whole bunch of books online (English and French). My kid burns through the books. Our public library is shuttered (that’s another post). I threw money at the problem until it went away.

So again, EVERYTHING IS FINE. We have everything E. needs to be able to fully participate in his new virtual classroom. We are making the time to sit with him to make sure he gets the work done. We are able to support him and help him work through his frustration and his anxiety.

And yet, THIS IS TERRIBLE. E. gets deeply frustrated at how long it takes to type everything (even with the Dance Mat Typing we’ve been doing for the past year he still tends to hunt-and-peck). He shuts down when things appear difficult. His little sister runs riot at every opportunity. The workload is reasonable but the expectations for what we have to do and what is optional are unclear and change every week. Work often gets posted after the point in the day when we do most of his schoolwork, so I discover it the following morning and feel like we’re behind (this is my problem, not anyone else’s, as is the difficulty I have with not getting EVERYTHING submitted every week so the classwork stream doesn’t have anything left in it).

E. misses school. I honestly never thought I’d say that. He spent the entire year counting down to various holidays but he’s said repeatedly over the last month that he misses the routine and he misses his friends and he misses just being somewhere that isn’t our house. He is doing the best he can and he is doing remarkably well, but he is anxious and volatile and we can never quite be sure when his inner volcano will erupt.

P.’s feelings about the whole thing can perhaps best be summed up by the fact that she now has a whole slew of imaginary friends (mostly the cast of Paw Patrol) who are living with us. She holds imaginary contests with her friends from nursery school. She tries and tries and tries to get her brother’s attention, often in ways that push all of his buttons (often intentionally). She is very obviously missing the social contact (Q. and I might have inadvertently bred an extrovert).

As far as P. is concerned, EVERYTHING IS FINE. And yet, THIS IS TERRIBLE, because we are asking so much of her. She often needs to play alone, and she’ll set up her dolls, or the Playmobil, or the trains, or the LEGO, or the Bruder trucks and soon a complicated game is underway. She usually sits up at the table to “do her work” during the blocks of time when E. is doing school-related stuff. She colours and cuts and glues and stamps and beads, and thank goodness she loves doing art as much as she does because it would be a nightmare if we were having to more actively manage her while also being available to help E. But there are signs (especially this week) that she’s getting bored of the routine. She gets outside twice a day, and she has one-on-one time with Q. in the afternoons while E. plays Prodigy or other vaguely educational apps, and once a week my Mum talks to her over Skype and reads her stories, but it’s not the same as the outstanding nursery school environment she was in before the pandemic, and she misses it. She’s almost never our focus.

In the grand scheme of things, however you look at it, EVERYTHING IS FINE. We are all safe. We are all healthy. We have enough food to eat and we can (usually) buy (most of) the things that we need when we place an online grocery order (food is a whole post of its own).

If I see my neighbours when I’m outside with the kids, and they ask how we’re doing, I say that we’re fine.

Because we are. We’re FINE.

I would never complain about anything to anyone else. I’m very very aware that my family is loaded with privilege right now, and I would never dump my negative feelings on outsiders.

But my blog is a safe space, so here I will also say that THIS IS TERRIBLE AND I HATE IT.

I am an introvert and a highly sensitive person. (Elaine Aron’s books are great at explaining this concept if it’s new to you, but Modern Mrs. Darcy also writes about it quite frequently.)

To quote Modern Mrs. Darcy:

HSPs tend to avoid violent movies, are easily overwhelmed by bright lights and loud noises, get rattled when two people are talking to them at once, and need time and space to regroup during especially busy days.

I originally had an ’emphasis mine’ in brackets before the quote, but, really, I was going to end up highlighting the entire thing. This is ME.

I adore my children but they exhaust me every day. They did this before the pandemic and having them at home with me, all day, every day (because even when I’m working in the basement I can hear them and I tend to have unexpected visitors at least twice an afternoon) has made things SO MUCH WORSE.

It isn’t just that I’m too busy and we’re all cooped up together and our world has shrunk and the news is always terrible.

Our new normal is really, really bad for my mental health.

The kids are loud (of course they’re loud – they’re kids!). I used to silently chant to myself “Loud is not an emergency” before the pandemic. Now I have nowhere quiet to go and no way to recharge before bedtime (see above: why I don’t work in the evenings).

The kids fight (of course they fight – they’re siblings and they’re bored and cooped up and anxious!). The yelling and screaming and crying feels to me like physical pain.

I am overwhelmed on a sensory level multiple times, every.single.day.

I am realizing how much my anxiety management has always relied on walking, on time and space away from the house, on quiet, and how difficult it is to achieve these things now. I walk or run every day, but our neighbourhood still has a lot of people out and about. The green spaces are too crowded for me to feel safe there and even having to dodge someone every other block becomes stressful.

My anxiety flares as anger. I bottle and bottle and bottle because it’s almost never about the kids, it’s about me and my own lack of control and my own fears and my own feelings of being overwhelmed and how those make it harder for me to take my deep breaths and respond to them as I know I should.

I can tell I’m clenching my jaw again at night. I need a new mouth guard but my dentist appointment was one week too late into March and was cancelled.

I am doing the best I can every.single.day, but it is really hard.

In the grand scheme of things, EVERYTHING IS FINE.

But also, THIS IS TERRIBLE AND I HATE IT.

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Filed under (Pre)School Days, Anxiety Overload, COVID-19, Grade Three