Category Archives: JK

Soundbites

Inauguration Day seems like an appropriate day to brush off the dust here and provide an update. I don’t usually pay much attention to such days, but this one felt different. One of my children watched the inauguration shirtless, wearing a light-up necklace of Christmas lights, and the other one sat next to me and asked every ten minutes or so whether they had checked everyone present to make sure no one had any guns, which both sums up my children in a nutshell and catches the mood in the house – joyous celebration, tempered with anxiety and unease.

I’m so glad Biden is president. I’m looking forward to no longer knowing more names of American elected officials (or counties) than Canadian ones. I’m excited for Twitter to continue to be as blessedly boring as it has been the last week or so. I’m hopeful that we can all sleep better at night knowing the adults are back in charge.

But man is there a lot of work to be done.

In our news, COVID in our province is completely out of control and our premier has continued to be astounded and horrified at the case numbers and the projections (which were NOT A SURPRISE for anyone who understands exponential growth). We’ve been in some sort of “lockdown” (or “mockdown”) for exactly two months now and the daily case numbers in my public health unit still clock in at close to 1,000 per day, so it’s been months of ineffectual action and dithering, rather than any coordinated proactive approach that might have achieved something. My Australian husband is beyond disgusted and regrets not fleeing down under back in the spring when it was still possible to get back into the country.

The kids have been home since early December and will not be returning to in-person school before mid-February at the earliest. There are many, many reasons why we didn’t choose virtual learning for our kids, and this enforced period of virtual learning at home has repeatedly confirmed that sending them to school was the right decision for them, for us, and for our family.

Managing their virtual schedules feels like a full-time job and includes:

  • Checking their schedules (which change daily since their school is required to maintain the same rotary schedule they would follow in person)
  • Making sure they get online when they’re supposed to (E. is quite independent with this)
  • Coordinating when we can get them outside (which requires P. to miss the final meeting of the morning every single day)
  • Finding devices (iPads and Bluetooth headphones)
  • Charging devices
  • Checking what’s been posted before breakfast every morning so I can print out worksheets (since the printer is in the study). Everything can be completed online but we try to get them offline and using pencil/paper as much as possible.
  • Keeping track of what they’re supposed to be completing and submitting (as far as I can tell, E. is spending his days playing video games or looking up video game facts on Google while “listening” since the only work he seems to get done during the day is the math, so the school day drags into the evenings and weekends as he catches up)
  • Managing the meltdowns when they stagger off the screens at the end of every day, completely burnt out. E.’s grade is required to have 225 minutes of synchronous instruction every day; P’s meant to be getting 180. I don’t run a Zoom meeting for my courses longer than 60 minutes, and I’ve had so much appreciative feedback from my students (and they are adults!). This entire plan was designed by people who are not educators and who did not consult with educators, and its sole purpose (as far as I can tell) is to keep the parents happy and complacent because their children are occupied.

The whole thing is completely ludicrous, and now that Q. and I have started our semester, we’re engaged in this elaborate dance where who’s in charge of the kids is largely determined by our own synchronous teaching commitments. It’s so complicated we had to make a spreadsheet and load everything into our calendars.

In some ways it’s better (and by better, I mean better for the adults’ ability to get work done rather than any educational, emotional, etc. benefits for the kids) than the spring since the kids are pacified more occupied with school. E., in particular, is largely self-sufficient and gets himself online when needed. He plays Among Us with the other kids in the class during the breaks (more screen time – augh!). I don’t know if he’s learning anything, but he’s getting a lot of French language exposure, which was the weak point in the spring since there was so little synchronous work, so he’s not going to fall behind in that regard, and he’s ahead of grade level in pretty much everything else that I think is important.

P. is happy enough to sit up for most of her meetings, although her interest in doing any of the work has waned significantly since she started online in early December. This week she flat out refused to do the work, wailing at me, “I DON’T WANT TO CUT OUT THE PLANETS!! I KNOW HOW TO COUNT BACKWARDS FROM TEN!!” She’s right – she does already know pretty much everything she’s meant to be “learning”. We’re concentrating on reading (she’s very highly motivated). She finds it hard to sit through a forty-five minute meeting with only one chance to share. She misses her friends and often pins them (rather than the teacher) so that they’re always visible in the meetings.

Both kids are sleeping better without the rush in the morning, but the pandemic is weighing on them. A week or so ago they were ranting about COVID and what they missed. E. said he couldn’t wait to be able to walk around without wearing masks. P. said she wanted to hug people, starting with her friends at school. Some of her friends are meeting up at playgrounds, but that’s not something we feel comfortable doing.

The winter has been a bit of a bust so far in terms of snow (other than right at Christmas), so keeping them happy and busy has been a challenge. We have been skating almost every weekend – you have to register in advance for a specific session (it’s like trying to book swimming lessons) and the numbers on the ice are capped at 25. We always wear masks on the ice (which is now mandatory but wasn’t earlier in the season). It’s nice to be able to do something “normal”. E. is a great skater despite only first getting on skate two years ago, and P. is making noticeable progress every time we go.

We knew the kids would end up back at home eventually, and, if I’m being honest, we’d expected it to happen much earlier. Every day between Thanksgiving and early December felt like a gift. But at the same time, everything was working in the fall. The kids were happy at school. Q. and I had the time and space we needed to work again. We got our book project off to the press (and thank all the gods the kids stayed in school long enough for that to happen). We were literally just at the point where we were talking about taking a couple of days off, and then the kids had to be pulled out of school. Realizing how well everything was working made it harder when it all fell apart again.

Now, Q. and I are so tired. Between us, we are teaching seven courses this semester (long story, combination of factors determined long before COVID), and keeping our heads above water is taking all the time we have. What I’ve lost ever since the kids came back home is the snatches of “free” time that I was starting to be able to carve out for myself in the fall after we got our book project off to the press. I watched the new season of The Crown. I started to build up some momentum with my reading again. I used our exercise bike consistently (we have subscribed to the Peloton app and use it with our old and outdated bike, which is great). With the kids at home, we’ve both lost three or four hours of work time a day. If we have to make it up, we have to work in the evenings or at the weekend. If we can keep our heads above water with the time that we still have (which I have mostly managed to do this week), then there isn’t any extra time left over to do something for us. Writing this blog post now means I’ll be working this evening.

So, in the grand scheme of things, we are still totally fine. We’re safe, we’re healthy, we have food on the table and a roof over our heads and exceptionally good wifi that has only once flaked out when I was teaching.

But we’re tired (all of us).

We’re struggling (all of us).

And it’s going to be a long winter.

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Filed under COVID-19, Grade Four, JK

Not Chaos (I’m as Surprised as You Are)

It’s been almost three weeks since I last posted on here.

It feels like a lifetime ago.

The news cycle from south of the border is just beyond madness. I think I need to forcibly block myself from Twitter for a while because there’s just always.something.happening.

I am genuinely looking forward to watching Harris absolutely destroy Pence in the debate tonight (although I also don’t think Harris should be debating Pence tonight since he should be quarantining).

In provincial news, our government appears to have decided to adopt the Trump-Pence handbook for “managing” COVID and is steadfastly refusing to shut anything down even as case numbers skyrocket (or they were skyrocketing before they made it harder for people to get tested, so I can only assume they’re continuing to skyrocket and now we just don’t know about it). They failed to predict that they would need to dramatically scale up testing capacity when the kids went back to school (and turned down the requests for funding from the health authorities who told them they would need to do this) so now we’re just digging ourselves deeper and deeper into a COVID hole and when they finally crack and lock us down, it will have to be for much longer than would have been necessary if only they had been proactive.

Things are remarkably normal chez Turia, however. The nadir came the Monday after I posted when, after both kids were finally back at school together (it took four days for E’s test to come back negative), the school called while we were eating lunch to say we had to come pick up P. because a child had thrown an ‘object’ (I later learned from P. it was a rock) and it had hit P. and cut her head. Said child hadn’t thrown the rock at P., but she had ended up in its path. So the kids’ record of time at school together stayed at four hours, and I picked up P. (who had the tiniest graze imaginable under her hair) and brought her home and set her up with painting while I tried to do my work and wondered why we were trying to do this in-person schooling thing at all.

And then…it got better.

The kids went back to school, and stayed at school (twelve days in a row as of today).

The COVID numbers in the province continue to rise, and the number of schools with at least one case of COVID also continues to rise, but (and this is the critical factor) there are almost no cases of proven transmission within a school. This is in line with what was happening in Australia, where even if there was one case that appeared in a school, there wasn’t then an outbreak. Despite the stupid class size numbers and the lack of physical distancing, the mask policy and the other measures they’ve taken appear to be working (at least for now).

P. is SO happy. She has a hard time occasionally at drop off because a few of the other kids are still weeping and wailing and hanging on to their parents, and she’s clearly really tired by the end of the day, but she’s happy as a clam when she’s there, and she loves unpacking her backpack after school to show all the “surprises” she’s worked on that day. She already knows everything they are learning, but because it’s all based in arts and crafts, she is thrilled. She will make letters out of pipe cleaners and use hole punchers with fun shapes to punch the right number of holes to match the number for the day, and put the right number of stickers to match the number until the cows come home. She has made a beaded bracelet with her name and a puzzle with her name and a flag with her name (and she did eventually decide to ask her teacher if she could start spelling her full name since her nickname (which is what we have called her since birth) really doesn’t present a challenge). She did also announce on a Tuesday evening, in tones of great weariness, “It’s seven tomorrow, so I guess that means we’ll do nine on Friday”, followed by a huge sigh, but so far she is happy and cooperative, if prone to meowing in the classroom (since she prefers to be addressed as “Little Kitten” at all times).

She has made friends (although most of them were away all last week waiting for their COVID test results to prove that the cold that was clearly circulating through the classroom was just a cold – at one point the class only had nine students in it! Q. and I joked she was basically in private school). She eats her lunch. She uses the bathroom at school. She remembers to put on her indoor shoes and she has just this week started swapping her masks after going outside. She’s thriving. We’re not surprised.

The big surprise has been E. He campaigned for weeks to do online learning and was sent to school under duress and willing only to commit to ‘trying it’. Last week he told me that he didn’t want to switch to online learning – he wanted to stay in person and switch to virtual only when the school was shut down. He said he felt settled at school. Coming from E., that’s huge.

His teacher (his wonderful, glorious teacher from last year who knows what he is capable of and knows how to work with him) has told me he’s had a great start to the year. He’s getting his work finished on time and doing it well. In Grade 4 they start to get formal English education in the classroom, and he’s loving that part of the day as he gets to write more stories. I had been quietly deeply worried about what was going to happen when he started English as his spelling was just unbelievably bad (shockingly bad for a kid who reads as much as he does) but writing his novel during the pandemic has made such a difference. So the work in English is a real confidence booster for him.

The other big confidence booster is they’re allowed to be dismissed without a parent in Grade 4, so he’s been walking home from school with another kid in his grade who lives across the street. They’re not particularly good friends, but they are both very keen to keep this newfound independence and it sounds like they have a good chat as they walk (mostly about video games, to judge from what E. tells me). In the mornings he walks with me to P’s drop off area, and then marches off by himself to the other side of the school, to find his own class. I could not have imagined him doing this last year. He’s grown up so so so much.

The household is settling into a routine. I drop the kids at school, make lunch for Q. and me, and pick P. up at the end of the day. We hang out at home until E. arrives and then I set them up with screen time (and get back to work). Once screen time is over, Q. takes over with the kids and makes dinner. This way we’re both managing to work close to a full day. Originally Q. was picking P. up, but that was really cutting his day short unless he started work at 7:30 a.m., and I always ended up with a thirty minute hole in my afternoon anyway as both kids wanted to talk to me about their days.

You can get A LOT done in a house that is empty of children for six hours a day.

Our book project moves ever closer to being finished. We will be at the stage before too long that we can send the final version of both volumes to the other contributors to give them one last look at their sections before we send it to the press.

Teaching online has its challenges, but I am figuring things out. My synchronous teaching is clustered early in the week, which makes for some very tiring days, but at least then keeps the rest of the week clear for non-teaching related work. At least some of my students will turn their cameras on, so I can look at their faces rather than empty black boxes on Zoom.

I am just this week starting to gain a bit of space in my classes, rather than being only a day or so ahead of the students. I’m hopeful I can get a full module (or more) ahead in the next week, which would give me an important cushion when we lock down again.

We surely are going to have to lock down again.

We surely are going to spend most of the winter juggling work and kids and school, like we did from March until June.

This surely is not going to last.

But it is good for all of us while it lasts.

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Filed under Brave New (School) World, COVID-19, E.- the tenth year, Grade Four, JK, P.- the fifth year

(Still) No Good Options

Where do I start?

I have been intending to post on here for a couple of weeks now but I have struggled to find the time and energy to put words together.

At first I was going to post about how we decided, in the end, to send both kids back to school in person, with the intention of pulling them out if we didn’t like the direction the numbers were going. We made jokes about “if they make it to Thanksgiving”. I would have written about how E. campaigned strongly for remote learning, and about how I told him honestly that I couldn’t afford to fight with him for five hours a day about his schoolwork.

I could have written about all the meetings I (virtually) attended as the school board tried and tried to come up with a plan that would be approved by the government, how they started the parent survey and then had to start it all over again, how they passed a mask mandate for JK-3 (to match the mandate for the older grades already in place), how no one would engage with me on the contradiction of making the children wear masks in the classroom and then having them eat in that very same classroom with their masks off (still no one has engaged with me on this issue). Eventually the board got a plan approved and delayed the start of the school year by a week.

I would have written about how 66,000 students in the first instance picked remote learning, how our school’s in-person enrollment dropped by almost exactly the board average, how the school lost 3.5 teacher positions and had to redistribute and reshuffle the teachers. How I finally got the emails on the Friday before school started, emails which confirmed that E. was still with his teacher from last year, that she hadn’t switched to remote learning, that he hadn’t been removed from her class. The class was now a straight grade four, rather than a 3/4 split. P.’s classroom assignment hadn’t changed either. E’s class was listed as 24 students. P’s was 22 and a straight JK. Even with masks, that was a much better result than the 30 students and a JK/SK split that had caused E. so much distress five years earlier. I told E. that if he switched to virtual learning, he would no longer be in his school, but a new virtual school (the remote learning branch of my school board is apparently the fifth largest schoolboard in the province). I pointed out that if he stayed in the school, if the school was shut down again, he’d be with the same teacher. He agreed it made sense to try the in-person option.

That was the high point.

The kids were with my mum on a visit that was part ‘Grannie is taking the kids because the university semester wasn’t delayed and their parents really really need some concentrated work time’ and part ‘we can’t be in a social circle with anyone once the kids go back because the idea that their contacts at the school are limited to 50 is ludicrous, so this could be their last chance to visit with Grannie for months’.

E. was distraught when we brought them home. He has a really special bond with my mum. It was breaking his heart to know that he wouldn’t be able to properly visit her as long as he was in school.

Next I probably would have written about how the numbers in my city started to climb and climb and climb, how my board had to delay the start of the school year for virtual learning by another week because the number of students enrolled jumped by 8,000 in a week, how I sent many messages to my sisters and my scientist friends, asking for a metric, for guidance, something tangible I could point to as the sign that I should pull the kids out of school.

On Monday I would have written about how P. had a runny nose over the weekend and how I, after extensive consultation with the provincial health phone line and the local public health unit, determined that she wouldn’t be allowed to start school on Wednesday without a COVID test, how I packed her up into the car and went downtown, to a hospital where they took one look at P. and let us skip the (distressingly long queue). How I asked the frontline health workers managing the line if it was always like this and they said this was the ‘new normal’ for September. How we joked in a hollow way about what the lines would look like once all the kids had to start getting tested. How they asked if I wanted a test too and I said why not, since I was there. How I went first, “to show P. that it wasn’t a big deal” and had to forcibly stop myself from jerking my head back at how unpleasant the test was. How I then sat P. on her lap and pinned her arms and her legs in a terrible hug while one frontline health care worker held her head still and a second one took the swab. How P. cried and cried but was willing to pick a sticker for being brave. How we were in and out in thirty minutes and had our test results (negative, not surprised) less than twenty-four hours later.

On Tuesday I would have written about how I took E. to school for his first day of grade four, how he tried to hold it together, but cried at drop off and held my fingers through the chain link fence that I wasn’t allowed to cross. How he, the child who couldn’t tolerate a mask for thirty minutes in April, wore it all day without complaint. How he came home cheerful, but couldn’t report a single positive aspect of the day. How he again asked to do virtual learning, how I again asked him to take it one day at a time.

Wednesday would have been a post on how it was P’s first day (ever) of school, and how Q. and I both walked them because their entry points were on opposite sides of the school and there was no way E. would be ready to go on his own, and how P.’s backpack was so stuffed with her lunch and her indoor shoes and her spare clothes that she looked ready to topple backwards at any moment. How she got into the line and cried when she turned around to wave at me, but still went into the school. How I went home and Q. and I worked in glorious silence and then ate lunch and then were just waiting for the delivery truck with our new appliances (we finally bought a new dryer and dishwasher) when the school called and said that E. had a sore throat and they had him in a wellness room and we needed to come and pick him up. How the principal had double checked the health policy and told me that even though P. and I had just been tested on Monday and E. clearly had the same cold, he couldn’t return to school without a negative test result (or after 14 days of self-isolation), because the health policy is that any child that shows even a single symptom (from a list which includes every symptom that befalls children, especially when they are in an indoor environment with lots of other children) has to be sent home immediately. How, after a grand total of four hours of having both my children at school, I brought the big one home with me, and we packed up a bag in a rush (forgot the hand sanitizer) and drove to a different testing site, where we could wait in the car, because I thought maybe then I could still get some work done. How we hit traffic (why is there always traffic?) on the way there, even in the early afternoon, and how I noticed that they’d stopped accepting new cars maybe twenty minutes after we arrived. How we sat and waited and sat and waited and gradually worked out how the system was operating (which meant E. understood just how many more cars were in front of us). How we grew increasingly worried that the testing site would close before it was our turn, and how I repeatedly told E. we were not going to give up and leave and try again first thing tomorrow. How I tried to prep some slides for the lectures for the courses I am teaching online for the first time (one course for the first time ever). How E. tried to read, and spotted some planes, and we openly judged the people in other cars who left the site and came back wielding boxes of donuts and pizza, having taken themselves into shops while they were waiting for COVID tests. How I had to use the disgusting portapotty, even though I didn’t take a sip out of my water bottle the entire time we were there, because I’d just finished a big mug of tea when the school called, and I was going to pee my pants if I didn’t. How forgetting the hand sanitizer nearly brought me to tears. How it took over four hours for E. to get tested and when we finally made it, he freaked out and tried to pull out the swab and both the health care worker and I had to grab frantically at his hands. How we drove home, E. telling me that he’d never fake a COVID symptom now that he knew what the test was like, with me silently calculating how to game the system if this was to become our new normal (conclusion: always test both children the minute one needs to be tested, because they inevitably pass the germs on, and go to the location where the small one gets to skip the line).

But it is Thursday now, and that means I want to tell you that I barely slept last night because the cold that I didn’t have when I was tested with P. on Monday, that was a sore throat which I attributed to my four synchronous Zoom classes in twenty-four hours on Tuesday, that is definitively not COVID, is now a force to be reckoned with. I’ll tell you that I took P. to school, and she cried again at drop off, but again had a wonderful day (and thank all the gods she did because I do not think I have the strength to manage two school refusers). I’ll tell you that E. stayed home, and I made him read in French for thirty minutes, and then look up five words in his French dictionary (to practice using it), and then I made him write in French and fill two pages in his journal (he wrote about the COVID test experience and, as is his wont, showed no awareness of how to distinguish between the passé composé and the infinitive), and then he read the library books that we picked up on Monday morning that we’d been quarantining ever since, and then after lunch we let him play math games on the iPad for most of the rest of the afternoon.

It was not difficult for me to get a full day of work in. The danger is that this limbo is nothing like virtual or in-person school, that it is largely a continuation of the holidays, and that E. will be ever more resistant to going back if he can’t get into a solid routine before being sent home. I read articles when my sleep-deprived brain rebelled that described the horror waits at testing centres all over the province, and empathized with labmonkey when it took her hours to get a test for Spud. It seems (once again) that this government is only able to react, that somehow it escaped them that if you require every student to be tested for COVID if they have even one symptom, that this might lead to a huge increase in demand for tests as soon as the schools started.

And now it is Thursday night, and his test results are not back, so he is likely to be home again tomorrow, and I haven’t heard from his teacher, and I’m realizing (slowly) that this is a huge issue that the school hasn’t thought about yet – how to support parents when their children are at home awaiting COVID results, because the school will surely be just one big revolving door and kids will fall even further behind if parents aren’t given some guidance on what to do. I’m hoping once all the classrooms have their online presence established (which they are required to do), this will become easier.

Our numbers are skyrocketing.

Our provincial “leaders” are either in denial or are relying on wilful ignorance, their drive to reopen the economy and get everything back to normal apparently superceding anything else, including sensible public health decisions.

I still think the kids will be lucky to make it to Thanksgiving before the schools have to close.

But now I’m wondering just how much time they’ll even spend in the classroom before that happens.

 

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Filed under Brave New (School) World, COVID-19, E.- the tenth year, Grade Four, JK, P.- the fifth year

Don’t want to be that (late) guy

Microblog_MondaysThere’s this dad who lives around the corner from me (literally around the corner- I can see his house from our living room window).

He takes his daughter to school every morning, just like I take E.

He is late, if not every morning, at minimum four days out of five.

And not just “quick-the-door-is-closing-run-for-it” late.

Twenty minutes late. At minimum.

I usually see him walking to school, with a resigned expression on his face and his daughter in a wagon, at the laneway, which is about halfway between our houses and the school, and is where a friend of mine lives, so we usually end up standing around and chatting for a few minutes. The key here is we have already dropped off our kids and nattered to other parents at school and walked halfway back and stood around nattering and THEN he appears.

The other day another two mums were there and he trundled past. So we all talked about him afterwards, because it turns out ALL of us have noticed him and we’re all equally befuddled by it.

Does he not care?

Does he wake up every morning determined to do better and things go pear-shaped?

Does his daughter refuse to cooperate?

What does his wife think?

It’s the consistency that gets to us. If he took whatever their morning routine was and pushed everything twenty minutes earlier, they wouldn’t be late.

“One day they wanted to go to the book fair before school started,” said another mum, who lives two houses down from him. “That day they got to school on time.”

I think I’m both fascinated and appalled by his lateness because it’s the sort of thing I just would NOT be able to do. If parenting is about picking your battles and what matters to you, being late is one of my bugbears. I cannot stand being late, for anything. If our routine made us late, I would change it after one day.

I’m sure that dad probably has aspects of his parenting that wouldn’t be a big deal for me but are a huge deal for him. We all have our priorities. But I probably won’t get to find out what they are because, let’s be honest here, I wouldn’t be able to cope being friends with him. His approach to time management is just too different from mine.

What are your parenting bugbears that you know wouldn’t necessarily be a big deal to someone else?

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 Brave New (School) World, JK, Microblog Mondays

Robocall Panic Attacks

Microblog_MondaysLast week, I had a robocall from E’s school.

It’s a pretty neat system. If your child is marked absent, the robocall program will call you to make sure you’re aware of the absence. It will, in fact, keep on calling you, over and over again, all day long if necessary, until you acknowledge that you have received the message.

So, yeah, good system.

Except on that particular day, E. was at school.

I’d taken him there.

I’d given him a goodbye kiss and watched him walk through the doors, just like I do every morning.

When I got the robocall telling me my child had been marked absent at morning roll call, I hung up immediately and called the school.

And while I waited FOUR BILLION YEARS on hold (real elapsed time: probably less than a minute and a half) while the secretary called down to E.’s classroom to find out what was going on, I had this thought:

Hey, this is exactly the kind of situation where the psychiatrist said I should work on not jumping to the worst-case scenario.

And then, almost immediately afterwards, my brain went FUCK IT, and I went into a complete panic of the “What if E. accidentally came back out the doors before school started and got lost and kidnapped” variety.

The secretary came back on the line, apologetic. He was, indeed, in his classroom. The substitute teacher had made a mistake with the attendance and hadn’t fixed it in time to stop the computer from calling me.

He was perfectly safe and exactly where he should be.

But I can see it’s going to take a lot of work to change my patterns of thought.

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 Anxiety Overload, Brave New (School) World, E.- the fifth year, JK, Microblog Mondays

Manic Mondays

This is fairly typical for my Mondays this semester.

6:30 a.m.: Get up. Print various files required for today that I was too tired to print last night by the time I finished prepping the classes.

7:00 a.m.: Feed cats. Dump dishwasher.

7:15 a.m.: Wake up E. Finish making his lunch. Pack backpack.

7:30 a.m.: Make sure E. is out of bed and getting dressed. Make his breakfast and my breakfast. Kiss Q. who is heading out early to get in a swim before work.

7:45 a.m.: Eat breakfast with E. Answer approximately forty-five billion unrelated questions. Wonder how E. manages to consume so much food while talking non-stop.

8:15 a.m.: Upstairs to brush teeth and find socks. Double check backpacks are ready to go. Wrestle E. into outdoor clothing.

8:35 a.m.: Leave house. Walk to school. Tell a story about Elmer the little red diesel engine with yellow stripes while giving drivers the stink eye when they come into stop signs too quickly.

8:50 a.m.: Wave cheerfully at E. as he heads into school, even if he is weeping. Walk at high speed to the subway. Be passed by many pedestrians. Realize high speed is no longer all that fast.

9:45 a.m.: Arrive at first university campus. Photocopy test for evening class. Notice random printout in photocopier room of application for conference travel fund. Notice deadlines do not correspond conveniently with conference in May. Realize only possible deadline is probably tomorrow. Fret.

9:55 a.m.: Set up in office. Await student who is supposed to write a make up exam.

10:02 a.m.: Wonder what has happened to student. Start correcting chapter solutions for language class that evening.

10:53 a.m.: Think about packing up as office hour is over at 11:00 a.m. and there is no sign of student. Have student turn up with a jumbled apology about it taking longer than usual to get to the campus.

12:15 p.m.: Student finishes exam. Pack up bag and leave to catch transport to second campus.

1:00 p.m.: Arrive at second campus. Realize am about to either attack passersby or cry from hunger. Buy ridiculously large platter of Indian food. Retreat to office.

1:15 p.m.: Inhale Indian food while also making PowerPoint presentation for lecture that afternoon. Text from labmonkey: Dad is in surgery getting a pacemaker. Try not to worry.

2:15 p.m.: Finish PowerPoint presentation. Call to book taxi for that evening. Call to reschedule E.’s dental appointment. Take a minute to check email.

2:20 p.m.: Write to supervisor to tell him good news about postdoc.

2:22 p.m.: Have knock on office door. It is supervisor, excited about the email. Accept congratulations. Leave office door open because am now on official office hours.

2:30 p.m.: Answer emails from students regarding upcoming assessment. No students come to office hours.

3:00 p.m.: Have spare moments. Check exam schedule for April. Email sisters to try to coordinate who can travel when in April. Suggest options. Bombard sisters with emails because have a few free moments to think about all the things on the to-do list.

3:40 p.m.: Pack up backpack. Leave office.

4:00 p.m.: Start lecture.

5:10 p.m.: Finish lecture. Shut down technology, field questions from students, put on boots. Walk briskly down to where the taxi should be.

5:17 p.m.: Get in taxi. Text labmonkey to see if Dad is out of surgery. He is and it went well. Text with labmonkey to get update about Dad generally while in taxi. Argue with driver about route. Win argument.

5:58 p.m.: Arrive back at first university campus. Pay driver. Eat snack and use washroom.

6:05 p.m.: Start teaching class.

8:45 p.m.: End class. Shut down technology, field questions from students, put on boots. Walk briskly out to bus stop.

8:51 p.m.: Catch earlier bus. Send triumphant text to Q. Eat apple. Finish book.

9:40 p.m.: Arrive home. Turn on computer and look up conference travel fund application. Confirm that cannot apply for funding once conference has happened. Realize will have to get up tomorrow morning and complete application. Q. offers to drop it off, saving the trip to campus. Reminded again why he is so wonderful.

10:00 p.m.: Go to bed. Set alarm for 6:00 a.m. Snuggle with Q. Try to ignore baby dance party in uterus. Sleep.

 

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Family, JK, Me? Pregnant?!

This and that

A few bits and pieces as I’ve found myself up at work with no access to an office and not enough time before class to do anything fruitful:

  • My cold is officially a sinus infection. Blech. I am hydrating like crazy and have resorted to sticking my head under a towel over a bowl of boiling water to try to encourage things to clear out. I am not sure if I go to see my GP whether she can do anything to help, but if things don’t improve by the end of the week, I may cave.
  • On my way to work today I got off the subway and Q. was waiting to get on. Nice bonus!
  • Phaselus had a dance party in my uterus last night while I was falling asleep and kicked the crap out of Q.’s hand. S/he was then super quiet when I woke up this morning. I had a (relatively) brief moment of panic that the baby dance party had in fact been extreme flailing and distress from a cord accident or something. Then Phaselus woke up. Clearly I need this referral to the mental health program.
  • Speaking of, they called me yesterday to book my next appointment. I was walking home from school with E. at the time and had no access to my calendar, so I asked if they could call me back and said I’d be home in five minutes. Then nothing. I am going to give them until the end of the day tomorrow and then I will call the general number just to make sure I didn’t slip off someone’s desk.
  • I survived my first two rounds of marking for the semester. My first year class averaged a highish C+ on their mid-term exam, and the third-year class averaged a lowish B on the in-class essay. Both are exactly where I would expect them to be, which was rather pleasing as I had been concerned that a) I had set a much too hard exam for the ickle firsties, and b) I had lost all perspective and patience while grading two-thirds of the upper year class’s assignments on the train coming home on Saturday- the train ended up being over two hours late, and my computer wouldn’t connect to the WiFi, so I had nothing to do but mark. It was a real struggle by the end, but apparently I didn’t take it out on them. Hurrah!
  • I did some digging and some calculating and I think I worked out how much maternity leave I’d be entitled to if I took 10 months off (September 2016 to June 2017). It is a decent chunk of change. Certainly enough that I could rationalize doing this, taking July and August off as unpaid leave and then starting the postdoc in September 2017 when the baby would be almost 15 months old. “I thought you said you would go crazy if you were off for a whole year,” said Q., when I announced this to him last night. “I did,” I said, “but if I take the postdoc, there’s no way I’m putting the baby in full-time daycare at six months old to start in January.” I think if we go this route I would want to look in to getting some casual help from January 2017 onwards to give me a bit of time to work on my own stuff while E. is at school. I also think taking the postdoc depends on Q. agreeing to be at home with the baby one weekday each week (and then he could make up the day on Saturday if he wanted), and me being at home one day and working four official days plus some evenings. I know lots of people do it, but putting a 15 month old in full-time daycare is not something I think I can do. Plus the financial advantages of the postdoc over contract teaching evaporate if a full-time nanny or infant daycare place enter the picture.
  • Six months in, E. still complains bitterly about going to school and how much he misses me. He seems absolutely fine when he is there. We’re getting no reports of behavioural issues and there are even signs he’s making friends. But he is a true homebody introvert at heart and he really would just rather hang out with me.
  • His kindergarten class is participating in the ‘Reading A-Z’ program where they send home leveled readers and once the child has mastered it, the book goes back and another one comes home. We have suspected for a while now that E. is masking how much he can read while at school and this was proved by the level ‘aa’ (I think the very first level) book sent home with him on Monday. E. read it once, then had it memorized, and announced to Q., “Well, it’s a bit simple, isn’t it?” “I hope I will get a more interesting book this time,” he told me as he went in to school this morning to exchange it.
  • I decided to out myself on Facebook today. I am feeling more pregnant than usual in the last few days and just felt it was time. I posted this photo (I did think it would be too subtle, but people picked up on it right away.)
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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, E.- the fifth year, JK, Me? Pregnant?!

Intervention!

I haven’t written a lot on here about how E.’s transition to JK has gone.

It’s been very difficult. Very very difficult, for him, for us, for his teachers.

The fundamental problem is E. is not ready to be at school six hours a day, five days a week, with twenty-nine other children in his classroom.

He’s highly introverted, very noise sensitive and asynchronous in his development (in that intellectually he’s much older than four-and-a-half, but emotionally/socially he’s quite a lot younger).

He hasn’t been able to make friends in the classroom (which would help with his comfort levels) because he’s not really ready to make friends. He still prefers to spend as much time as possible with his imagination. His teacher said to me once that, “E. doesn’t play with the other children at recess. He tends to run around in circles.” When I asked E. about it, he told me that he uses recess to tell his stories, because he’s not allowed to tell his stories in the classroom (and telling lengthy, elaborate stories involving his favourite model train and most of his stuffed animals is one of his preferred activities). He always runs around the house when he tells stories at home. I have a theory it’s because he has so much going on in his brain he needs the physical activity to streamline his thinking so that a coherent story can emerge.

In the classroom, E. gets overwhelmed and overstimulated. The resulting behaviour looks to his teachers like a boy being intentionally naughty, so it’s taken a long time for them to understand that if E’s running around laughing manically and dumping things on the floor, his brain is no longer in control of his body and he needs help to calm down.

His teachers are supportive and open to suggestions, but there’s also only so much they can do when they have thirty kids (one teacher, one ECE). At home, when E. gets manic, we can calm him down in less than five minutes. At school, he’s made quite a few visits to the office just because they can’t get him to settle unless he’s removed from the classroom (and he’s too little to just chill out in the hall with a book for a few minutes).

That said, this week has shown that maybe, just maybe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. E.’s had four good days in a row at school thus far, something which hasn’t happened since September (if ever). Something is working (finally). It’s probably a combination of the strategies we’ve implemented, but I also suspect there’s been one key change.

Our strategies include:

Classroom Interventions:

  • A photo album with family photos, which E. can look at whenever he feels anxious or misses me (he has complained since the beginning that the day is too long and he misses me too much).
  • A ‘quiet box’ filled with fun things that E. can sit down with in the quiet corner and use as a focus to help him calm down when he starts to get overstimulated and silly (includes a “Can You See What I See” book all about a train, a Spot the Dinosaurs book, a book of hidden picture puzzles, two books of mazes, and a book with easy connect the dots)- we’d been using the quiet corner as a place to calm down for weeks, but we found E. needed something more concrete than just going there and taking his deep breaths. He needed something that his brain could engage with.
  • A piece of carpet from home that E. can sit on when the class is sitting at the big carpet (so that he knows where to put his bum and doesn’t lie down or sit on other children if he gets bored).
  • Noise-reducing headphones (these only arrived this week, but they’ve been working well now that the other children have stopped trying to pull them off his head).
  • His teachers are also keeping a closer eye on a couple of children who think it is funny to egg E. on and encourage him to do things that get him in trouble.

Interventions at Home:

  • Stickers on the calendar if he has a good day (he is using train stickers this week and is excited to watch his train get longer).
  • The promise of an afternoon off with me if he has five good days in a row (he’s picked riding on the new streetcar and going to the train museum).
  • The threat of losing his trains for a week if he has three bad days in a week (he already loses television privileges if he has a bad day but that didn’t seem to be effective, so we raised the stakes. I wanted to determine just how much of the problematic behaviour was involuntary and how much stemmed from him getting into a bad pattern).

I think all of these things are helping, but I also think the most fundamental change is this: E. was enrolled in a hot lunch program that runs three days a week at the school. He brings the leftovers home every day, so I could see how much (or little) he was eating. Q. and I had also both noticed that E. regularly had days where he didn’t eat either his morning or his afternoon snack. When we asked E. about it, he told us that he is “too busy” to eat snack or that he finds it “too stressful” to eat snack because you have to watch the table and see when there is a free chair (unlike lunch where everyone sits down at the same time, it seems snack is on a bit of a rotation). E. would come home from school STARVING and would immediately unpack his lunch bag and eat all his snacks (and then request more snacks).

It’s really obvious when E. is hungry. He’s like me: he gets hangry and irrational.

So we asked E. if he wanted to stop hot lunch, and he said he did. We’re still technically registered, as you have to give two weeks’ notice, but this week we’ve packed him a full lunch with one of two main options (nut-free pesto pizza or a cheese quesadilla) every day.

And presto. Four good days in a row. Two days E. didn’t even want a snack after school when it was offered. He’s still skipping snacks at school, but at lunch he is sitting down and eating his pizza or his quesadilla and (at minimum) a piece of fruit and one other item from his lunch bag.

It’s still early, but I honestly think this might be the magic bullet we’ve been looking for.

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Filed under Brave New (School) World, E.- the fifth year, JK

Scarred for life?

I don’t think I posted about this on here, but a couple of weeks ago I had “the phone call” from the school. You know, the one where they say that your child has hurt himself and you have to come and get him because although they’ve stopped the bleeding they’re not sure if it will need stitches and he should be checked to rule out a concussion.

I was trapped on an express bus at the time of the call, and had to spend ten minutes weeping on the bus until I could get off again at the university (where I was supposed to be meeting my supervisor). I hauled Q. out of his meeting (which also involved my supervisor), because I wasn’t sure who should go. In the end, we decided we should both go, and we took a cab back down to the school as fast as we could.

E. had tripped on the asphalt while running to the playground (he said another kid pushed him by accident- I gather it’s a bit of a mob scene despite the teachers’ best efforts to make them use their walking feet and they happened to collide) and sliced his forehead open. The cut was deep but relatively small. We have a great paediatrician who looked at him right away and opted just to use Steri Strips. She did say we could take him to the hospital for gluing or stitches, but she felt the final cosmetic result would be about the same and either of those options would be far more traumatic for E.

She told us what to watch for in terms of concussion: “Lethargy, vomiting, confusion.”

“Excuse me,” said E. “I am not at all confused.”

We then took him out for a late lunch at Tim Hortons where he proceeded to sing the  national anthem, letter perfect, twice in a row (proof he is learning something at school despite what he says).

Right. No concussion then.

E. had the strips on his forehead for another week or so before they fell off. The scab came off a few days after that. The paediatrician said it was possible he would end up with a scar, but that it would probably eventually fade.

Here’s the thing.

The scar is in the middle of his forehead.

The cut looked quite straight, but if you look at the scar, it has a bit of a zig and a bit of a zag to it.

My son has a lightning bolt scar on his forehead.

I better keep an eye out for an owl when he turns eleven.

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A tale of six (wait, three) fish

Getting information out of E. about his time at school is like writing a dissertation where all of your evidence is fragmented, anecdotal, or out of context.

Wait. I’m actually good at that!

Yes, readers, I have sunk to using my research skills, honed after years of post-secondary education, to try to piece together what happens in junior kindergarten.

Exhibit A: The fish.

Several weeks ago (mid-September).
E. (hanging out with me after school, eating snack): “The aquarium is in the classroom now!”
Me: “The aquarium?”
E.: “Yes! For the fish!”
Me: “The fish?”
E. *now looking slightly irritated* “Yes! Because we are going to have a class pet! Fish!”
Me: “Ah! The fish!”

A few days later.
E. (on the potty): “The filter was put in the aquarium today.”
Me: “Oh! Does that mean the fish will be in there soon?”
E.: “I don’t know.”

At least a week and a half later.
Me (walking home from school): “So have the fish been put in their aquarium yet, E.? I haven’t heard you mention them in a while.”
E.: “No. The water is there, but the teacher says the fish cannot go in until everybody has had two days of respecting their home.”
Me: “Are some kids having trouble respecting their home?”
E.: “Yes. The aquarium is at the back of the room with the microscopes and kids are having trouble respecting all of the equipment. It can break if they are not careful. And the aquarium is open at the top so kids can put things in. But they are not supposed to.”
Me: “Have you ever put things in, E.?”
E. *brightly*: “Yes! One day I put in a plastic fish. Mr. J. was not happy. But it was a fish!”

Three or four days after that.
E. (at the dinner table): “Fish can’t eat people food!”
Q.: “This is true. They need fish food.”
E.: “If kids put their lunch in the aquarium, Mr. J. gets mad.”
Q. and Me (both realizing we are talking about the class fish, not fish in general): “Ah. Yes, that is not good for the fish.”

Last Thursday.
E. (at the playground, running around): “The fish are here!”
Me: “That’s great news! Does that mean you all had two days respecting their home?”
E.: “Yes! One of the fish has a big bum. They like to swim around.”
Me: “How many fish are there?”
E.: “I can’t tell. They swim around too much.”

This afternoon.
Me (walking home): “How are the fish going, E.?”
E.: “Three of them have died already!”
Me: “Oh no! How many are left?”
E.: “Three!”
Me: “So how many fish were there at the start?”
E.: “Six! But some of them were smaller than the others.”

This evening, at dinner.
E. (out of nowhere): “We all had to guess reasons why the fish died. Maybe the water was too cold or too hot or they did not like their food. Maybe we will get more fish. I hope we get more fish.”

 

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Filed under Brave New (School) World, E.- the fifth year, JK