Category Archives: E.- the tenth year

Delayed Gratification

E. has been saving his money to buy a Nintendo Switch. He only decided a couple of months ago that this was his savings goal, but lack of spending opportunities over the past year (because, pandemic) meant that he once he made this decision, he already had a good chunk of the money he needed. He gets a weekly allowance ($4 = $2 in his ‘spend’ jar, $1 in ‘invest’, and $1 in ‘donate’) and some birthday/Christmas money from relatives. He also earned royalties from the novel he wrote in the spring lockdown, self-published, and sold to his relatives. I’ve told him that I won’t pay him for doing most chores around the house (I don’t want to establish a precedent of paying him now to do something that when he’s older I’ll be expecting him to do as part of his contributions to the household). But I did pay him when he made a spreadsheet for me cataloguing all the styles and sizes of hand-me-down footwear in our basement waiting for P., and he also earned some money helping me sort and record all the canned goods in the basement (left over from last spring’s ‘what if there are food shortages’ worries) and the contents of our big freezer. He’s saved me a lot of time, and these are both very much one-off tasks, so I feel paying him is the right thing to do.

Last night he determined that he now has enough money to buy the Switch (with a whole 70 cents left over!). He’s already decided not to buy the Switch until closer to his birthday, because he thinks it will be too hard to have it without any games. He’s going to write a letter to his relatives asking for money to buy games and explaining why that’s what he most wants for his birthday, and I’ll scan it and send it via email.

Last night he also had a phone conversation with his Grannie – he called to thank her for the book she’d sent him (#18 of the Dragon Masters series- they’re much too easy for him now, but he still enjoys them and it’s become a tradition that Mum sends him the newest one as soon as it’s released. This means that P. will have access to the whole set in a couple of years!). During the conversation he happened to tell her about all the holds on that particular book at the library, and how glad he was he didn’t have to wait. He also commented that there are currently over 200 holds on the latest Wings of Fire (which also came out this week). E’s had a hold placed for six months, but he doesn’t know where he is on the list yet because the library doesn’t have its copies entered into the system. He’s predicting he’s #152, I’ve guessed #56, and P., wildly optimistic, has chosen #2.

Because I know my mother very well, I was not at all surprised to find a message from her on my phone after they’d hung up and E. had gone off to bed. She had the latest Wings of Fire book in her online cart, but it was only available in hardcover. Should she still buy it?

I said no.

Partly it was because I think if you’re going to collect the whole series, you should try to get them all to match.

But mostly it was because I’d already asked E. a couple of times whether he wanted me to order that book and he could pay me back out of his ‘spend’ jar. He always thought about the question carefully, but every time his answer was the same: he wanted to save the money for the Switch.

My mum can afford to surprise him with books, and I know that gift giving is one of her love languages (even though it is most decidedly NOT one of mine). I respect and appreciate that she checks with me beforehand, that she’s always willing to take suggestions, and that she never buys my kids crap that I’ll hate (example: she only buys clothing from stores that we know fit my kids well, she always pays attention to what I say they need, and she never buys stuff with problematic messaging [‘I’m a princess’ or the like]). I also know that she adores my kids and the separation from them during the pandemic is breaking her heart (our separation from my mum has now been longer than in the first lockdown, since we were at least able to bubble with her for part of the summer). So I felt like an asshole for putting my foot down and not letting Grannie come to the rescue, but I also felt that this was a really important lesson E. was learning. You have to make choices in life. You can’t get everything you want, all at the same time. When he finally gets the Switch, when his library hold finally comes in, he’ll appreciate how hard he’s worked, and how long he’s waited for both.

E. said last night, once we’d tallied all his money and determined that he had, indeed, reached his goal, that once he had his March allowance, he was planning on using some of his ‘spend’ money to buy Robux (the currency in Roblox that lets players buy game passes and new skins and cooler pets (?) and to be honest, I don’t really know what else or how it works, but he’s excited about the possibilities). He’s known for ages that he would have to use his own money to buy Robux, and he’s also known that he had lots of money in his ‘spend’ jar, but he wasn’t willing to use it on Robux if he was still short of what he needed to get the Switch. Now that he’s reached his goal, he’s happy to blow some of his money on something that he clearly sees as both frivolous but fun.

I’m thinking he’s probably worked out this delayed gratification thing already.

But I’m still making him wait for the book!

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Filed under Books, E.- the tenth year, Money Matters

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

Notes from a Pandemic (July 2020)

Things of (some) note in the Turia household over the past couple of weeks:

  • I cut everyone’s hair (except for mine)  last weekend. Q. ordered a set of clippers with scissors online. He was so desperate he told me that he wouldn’t care if I ended up giving him a buzz cut on the longest guard. I’d only ever tried to cut one person’s hair previously (a friend in first year university) and he did end up needing to shave his head, so I went into the whole escapade with a fair amount of anxiety. I watched a YouTube video and muddled my way through. There was a LOT of hair on the floor when we finished.
    • The haircuts look surprisingly professional! I’m sure they’re uneven, but at the moment they look pretty decent.
    • Q. seems quite certain I can cut his hair going forward (which would save a considerable amount of money), but we’ll see how he feels once it grows out a bit.
    • E. felt it was less stressful to just get it done at home so I might end up cutting his in the future too.
    • I tried to give P. a very basic trim but her hair has a wave in it (although mostly only at the bottom?) and she wasn’t motivated to sit still, so hers looks pretty erratic.
    • I think I’ll have to cave and go and get mine cut sometime in August. I don’t want to, but it hasn’t been cut since April of 2019. If I can get my stylist to cut it into a basic bob that can grow out easily, I’ll be able to go another year between cuts (if necessary) without too much trouble.
    • Or maybe I won’t go and I’ll just let it get longer and longer and stragglier and stragglier. (This graph lists getting a haircut as a medium/high risk activity, which is not a level I’m comfortable with.)
  • The kids and I went to the dentist! It was really stressful being there but they were obviously taking a ton of precautions, so I felt it was a safe environment.
    • I was able to get a new nightguard, which is already making a difference.
    • The kids were about three months overdue, and it was really noticeable with E’s teeth. He clearly hasn’t been doing a good enough job over the past few months (although in the past he’s been fine).  Thankfully there hasn’t been any permanent damage done. We’re using a timer in the bathroom now to make sure he brushes for the full two minutes and we have become a household which prioritizes flossing.
    • I have to take E. back in the first week of August for remedial work to deal with the emerging problems. I’m honestly not certain he’ll be able to cope, in which case I’ll have to get the name of the ‘sleep dentist’ from my friend, which fills me with dread.
  • E. is at camp this week. This was a hugely stressful decision, but the camp he was supposed to attend in the last week of August ran a lottery for their pilot project in July, and he was offered a place. Our numbers are consistently hovering around the 1 case/ 100,000 people mark, and the camp is run entirely outdoors with a ratio of 1:5, with the kids ranging in age from 8 to 12. Social distancing is enforced and the kids wear masks if they go inside to use the bathroom or if they’re walking on narrow paths.
    • Q. and I talked it over, and then I asked labmonkey and my good friend who’s also a biologist. Once we’d all determined it would be about as safe an environment as you could get, we gave the decision to E. He thought about it for a while and then opted to go because, as he said, “It would be nice to spend some time outside that isn’t just biking up and down in our  laneway.”
    • When we told P. that E. was going to go to camp, she was DEVASTATED. We thought she was upset that she wasn’t old enough to go, but it turned out that she was brokenhearted that she was going to be separated from her brother. They haven’t been apart since mid-March. That’s a huge amount of time in her world. (She’s since been quite happy to have extra one-on-one time with Mummy and Daddy.)
    • So E. has spent this week romping around outside for six hours a day, identifying berries, brewing sumac tea, playing camouflage games, learning about local ecosystems, and whittling roasting sticks for their bonfire tomorrow. He comes home tired and dirty and happy. He’s having fun.
  • labmonkey had a virtual birthday party when Sprout turned one. Q. and I  drank wine and ate fancy cheese and the kids ate cupcakes they’d decorated earlier in the day (and then moved on to eating our cheese). It was fun to connect and nice to see the faces of some of Sprout’s relatives on Pea’s side we’ve never met before.
  • The first of our swallowtail caterpillars eclosed on the 11th. E. got really worried that it was stressed in the aquarium, so we released it in quite a hurry at lunchtime. It was spectacular watching it soar off above our redbud and head on up our street. Later that afternoon E. found an identical butterfly in our back yard that wasn’t able to properly fly. He immediately started worrying that it was our butterfly and something was wrong with it, but eventually agreed that it couldn’t be ours since butterflies didn’t stop being able to fly. We moved the butterfly onto a coneflower in our front garden in case it was hungry and after about thirty minutes of resting and occasionally flexing its wings, it took off into the air. In retrospect, it must have also been a new butterfly and we had a caterpillar in our yard that made it to the chrysalis stage without us noticing it.
    • We ordered a proper flight cage (with mesh on five sides) so the remaining chrysalides are in there now, and the aquarium is hosting two monarch caterpillars who are growing at a truly astonishing rate. We’ll move them into the flight cage when they’re ready to make their chrysalis because monarchs like to hang from the roof.
    • Our second chrysalis opened this morning…but it was a wasp that emerged, not a butterfly. That caterpillar must have been infected with an egg of the ichneumon wasp before we brought it inside. The egg hatches once the caterpillar makes its chrysalis and then the wasp eats what it finds in the chrysalis as it grows to adulthood. The caterpillar was doomed from the start. The kids were deeply insulted that one of ‘their’ caterpillars had been compromised. We know one of our remaining two should be safe, as we brought it inside as an egg. But the other one could also produce a nasty surprise. We’ll have to wait and see. We watched the wasp for a while and E. agreed it was a pretty cool specimen, but we still drowned it in the end so it couldn’t go out and infect more caterpillars.
  • No one still has any idea what is going to happen with school in September, and I’m feeling far less confident about sending the kids now that the study from South Korea has come out which indicates that kids as young as ten spread the virus at rates comparable to adults. Probably 50% of the kids at E’s school would be ten or older.
    • The government originally said that school boards had to be prepared for three scenarios, then they said that they expected schools would start with the hybrid model, and now they’re advocating for all kids starting back five days a week in smaller cohorts.
    • Our school board did the math of what five days a week with cohorts of 15 would look like and it would cost literally hundreds of millions of dollars more than the province has allocated for COVID for the entire province, not just our board. The board also originally said it wouldn’t be possible to run core French or French immersion under that model (and then immediately backtracked on French Immersion the following day, so either we didn’t understand what they said the first time or a whole lot of people got angry phone calls).
    • Now our premier has said he’s in favour of classes being held outside (which with our climate would be feasible through to the end of October), but, again, there’s no announcement of lots of money to help facilitate this.
    • Meanwhile the province is moving into Phase 3 of reopening, which will allow indoor dining in restaurants to resume and the bars (!!!) to reopen (although not for dancing, just for getting people inebriated so they can stand too close to each other in an enclosed space and talk too loudly). I think it’s pretty clear from multiple places that bars are a bad idea.
    • Our government is obsessed with getting the economy back to normal and I honestly don’t believe he thinks the schools are a priority. There’s no evidence of creative thinking or leadership. A friend is convinced the premier would think it a good result if all the mothers had to quit their jobs and stay home to supervise the kids and there are days where it feels like this might just be the plan. It’s frustrating and exhausting. Decision fatigue is a big thing for me right now. (I liked this take on it.)
  • There was an article a few days ago about the Americans who have been turned back at the border (which is remaining closed to non-essential travel until at least mid-August). More than 5,000 of them said they wanted to come to Canada for shopping, sightseeing, or simply recreation. Our tourism industry has been devastated by the pandemic, but, let’s face it, the US is a giant dumpster fire right now, and given we are still a separate country, we want no part of what’s happening south of our borders. It’s both surreal and frightening to read the news, and I hope all my American readers are safe and healthy.

How is your pandemic July going?

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Brave New (School) World, COVID-19, E.- the tenth year, Family

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

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