Category Archives: Family

COVID-19 Questions (Part 1)

Loribeth recently posted a list of questions which were originally meant as scrapbooking prompts, but which she recognized would make great blog posts! Loribeth has already posted with her answers, and I’m jumping on the bandwagon. I’ve also decided to just post my first set of answers as it’s taking me a long time to work through them all. I’ll link back to this post when I get the second round of answers finished.

When was the moment  you knew this was serious? Where were you and what happened?

There wasn’t one “uh oh” moment for me. It was more like a gradual realization of the inevitability of what was going to happen. I was aware of the virus from January onwards and knew in February that it was spreading rapidly. I made a late contribution to my RRSP at the very end of February and was pleased that I’d put the money in when the markets were down (little did I know how much further they’d fall!).

Q. and I had a huge public presentation that happened on the 1st of March in front of several hundred people, which involved some academic colleagues travelling to the city. During one of the coffee breaks I was chatting with another colleague at my university who was supposed to go to Italy in April for a lecture/study tour that had been in the works for over a year. On the 1st of March, it still seemed reasonable that he might be able to get to Italy, but he was concerned that he and his wife might get stranded there, or that the archives would shut. Our universities had already cancelled their summer study tours to Italy. One of our visiting colleagues (the only one from the US) sounded quite Trumpian at lunch in his assertions that the virus wasn’t that bad and that we were all in danger of overreacting. (We’ve been in touch with him via email since and he’s certainly changed his tune!)

On Thursday, 5 March, Q. went and did a grocery shop where he stocked up on shelf-stable staples and household supplies (including toilet paper!). He’d been reading the Globe and Mail and there had been an article recommending that everyone have two weeks of food on hand. We were about a week ahead of the panic-buying. Q. didn’t think to buy yeast, which was our one big error, as we haven’t been able to get it since and he needs it to bake his own bread (he was diagnosed with celiac disease late last year).

The cascade of bad news really came the next week. On Monday (the 9th)  my students were still confident enough that they would see me the next week that some of them opted not to walk back with me to my office to pick up their tests. On the 10th and the 11th, I made sure in my classes to emphasize that if we had to pivot to online teaching, I was experienced at that method of course delivery and I would be able to finish the term with no difficulties. On Thursday (the 12th) I told my class that I thought it extremely likely there would be disruption to the end of the semester. After class had finished, I was taking public transit home when my sister sent me a link to the announcement from the premier that the schools were going to be shut for the two weeks following March Break. At that stage I NEEDED the university to transition to online, as there was no way I could have the kids at home while I still had to be on campus four days a week. Friday (the 13th, appropriately enough!), my university made the decision that we were transitioning to online delivery, effective immediately. Some universities shortened the winter semester by a week to give their faculty time to make the change, but not mine.

On Friday, P. and I set out to do our usual weekly grocery shop. When we pulled into the parking lot of our usual store, there was a massive line up to get inside! I quickly drove to another grocery store, which was further away and not easily accessed by transit. I (correctly) predicted that it would be busy but that we’d be able to get in without lining up. We did a very quick shop as we had to be back in time to get E. from school. There was noticeable shortages in many parts of the store, including fresh produce, all cleaning supplies, dried pasta, canned goods, toilet paper, etc. The other shoppers looked stressed. We got the shop done, picked up E., and then I took them to the library. Here I made my single largest error of the entire pandemic. We were IN THE LIBRARY with three library cards. I could have checked out up to 150 books (50 books per card). Instead, I let E. pick a few that he seemed interested in, put back on the shelf the ones I’d found that he didn’t want to choose, and held P. to her usual limit. I don’t know what I was thinking. Actually, I know I wasn’t thinking. I think I knew that the libraries were going to shut too, but I hadn’t quite realized just how quickly that was going to happen. Maybe I thought I could go back on the weekend? It was a real brain explosion for sure, because we took our (very small) pile of books home and the libraries shut for the duration of the pandemic that same evening.

The 14th of March (Saturday) was my grandfather’s funeral (he had died on the 2nd). My sisters and I all felt uneasy about the event going ahead given the demographics that would be attending (mostly elderly so all high-risk). It was probably one of the last big gatherings in the province- church service for the Sunday had already  been cancelled. We were able to see all of our extended family on that side, including our father. It was bittersweet, but I’m glad we were all able to be together in person given what’s happened since.

The original plan was for my mum to take the kids to her house for March Break, and we kept that plan. Mum had been at our house the previous week (she’d been coming every week to help us out with childcare since the beginning of January because of my ridiculous teaching schedule. She is the world’s best Grannie), and we’d seen her at the funeral, so we figured anything we’d been exposed to, she’d been exposed to as well. She picked the kids up on Tuesday (the 17th) and we drove to her house to get them on Saturday (the 21st). In between, I worked like crazy to write and record my lectures for the last three weeks of semester because I (rightly) suspected that it would be difficult to get such things accomplished with the kids underfoot. On the Wednesday (the 18th) Q. and I drove up to our university to liberate as many books as we could carry from Q.’s office because we (correctly) predicted that it would be only a matter of time before the university shut down entirely (and we got the email that all access to buildings would be suspended the next day!). We also hit up one more grocery store and picked up a few more fresh things, which meant that we were then able to go a full two weeks before we needed to get more groceries.

The news just kept getting worse and worse that entire week. Trudeau told all Canadians overseas to come home. It was clear that schools would not be reopening in two weeks as originally suggested. The markets crashed and then crashed again. We picked the kids up on the 21st. It had been a really different March Break from what Mum had planned: they’d stayed home (but had lots of outside time exploring green spaces on their scooters and geocaching). They’d made pizza and puppets and done yoga and read tons of stories. The kids had loved it so much that they were both incandescent with rage that Q. and I had picked them up on Saturday and not Sunday (we thought they might have been homesick, haha). E. wept in the car as we drove away.

I’m really glad they had that time with my mum, because that was the last time they saw anyone outside of our household (other than neighbours from a distance or family online). As of today (the 8th 9th of May) it’s been 48 49 days since we picked them up.

Looking back now, is there one particular news article or story that stands out to you?

I can’t point to any single news article or story. I spent a lot of time comparing the numbers between Canada and Australia in the early days. For a long time our case loads and our curves were almost identical and then they got things under control (I would say despite the actions of their prime minister, not because of) and we didn’t. I think the difference was in testing and contact tracing (as well as the fact that they sealed their border faster and with stricter quarantine requirements). I don’t think our premier’s suggestion that families should “go away and enjoy themselves” over March break (this was after he’d announced the schools were going to shut) helped matters either.

What was the first meme that caused you to laugh out loud?

There have been loads of great memes, but the earliest that I can clearly remember was the video of the sock puppet eating cars, which one of my sisters-in-law sent to me on the 17th of March. That might not even officially be a meme. The meme about if Trump was the captain of the Titanic (first line: “There is no iceberg”) is still one of the best I’ve seen.

What have you observed in your community that has been heart-warming?

There have been a lot of supportive posts in my neighbourhood F.book groups. There’s a woman in one group who has sewn over 2,000 fabric masks for people in the area – all by donation! Lots of positive messages written in chalk on sidewalks and fence posts. Lots of rainbows in the windows.

What has been the biggest change to your everyday routine?

My entire routine has been upended by the pandemic, so it would be hard to settle on one thing. In the early days I really noticed the absence of my commute, especially the walk to/from transit. I used to work from home on days when I wasn’t teaching, but when I did that I had a quiet empty house. Now my work is squeezed into the afternoon and I do my best to ignore the shenanigans upstairs. I had to transition all four of the courses I was teaching into an online format. I haven’t seen my students or my colleagues in person since the 12th of March.

I miss chatting with other parents at drop off at E’s school or at P’s nursery school. I miss the chats I would have with the kids as we walked home. I miss being able to pop into one of the shops on our main street and get them a scone or a muffin as a treat.

How has family life been altered in your home?

We are all trying our best, but this is HARD. Pre-COVID E. was in school full-time (grade 3) and P. was at nursery school four days a week. Now they’re at home with us, but E.’s still meant to be in school. I’m not going to sit here and type that this is all a great blessing and we’re so lucky to be spending all this extra time together, because I’m not at all convinced that all this extra time together has been good for any of our relationships. There have been occasional moments where P. and E. have been getting along really well and playing together, but most of the time they’re fighting or pestering each other. They get bored and they start to push each other’s buttons. E. is highly reactive and P. can be a real PITA. It’s not a great combination.

One thing that has shifted but hasn’t changed is our routine. We were always a heavily routine-oriented family. Both kids really thrive on (and need) the predictability (and, frankly, so do Q. and I). We were never late for school (or anything). We always ate dinner at around the same time. The kids had consistent bedtimes. I know there are families out there just taking each day as it comes, and if that works for them, hurrah. I’m still waking E. up at a consistent time in the morning (somewhere between 7:30 and 7:45) to make sure he’ll go to sleep at night. P. I let sleep until she wakes up (and that’s been one positive of the new normal- she’s getting more sleep now that she doesn’t have to be woken up to get E. to school on time). We start school at 9. We’re usually outside by 11 and lunch is at 12:30. In the afternoon, E’s usually finished his schoolwork with Q. by 2:30 or 3 and he has educational app time (he plays a lot of Prodigy) and then they have snack and go outside. When they come back in it’s video time and then dinner.

We’re trying as much as possible to avoid being sucked into power struggles with E. about schoolwork, but we’ve all had meltdowns and we’ve all lost our tempers and we’ve all had some rough days. There’s a reason we don’t homeschool.

Q. and I are both stressed about work. It’s just not possible for us to get work done during the hours when we’re responsible for the kids. The big kid doesn’t have the maturity or the focus or the interest to do his work independently and the little kid needs time and attention too. It would be much easier if they were both old enough to be doing schoolwork, and easier still if they were both old enough to do their work mostly independently. I’m not saying it would be easy, just that it would have to be easier than our current gong show.

We get the kids outside at least twice a day, and we have a yard to run around in, and a laneway behind our house to ride bikes or scooters in, and a big garden with lots of weeding and digging and planting that needs to be done, but they are bubbling over with energy. They miss the parks. They miss going for walks. They miss their friends. WE MISS THE LIBRARY SO SO SO MUCH.

What have you learned to do during this pandemic?

Q. and I have mastered the art of ordering groceries online (which we might keep doing, at least some of the time, post-COVID).

E. has made huge strides in typing and general computer skills. He’s learned to make a few simple lunches (egg salad sandwiches, quesadillas, tuna melts).

P. got a new bike last week (an early birthday present) and is making a spectacularly smooth transition from a 12″ balance bike to a 14″ bike with pedals.

One thing we’re doing for the first time is seed starting (although I wouldn’t say I needed to learn how to do this). We had planned to do this before COVID but the pandemic made it even easier to prioritize our ‘victory garden’ (as Q. insists on calling it). One of the science activities I did with the kids in the first week they were home was to germinate seeds in damp paper towel. We put 10 seeds of each type on wet paper towel, used washi tape to label each set (E. recorded the legend) and then put them in a ziploc bag and put them on top of the fridge for a week. We tried all the varieties of seeds we had at home from previous years and discovered that almost all of them would still germinate (we had no luck with the onions, the fennel, and the lettuce, and the swiss chard from 2010 failed too (the 2014 and 2016 packages were fine)).

We did learn recently that you can regrow all sorts of veggies from their leftover ends so we have green onions and celery regrowing in glass jars on our kitchen counter, which is fun.

Generally, though, when it comes to ‘learning’ things, I see all the inspirational posts about what people are doing with “all their free time” and my head explodes. I don’t have the time or the emotional bandwidth to take on anything new right now. I’m struggling even to read.

What change has created the most disappointment for you?

The big one is the closure of the schools. It was the right decision to make from a societal-standpoint, but it has made everything so much harder for us.

My university has stayed online for the summer semester, which is fine, as the course I was scheduled to teach was designed as an online course from the outset. If we’re still online for the fall, that will be far more problematic. The administration is hedging a little bit there but at the moment the recommendations are if our courses are going to be more than 50 people we should plan to be online.

The public libraries. We used to go every week. I can’t express in words how much we (and especially E.) miss the libraries.

On a personal level, I’m sad that I didn’t get to see Hamilton after our hard-fought battle to get tickets. I’m sad that the entire season at Stratford has been cancelled/postponed, a season where we were planning to go at least three times because everything looked great. I’m sad that we won’t be able to go down under this summer as planned, that we’ll miss Q.’s mother’s 70th birthday and the christening of E. and P.’s newest cousin, that it might be another two years before we can go since Q. is scheduled to teach in summer 2021.

I miss seeing my family. The rule in our province is no gatherings over five people, and since there are four in my household, we can’t really meet up with anyone else. We did discuss meeting up in a socially-distanced way, but Q. is not comfortable doing anything that could get us fined since his permanent residency is up for renewal this year, and I have to respect that.

*******

More to come!

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Filed under COVID-19, Family

Seven weeks

Over the long weekend (the terribly named Family Day Monday here plus a bonus Friday off school for E.) we drove to see my Dad. The last time we’d seen him had been just after Christmas. The intervening seven weeks had been typical ones for us, filled with school and work, sunshine and snow, bedtimes and Netflix, crumbs on the table and Cheerios on the floor. P. had decided she loved colouring and had started sleeping until 6 a.m. before wanting to nurse at night. E. had performed in his winter concert and had brought home an excellent report card (his first one with ‘real’ letter grades). Q. had had a birthday. I had been to the dentist and the endocrinologist. P. had endured an ultrasound. E. had made huge progress in his swimming lessons, for the first time in three years.

Little things happened, bigger things happened, but I’d describe those weeks as ordinary ones in our lives. Ten years from now I probably won’t remember much of what happened, other than what I’ve written down in my five-year journal.

My father, as it turns out, hadn’t LEFT HIS ROOM since the last time we saw him.

Seven weeks in an ICU hospital room, watching television, reading email, Skyping. Not even able to easily look out the window because of how his room is oriented.

It broke my heart.

He could have left his room, it turned out, but only to drive his chair around the ICU, and he hadn’t seen the point.

While we were there, he was able to venture a bit further, and we saw first-hand how rusty he was at driving his chair and navigating doorways after close to two months without any practice. labmonkey asked some good questions about why Dad was confined to the ICU and what the doctors thought they were achieving by this decision, and hopefully he’ll now be better able to get out and about, at least within the hospital.

I’ve read a lot about the idea of post-traumatic growth, that people who experience a major trauma often feel like they experience personal growth afterwards, that the adversity faced becomes the catalyst for positive psychological change.

I know this has been true for me since 2016.

I am better able to appreciate my life, less inclined to stress about small things.

I get less agitated when driving.

I am ever more grateful for Q. and the life we have built together.

I am more likely to notice moments of ordinary happiness.

There is not a day that goes by where I do not look up while I am walking to notice the sky, the wind, the light.

I see more beauty in the everyday.

The sun glinting off the snow in the schoolyard when I drop E. off in the morning.

Bare trees against a blue sky.

Grey stone and wooden desks in the library.

There is very little that is ordinary in my life that does not now remind me of my father.

Shovelling snow.

Slipping on ice but catching myself before I fall.

Pulling my children on a toboggan.

Opening a book.

Eating.

Snuggling.

Breathing.

I would give up my growth in an instant, go back to being worried and busy and fretful and oblivious to the wonder that is my life, if it meant that he could have his back again.

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Filed under Family, Grief, Loss

Simplifying Christmas

Yes, I know it’s the New Year, but I’m still processing December.

Christmas really crept up on me this year.

It was partly due to the fact that it was a Monday, and E. was in school until the 22nd, so by the time he finished school there was Saturday and then it was Christmas Eve.

And it was partly due to the fact that I spent the penultimate school week with my Dad in the hospital. P. and I had an absolutely horrific drive home again, complete with a major snow storm that approached total white out conditions at one point and a massive diaper blow out that required me to change every piece of clothing she was wearing (while being out of wipes after the previous unscheduled diaper change stop). I ended up carrying her back and forth naked to the sink from the toilet stall that had the change pad in it so I could wet toilet paper and try to get her relatively clean. She stood on the change table and said “cold” and “fall” over and over again and then cried. I ended up with poop on my coat. Eventually she was clean and dry and happy and I stuffed her in the car and drove off into the snow.

It took eight hours to get home (the drive should, at most, take five, even with stops for littlies) and I was utterly shattered by the time we arrived. I then didn’t want to do anything that weekend until I realized that the very next weekend E. would be off from school and it was going to be Christmas Eve.

In 2015, I convinced my family to stop exchanging presents with Q. and I for Christmas (doesn’t apply to the kids). This year my father and stepmother, largely out of the blue, decided to stop doing birthday presents as well (they both have birthdays which fall in the holidays), which made life even simpler. We still do presents with Q.’s family, but that’s Q.’s job to sort out (although I am in charge of presents for our two nephews).

Q. and I decided to get a Sodastream so we can have a ready supply of bubbly water, and to make sure we go on some good dates this year. Otherwise we agreed not to get each other anything else other than the traditional Christmas Eve pjs and stockings.

When I look at my list, I can’t figure out why the lead up to Christmas felt so wildly out of control and stressful.

  • pjs and stocking for Q. (his stocking usually has socks, undies, t-shirts, and tasty treats in it)
  • pjs for E. and P.
  • gifts for E. and P. from Q. and I (using the “something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read” guide, where the “wear” are the pjs)
  • Santa stuff and stockings
  • ornaments for Q., P., and E., because I get each of them a new one every year
  • gift for Q. from E. & P. (normally E. tells me what he’d like to get Daddy but I dropped the ball on this one and had to just make an executive decision)
  • gifts for two nieces and three nephews (and the nieces were sorted out in November as my sisters and I get them and their parents tickets to Disney on Ice every year)
  • photo calendars for three sets of grandparents (two of the calendars I made and the third I was just responsible for choosing photos and sending them to my sister-in-law; I did all of this in late November)
  • annual photo ornaments for three sets of grandparents (left these to the absolute last minute as usual and then struggled to get the photos printed)

Admittedly, E.’s request from Santa required me to make a trip downtown that blew most of a morning, and the photo ornaments were an enormous source of stress and frustration when I couldn’t get the photos easily printed, and I did also make a stop in a bookstore to buy some books for the baby next door, the family where all of P’s clothes come from, and friends’ children whom we were going to see over the holidays. But by the standards of Christmas, even by the standards of my previous Christmases, this was a pretty light year.

I didn’t do any baking at all (I haven’t managed that since 2014) but I did decorate the house. We had a family expedition to cut down a Christmas tree on the 9th, and we decorated the tree and the inside of the house that same weekend. I didn’t get the outdoor lights up before I left to see my Dad, so E. and I put them up once I was back.

There isn’t anything I can really point to as causing the chaos (except those damn ornaments), but I felt like I was two steps behind the entire holiday season.

I think I left everything too late. I didn’t start thinking about Christmas in any serious way until December and then by the time I made all the decisions, I was running out of time to order things online (and I absolutely loathe shopping in real stores especially with kids in tow). I ended up ordering some things online at 5 in the morning when I wasn’t able to sleep when I was away to see my Dad and having to do my in-person shopping in the last week before Christmas when I really should have been working. Everything arrived on time in the end, but it was a bit too close for comfort.

Resolutions for next year:

  1. Think about the Down Under nephews in November (Q. had yet another year of panicking at the last minute for his family and has resolved, yet again, to do things in November next year)
  2. Choose photos for calendars and ornaments, make and order calendars, and print ornament photos in November (I’m sure I’ll leave purchasing the actual ornaments until mid-December like always but if the photos are ready it takes only a minute or two to make them)
  3. Always have five or six excellent picture books stashed away in the house so I have an easy gift if we end up getting together unexpectedly with friends who have kids. Books never go out of style.
  4. Use Black Friday sales as an opportunity to pick up a few things for Q.’s stocking and possibly find Christmas Eve pjs as well
  5. Remember December/January birthdays when planning (Spud and Pea)
  6. Make decisions for E. & P.’s gifts earlier
  7. Realize that it is unrealistic to plan to work full days right up until the very last day E. is in school and not feel guilty when I inevitably end up spending at least one afternoon shopping.

Basically I need to think about Q., E., and P. earlier, be better organized, and maybe bite the bullet and pay for Amazon Prime because two day shipping with no minimum would probably have done a great deal to alleviate my stress.

Christmas Day itself was absolutely lovely, and that’s the important thing.

Do you have any strategies for managing Christmas preparations?

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Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), E.- the seventh year, Family, P.- the second year

Sandwiched

On Sunday, I was eating lunch with Q. and the kids and getting ready to take E. out to a special concert (an early Christmas present). A flurry of messages from my sisters led to a phone call to my mother, which led to me putting P. in the car on Monday morning and driving for the rest of the day.

My Dad has been very unwell over the last couple of weeks with several major ups and downs. My youngest sister had been in to see him that weekend and it was clear that one of us needed to be there after she left.

The drive up reminded me of those train rides after he first had the accident, the landscape equally bleak, his status equally tenuous. It is easy, too easy really, for my sisters and I to shift back into crisis-management mode. We have done so much of it over the last (almost) two years.

The big change, of course, was that I was driving rather than on the train, because the unborn baby who rode that train with me was now a toddler giggling at me through the backseat mirror as she made her stuffed animals dance to the music. She was better company, certainly, than when she was still in utero, even if we did have to make a few unscheduled stops in the parking lots of roadside rest stops so I could put her boots back on after she pulled them off, tossed them away, and then regretted that choice.

Better company, but not easier to manage.

I was able to come only because my father’s health crisis occurred both after my semester had finished and before my mother had moved. Q. had enough flexibility in his work week to do the school run on the days when we didn’t have our nanny, and I was able to stay with my mother and leave P. with her during the day while I drove to the hospital. The drive is an hour and fifteen minutes (except for last night when it was inexplicably two and a half hours) and during the day, when it’s clear, it’s a nostalgic journey through the landscape that still feels like “home” to me. At night, or in a snowstorm (we had one of those this week too), it’s long and tedious.

By the time I was able to see my Dad on Tuesday morning, he was much better, and by Wednesday he was clearly on the mend, despite, as his doctors said, their total inability to find out what had been wrong with him in the first place. It must have been an infection of some sort- his nurse told me that it happens not infrequently where a patient gets sick and then recovers without them being able to identify where the infection is hiding. It would have been better if they had known what it was. The work required to allow my father to leave the hospital and live in his new house progresses at a glacial pace and this latest scare will no doubt contribute to even more heel dragging on the part of my stepmother.

I am taking P. with me to the hospital this morning for what will almost certainly be a very brief visit with my father (busy toddler and critical medical equipment not being an ideal combination). Dad is looking forward to seeing her. It’s been nice for me to have some time just with him, something which, again, hasn’t happened since the early months after his accident as usually when I’m in town I have both children with me. We’ve been able to talk about my work and play some online Sudoku. I’m confident that I’m leaving him in relatively good spirits and restored to (his version of) good health.

We are out of crisis and back to our (still new) normal.

By the time I am home again, I will have put close to 2,000 kilometres on the car and spent more than twenty hours driving.

I have blown an entire week of work.

I have been Christmas shopping online at 5 a.m. when I can’t get back to sleep after P. has woken up to nurse.

I am glad I came.

It was the right thing to do.

But I am tired.

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Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Family, P.- the second year

Too Busy

I missed my 30 posts in 30 days goal by three posts. I got pretty close, and I even had ideas for two posts that would be quick and easy but still have some substance, but the last two days of the month were so crazy blog posts were never going to happen.

Tuesday I got home from teaching around 9:45 p.m. and went straight to bed. P. slept through from 7 (or thereabouts) to some time after 6 for the second night in a row. I nursed her and she went down again. She woke up on Wednesday morning one minute before our nanny arrived at 8:20.

Amazing, no?

Well, no. It turns out P. was sleeping like mad to try to fight off the HFM she’d picked up from Spud, as when I got home on Wednesday there was a note from our nanny that she thought P. was getting a yeast infection because she had a few spots in her diaper area.

It wasn’t a yeast infection.

P. woke up covered in spots on Thursday morning (after being up five or six times that night). She was only up twice last night and is covered in more spots today. Some of them seem to be crusting and drying already so I’m hopeful she’ll fight it off quickly. She is eating well and is mostly cheerful for everyone else (and is a total mess when I’m around). E. is still healthy, thank goodness. Q. and I are both sick but I think we just have end of semester colds. Q. had a sore throat one day and I’ve had a super runny nose but no fevers and no spots to report for either of us.

So Wednesday I dropped E. at school and then got straight into the car to drive to meet my mother so we could house hunt. We were supposed to be on a fact finding mission- trying to narrow down what Mum really wants.

We did that admirably as Mum ended up putting in a successful offer on a townhouse!

It worked out so well- we were in the complex to look at another place (which had just come back on the market after a conditional sale had fallen through) and her agent said that this one had just come onto the market the day before and was significantly less expensive. She felt we should go and compare. The less expensive one was also MUCH MUCH nicer inside. The basement hadn’t been as finished but the main two floors were beautiful- Mum could just move in and not even have to paint.

The funny thing is that the day before, when the agent had sent through the listing for the one that wasn’t as nice, I’d looked at the pictures and thought, “Gee, I can really see Mum living there.”

Then we went to see three condos, the last of which was empty, so we stood in it for a while and discussed. Ultimately Mum really didn’t want to move to a condo. She hadn’t liked the downtown. She really wanted some outdoor space. She needed a townhouse. And she really liked the nice one.

Mum and I went for lunch (where we independently decided to order the exact same thing) and labmonkey looked up transit routes for us while the real estate agent went back to her office and emailed us other examples of townhouses in that complex that had sold in the last few months. It was clear the nice one was massively under priced and that the complex itself was in a great location.

It was also clear that the middle units had a different layout from the end units so we decided we needed to see the other layout (there was a third unit in the complex that was also back on the market after a conditional sale had collapsed due to financing).

Here is the part I am most proud of: while we were waiting for the agent to call us back to tell us whether we could go and see the third unit, we were also trying to figure out whether I should cut and run because I had to leave basically right then to have any chance of avoiding the traffic.

I was considering doing it so I wouldn’t miss three bedtimes in a row (even though Q. was totally fine with that happening). I was super tired. I hadn’t finished my seminar paper yet.

And then Mum started to crumple too. “You bail and I’ll bail and we can get back before dinner and we’ll just tell the agent we don’t want to see that other place,” she said.

I pushed right back and told her she had to see that other place because if she didn’t see it she wouldn’t be in a position to put an offer in on the nice place and it was going to sell that day because there were already offers on it. And then our agent called and we could get in to see the third unit in half an hour and I decided to stay because I knew if I didn’t stay Mum wouldn’t be able to make any decisions- she was getting overwhelmed and frazzled.

So we saw the third unit and it was a total non-starter. It was clear the layout in the other two was much better even if the kitchen was a bit tucked away. We conferred with labmonkey (who had realized the transit was even better than she had originally thought). We agreed on an offer price (above the price of the not as nice one, but not by much). And then I did finally get in the car and drive home (which took over two hours but I knew it would). On the drive home I talked to labmonkey and my other sister, and to Q., and to the mum of E’s best school friend who was trying to organize summer camps (HOW can it be time to think about this??!!).

I got home just in time to nurse P. and put her in the crib. Then I got E. in bed, and ate a late dinner with Q. I was just clearing up the dishes when I learned from our agent that the offer had been successful and Mum had a new house!

We went to bed a bit after 10 and I could not get to sleep. I was excited and stressed about the new house and worried about P. and my paper. I saw the clock at 11:37 p.m. and then I fell asleep. P. had woken herself up and resettled a couple of times while I’d been trying to fall asleep so I suspected I was in for a rough night (which was true).

Thursday I was up early because P. woke up and needed to nurse again around 5:30 and then I didn’t get back to sleep because I started thinking about house stuff. I really hadn’t slept well- lots of tossing and turning when not getting up to deal with P. My cold was getting worse.

I took E. to school, came home, spent 90 minutes making the handout for my paper and 50 minutes finishing it (I needed to write a conclusion, streamline the introduction and generally edit in a few places). Then I nursed P. before her nap, showered, dressed in my good clothes, printed my paper and handout, paid our nanny, and jumped in the car. While in the car I ate an apple and a Lara bar.

It poured rain the whole time I drove (to another nearby city- I cannot believe some people do these kinds of commutes every day). While I drove I talked to Mum and labmonkey about financial stuff to do with the house. I’d left later than I wanted to but I got there exactly on time. I met with a grad student (I had a caffeinated tea because I was seriously flagging) for an hour, then had twenty minutes to look over my paper (during which time I also called my other sister to talk financials and read a worrying email about my father). Then I went to the departmental wine and cheese where I ate some cheese and drank 1/4 of a glass of wine. Then I gave my paper and spoke for 50 minutes and answered questions (not very many in the end, but I thought the paper went well).

By the end of the paper I was a wreck. I was light headed and shaky and I thought I was running a fever. But I think I was probably just hungry and tired because we then went out for dinner and I felt a lot better. I drove the other two people to the restaurant and they had to stand around while I pulled out a car seat (because I had cut things too fine in the morning to get it out before I left) and then cleaned up the sea of plantain chips and Cheerios I found lurking beneath it. We had a nice dinner out and then I got back in the car to drive home again.

I got home around 9:45. Q. was already in bed. The kids were asleep. I pottered around a little bit getting unpacked and organized until the adrenaline had worn off and then I crashed.

Today was supposed to be quiet as I’m home with P. and E. has no school but is out for most of the day on a special adventure with the nanny, but P. has been a wreck all day (still spotty, obviously not feeling well, and suffering from major Mummyitis) and I’ve been trying to organize the lawyers for the house purchase. So it’s been one of those days where I’ve felt like I’ve been rushing around like a maniac but not accomplishing very much.

Still. End of semester. It’s December. The crazy week is over.

I made it!

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Filed under Family, Life after the PhD, Money Matters, The Sick

Novus Domus

Today I am off to help my mother househunt. I’m not expecting we’re going to find THE ONE on this trip, but we’re scheduled to see seven properties and I’m hoping by the end of the day we’ll both have a better idea of what she likes (or doesn’t like) and what she is looking for in her new life (and it really is a new life and not just a new residence as she will be moving from the eastern end of the province to the south, leaving a rural area for a heavily urbanized one, and changing from a sprawling four bedroom house in the woods to a condo or a townhouse).

The process of selling her house and preparing to move has been very stressful for my mother. She’s going to leave behind the house in which she’s lived for the past twenty-six years, the house where she raised her children and the house where she was left behind when they went out into the world, the house where she celebrated her marriage to my stepfather and the house where she sat with him until he drew his last breath.

That house has a lot of memories tied up in it.

When I left it (at the point where I thought it might have been for the last time) earlier this month, I took pictures of the yard while Q. was loading the kids into the car. The sun was out. There was fresh snow. It was beautiful, but both Mum and I knew how desolate it would become later in the winter.

Mum had tears in her eyes as I snapped the last few photos.

“This house needs a family,” I told her.

“I know,” she said. “It’s just hard for me to realize that my family has left.”

As hard as it is to go, Mum wants a different life now. She doesn’t want to rattle around in that house, alone as she ages, and hundreds of kilometres away from her children and grandchildren.

And so, over the past year, she has taken the steps to make this move possible.

I’m really proud of my mother.

She has been extraordinarily brave.

It takes great courage to be willing to pack up the life you have known longer than any other.

The process of choosing the new house has been hard for her. She isn’t quite sure what she wants her new life to look like. It’s hard for her to imagine the possibilities. It’s easy for her to get overwhelmed.

That’s where I come in.

Over the past year I’ve been my mother’s unofficial financial advisor and real estate consultant.

I helped her to make a budget and a spreadsheet that would let her track her savings.

I’ve gently helped her come to accept the reality that she will need help from her daughters to be able to buy a property in the new market that is not either a hovel or so small as to make her feel claustrophobic (neither of which we want for her).

I’ve asked her the hard questions, sometimes more than once over several months, to try to help her identify her priorities (two bedrooms, at least some outdoor space, lots of light, a good kitchen, a decent walk score and access to transit).

I’ve offered advice on online property listings.

And tomorrow, I’ll be with her when she first looks at properties after she’s sold her house.

It’s going to be real tomorrow (I think) in a way it hasn’t been before when Mum’s looked at places.

Now she’s actually in a position to buy one.

I expect that will feel a bit overwhelming too.

It will be good for her to have company.

I spoke to Mum on the phone yesterday, when I was eating a (late) lunch while writing my seminar paper for Thursday, and she was in the middle of the long drive from her old home to what will become her new.

We chatted about our plan for Wednesday.

Mum told me that she’s continued her practice of gratitude: every day she writes three things in her journal that made her happy or for which she is grateful.

My Mum has given me so much.

I’m so glad I can do something for her.

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Filed under Family

Outbreak?

Last Saturday we spent a delightful day with labmonkey, Pea, Spud, and three-fifths of another family (whose parents I’ve been friends with for longer than I’ve known Q.)

The reason only three-fifths of the family were in attendance was on Friday the Dad emailed to say that everyone was feeling unwell and they weren’t sure whether or not they should come, given the littlies.

I wrote back saying that, while I couldn’t speak for labmonkey, I took the view that since E. was in school, he and P. were exposed to pretty much every germ out there. Colds and other minor illnesses really didn’t bother me.

The Mum and the middle child opted not to come, but the others did. There was pulled pork for lunch and pizza for dinner. The adults tested out a boardgame Q. has invented (needs some tweaking but shows great promise) while the bigger kids built marble runs and LEGO creations. The littlies napped (but not at the same time). All the kids trashed the living room, which by the end of the day looked like a tornado had visited. After dinner the adults and big kids played Codenames Pictures while P. and Spud pushed buttons and pulled levers on the exersaucer while also staring at each other suspiciously.

We had a great day.

Monday morning labmonkey messaged me to say she was afraid Spud had Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. On Saturday he’d had only one suspect spot, not enough to set off any alarm bells. By Monday it was a different story. A doctor confirmed the diagnosis Monday evening.

It’s possible E. had a very very mild case of HFMD in kindergarten as I can remember him having a few odd spots around his mouth and then learning later from another mother that HFMD was going through the class.

I’m not at all certain that’s what it was.

And I’m absolutely certain P.’s never had it.

The incubation period is 3-6 days. If we can get to this weekend without either of them being sick, we should be in the clear.

Q. is convinced our kids have super immune systems since they almost never get sick, even with E. (no doubt) bringing home all kinds of surprises from school.

Fingers crossed he’s right.

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Filed under Family, Friends, The Sick