Category Archives: Family

Chasing Endorphins

I linked that NYT article on languishing on this blog already, but it was in my (spoiler-filled) post on TFATWS, so I’m linking it again here just in case you haven’t seen it.

When I posted it on my FB feed, saying that I was definitely languishing and asking who was right there with me, a friend commented that she had for sure been languishing but that getting vaccinated produced a huge rush of endorphins.

At the time, I thought that was a really interesting reaction, but didn’t think I would feel the same way. I wanted to get vaccinated, but I doubted it could have that big an impact on my mood.

Call me corrected.

Q. and I got the AstraZeneca vaccine the very next day, the day after my province opened it up to the 40-55 age group.* I had tears in my eyes as I drove to the pharmacy. I wanted to cheer when the pharmacist jabbed me. When my waiting period was up and I was allowed to leave, I bought a big bag of chips and drove home and then Q. and I drank cider and ate chips with the kids and we picked up takeaway for dinner and we turned it into a big celebration. We took a vaccine selfie and posted it on social media (they really do help counteract vaccine hesitancy) and it turned out that some of my best friends (some in other provinces) all got vaccinated that day too.

It finally, FINALLY felt like we were getting somewhere.

I felt AMAZING.

And I completely understood how my friend had felt.

The vaccine high lasted until about 9 p.m., when the vaccine side effects kicked in. I spent the night shaking and running a fever and hallucinating about rescuing people from Nazi prison camps and getting the shield back to Sam Wilson (I think they were related). I barely slept. Q. barely slept either, although he felt fine – it was just my tossing and turning.

The next day I still had a fever and shakes and just generally felt like I’d been hit by a truck (Q. had a sore arm). By the afternoon I could just about manage lying on the couch ‘supervising’ the kids. I slept fine that night though and by the following day I was mostly back to normal, both physically and mentally.

It made me realize how rarely in the past year I’ve felt that excited about something, how rare it’s been to have that flood of endorphins.

We’re languishing.

We’re in a holding pattern.

I was emailing with an academic out in Atlantic Canada about a book review and when she asked how things were going I told her it was like Groundhog Day, as we started corresponding about said review back in March/April 2020.

Really, though, that’s not correct. The situation’s much worse.

Our kids are back online (as predicted) and are likely to stay that way until September. Q. and I have finished the winter semester and are about to start the summer term, still teaching from our basement. We’re still staying at home, as much as we can, while the entire province implodes and the ‘government’ blames individuals while refusing to take responsibility for the situation they’ve created where the health care system is on the brink of collapse and they’re building field hospitals and training doctors how to tell families that their loved ones don’t qualify for life-saving care.

I was hesitant to get the AZ vaccine because in the (extremely unlikely) possibility I developed the blood clotting issue, I didn’t want to be going into the hospital system when it was so overloaded.**

So the endorphins have been few and far between.

And then last Sunday, my family did a virtual escape room to celebrate my Mum’s birthday and THAT WAS THE MOST FUN any of us had had in MONTHS. It was so much fun several of us had trouble getting to sleep afterwards! As a team we absolutely killed it. We got through the main storyline so quickly we got to do a bonus puzzle and then we blasted through the bonus puzzle in under ten minutes. It was so deeply satisfying (and labmonkey was for sure our MVP). We used Looking Glass Adventures which I am linking to here because it was so so so good and you can do a virtual escape room no matter where you are in the world and I am serious – get some friends or family together and chase the endorphins!

So that’s where my endorphins have come from recently: getting vaccinated, beating the escape room, and chasing fan theories about Disney+ Marvel shows down rabbit holes.

Where are your endorphins coming from these days? Have you been able to break out of the holding pattern, or are you still mostly languishing?

*Our story, like that of so many other people in this ridiculous Hunger-Games-inspired vaccine rollout, was about how privilege gives you all of the advantages. We got vaccinated because:

  • Q. and I had used our stable internet connection and web literacy to register online with one of the major pharmacy chains and had received confirmation codes via our mobile phones
  • I had read online that some locations of that same chain had been given permission to vaccinate 24/7.
  • I had the time to call one of those pharmacies to ask how the appointments would work (because we thought maybe we could go at 5 a.m.)
  • When the pharmacist said, “If you want a vaccine today, you should come right now because right now we have doses and no line ups but I think we’ll have run out by tomorrow”, Q. was able to drop everything and walk out the door, get into the car, and drive to the pharmacy.
  • When he got back home again, two hours later, I could drop everything and go up myself.
  • We had the time and flexibility to chase the vaccine, a co-parent to look after the kids, and jobs where no one would notice (or care) if we didn’t work at full capacity (or at all) the next day.
  • While Q. was waiting in line, a guy turned up who was obviously working on a construction site and had come over on his break. Even though there was almost no line, he had to leave to go back to work before he could get vaccinated. An elderly man with little English turned up too but was turned away because he hadn’t registered online to get a confirmation code (even though he said repeatedly he didn’t know how to do that). Q. was so mad – if he had had a smartphone he would have registered the man himself. The people who most need the vaccines have the most trouble getting them. It’s infuriating. It’s discriminatory. And it’s going to kill people.

**I underestimated how much my anxiety would affect how I felt about the AZ vaccine. I knew (and believed wholeheartedly) it made sense to get it, but I’ve been struggling a lot with irrational thoughts over the past two weeks. Now that I’ve made it to day 14, I feel a lot better, but I won’t be completely free from anxiety until it’s been four weeks, and I’m not going to complain if they start recommending mixing vaccines and I can get one of the mRNA ones for my second dose.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Choose Happiness, COVID-19, Family, Medical issues

The End of Normal

Thursday 12 March 2020 is what I think of as my last ‘normal’ day.

It was the last day I taught in person.

The last day I took transit.

On the way home from (what would turn out to be) my last in-person class, I got a text from my sister with the news that the premier was shutting the schools after March Break ‘for two weeks’ (hahaha, sigh).

By noon on Friday my university had announced it was pivoting to online instruction, effective Monday. When P. and I went to go do the groceries that afternoon (as we usually did on Fridays), we couldn’t get into our usual grocery store because the panic buying was in full swing.

We knew it was coming, and yet, when it did, it seemed to happen all of a sudden.

On the 1st of March, Q. and I ran a big public forum connected to our research, with hundreds of people in attendance (in retrospect, we only JUST snuck that in). I remember chatting with other faculty members who were supposed to go to Italy in April for a lecture and research tour. At that point, they still thought they’d be able to go, although they were concerned that the libraries might be shut. No one at that point seemed concerned about Canada at all.

By the 6th of March, Q. went out to do our “what if we have to quarantine for two weeks” shop.

The WHO declared it officially a pandemic on the 11th.

And the 12th was the end.

It’s been a weird year.

A year without restaurants, without movie theatres or plays or musicals, without museums and zoos, without playdates (except virtual ones). A year without setting foot in someone else’s house (except for the brief point in the summer when we could bubble with my mum). A year without swimming lessons, without trips to the bakery for treats after school, without adventures on transit, without all the little things that add up to the rhythm of our days.

A year without friends.

A year of mask-wearing, of online grocery orders, of extreme hand washing, of waving hello at a neighbour and then taking a nervous step backwards when they approach.

A year of crossing the street when you see someone else coming.

A year of both too much family togetherness and too little.

It’s been a hard year.

The most difficult part was mid-March to early August, when the kids were at home with us 24/7 and we were trying to keep all the balls in the air (work! school! food! book project! mental health! more food! exercise! house! still more food!) without any room to breathe. My mum was able to take the kids for a few days in August, and again in early September, and that helped so so so much. Then the kids had two and a half months back in school, which was amazing (but then two more months at home). Currently we’re at almost a month back in school, long may it continue (probably not past mid-April).

I’ve been so focused on the kids and on how much of the past year has been spent with them at home with us that I only just realized the other day that it’s also been a year since Q. and I spent any significant time apart. We’ve had months of trading off responsibility for the kids while one of us hides works in the basement, and sometimes one of us goes out for a walk without the other, and there’s been the occasional medical appointment, but we haven’t had a single day that resembles what (in the before times) was our normal: only one of us at a time in the house between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. There’s probably only a handful of meals we’ve eaten over the past year that we haven’t eaten together.

I guess it’s a sign of the strength of our marriage that it took me that long to realize how little space from each other we’ve had over the past year (and how little it’s bothered me).

Throughout the pandemic, my little family has been fine. We’ve been safe. No one we know well has died from (or even contracted) COVID (and please may it stay that way).

But fine doesn’t mean it’s been easy.

I don’t think I’ve ever been this tired. Trying to use my brain is like swimming through treacle. It feels like when E. and P. were tiny and I was up multiple times per night, every night, for months…but I am sleeping fine. It feels like when I was depressed during graduate school…but I am not depressed.

I am functioning, but only just.

I am so burnt out.

I stare at a screen all day long for work and then at night I stare at a screen some more because the thought of reading makes my brain physically ache.

I don’t know where I would start the process of recovering.

I don’t know what I would need to feel like I can start the process of recovering.

Teaching online is like playing whack-a-mole: I get one thing organized, one module finished, and something else pops up. On my non-teaching days, there’s always marking to finish, or quiz questions to prep, or translations to post. I am counting the weeks until the end of the semester, hoping that in the summer, when I am teaching only one course, a course that I always teach online, a course that is fully prepped (because I need would like to revamp it but nope, not this year), things will get easier.

But I suspect I won’t feel like things are truly getting easier until we can say that it’s over. Because, the truth is, it’s not the teaching that’s taking up such an enormous cognitive load that my brain feels like an old computer being asked to run a program for which it doesn’t have enough RAM.

It’s the pandemic.

We’re safe, we’re fine, but we’re tired.

Get up, get through the day, go to sleep.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

I know it will be over eventually.

But we’re not clear yet.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, COVID-19, Family

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

Microblog Mondays: 100 Days

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

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

That’s 2,400 hours.

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

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

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

Beating this virus is a marathon, not a sprint.

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

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

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Filed under COVID-19, Family, Microblog Mondays

Pandemic Updates

A list of my current COVID thoughts:

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

Onwards to summer!

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

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