Stuff Your Ottawa School Offers That You Didn’t Know About

We have a couple of friends who are teachers, and a friend who is a school office assistant, and one friend who was a teacher, then a guidance counsellor, then a VP.

If we didn’t have contacts like this, we would have missed out on several opportunities our school offers that we just didn’t know about. So I’m posting them here in case your family is in the same boat and these can be of use to you. Note that we are part of the Ottawa-Carleton Public School Board so this is specific to them.

First: Grade 8 pre-high school helper class. Our middle kid, Gal Smiley, did just fine in primary school except in one subject, English, where she was barely scraping by and her teachers gave her what I call the “token pass.” We were really worried about what would happen when she got to high school; we feared that her struggles with English might limit her future prospects or worse, make her hate high school so much she might want to drop out.

We found out that the board offers a summer school course for Grade 8 kids who are struggling in Math or English. It’s a “get ready for high school” class that goes over the basics, but also teaches you how to approach things like a word problem or an essay in a logical way. The board used to offer two separate classes, one for Math and one for English; the year Gal Smiley went, which was three years ago, they merged them into one class but Gal Smiley only went to the afternoon portion which was the English half.

We had to ask about this class after finding out from our friends that it existed; you need a teacher recommendation to get in so we had to chase that down ourselves.

Was it worth it? I think so, yes. Gal Smiley was pretty mad we made her take it and ruin her summer. But she did great in the class – it was the first time she ever really “got it” and also the first time she ever thought she could be good at English. A friend of hers was in the math-only half and also felt it was worthwhile.

Second: Mixed level Grade 9 English. I hear that Ontario is taking away streaming for all Grade 9 classes next year, which perhaps makes this one moot. But again, we found out from our friends that most high schools offer a mixed level Grade 9 English class which was perfect for Gal Smiley. Kids in the class are given the same assignments but marked at their own level, and at the end of the glass are awarded the credit the teacher felt that they earned. This was another huge confidence booster for Gal Smiley and she ended up doing just fine in English then and since, at the advanced level. Yay!

While we’re on the subject of Grade 9 – my kids didn’t take this, but did you know that if your kid is struggling, there is a Grade 9 class that teaches you how to study? You can take it in place of another elective (often gym or art) to help you figure out high school. Question from me: why doesn’t EVERY kid have to take this? In any case – if your kid could use this, ask about it!

Third: Online classes for kids in regular school, known as the Prism Consortium. Back when the Captain was in Grade 10, he knew he wanted to take a whole lot of Grade 11 classes, as so many cool electives were offered. So he decided to take Grade 11 English at summer school to clear a spot in his schedule. His school told him he’d have to register for English anyway, and once he passed summer school and provided proof of that pass, he’d be able to drop it for the elective he wanted in that slot, Data Managment.

Well. He finished summer school at the end of July, and the school was closed all of August. So in September we went in to make the arrangements to drop English and take Data Management instead, only to be told that taking DM was not going to be possible. SADNESS.

He ended up taking Accounting instead, a class he disliked and didn’t need and didn’t interest him at all.

Cut to a year later and Gal Smiley is in exactly the same spot. She was told last week she couldn’t fit a class into her schedule (interestingly: also Data Management) and so was offered Physics instead, something she really did not want to take, but she resigned herself to it.

While complaining to my friends about this, I found out that there was no need for this to have happened in the first place! Any kid in high school can choose to take one online class at any time if it doesn’t fit into your schedule.

I couldn’t believe it – surely they would have offered the Captain this option when it happened before? But it’s true, and no, nobody offered it to us last time.

You have to register for the Consortium classes through your guidance counsellor, so I asked about it for Gal Smiley, and they were all, no problem! and just signed her up, and dropped physics. Now she can do the online class at any time during the second half of the year at her own pace, so she’ll be doing it in the time she has available from dropping the one class.

And to that I say, WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL US ABOUT THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE. Seriously. I am not a school guidance counsellor and I don’t have deep knowledge of all the stuff our school board offers. There’s no way I would have known about this if I didn’t have friends in high places. I’ve been to every single parent interview day, I’ve been to every parent information night at the high school, I’ve been to every course selection event. Still I did not know about this.

But now you do! Hope it helps.

Picking it up, picking it up

It’s September!

I didn’t mean to leave my sad sack post up for so long but the good news is that I used my shame at posting it, along with all you lovely people’s encouraging comments, to make it a point to turn things around. So while the end of August wasn’t exactly a Super Party Fun Time, we did do a few small things, whatever we felt we could do within our comfort zone.

So we went miniature golfing, and we baked up quite a few exotic treats, and played disc golf for the first time with my sister and her husband (fun! Would recommend!). We risked bowling, which felt a little dicey but it turned out we had the whole place to ourselves so it was fine. We took a family day trip to Brockville and did some outdoor stuff like the light tunnel and an open boat tour of the river. My youngest and I started a marathon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is basically the reason I had children in the first place, so things really did turn around.

Now we’re back in to school and we’re all trying not to panic or be too freaked out. My husband is pretty sure this whole “school” thing won’t last longer than a month, and I am trying to remain positive, but in my heart I fear he is right. For now at least, we’re riding the in-school wave and seeing how it goes.

Gal Smiley went back to school on Thursday for her first day of Grade 11 and said it was very weird but generally okay. She had seven kids in her class, and didn’t leave her seat all day, which was fine. She had tech class, though, which I think is a class that actually benefits from having four-hour long in-class segments, as you can get some real work done. I have heard from parents of kids who had math that first day that it was exhausing, four solid hours of math class and so many new concepts at once. It’s going to be a hard year for sure.

The Captain should have gone back but it turned out he has one of his spares this quadmester so now he has every-other-week totally off. He went in this morning for his other class (grade 12 chemistry) with his best buddy who lives next door, who also had spare on Thursday. It turns out his best buddy has TWO SPARES this quadmester so basically gets a quadmester off. That’s dumb, I think. But it’s the kind of year when everyone is doing all that they can so I guess this is how it might be. I’m pretty happy the Captain didn’t end up in that situation as heaven knows, he doesn’t need a full quadmester of getting an A+ in Smash Bros.

Little Miss Sunshine is in grade 8 this year and she has the latest start time of any school in the province. She doesn’t go back until this coming Friday, so we’re still waiting to see how it’s going to be. But we already heard that there are only 20 kids in her class, so that’s hopeful, and she herself is really looking forward to getting back among people and back into a regular routine.

Actually, I am happy about that too – the routine idea. My husband has been out of town for a lot of the past month as his parents are ill and he went to stay with them to help out. So I’m single parenting it, and although that means a busy schedule, fitting in all the work and errands and shuttling kids around and (ideally) some shared family time with them too, I find it has helped to be busy. When your mind has a lot to do, the days go quickly but they feel like they meant something, rather than your whole life being one long blur of pajamas and eating chips and surfing the web for gorgeous collector teacups that you really shouldn’t buy.

So things are looking up, things are super busy, things are super weird but we are adapting quickly. And those are all good things.

Happy September!

The Summer Blahs

School starts next week. How did this happen?

I am sad that I feel like we wasted the summer, but at the same time, far too blah and tired and generally discouraged to do anything about it. I’m not depressed or anything like that, but I just have such a lack of enthusiasm about everything. The shutdown is dragging me down for sure.

On social media and on blogs I still see people out enjoying their summers, with hikes and trips to the beach and lush produce from their garden and kayaks and cottages. But they only make me feel trapped. I made a list about a month ago of places we could maybe go during the shutdown, driving trips and outdoor spots to explore. But they didn’t excite me – I felt like I was doing it out of obligation to Summer Fun – we didn’t get around to doing any of them. We all just wanted to lie around on the couch eating donuts and watching TV.

I feel like I’ve wasted these past several months when we could have been doing fun at-home projects, or bonding as a family, or exploring the local terrain, or at least appreciating the ability to easily get outdoors before winter seals us in like a tomb.

But instead I frittered away my creativity on Netflix, and I lost the summer weather by hiding inside, and I gave up on family bonding and let my kids run free with screens while I just worked.

I’m looking forward to getting back on a school routine. But I’m not sure it will jump start my enthusiasm for …well, anything. But at least the fall weather will mean change, and change is something new, and something new is hopeful.

Mask Fashion

Well. Who knew a year ago that I’d be writing a post discussing mask fashion? But here we are.

We recently got a detailed email from our school board about the plan for September, along with a request to let them know whether or not we are going to send our kids next year. We have a week to decide. We are leaning towards saying yes, especially for our oldest and youngest, who both had a lot of trouble with online learning.

If you are leaning towards a different choice, please know you have my full support. It’s a crazy time and no one knows what the hell is going on and we are all just trying to do our best as parents and our kids will have to sort it all out in therapy a few decades from now. I’m trying to just accept that and move on.

Anyway, it occurred to me that our youngest, who is in grade 8, is supposed to go back a full five days a week, but has to wear a mask every day. And that means she will need a lot more masks. The older two will go two or three days a week and that means more masks for them too. I’d like them to have at least one clean one per day and I only do laundry once a week (THURSDAYS, of course) so they all need several more.

Right now I have a couple of masks I use for shopping, but the kids and Sir Monkeypants only have one each that I made for them a couple of weeks ago. I have a big bin of scrap fabric here, mostly from my mom, leftovers from when she made pajamas for various people in the family. So now everyone has a mask that matches someone’s PJs somewhere, which is cool? I guess?

In any case, I didn’t see the point in investing in store-bought masks, even though you can get them fairly easily and they don’t cost much, because I could make them at home with scraps I had on hand for an investment of no more than a half hour of my time. And up until now, masks have felt like a very temporary measure, so I didn’t see the need to have a big bin of them in fancy designs.

But now I am thinking:

  • mask wearing could go on for a few years (at least that’s what I’m hearing now)
  • my teens might actually care about having masks in neutral colours, or colours of their own choosing, that don’t have cute animals on them or are in pastels or match the PJs of their six-year-old cousin
  • my youngest, in particular, is a bit of a fashionista and may want masks that match her outfits? Is that going to be a thing?

I just spent all morning cutting out more masks from all the scraps I have here, and I dug out the most neutral ones I could find for my kids, while I personally care very little for fashion and so I am getting a very wide variety with crazy patterns and cartoon characters and bright colours for myself.

Now I am sewing the masks up, but at the same time wondering how much use they are going to get, and wondering if we should be shopping online for prettier masks, and trendier masks, and more fashionable masks.

It does not help that I absolutely hate my sewing machine. It was gifted to me by my mother-in-law about 20 years ago, and it was at least 30 years old at that time. I was appreciative, don’t get me wrong, but it is a very temperamental beast, and I break the needle just about every mask because it cannot go through more than two layers of fabric without exploding, and it does seem to make the whole enterprise not at all worthwhile.

So I am thinking two things: I should put “new sewing machine” on my wish list, and I should just break down and buy some goddamn masks already.

We Still Haven’t Left The House

I got an unexpected flood of work in the past two weeks, which is good, because I am a solopreneur and these have been tough, tough times for solopreneurs. I don’t qualify for any government assistance, but at the same time most of my work has dried up because people are scared and don’t want to invest in new websites when their businesses are in jeopardy. Luckily it seems the tide is turning, and people are feeling more positive, or are at least bored enough to give their website some thought, so it’s been busy.

But that means my plan to actually take my children out of the house has failed. I’m hoping to do some stuff on the weekends but that probably means getting up and getting somewhere early, and Early Is Not A Thing We Do Anymore.

I remember when the kids were all preschoolers, and everyone was awake at 5:30 a.m. and in our bedroom, in our actual bed, by 6 a.m. which was the earliest possible time they were allowed to come in. We’d all be up and dressed and have had breakfast by 7, and sitting around waiting for a museum or something to open at 9, and we’d be the first people there. It was always so nice and quiet! So deserted!

Now, despite my best efforts to fight the creep, my teenagers have slowly drifted into night owls. They have a lot of friends who don’t even get out of bed until the afternoon and then are still awake and texting each other at 4 a.m. I didn’t want that to happen but I’ve lost the drive to fight – what’s the point of waking them up at 10 a.m. every day, which I was doing when they were still in “school”? What have they got to get up for, to look forward to?

So now they’re all mostly staying up until midnight or even later, and then wandering downstairs for “breakfast” at noon, so getting them all gathered to go to Gatineau Park early enough for us to get a parking space that is within 10km of a trail seems like a long shot. But we shall see.

In other news, despite the fact that I am very happy that my family is safe and together, I find I have been craving alone time. I’m a super introvert and frankly I’m surprised it has taken me this long to feel like I am suffering from a lack of aloneness, but here it is, nibbling around the fringes. It’s not a crisis. It’s just a little nagging thing I feel sometimes. I’ve been spending extra long in the bathroom every day – I think it’s helping a bit.

And in other-other news, Captain Jelly Belly has a job! Is this a good thing? We aren’t sure. I pressured him into it – he’s 17 and I had a summer job from age 13 growing up, and I think it was very good for me, and I wanted him to work. Plus, what the hell else was he going to do this summer?

But of course, now is not a great time to be out there mixing with the general public, and it puts us all at risk, especially now that we have bubbled in Sir Monkeypants’ parents. Sir Monkeypants himself I think was not crazy about the idea but when an opportunity showed up – two of the Captain’s friends work at a place that was looking for someone to take a couple shifts a week – I pushed him to apply.

I do think it’s been good for him, although here I am going to confess that not only is he working, but he has like, the most high-risk job possible – he is working at a Retirement Home, which we all know is Dangertown right now. And he is working serving food at meal times, which has always been something we worried about for him due to his food allergies.

But hey, it’s work! And so far everyone is healthy! So we are running with it for now, but BY FAR this is the most dangerous thing we have done during the whole coronavirus madness, and it makes me nervous all the time, even though I was the one who wanted it in the first place.

Well. We cannot always know what the one true thing is, or the one right thing, especially in these times. But hopefully we will get out of the house in a safe way, and find the kind of care and alone time we need, and help others in need by sending in our teenager to work.

But as usual, life is a muddle and who knows what the hell is going on.

The Blurry Phase

Our area officially entered “stage 3” of reopening this weekend, which means just about everything is open now, I guess, although I haven’t heard of big concerts or sports events being restored, and of course, there is the ongoing School Controversy – what’s safe, what’s reasonable, what should we do in September.

(Trust me, I have NO idea. I feel strongly that we cannot send children back to school until we have some new measures in place – and the funding behind them – to try to protect kids and staff. But I also feel strongly that we cannot reopen all other areas of the economy and not open schools, because we are basically asking at least one parent (most likely the mom) to quit their job and become a full-time daycare, and unless the government is going to pony up some money for COVID leave and job protection, then that is also a no. So the answer is, there is NO ANSWER. Sigh.)

Anyway, you can go to the gym and you can go to the library and you can even swim in a public pool if you book a time. You can eat in a restaurant if you wear a mask whenever you aren’t actively putting food and drink in your mouth and you can even see a movie in the near future.

But here at our house, nothing really feels back to normal. In fact, I am a little worried about my kids as they are in Severe Hermit Mode. They actively fight when we want them to leave the house and they have become fused with their pyjamas. I have read a lot about “kid mental health” in these times and I thought our kids were just fine, but I’m starting to think they are possibly AFRAID of going out. Which is sad, and weird, and I worry about it.

In any case, we are still only doing essential errands, and only one of us at a time where possible. We have had a couple of socially distanced backyard visits with my sister (yay!) but we are still doing video calls with other friends and family. My husband finally broke strict quarantine to visit his elderly parents, who are housebound and require a lot of help – his sister has been shouldering the burden since March so we decided to bubble them in so my husband could provide some help, although the kids and I are still staying home.

All this is to say that we have passed into what I am calling The Blurry Phase of quarantine, when all days blur together. Even with a work week/weekend, I am finding it harder and harder to be aware of what day it is. I suppose this is what retirement must feel like – every day is the same, who knows what day of the week or date it is. On any given day, I might do some work, or go for a walk, or go to the grocery store, or clean the house. But it could be any day, really.

The whole idea of the Specialness of Summer is just gone. We used do to Summer of Awesome, remember that? I’d schedule events for every week – from small things like trips to get ice cream, to day trips like museum or beach visits, and even a few longer overnight visits. This year I didn’t even bother to make up the calendar. I tried to brainstorm some activities we could do but either a) we can’t, or b) we don’t feel safe yet, or c) everyone and their cousin are doing it (see: beaches) because there’s nothing else to do and I am not organized enough to get someplace by 8 a.m. and stake out an area.

So we continue to spend our days with a lot of video game time, and watching YouTube, and binge watching Netflix, sprinkled with the occasional Zoom call or walk outside. Day after day after day after day, nothing of note to look forward to, nothing different anywhere on the horizon.

I’m open to your suggestions for safe day tripping that we could maybe add to this summer to make it into something other than a complete bust. But do remember that day trips for us should not include food – i.e. going to a quaint town and getting pastries/fries/local ice cream/fancy hot dogs is not an option due to our many many food allergies. (Even mentioning allergy crap makes me want to throw up my hands in defeat and fuse my own skin to my pyjamas, because it just feels so hopeless.)

Perhaps what we all need is a new hobby we can work on from home. Should we start a family rock band? Should we develop our own board game? Should we build an epic Rube Goldberg machine in the backyard?

Those sound good, actually.

If only I could get off the couch and get dressed, I’d totally make it all happen. Maybe I’ll look into it next weekend, if I can figure out when next weekend actually IS.

Recent Pet Peeves

I have been doing even more cooking than I usually do during the lockdown, not because I enjoy cooking in any way, but because we are now five people who are home all the time who want to eat on a fairly regular basis.

Before the virus, we used to get takeout about once a week, but to tell the truth we were already getting pretty bored of it, anyway. Since two of my kids have food allergies, our takeout options are extremely limited. Gal Smiley, for example, could only have ONE thing – a particular Subway sandwich on panini bread – and you can image that having that same sandwich every single week can get tiring and really take the shine off of “whoo hoo takeout night!” for her. The Captain is able to have like, three different things (OMG THE SELECTION) but since we were tied to Subway, takeout night usually meant at least two different stops and an epic journey that meant that everyone’s fries were stone cold and limp by the time we got home.

So getting takeout was already fading in terms of popularity, and with the shutdown, we just eliminated it altogether and went 100% cook at home.

I’m someone who can eat very bland food and enjoy that, and eat the same thing every day and enjoy that as well, but unfortunately for me, some members of my family value both taste and variety (SIGH). So lately I have been trying to find some interesting new recipes to try.

And this leads me to my major pet peeve of this week: recipe blogs.

Why is it that every single recipe site:

a) has to have several long paragraphs of text before getting to the point, describing their entire taste and experiment journey, and discussing the entire history of this kind of food;

b) has to load about 1000 ads, both inline and in the sidebars and all over the place, causing the text to shift around repeatedly as I’m trying to read it;

c) bring up a giant pop-up in my face asking me if I want to SUBSCRIBE and if not, do I want PUSH NOTIFICATIONS, and AM I REALLY SURE that isn’t want I came here for in the first place; and

d) when they finally, FINALLY, actually post the recipe at the very very very end of the post, make it a complicated treasure hunt to find the magic button that will make it printable.

It is especially annoying to try to call up a “quick recipe” on your phone, where everything is so compacted that you have to scroll for about 100 hours to reach the actual recipe which is probably unreadable on mobile screens, anyway.

So I vow that one day, I will have a recipe blog of all my favourite go-to receipes, and it will NOT contain any jibber jabber life story adventures, and it will NOT contain ANY advertising or any pop-ups in any way. No, it will be hey, you want a recipe for vegan cheese buns? HERE IT IS. And here’s a button for printing it. HAVE AT IT.

I was so incensed thinking about this earlier this week, after trying to search up several different recipes on my phone and having the same extremely poor user experience, that I remembered another of my favourite pet peeves, and that is the lack of good greeting cards in the world. Sometimes you want to send a greeting card because it is a small gesture you can make to people who you don’t know well or don’t like all that much, but social rules dictate you should at least acknowledge them on their birthday/anniversary/parental day. I vowed many years ago to make a line of neutral/low emotion greeting cards that will gently wish the person a good day and overall positivity, without having to gush on and on, through bad poetry, about how very very much this person has affected your whole life and impacted the world and made everything so much better. It’s a greeting card, for heaven’s sake, not an autobiography. It’s been a while since I made that vow so I better start getting around to acting on it.

Sometimes I feel like I have to do EVERYTHING to have it done right. I mean, really.

Nothing is Normal

I have been reading and watching as much as possible about the Black Lives Matter protests. Although I was already solidly on the side of the protesters, I am still learning a ton and reading everything I can that comes my way. Although the death of George Floyd was, sadly, not new or different or even shocking, I feel hopeful, like this time, things can really be different. I feel like people are listening, and making an effort to learn, and trying to figure out how to be actively anti-racist, not just bystanders. And I feel like the general tide of public opinion in both the United States and here in Canada is turning, in that I read lots of (eye-opening, compelling) arguments supporting people rioting, and it made sense, and the world really does feel like we have to burn it all down in order to get some half-decent change around here, so let’s do it.

I hope this means real and lasting change. I will continue to read and learn and be active in putting my money, votes, and voice where I can help.

In other news, the government of Ontario is now opening things up pretty widely. Starting this week, we can all get haircuts and the mall is open and we can go to the beach and the park. Just about everything is open now, except schools and big sports and concert arenas.

So like most families at this time, we are struggling with choosing between what is permitted, versus what we think is actually safe. I understand the need to open things up a bit, but it really does feel a little too soon – when you look at all the data and graphs, other countries who are opening up shops are far, far ahead of where North America is in terms of number of cases and number of deaths.

My husband and I are still working from home, and our kids are still doing school at home (but very much looking forward to the summer break). I’m still wearing a mask when I go out to do grocery shopping, but in the past two weeks I have expanded my weekly shopping trips to include a couple of other stores where I’d been putting off picking up a few needed items for a long time. We have finally made an orthodontist appointment for Gal Smiley, who broke her permanent retainer wire about six weeks ago, which I’m nervous about but they have strict separation and protection equipment rules in place so that’s a go, for now.

We’re considering expanding our bubble to include my sister and her husband who live here in town. Our youngest turns 13 in a couple of weeks and we are considering letting her invite one friend over for an afternoon, but that still seems radical and crazy. But perhaps we will just always feel that way now – that having people over is a dangerous thing, that going from store to store in a morning of errands is a bold and risky endeavour.

It looks like Sir Monkeypants will be working from home for several more months, at least – he can easily work from home and his company is in no rush to have people back. With school ending, the kids will be here just like always. So it looks like we’ll just Keep On Keeping On for the foreseeable future at least, keep watching the numbers, keep learning new things, keep trying not to panic, but rather to make safe choices and bold choices and choices for change and choices for life.

It’s all kind of a jumble right now. But we’ll get there.

Things You Think About While Recovering

I had the tooth out on Friday, and all went well in that there were no complications and it was over with quickly. The doctor and nurses were all in head-to-toe protective gear and Sir Monkeypants had to spend two hours waiting for me out in his car, but otherwise, it was a very pleasant experience. Well, except for the giant hole in my head, but otherwise, pleasant.

There is nothing like a giant hole in your head, by the way, to make you really feel every inch of the nearly-50-years-old that I am. Recovery has been slow. I mean, it’s only technically been three days, so perhaps I expected too much, but I’m still unable to talk or eat with comfort. I’m spending a lot of time lying on the couch feeling generally unwell and trying mentally to get used to this huge hole in my mouth, which is harder than I thought it was going to be.

Also, I am drinking a lot of Ensure, and if THAT isn’t enough to make you feel almost-50, what is? Sheesh.

While lying on the couch I have been watching a stream of content from all our services and one thing that has come up in a few different places is that Americans (I’m guessing?) do not remove their shoes in their homes. Seth Myers (source of all my American news these days) did a bit on a video this past week about how when someone invites you over and then asks you remove your shoes, you do it politely, and then make a mental note to never visit their house again.

Is this actually a thing? The Captain and I have become rather obsessed about it. Every show and movie, people never remove their shoes unless they are actually getting into bed. I used to think this was just for costuming purposes, but is it really how people do the shoe thing?

What about in Canada?

Needless to say, we are shoe removers and have been our whole lives. Perhaps it is more common in places where you spend at least half the year in wet, heavy boots that you obviously would remove when you come in. But even in summer, we take our sandals/flip flops/runners off at the door.

Do you? Is this a cultural thing, or even a universal thing? Are we the weirdos?

Scenes from Shopping This Weekend

This weekend I did a few errands. In general I try not to shop more than once every 10 days or so, and only go to one store. But after nine weeks at home, we had a few other needs and needed to go to a few places, so I sucked it up and did so.

And man, is there ever a weird combination of stuff happening out there right now.

Ever since the Ontario government announced limited lifting of the restrictions starting this past weekend, there’s been a huge range of reactions. Some people are relieved, and feel that the worst is over, and that it’s back to business as usual. Some people think this is way too early and are still on full lockdown mode and perhaps trying to avoid the outside world even more so than usual, now that some people are mixing it up.

At the Walmart…it was totally game on, business as usual. I saw very few people in masks. Families were shopping as a group with their kids, many people were in couples or even bigger groups. The staff were manning the door but were doing little to stop the flow of people coming in, or to restrict larger groups of shoppers. It wasn’t exactly crowded inside but it was much busier than it had been in the past few weeks. The garden centre was open and the staff there had no protective gear at all, and people were free to browse and mingle in the close aisles as they picked out their plants.

At the Superstore…I saw more people in masks, perhaps a third or so. They were still controlling the checkouts with a single socially distanced lineup. But there were lots of couples and family groups shopping together, and at the “sterilize your own cart” station, they were out of paper towels, so I guess that’s over now.

At the Sobey’s…I don’t often shop there, I had to go to get just a couple of specific brand-name things the Superstore does not carry. So I wasn’t super familiar with their process, and got barked at several times by the staff for entering the wrong way, and taking a cart from the wrong place, and lining up wrong. But in a way that was actually reassuring – they still care, and are still trying to keep everyone separate and keep everything clean.

At the Home Hardware…I waited in a socially-distanced line for about a half hour while the staff member at the front managed the number of people in the store. He was great – he asked everyone what part of the store they needed to visit, then only let one or two people in each area at once, all the while keeping it positive and upbeat. I just needed one thing from here, and he directed me straight to it. At the checkout, the cashier noticed that there was another man standing nearby waiting for something so she asked me to come behind the counter and take a different route out of the store so I wouldn’t have to walk directly past the man.

At the local nursery near my house…I waited two hours in a socially-distanced line up (and got a pretty awful sunburn) to give my prepared list of plants and fertilizers to a staff member behind a gate, who went and filled my order for me, then did a contact-less transfer of goods with tap-only for payment. I was literally the only person there in a mask, but we were all outside and spaced apart, so maybe it didn’t matter that much. The owners of the nursery made it clear that some members of their staff were immune-compromised and so no one would be allowed in to just browse around, but this was news to many people in line, who said that other nurseries were allowing general browsing and business as usual.

And that was shopping this weekend. I wore a mask everywhere and I got a mixture of reactions – other people in masks tended to give me space, people in larger family groups with no masks tended to act like I wasn’t there when reaching around me for things on shelves or letting their kids dance at my feet in the checkout line.

It’s a weird time. I know everyone is trying to figure out what is right for themselves and their family and society and it seems like there are a lot of big questions with no answers right now. I know that the plan cannot be
“we just don’t get the virus indefinitely” but also “everyone getting it at once” is not a great option either, so perhaps this combination of some places opening up, some places still locking it down will work out to a kind of balance.

For us, for now, we are doing well just being at home. We are able to work and go to school and get the things we need with just one of us leaving the house. I can wear a mask and that’s not a huge deal, so I will. I will try to limit my contact with others and my exposure in order to put off getting the virus until it’s better understood and treatment options are more accessible and advanced.

That’s our plan, for now at least, What’s yours?