Finding the Joy

I know a lot of people who find November to be the saddest month, as everything turns cold and grey.

But I love November! It’s actually my favourite month. It’s my birthday month, which always feels exciting and fun and leads me to reflect on my life and the past year, usually with positivity. There’s tons of leftover Halloween candy to get through, plus birthday treats, and Diwali usually falls in November too (it was this past weekend), so the food is good. Christmas season officially opens after my birthday but I can usually sneak in a bit of shopping and card writing before that, so the whole month starts to feel festive.

Plus, I have a lot of very cute jackets and adorable ankle boots that are only suitable to wear in Ottawa in November and April, so it’s officially Cute Jacket and Little Leather Boots month, which is awesome.

So I’ve been in a cheerful mood, and I wanted to blog about all my favourite November things that are making me super happy right now.


Christmas Advent Calendar Boxes

My kids like an advent calendar but due to food allergies they can’t really have a chocolate or treats based one. Up until now I’ve bought them a toy-based one like a Lego one or a Funko Pop one. These were a hit when they were young but now they are older and less enchanted with getting more stuff every day.

So I wanted to do a food one for them, and I wanted it to be cute, so I downloaded these three adorable printable box sets from the Etsy shop Little Llama Shop (bonus: she’s Canadian!).

My friend Sheila (hi Sheila!!) wanted the link after seeing them in Instagram so I have shared it here, but I warn you – the assembly time on these is crazy. After printing them onto cardstock at Staples, each set probably took 5-6 hours to cut out, score, fold, and then glue together.

So it’s not really a project I would recommend unless you really, really want to do it. But I’m super happy with them, they are so cute, and it kept me busy and cheerful for several evenings at home. Hopefully they will be reusable for a few years to come, at least.

Watching Star Wars with Captain Jelly Belly

I love Star Wars, and that is an enormous understatement.

The oldest kid, Captain Jelly Belly, loves Star Wars too, maybe even more than I do. He paid, with his own money, to get a couple of months of Disney+ so he could binge watch all the Star Wars content.

This led to a lengthy debate between us on how to rank all the Star Wars movies, and to settle our disagreement, we agreed to watch all 9 of the central story films and then discuss each, and it has been SO MUCH FUN. It’s one of those things where you experience the true joy of having had children. We are about halfway through and I can’t wait to watch more.

(He still believes that Revenge of the Sith is the best movie. He is very wrong, but he has at least managed to convince me it belongs at the #4 spot, behind A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and the super-divisive The Last Jedi. Please do feel free to debate us in the comments.)

Reading Poetry in the Bathroom

I’ve gotten really into poetry lately and I’ve bought a few books of modern poetry, pretty much exclusively by women but I think that is a coincidence. I leave these books in the bathroom and a few times a day I go in there and read a poem and then think about it until my next visit.

Hopefully that was not too much information. Really I want to convey the fact that a few poems a day has brought me a lot of joy, and I find it to be really fun, and I recommend.

(Titles I thought were awesome include New American Best Friend by Olivia Gatwood; Tell Me by Kim Addonizio; How to Avoid Huge Ships by Julie Bruck; Good Bones by Maggie Smith; Devotions by Mary Oliver.)

Holiday Programming

Netflix has already started with holiday-themed romantic comedies and I am salivating. Little Miss Sunshine (my rom-com partner in crime) says I have to wait until after my birthday on Wednesday to dig in.

But I plan on watching every cheesy one I can get my hands on. They are, for the most part, pretty awful. But does that stop me from watching and enjoying, with a hot chocolate in hand, next to my gas fireplace? No, it does not.

Scented Foaming Hand Soaps

We went to the mall on the weekend to do some Christmas shopping, and I went into the Bath and Body Works which is a place I usually never go. But I had remembered that a few years ago, someone gifted us a foaming hand soap from there in a Christmas scent, and we all loved it.

It turns out you can get 5 foaming hand soaps for $25 so I did, in fun festive scents like Candy Cane and Sweater Weather and Vanilla Snowflake, and I placed them all around the house at various sinks so you can go through the house on a Scent Adventure now. It is fun! And our hands smell really good!

New Books

For some reason, I have not really felt like reading during the pandemic. But I bought myself a new I Spy book for Halloween – this one – and it was so fun. Little Miss Sunshine and I used to do these all the time when she was younger, especially in the afternoons after school or while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, and we both loved them. We still do the Christmas one we have ever year. I think I might buy more.

I also got this awesome book for myself for no reason – Timeline of World History by Matt Baker. I watch his YouTube channel faithfully – it’s called Useful Charts – where he puts together timelines of history and family trees of famous historical figures. (Bonus: he’s Canadian, so there’s even some Canadian content on there!)

You can buy his charts as posters but this is the first time he has bundled several into a gorgeous hardcover book. It has four big fold-out poster-charts along with a bunch of associated stories about people and times on the charts and if you have a history lover in your house, GET THEM ONE.

Christmas Shopping and Card Writing

Lastly, it is officially Christmas Gift Shopping time and that always makes me so happy. I love the gift giving! Mostly I love the gift-picking-out. I went to the mall this past weekend and got pretty much everything for my nephews and nieces, and looking at the items and thinking about bringing up my Huge Bin Of Wrapping Paper and digging in is making me happy.

Plus I think I Christmas Cards might see a resurgence this year. I love sending cards and I bought some pretty ones and I am cheerfully singing Christmas songs as I think about filling them out and posting them and people getting them in the mail and smiling. And maybe we will get a few, too.

November, man. It feels hopeful, and happy, and joyful, don’t you think?

Fantasy 50th Birthday

It’s funny how the current lockdown situation makes you want the things you can’t have, even when you maybe never wanted them much before.

For example, all my life I’ve been a poor traveller. I don’t enjoy travel; I tend to panic in new and unusual situations. I am not comfortable when I don’t know the language, or where to get food, or how the public transit works.

When we go on a family trip, I spend hours and hours planning in advance so I feel okay about it, and I have reams of paper detailing backup plans should anything go wrong. During the trip I’m like a drill sergeant keeping us to a strict schedule and freaking out if someone wants to deviate.

And yet now that we are trapped at home, unable to travel, I find myself dreaming of trip planning and new and exotic locations as if they are FUN and EXCITING. I wonder if this will be a lasting change in my attitude? Or will I go back to panicking as soon as the government announces the all-clear on travel again? HM.

Anyway, dreaming of taking a trip has led me to think about my 50th birthday, which is coming up in just two weeks. I am not someone who likes surprise parties AT ALL, they are a firm no (to both the throwing and being the guest of honour). I definitely did not want a big celebration, and one of the hidden blessings of coronavirus is that it stopped anyone who thought they’d plan a birthday-fest from planning such a thing, WHEW.

But now that it is finally here, and I am actually giving it some thought, I have been thinking it would have been so nice, as a first choice celebration thing, to take a trip with Sir Monkeypants to a romantic urban location. Maybe Paris, or London, or both. How lovely that sounds (in my head, when it’s not at all a potential real thing I would probably be panicking about).

As a backup, I would have loved to take a train ride to New York City, and take in at least two Broadway shows, again with Sir Monkeypants but possibly also with my sisters and their significant others. It would have been so easy, in the Before Times, and so much fun. Alas.

So now I’m on the backup-backup plan, which I think is this: wake up to my favourite breakfast of coffee and muffins; visit the new L.L. Bean store in town where I will definitely be buying PJs, slippers, new sheets, and cozy sweaters, assuming I did not get any of these as gifts; return home to do one of my favourite puzzles while drinking a lot of tea and perhaps watching a marathon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Downton Abbey.

Even in regular times, I think such a day fits me to a tee – full of Spoiling Treats, but nothing too fancy, and nothing involving the need to dress up. So although I still wistfully dream of Paris and New York, it’ll probably be a pretty good day, after all.

Are We All Depressed?

We are just two days from the United States election and I have adopted a very much Fingers In Ears, Na na na, Can’t Hear You kind of attitude towards it all. I have enjoyed, in the past, avidly following along with American politics, and I love to watch people like Seth Meyers and John Oliver tear into Trump. But I remember how sad I was when Hillary Clinton lost, and it’s not even my country, and I’m not sure I really want to go through that again in real time.

Plus, lately I find the democratic pundits that I prefer have gotten really sad, themselves. They are no longer lighthearted in their approach; and I get that, I really do, but there’s only so many times I can hear that Evil is on our Doorstep before I start to really spiral about how there’s nothing anyone can do about it, all is lost, etc.

Plus, this is probably the Canadian in me, but when people start talking in extremes like EVIL, even when it comes to Trump, I always feel like maybe there is more to the big picture. I mean, there MUST be more to the big picture, isn’t there?

In any case, I am on a severe politics diet for all this week, and I’m hoping it will turn things around, at least for me, because my whole house is sad at the moment.

I am guessing that most of the country, if not the world, is sad too, but this is the first time I have really begun to wonder how sad is Too Sad, and to google things like “symptoms of depression.” Because all of us have been so blah. It’s like we have an absence of personality. We all lack a sparkle, a bounce.

I am guessing that the root of the problem is that it is darker and colder and we are all feeling like we have very little to look forward to. No trips, no visits with family. We have ALL the streaming services (literally: ALL) plus endless video game machines and board games and sports equipment, and yet we are all so bored. Bored of each other, bored of life, with a long winter looming.

(Thought to myself: Perhaps it is time for a family re-reading of the Little House series, especially The Long Winter. Hm.)

It is because my poor children have been looking at me with sad, dead eyes that can no longer perk up even with the promise of Iced Capps, that I made a Super Big Deal out of Halloween. And it worked! At least for me, hopefully for the kids too.

It was a Saturday and everything else including Trick or Treating was cancelled so what we did was a) put on costumes and b) put out a massive spread of candy, along with other snacky type foods and c) watched scary movies until our eyeballs bled. I let the kids know in advance I was planning an all-day Halloween movie fest and attendance was not optional and they were surprisingly okay with that (or at least, did not have the energy to resist).

I dressed up as a yeti, which if you know me is funny, because I have a stuffed yeti and he is like my fourth child. I am seriously weird about the yeti. But is he is my boo.

Me and Yetz

Captain Jelly Belly had scoffed at other movies I consider “scary,” because I am a wimp, so I wanted to watch some seriously spooky stuff. But on the other hand, the girls, especially middle child Gal Smiley, get very nervous at scary movies so I had to walk a fine line.

The schedule was:

10 a.m. Beetlejuice. The kids had never seen it. It was a great way to start the day – very fun, dated effects but the story and the legendary Day-O scene still hold up. Scary rating: 2/10, entertainment rating 7/10.

12 noon. Happy Death Day. My sister FameThrowa, who LOVES scary movies, told me this one was “good but not scary” and she was right. But it was SO good! The girls and I just loved its twisty plot and its very satisfying ending. Although the main character dies over and over, only a few of them have the traditional “hunted by a killer” feel – some of them are actually pretty funny. Recommended. Scary rating: 4/10, entertainment rating 8/10.

2 p.m. Lights Out. This is my sister’s all-time favourite scary movie and she warned me it was pretty scary so we deliberately watched it in the middle of the afternoon to lessen its power. She was 100% correct. Although we all felt okay about it at the time – on top of it being daylight, we also ate dinner during this time frame and did a bunch of chatting, which made it a lot less scary – this is the one that kept both me and Gal Smiley from falling asleep. I had to sleep with a light on, in the end. SHUDDER. Especially good for watching with your teens as there’s almost no sexy stuff, and everyone you really really like lives, so that’s good. Scary rating: 9/10, entertainment rating: 8/10.

4:30 p.m. Unfortunately the Captain had to go to work for a while. I gave the girls the option of a “scare break” but they wanted to continue, so we watched The Cabin in the Woods. SO MUCH BLOOD. Also, brief boobies shot, which got a lot of discussion and caused some discomfort around here. But overall this movie is a balance between horror and humour which keeps it from getting too intense. Scary rating: 6/10, entertainment rating: 7/10.

6:30 p.m. The Conjuring. By now it was dark, and this movie scared the crap out of me. I am a pretty easy scare, though. The girls found it scary but were more scared by my random screaming than anything else. Like Lights Out, this was a great family choice because there’s no sexy stuff and, in fact, no one actually dies so there’s very little violence – it’s a lot of spooky atmosphere and scary ghosts and freaky jump scares. I’ll probably watch it again when my heart returns to a normal rate. Scary rating: 8/10, entertainment rating: 7/10.

And then I had to go pick up the Captain from work. We were going to watch one more when he got home – Don’t Breathe – because I really wanted him to have the true late night, scary-as-hell experience. But by the time he got home and showered and ate, it was pretty late, and the youngest kid and I were nodding off on the couch, so we called it a day.

But we’ve decided to make Scary Movie Night a semi-regular thing around here, so feel free to share your recommendations – it’ll give us something to look forward to, and something to feel, and something to distract us from the state of the world, and I feel like we all need a LOT more of that kind of thing, and stat.

Sitcoms and Breaking Points

The other day my husband and I were watching one of Trump’s speeches, intercut with a similar speech given by Obama for comparison, which was pretty funny.

But also sad. I am a bit of an American Politics Junkie but lately I have had to pull back a bit on watching pundits and debates, because it is alarming and scary and sad. I have vowed to watch no coverage until after the election, and also to spend this time learning more about Canadian politics instead, which has actually been pretty interesting.

I did say to my husband, though, that whether you are pro or against Trump, everyone is going to miss the horribly entertaining reality show that his presidency has brought to television. It’s like a car crash that we can’t look away from, and when he leaves office, whether this year or in four more years, there will be a void for sure.

I propose that he be given his own half-hour sitcom/reality show after he’s done. We can build a set that is like a copy of the White House (perhaps the one used by The West Wing is still around). We can tell him he’s still the president and Truman Show him into the set with a fake staff.

Then we’ll tell him the (more or less) real news of the day, and have him do a daily half-hour briefing sharing his thoughts on the matter and his declarations of how he’s going to magically solve it all, and we can all watch and laugh, and feel light about knowing that he no longer has any real power, instead of the way we do now, with black pits of fear in our stomach.

I predict several Emmy wins for him and that should make him very happy indeed.

In other news, COVID cases in Ottawa continue to climb and we are now in a weird place where no one really wants to go back to full on lockdown, and no one wants the schools to close, but it is perhaps the only solution, so we are all dithering about and putting off any hard decisions.

I for one would love to see the schools stay open because our kids are so much happier there. Since school started just a few weeks ago, we’ve seen all three of our kids perk right up. They’re happier and they’re interacting more with their friends, both in person but online too, having lots of video and Discord calls in the evenings to play games and talk about assignments and generally hang out. They’re enjoying the work they do on their in-person days much more, as well. It has made a huge difference.

So this led to a conversation I had with a friend of mine on the weekend about your School Breaking Point. She was saying that when her kids went back to school, she had it in the back of her mind that they could always pull them out if “things got bad,” and I think most parents probably felt the same way.

But now things ARE bad, arguably. There’s more daily cases here than there were back in March and April. Some schools have had to close classrooms or even the whole school due to breakouts.

The school my friend’s kids go to has had one case, announced last week. It wasn’t in their specific classrooms. As far as they know, it has just been the one case. So their kids continue to go, but we are now all wondering When. When will things be bad enough that we would actually pull our kids out? When there’s a case in your own kid’s class? When there’s an outbreak of several cases in your school? When a close friend or family member tests positive?

Well. Of course we are all hoping not to have to hit that point. But I am trying to give it some thought so we can be prepared, and take action if need be. For now, we are just keeping our fingers crossed and hoping the kids can stay in school for as long as possible, keeping all of us happier, if not healthier.

A Narrow Range of Comfort

Every year in the fall, I swear I am not going to turn on the heat until it gets unbearably cold in the house, until we’re all shivering under multiple blankets at our various workstations.

But every year I cave. As soon as I get up one morning and it’s below 20 degrees in the house, I start feeling unhappy and then I always go straight to the thermostat and turn it over to heat.

And then, every year, after I turn it to heat I swear I will not put the A/C back on no matter how much of a summer throwback we might get, that it’s well into September now and I can certainly celebrate and enjoy any of the few warm days we might have left.

And then, like last night, I give up the minute I have to try to fall asleep in a house that is 25 degrees, wondering how anyone could ever be comfortable in such terrible tropic surroundings. I always get up and turn the A/C back on.

Then I always flit back and forth between heat, A/C, heat, A/C for a couple of weeks before fall really settles in.

Isn’t Ottawa the world capital with the largest temperature range? It’s easily possible for us to see temperatures here of +30 degrees Celsius in the summer, and -30 degrees Celsius in the winter, within a single year.

Given that I live in a place with crazy extremes of weather, how is it that I have become someone who is basically only comfortable in a narrow two degree range between 21 and 23?

It makes me feel like quite a little princess. But it doesn’t look like I’m adapting any time soon, so best to put aside my annual vows and just accept that I’ll be visiting the thermostat twice daily from mid-September to mid-October, QED.

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.