Long time no see

We had the kids home from two weeks before Christmas until the Family Day weekend (mid-February here). We sent them off to school and daycare two Tuesdays ago, with a mix of relief and trepidation.

They had a good four days out of the house, both tired when home in the evenings, filled with stories about their days.

That Friday night, Spud woke up vomiting. He was well enough to go to school mid-week, but by then Sprout was vomiting. She was home for the whole week. Spud had some gastrointestinal upset on Saturday, so we kept him him Monday to meet the 48 hours guideline and to make sure he didn’t poop his pants like he had on Friday at school.

Both kids went to school/daycare yesterday, the fifth day of ten that we had both out of the house.

Sprout woke up with a croupy cough and runny nose, so we’re now all isolating at home for five days.

Next week is Spud’s March break, so he’ll be home. We have a grandparent coming to help but this isolation might mess up their timelines.

So after eight weeks of the kids at home, we will have had them in school for five days and home for fourteen.

We are fried but resigned. I am dramatically behind at work, with no reprieve in sight. Late nights, for work and kids up sick, mopping vomit, or snuggling sad small bodies. There isn’t any comfort in the thought we might have COVID, because omicron reinfects so readily (and I remain resolute in my determination to not catch this virus if I can manage it).

This isn’t sustainable but we don’t have any other option. So we persevere.


We are toilet training Sprout.

It’s frigid here. We’re in a self-imposed lockdown because our province has given up on even trying to track cases as omicron surges like wildfire. There’s nowhere to go and nothing to do, so paying very close attention to a half-naked kid for a week seemed doable.

She’s doing great, unsurprisingly. She’s been using the potty and toilet sporadically for months now, and she’d announce all of her outputs well in advance even when in diapers.

If she was previously 20% independent with her toileting, we wanted to move her to 80% – no diapers except for naps and bedtime, with her self-identifying her needs, but then supervised and with help for wiping, etc.

Sprout, true to form, has forged forwards to being 110% independent. She has twice now only informed us of a poop as she carries the potty down the hallway to dispose of it, or we’ve heard a flush and realized she’s in the bathroom. She wipes with great industry but absolutely no aim, so we do really need to be involved. I’m not sure her stubby toddler arms are even capable of doing the job, as it were.

She’s had a few accidents, and will list them all for you unprompted. This is unnerving, as when you hear her chirp “I peed on the floor, and I didn’t mean to, it was a surprise” you can’t be sure she’s referring to the infamous floor pee of Tuesday morning or if there is a puddle somewhere you need to deal with.

It’s going great, and I’m so proud of her. I sometimes get weepy about milestones, but not this one. I’m delighted that it’s been easy and not too stressful for her, only mildly messy for us, and the reduction in garbage produced by our house is very satisfying.

And so this is five!

Dearest Spud,

You are five! I cannot quite believe it. After the detailed monthly milestones of baby-hood, the years seem less distinguished from each other, but five is a big deal! Your baby book ends at age 5, and you’ve aged out of the monthly age-based newsletters I’ve received since you were a week old. It feels like a new chapter is starting.

It has been another very odd year, and you have rolled with all the punches admirably, while learning and stretching and GROWING. You are all long limbs and lean body now, though your face still holds a hint of your chubby baby cheeks. Your hair is an unmanageable mop thanks to your numerous visits to Salon De Mama during the pandemic, and your baby curls have entirely disappeared. Your deep blue eyes have shifted this year and are much closer to green – they have amber starbursts in the middle, and they change colour depending on what shirt you are wearing. You are bright eyed and expressive, filled with energy and vim.

We started the year with a six-month-long lockdown, which you spent in the company of your sister and nanny C. You built ice cream stands and blue jay bird feeders. You played hunt-and-find games based on a colour die. You made all three adults pull you around on the sled in the snow for endless rounds of a train pulling into a station. You made outposts on the deck where you could watch for the train to arrive using your “binoclears”. You built forts out of the cushions on the couch almost every day, and gorilla cages filled with pillows took over the two cribs every week. In the spring you bug hunted assiduously, with a specific love of pill bugs and slugs, of which we are blessed with an abundance. You conquered the neighbourhood on balance bike and scooter, and started to learn to peddle a real bike (you can do it but you aren’t ready to admit it yet!). We went on a great many hikes in our region, and spent many happy mornings at local playgrounds (which were open this summer, thank goodness).

This year we managed a bit more travel, mostly in the summer. We rented a cottage for a week on a lake, which had a shallow beach that you loved to wade in, and a dock you didn’t quite screw your courage up to swim to, but ran around on if we paddle-boated you past it. You loved the cottage, and the ice cream shop in town. We also managed to visit grandparents at their houses, for indoor visits for the first time in over a year. It was wonderful to reconnect, and you really loved visiting. You always always get sick when we travel, and this year was no exception. It’s almost like a long car ride causes a fever in you! (Though it is more likely your daycare and school classes were the sources.)

Your chief love in life remains LEGO. You are, my dear boy, obsessed. You are a builder – be it LEGO, magnatiles, cardboard, or rocks, you build with it. You grew this year from putting funny, oddly constructed vehicles together to creating study, symmetrically decorated vehicles, and then started putting small kits together, then larger and larger ones. You’ve rebuilt all of the medium sized kits your father owns, and several of the larger ones. Your grandfather sent you a ridiculously-sized and over-complicated set, and you dedicated three weeks of early mornings and evenings and weekend days to it (we had to drag you away), but you built it without any real help from us – a near life-size rollercoaster that really worked. It was amazing. You are amazing.

This year you also got interested in more creative pursuits. You steal my phone and take pictures of… well, everything. My camera roll is filled with scenic tours of our house, featuring 45 photos of our couch throw cushions and 52 photos of the floors in various areas of the house. You take photos of people(‘s knees), and caught one of my favorite photos of Sprout all year. You started listening to playlists of songs on my phone too – listening quietly for as long as we’ll let you, poking my phone every ~20 seconds to make sure it doesn’t go to sleep, as you want to DJ the next song. Most recently, you have started wanting to write stories on my laptop – asking for help with spelling and giggling like a maniac as you go. Many of them involve cows and there seems to be quite a lot of YELLING (you think caps are funny).

One big change is that you started school in September! After a winter and spring unexpectedly at home, and a summer spent erratically in a daycare classroom that was filled with screaming children whom you really did not connect with, we weren’t sure how you would like school. Initially, you felt it was “like daycare but with more kids and less toys!” and you spent a lot of time sitting tucked in behind your teacher as she perched forward on her chair. About a month in, you warmed up to the whole thing, and started having a good time at school, engaging with activities, and going your own way with a bit more confidence. You have stories about the other kids in your class, and have made friends with a girl who lives down our street. You spend your time building things (no surprise), and once you have built something at the station you have chosen that day, you can be found sitting next to it on a chair, with a book. Your teacher says you are developing “good understanding of the sounds the different letters make” – which is true, but rather the tip of the iceberg.

The other thing you did this year is teach yourself to read. You started to be very interested in reading in March, and we got some early readers and companion readers from the library. Your dad spent some time with you teaching you how to sound out words and what different rules there were about how letters can go together. Then it seemed like you lost interest – you didn’t want to read to us and you refused to guess at words. But you took easy books you had memorized into your room at quiet time, and would sit with them, staring at the pages. Every so often, we’d get a hint of your progress – you’d ask me about something on a t-shirt, or laugh at a pun on a new mug. Once I gave you a Chirp on the drive to daycare, and, because I wasn’t looking, you read me the table of contents, which we never bother reading. Today, the day you turned five, you read a birthday card aloud, and then read us all the jokes that were in our Christmas birthday crackers. It was a real leap forward from what I’d seen before – “What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back?” giggling “A stick!”. I didn’t know you even knew what a boomerang was! I kept handing you a new joke, and you would read it out without hesitation. I remain amazed, but also delighted. If I can instill in you the same love of reading I have, it will keep you growing until school catches up to challenge you – and maybe keep you from being too bored when they review the alphabet twice over again in SK next year.

Spud, you are a character. You wear your shirts inside out, your underwear and pants are on backwards most days (on purpose) and you insist on putting your pajama pants on your head as a hat. The other day I was worried you were getting sick because your face was flushed – but then discovered you had 5(!) shirts on! You morph into “Dups” and insist we are also all the backwards versions of ourselves (I’m Amam). You have your own way of doing things, and the absurdity of them makes you giggle, which makes us giggle along with you. You don’t want to do anything independently until you can do it perfectly, so teaching you new things is a slow, gentle process, but once you have it down, you are highly reliable and capable. We’ve learned to give you space to consider things, but offer small nudges to keep you moving.

You are a loving if frustrated, generous if overly rough big brother, and your sister adores you. You two are very different little beings, and I know you will find a way to coexist eventually – in the meantime, we’re here to help restore stolen toys (in either direction), and quell madcap chasing games just before someone starts crying, not always successfully.

Spud, you make me smile every day with your jokes and puns and quirky view of the world. You are stubborn but snuggly, calm until you are not, and a wise old soul. Your smile is one of my most cherished things in life, as it is earned, not given.

I love you Spud, a million and a ton, to the moon and back. Happy birthday.

End of year wrap up: personal

This year…. this year was a doozy. It had some pretty serious life events and a lot of external pressures. I think I am ultimately a better person and in perhaps a better spot than I was at this time last year, where my main complaints were around inequitable distribution of household tasks with Pea. It turns out that those surface complaints were as close as I could get to admitting my deep-seated feelings of abandonment and resentment around the dynamic we were in with two children, where Pea had never really stepped up his game for the 1.5 years of Sprout’s life and in many ways had stepped back. Exactly seven days after my update last year I discovered his alcohol addiction (which explained a lot but not everything) and a deeply unpleasant six months ensued. We navigated broken trust, long-standing alienation on both parts, addiction, and an antagonistic redistribution of household tasks (in which Pea now has 100% responsibility for all laundry. Now he does more work IN the house but I manage nearly the entire house and that works well enough). We worked out better methods of communication, through trial and error and a lot of sleepless angry nights. We addressed the toxic patterns in our communication, and found ways to reestablish benefit of the doubt and a baseline of trust. We both saw counsellors. We both have a ways to go. Things feel stable and warm, and continually improve, and that’s pretty amazing for where we were a year ago.

Aside from serious relationship revelations, overhauls, strife, and reconciliation, this year I:

  • Continued to work to keep my family as safe as possible under changing conditions in the pandemic. I have become an expert at navigating the vaccine appointment systems and delight in finding everyone I know their next dose. That this is a Hunger Games-esque endeavour is very frustrating, but I am finding great satisfaction in scoring appointments for those who are hunting. Thus far, none of us have had COVID. Spud gets his first vaccination dose on Sunday, one day after he is eligible. Pea and I have boosters booked for tomorrow and the next day. The Pfizer trial failing for Sprout’s age group was tough to recover from. Extending the isolation and restrictions for longer, amid a new more intense wave was a bleak day.
  • Raised a funny, bright, goofy, frustrating four year old into a moody, imaginative, focused allllmost-five year old. Fewer big life events for Spud this year, but he started kindergarten and taught himself to read so definitely some landmarks along the way. He’s still a kid who feels things very deeply and has trouble knowing how to express those feelings in non-destructive ways. He’s been a challenge to parent this year, as his default approach to a smaller sister is to try to upset her. Four has not been my favourite year for parenting but I deeply appreciate Spud’s resilience and general even-keeled personality in these tumultuous times. He remains a punny, wise old soul, and is starting to try to connect big concepts. Today in the bath he asked me if there were viruses who infect viruses, and if you had a virus that was sick, if it would make you more sick. Pure biology brilliance. (Answer: Not for human viruses and only kinda-sorta for bacterial viruses).
  • Raised a silly, stubborn, opinionated 1.5 year old into… essentially the same 2.5 year old, just with a massively expanded vocabulary and higher standing jump. Sprout came into life with a firm sense of self and has not seen reason or impetus to change yet. I weaned her this year, which was a slow but easy process. I didn’t mourn the loss of connection like I did with Spud – I was thoroughly sick of the dietary restrictions (which she did slooooowly grow out of over the rest of the year), and Sprout is by nature a cuddly kid, so that physical connection remained. She is a very different challenge to parent than her brother, as she is so very firm in her (toddler) beliefs of what should happen and attempts to reconcile her (toddler) reality with, well, reality, are ongoing tussles in our days. She does not countenance logic nor restrictions. She is funny in a sunshiney, goofy-dance, bear hug kind of way, and mercurial and mischievous and gregarious and brave. She’s a handful, and would choose to take up both hands if we let her.
  • Leaned on my network more than I usually do. I am more often the counsellor, confidante, supporter in my friendships. I needed those things this year, and found the people who could be that for me (my sisters as bedrocks for everything, and some really excellent friends as well).
  • Visited my father three times, including with the kids twice, which was better than last year but not much of a panacea for his seven months of total isolation in a hospital room. This pandemic has been brutally unfair to him. Saw Pea’s two sets of parents twice each, in person and with grandkids in tow. Saw my mother for some extended windows, and established a more regular hang-out for her and Spud. We missed her dedicated days this holiday break as Spud had a cold, but we will make them up in the new year.
  • got pretty fit for a while and then a bit less fit and then fell off the fitness wagon entirely with a shoulder nerve injury (caught Spud in a full-speed lunge off a bed, tractioned my brachial plexus, ended up with pins and needles permanently in my dominant hand). Went to physio for eight weeks and am back to mostly normal (yay self care!)
  • Maybe gained a bit of weight? My scale’s batteries have died and I decided that the holidays were not the time to resurrect it. Weaning Sprout meant finding a new balance with food, and attempting to incorporate twenty months of missed cheese in a healthy way (spoiler: it was not healthy but it was very soul soothing). With the kids home for almost the whole fall with various colds, I found myself stress-snacking. I know this is something I can sort out quickly (and weight gain isn’t bad, but my absolute loathing of clothes shopping keeps me more-or-less the same size for convenience). This category made more sense when I could post hilarious massive gains or losses because of pregnancies…
  • Navigated our health care system in a pandemic with a toddler who suddenly started having seizures, kicking it off with a set of petit-mal ones that lasted much too long. Sprout is still very occasionally having a minor seizure after a breath-holding pass out. A barrage of tests show nothing explicitly concerning and her generally advanced development means we’re just monitoring for now. Added stress, and complications of timelines, and time in hospitals where we really desperately do not want to be… was not great, all around, but so far we are not dealing with a life-changing diagnosis.
  • Read a lot more, after discovering a few new authors (shout out to Turia for the N.K. Jemisin recommendation). Balancing a new book and sufficient sleep remains a failing of mine, so I still have to be strategic about when I can start one.
  • Spent a week at a cottage and invited my mom and younger sister for a few days – the first indoor family hangouts we’d had for over a year. No other travelling aside from seeing family, and no house renovations either – really a quiet year while we took stock of other aspects of life (plus the pandemic).
  • found a better work-life balance with no more nursing and then with kids actually out of the house for stretches of the last third of the year. I am sure to lose it, with schools pivoting virtual (not yet announced but nothing else makes any sense at all right now). It was nice while it lasted?
  • continued to see my counsellor even once things had stabilized with Pea, and made some progress in managing the expectations I hold myself to, and the fears I allow to take up space in my brain. Having someone who is exclusively invested in my positive progress validate or challenge my thoughts or actions has been an interesting and valuable process. I’m working on leaving space to enjoy life within the detail-oriented planning that I rely on, allowing my personal sense of integrity to inform my actions rather than my assumptions of others’ expectations, and on accepting variations to my plans more graciously and openly.

It was, to be perfectly honest, a hell of a year. It required a lot of personal growth, pain, grit, and endurance. I’m very tired. I’m still a work in progress. I envision a different but possibly equally difficult year next year and am quailing at the idea of having to muster gumption for it. I know I have reserves, and supports, and, if need be, the financial resources to buy my way out of problems (e.g., the pile of rapid tests on my counter procured at ridiculous expense, that allowed us to see family more safely this holiday). I’d so dearly love for a tough winter to be followed by a lightened burden, across the board. Fingers crossed.

End of year update: professional

It’s been a busy few months at work, and a productive few months, which often means a lull in my blog. I do still want to keep this blog going as a space for chronicling our days, so will endeavour to write here more often.

Before Spud’s birthday and the advent of 2022 (hopefully not 2020-too…), my annual recaps. Starting with professional.

This year I:

  • Published eight articles, six of which represent work from my lab, five of which are original research and one review. This is a deep relief, to have some of our older projects finally out in the world and to have newer collaborations coming online quickly and efficiently.
  • Recruited three grad students and one undergrad, and then convinced that undergrad to stay for an MSc starting next year. So far three of the four are completely fantastic, and the fourth has promise but is a work-type that I struggle to mentor. My lab is now 12, and as big as I can reasonably manage without more permanent staff, whom I cannot stably afford yet. Three are set to graduate in 2022, my first flight of PhDs.
  • As part of an ad-hoc committee, wrote the terms for a departmental EDI committee. Am now the chair of said EDI committee. This is probably good (I care about EDI done right and a LOT of Innovation U’s EDI work is performative), but has its difficulties, as there was some small but vocal opposition to the committee in the first place.
  • Gave nine talks, all online, and a nice mix of local and international locations. Fun to meet with some folks at other spots. Probably too many talks overall, but we had fun stories to share with all the papers coming out, and not having to travel for 1-4 days to give a talk means it’s much much easier to do.
  • Wrote a massive grant, which I should hear about any day now
  • Wrote (in 24 hours) the internal renewal form (10 pages!) for my fancy chair (I thought it was a simple one page form!), only to be informed I don’t have to start that process until February of this coming year. Phew.
  • Wrote no other grants aside from two renewals, as I just did not have it in me to define new research directions within the timelines offered. Nor to scope out work with such an unpredictable backdrop. The federal government has an unfortunate new habit of debuting grant programs with three-week lead times, unstable portals, and shifting application formats and requirements. These pass precisely zero of my triage points for “should I write this grant?” so I have sat them out.
  • Ran my course entirely online including an at-home lab for the first time. It went really well, which is good because I learned it would be going back to online for next semester 24 hours before we left to visit grandparents for a week at Christmas and 14 days before I have to have the course website set and published.
  • Counselled all of my students and staff at various points about burn out and doom scrolling and how having a therapist can be a helpful outlet even when the world isn’t on fire. Several have mentioned they have taken this advice. My crew is struggling and I anticipate another hard year as their boss and mentor. Lots of ways to motivate sufficient productivity to get into the positive feedback loop of getting things done and feeling good about getting things done, lots of slack to offer when trying to find that loop is doing more harm than good. Firm, fair, and clear, and constant reminders of the supports available.
  • Completed all the usual service tasks (safety committee inspections, ran the seminar series online for the year, sat on video calls and voted on various matters) plus was on a hiring committee for a new colleague. I let one rather large ball drop, and so did every other person in a position of leadership and it resulted in the dissolution of a Big Thing, which I also ultimately think was for the best.
  • Survived. It will be, on balance, an excellent year for bean-counting. It was a tough one though, and asked a lot of me in flexibility and grit and empathy and fatigue. My bar was to survive and I’ve definitely managed that.

Next year brings two massive renewals – my research chair and my foundational funding grant, as well as teaching my “full” load and submitting my tenure brief. It’s going to be… ugly. But I see it coming and have a plan. We shall see!

Funniest thing all week

Today was the sixth day of the last ten working days where at least one kid was home sick or in isolation. Sprout has lovingly bestowed her cold on me as well, so everyone is starting to drag a bit.

So here is the thing that has been making me chuckle, out loud, sporadically for the last week.

Pea is playing a new world-building game, where he is in charge of a family of beavers (yes really). They have to build dams and engineer water flow and farm food and build up stores for the periodic droughts. Water is a key resource and can be life or death for your beavers.

Pea kept losing all his beavers. They wouldn’t even be in a drought and they would all suddenly die. Upon examination, it was lack of water. Pea was frustrated, as he had chosen to build the larger pump option, and was prioritizing upgrading them and keeping them manned at all times. And still – no water. Plus the pumps were running at 5-14% efficiency, which was frustrating.

Pea explained this all to me in detail as he wandered downstairs to try, once again, to keep his beaver crew alive. He was sure there was some game mechanic he was missing, but hadn’t found it yet.

He came back up that night, with hale and hearty beavers. It turns out he had misread something – the bigger water pump option was not a pump, it was a water DUMP.

Every time his beavers ran low on water, he would marshal them to the dumps and increase the dumps’ activity. He was rigorously upgrading! Staffing through the nights!

The dumps were working at so low efficiency because there wasn’t any more water to dump.

It is an uncharacteristic gaffe for Pea, but it’s mostly funny to me as an absurdist example of the piling on behind a bad decision that always seems to happen.

* no beavers were harmed in the making of this post, only a few beaver-shaped pixels.

Update update, overdue

Three bullet points apiece, because life is moving quickly and it’s nice to have a record.

Except I cannot make bullet points anymore in WordPress? This platform is starting to make me feel creaky and old, because they keep updating it to look more swish but keep removing components I enjoyed and use. I bet swish isn’t even slang any more.

This update brought to you by late-night server installations, because there’s a lot of dead time in between aggravatedly pushing buttons.

1. Sprout’s stammer has completely evaporated in the past three months. So that’s that. She continues to have a ridiculous vocabulary.

2. Using that vocabulary, Sprout has gotten in touch with her emotions, and spends the vast majority of her time telling us “I’m sad” whenever anything, however minor, has happened that is contrary to her world view.
Sprout: “I am going to get off my chair and sit unner a table!”
Me/Pea: “No Sprout, you have to stay on your chair at dinner.”
Sprout: “I’m sad. I need a snuggle from Mama.” gets off chair

3. Sprout tells us daily that she doesn’t like daycare. When pressed, she says she likes the food, playground, people, her little cot, naps, some of the toys, and that there are other kids, but none of the other kids in particular. When asked what she doesn’t like about daycare she says “I have beautiful days there”. Pea and I have decided what she means is that daycare is not as much fun as being at home with nanny C and with Mama and Dada there at lunch and periodically through the day, which, fair.


1. Spud is liking kindergarten. We don’t get any information from him, aside from claims they are learning the chicken dance every day, and that there is excrement on the lunch tables, both of which we eventually, reluctantly, had to ask his teacher about (false on both counts). He is pleased to go. He eats his entire lunch except when he runs out of time (and then it is the vegetables he doesn’t particularly like that suspiciously had no more time allotted). He came home one day with a drawing of a tiger on top of someone’s head, which was the most elaborate drawing we’ve seen from him.

2. Concurrent with Spud liking kindergarten, Spud’s intense violent phase of the past 2 months has evaporated. Big transitions are hard when you are four, but you aren’t allowed to take it out on your mother, or your smaller sister when that isn’t getting results. I am much relieved to no longer be a punching bag, or goalie preventing lobbed objects from hitting Sprout. We are working with him to find other ways to express emotions (there’s a lot of yelling at ceilings at the moment, which is vastly preferable but still not particularly enjoyable).

3. Spud got quite into extreme weather this summer, thanks to the endless thunderstorm and tornado warnings*. I draw him little notes in his lunch boxes on a theme each week. Last week was weather, and after three notes on hurricanes and the like, and on a day when he had chosen dinosaur pants, t-shirt, sweatshirt, lunchbox, and backpack to “have a theme day so I can show my teachers”, he came home with a drawing of a Hurricanisaurus and a Tornadactyl, clearly a collaboration between him and his teacher. It was fun. Spud was selectively mute** in daycare for the first ~8 months, so it’s really neat to see him enjoying and interacting with kindergarten.


1. Pea’s team at Golden Company is being reassigned, again. It’s the first time I’ve seen him seriously consider recruiter emails for other companies, as this is now three straight years of him gearing up to a project only to have it fizzle, move, or be assigned to others. Since starting at the office here five years ago, he has been forcibly moved off of teams and onto new projects four times. It is Golden Company’s way, and Pea is performing well (he’s probably going up for promotion next round), but it is frustrating to constantly be starting over.

2. Pea has risen to the “Spud won’t eat dairy and school doesn’t allow any nuts or nut substitutes” challenge by adapting his previously walnut-filled sourdough to fully seedy, and filling our pantry with odd seeds, spreads, and enriched flours to bake things like tahini and coconut bliss balls and date-based home-baked spelt granola bars. Mainly we need his afternoon snack to be more than just carbohydrates, or at least contain some semblance of complex nutrition. Spud smells the new offerings with suspicion, but has been eating them happily enough.

3. Pea is still introspecting and examining his relationship with alcohol. He read A Million Tiny Pieces last month, which is a memoire of addiction, rehab, and recovery. I had read it last year, and was surprised he picked it up, feeling it was a bit close to home. He says most of the depictions of addiction really didn’t resonate with him, that he feels his actions were more strongly rooted in habit than addiction. From everything he’s said, this feels true to me, but does not remove the requirement for caution and vigilance (he agrees).


1. September always catches me off-guard, and it did so again this year. I’m perilously behind, but am coping by applying my mat leave tactics – a laser focus on the important things, with occasional dedicated hours for all the other noise, as otherwise the admin tasks will subsume all my available time. This was made worse by Sprout being home for three days this week for a close contact isolation stint (which started late, day 7 post-last-exposure before a positive test was reported). We’re all negative, so dodged that bullet. I’d been working as though the kids might be home any moment, and while that was exhausting and nerve-wracking as a modus operandi, it did mean there was precious little I’d procrastinated coming into this week. Pea and I split the days home with Sprout, and each got about a 4.5 hour work day (thank goodness for naps!), with some top-up time in the evenings.

2. I saw a TikTok where a woman was saying she never worries about being a good wife the way she worries about whether she’s a good mother – she worries about the state of her relationship with her husband – so why not do the same with kids? I’ve been thinking about it all week, and thinking of ways to strengthen my relationship with each of the kids. At the end of the day, that bond, that trust and love, is so much more important than the myriad little check-boxes required for achieving motherhood accomplishment. I get mired in the checkboxes. That if they have shoes that fit, and lunches that are interesting and well-balanced, and if they spend time outside, that I’m doing ok. And all of those things are important, but it was a good reminder to me, in my busiest season, that the silly songs and the deeper talks and the little moments where I specifically dedicatedly cherish them and the firm but clearly explained boundaries – those are the bits that will stick.

3. My extroversion goes in waves, where I need people, and where I’m ok to just have check-ins with my inner circle. I set up the next two weeks as though I need people, and I overdid it! Not because I am in an extroversion trough, but because we’re trying to keep the kids’ weekends a bit relaxed as they adjust to busier days at school and daycare, and because I’m writing a big grant that is due in five days, and I’ve needed/still need extra time for it. Luckily (?) Sprout’s isolation and the continued inclement weather this fall have scuttled a number of plans this week, which I’ve been able to reschedule spread out over more time, and, critically, after the grant is due.

And that’s us! Both kids are doing well with transitions, both parents managed our first foray into what is sure to be a rotating door of kids in and out of school this fall, and we’re each of us, and collectively, doing better than I would have guessed two months ago.

* I specifically moved my family north, inland, onto a geologically stable land mass in a region with abundant freshwater in hopes of mitigating our early experience of climate change, and I am taking the recent uptick in tornados here as a personal affront. Tornados were exceedingly rare here ten years ago, and we had six tornado warnings and two actual tornados this summer (in a wide region, but still). I feel personally aggrieved.
** He wasn’t fully mute, but basically only spoke if asked direct questions and then in as few words as possible. I didn’t even know it was happening, they just thought he was quiet/shy. Then one day his educators told me, very excitedly, that he had told them a story about our fish (we had bought new fish), and the story was “we bought new fish, five of them!”, and that is when I realized he didn’t actually talk at daycare. Two weeks later, he came in and aggressively chanted the entirety of Anna Dewdney’s Little Excavator at them, and then told so many stories they had to ask him to be quiet.***
*** Part of me is reading this Spud update and wondering if I don’t need to go get my kid tested or possibly some therapy…. I think he’s ok. He’s introverted, and he struggles with big feelings, but he’s empathetic and he’s bright, and once he’s comfortable in a situation, he’s charming and engaged. It’s just been a tough two months for transitions and changes.

Sure, kid, sure

Spud can read, but Spud won’t read if anyone is watching. I sent him to school with notes in his lunchbox this week, but eventually resorted to just sending drawings because he was insisting he couldn’t read the notes (but then explained to his father when I was out of sight but not earshot that he had read them but thought the pictures were funnier) (and then asked why “school is spelt wrong on that sign Mama?” when one O had fallen off) (and then corrected me when I purposefully read a sign at the park to have an opposite meaning).

Spud during an evening story: No Mama, I don’t think that’s a cactus wren. It’s a hmmmm flips to the back glossary, finds the bird, squints a gilded flicker, see Mama?

Spud at lunch: why does your mug say coffee on it when you have tea in it? What is a starbuck?

Spud at lunch (same lunch): Mama, those aren’t plain chips, those are classic. See onna bag? Classic.

All this to say, I am 99% sure he can read a note that says “have a great day, I love you”.

Spud started school this week! So far his days have been “terrible horrible no good and very bad” stated calmly and contentedly. He says it is like daycare but with “more kids and less toys!”. He is DELIGHTED that his grandmother picks him up on Wednesdays. He is resigned to having much less time with nanny C, who picks him up Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. He was entirely non-plussed to be picked up by me on Thursday, but I was very pleased to be out of the house and spending some one on one time with him. Pea and I are trading Thursdays, which I think will work well.

Sprout had her first week of full time daycare, and was “quite emotional” the first few days and then “all smiles, no crying” the next two. She had quite a few new kids in her room for September, which I think threw her off. Also, she spends quite a lot of her days with us crying, so am not sure “emotional” isn’t just baseline Sprout, who feels personally injured whenever something isn’t exactly to her specifications (ah to be two!).

We survived the week, and while both kids were fried at the end of each day, they both did really well. Pea and I are planning another quiet week of easy meals in case the other shoe drops this week, but so far it’s been pretty smooth sailing.

Rolling progress

A few years ago, a colleague laughingly mentioned that he was “becoming more and more comfortable with just moving his entire to-do list over month by month”.

I had goals and plans for the summer. I worked hard for almost all of the summer. My people also worked hard. We made some great things happen, and made progress on nearly everything.

My goal list sits, largely unchanged, because nothing actually got FINISHED.

I am not yet comfortable with this. I am part of the problem though, often a delay when something is on my plate, because my plate overflows weekly.

This post brought to you by my near total burnout after completing a 20 page tutorial for a workshop as well as a 10 page grant application that I thought was just a formality-style form in the past three days, amidst meetings, a conference, and a workshop (which the tutorial is FOR).

I wanted to be editing my students’ papers (3 on my desk at the moment) and starting a massive grant application that is due at the end of the month, but the “urgent and important” column in my to do list is now entirely deadline-driven. Anything important but not urgent might have to wait til October, and the only non-urgent, non-important things that get done are administrivia that will otherwise make my life harder or prevent my people from being paid appropriately.

I like this job, but honestly, it is a bit much. I’d so love to be able to take a week’s vacation and not be punished for it. Take a week and not be doing work in every brief moment alone. I haven’t figured out how to do that and make life even plausible on the other side.

It’s the start of the school year, and I’m fried, but also hopeful I’ll be able to get some of these goals actually accomplished this semester (she says, not yet ruefully laughing at the prospect).

Cottage o’clock

We are back from a cottage, a week away on a lake, with walks along a rail trail to a playground, jaunts into town for ice cream, paddle-boating along the shore, and many happy hours wading on our tiny, private, perfect beach.

It was a lovely week, sunny if cool. We’ve had an intensely rainy summer, so much so it is threatening the crops almost as much as the droughts out west. It has been rare to string two sunny days together, and last week we had five in a row. A spot of luck!

Renting this cottage was like an extreme sport. With nowhere to go but our own backyard, Ontarians flooded the cottage rental market. I was lucky to have a savvy older sister who helped me find a site where, as long as you saw the email quickly, you’d have a decent shot at booking a cottage of interest. The owner of this cottage and I chatted a few times over the week, and he told me to call him next winter if we knew we wanted to book with him again. Perhaps! It was a great cottage, especially for tiny kids, as the beach was very shallow for ages, and they could wade and paddle with confidence.

This week was our one week of vacation that isn’t visiting family this year. It was a chance to relax, have new scenery, spend time with the kids exploring. It was, honestly, wonderful. Neither of us gravitate to cottages as a first choice for vacation, but we both had an excellent time. I didn’t want to leave, but we weren’t allowed to stay, so made our way home yesterday via a conservation area for a very hot hike and picnic.

A discovery – I need to prioritize swimming in some meaningful fashion. I love swimming. There is something about the sensory deprivation coupled to cardio that I find deeply, lastingly soothing. It is an intense anxiety panacea. I haven’t swum regularly since my PhD, but it was a staple of my decade at various universities. It’s a hassle, with specific swim times, and requirements for showers, and needing a locker or good swim bag, and needing to either not be a yeti or not care about being a yeti, and and and, but I think I need to figure it out.

A second discovery – Sprout hates the travel crib. This is problematic as we have another trip planned in two weeks. She says the crib is “too bubbly”, which we think means the sides are mesh and she can’t mash her head against them as firmly as she does against the crib rails. She absolutely cannot be in a bed yet, she is nothing but trouble when tired and unsupervised, so I have no solution to this. She rejected sleep at nap and bedtime all week so is a very tired kid today. This was unexpected because Spud LOVED the travel crib, but my kids delight in their opposite ways, so I should perhaps have been less surprised.

This week was my marker for having to take September more seriously. We start with Sprout visiting daycare this week. I made a list of things we need for Spud for school (school!! I have many feelings, complicated by the ongoing pandemic). It is time to gear up, get organized, get some important things done at work. These last few weeks of summer will be packed, so I’m very glad we’ve had this time to rest.