Since returning home last August the job of wrapping up and completing the blog has been tugging like a balloon attached to a string around my wrist. At first I felt compelled to complete the Fiji portion of the blog – we had essentially no connectivity while we were on Taveuni so I have paragraphs written but not posted. For some reason I couldn’t tackled the wrap up of the blog first with Fiji skulking in the corner. The life laundry of re starting our lives kept me distracted and then school started and back to work and all those little activities and it felt like a million times harder to even organize my thoughts let alone go back to Fiji time. SO I guess it takes a pandemic. Of course the real truth is we are more than a month into the home lock down and although I have sat down to write many times – I have been largely unsuccessful in completing more than a paragraph at a time. The balloon has stayed with me faithfully. Sometimes it is filled with words or the beginning of a post but mostly it is just a steady tug and reminder of unfinished work.
“Oh my god! How was the trip?” “Was it just amazing?” I was greeted with these questions along with huge smiles and expectant faces for months after we returned. My standard response became,” I would say living through the trip was a 5/10 but I’m hoping the reliving of it will be a 10/10.” Obviously not the response that people have an easy time taking in and digesting – except for those who always thought it was a bad idea to begin with. Those few people would nod sagely and say, “I just could/would never do what you guys did!” So this lock down makes me smile a little when I think of that. We are now unwittingly very prepared for self isolation. In fact it feels luxurious to have a home with our own rooms, all our things and a kitchen.
Upon returning Anderson embraced school and friends and activities like a, well like a child who had been starved of those things for an entire year. I tell you – if you want your children to appreciate school just remove them from school, take them to a very hot (or a series of very hot) countries where they will meet almost no other kids and the kids they do meet will not speak their language. This tactic works like a charm. The main hurdle upon re entry to school was when the principal suddenly decided that we needed to prove that Anderson had completed 700 hours of french…. I am still not quite sure how we fudged our way out of that one….We got him a school “coach” who tutored him in french and math and reading for 4 hours a week and by his first report card he was all caught up. Sabine just slid right into junior kindergarten as always eager to make friends and so happy that they all spoke English. And slowly over the fall my prophecy started to come true. Lying in bed one night Anderson revealed that he was disappointed in himself for not embracing everything on the trip and wishing that he hadn’t missed certain things. The most shocking reveal was when he casually said,” On our next year away…… ” I didn’t even hear the rest because all the blood had rushed into my face and ears and it took everything in me not to scream,” If you think we are EVER taking an other year off with you you are sadly mistaken!!!” I am still shocked that he is entertaining thoughts of more long term travel and even perhaps living in an other country for a year. This is the boy who refused to even eat rice for the first six months back in Canada. I thought we had broken him for travel for ever. The other day he welcomed an Indonesian dinner of sticky rice with peanut sauce. So slowly slowly in pieces we have come back together as a family. The truly dark days of the trip are not being joked about yet but we are replaying the fun memories and even some of the not as fun memories.
A little over a month ago the lock down began. We had planned to stay with Penny (Chris’s mom) over spring break and ski at Mansfield. A few other families from the ski club had cancelled their plans to leave the country for spring break so we thought it was going to be kid activity fun filled spring break at “the club”. I woke up with a cold on the last day of school so we decided to stay in the city to keep Penny safe and over the weekend while I rode out the cold ( I’m pretty sure it was just a cold but who even knows these days) everything closed and the lock down happened. On the first Monday of Spring Break I hit Value Village for board games, The Dollarama for art supplies, I ordered a ton of fruits and veggies to the shop and raided the cafe dry storage for rice, noodles, flour, sugar, yeast and cans of all varieties of beans and then I ordered an ice cream maker and a stand mixer from Amazon. I’m not going to lie I was feeling pretty cocky, very ready and even a little happy about being able to muck around in the kitchen between horizontal bouts of screen gazing. I felt like we had just lived through a year of isolation and we had spent the fall and early winter rebuilding and coming out stronger and more connected. This shelter in place was going to be a piece of cake.
This I have now labeled the Optimistic phase of isolation. I certainly didn’t make any schedules, I didn’t force school work or limit screen time. I kept the outline of the day – breakfast, lunch and dinner with some outside time the same. We did chug along nicely doing little projects, eating delicious food, taking walks. I reread all my cookbooks and sketched out plans, joined an online dance class and played dolls and legos for hours. I counselled friends to relax over the amount of screen time their kids were engaging in. I even encouraged tik tok as being somewhat creative. Slowly we started getting up later, going to bed later, the weather turned ugly and I started to lose the will. I would have the will in the morning but it would ebb away and then over the seemingly endless blustery rainy days the will rushed away. I looked at all the plans outlining things I could do around the house and felt panic and then dismay and guilt over all that I wasn’t doing. We had a few days in a row where we didn’t even get outside. The world contracted and became a scary place just outside the door. The reality settled in. This was going to last much longer than we could ever have let ourselves think.
Then the online school work started. Again there was what I now see as the second optimistic phase. We had a clearer schedule, some more focus and achievable goals. Before that week was up not only was I was wearing pants with elastic waistbands and sporting uncombed hair I was also failing grade five math. And I know how lucky we are – safe and healthy in our home with food and at least one income. But it was getting very hard to motivate myself and my kids. I am trying to “forgive” myself, “take it easy” “don’t stress” and “relax” but I feel like this isn’t helping us. It has sent us into a free fall towards total lethargy. Yes, the house is peaceful but it’s a deadly quiet, the sound of ideas dying up and the desire for eating crispy fat snacks growing.
Somewhere in there I turned 49 – on April 28 is exactly when – we had a glorious day. It was in fact my favourite birthday in recent memory. Obviously very low expectations helps. It might also be that everyone and their dog has nothing better to do than send you a message during a lock down. I was well loved and we GOT OUT! We went to Niagara Falls where we encountered no people. Just a lovely walk along the falls and into a little park. We snacked on hummus and veggies, chips and salsa and then returned home. We picked up sushi (the first meal that I haven’t cooked for my family in 45 days) and ate cake. Angel food with whipped cream and strawberries – what my momma made for me every year for my birthday. It was perfect.
The following days there were flares of temper over homework and getting outside and the familiar feelings of just wanting to let the kids stay on their screens to keep the house peaceful returned. But the homework was due so I pushed on and broke through – after his project was completed I could tell Anderson felt so positive. I realize that my natural inclination to avoid conflict seems to steer us downward instead of propel us forward. As much as I want to relax I have instead to fight. Fight the urge to pull the covers up over my head, fight the urge to pour a glass of wine, fight the urge to binge through more shows. I know, like all of us, I do better when I get up, exercise, eat properly, clean, attend my class, school my kids and try to connect with my friends. As endless and boring as cleaning and laundry are – they do give me some feeling of accomplishment. I can’t expect my kids to get through this if I don’t pull it together. So at this time I have launched the fight. I am not feeling optimistic. To be perfectly honest I am feeling a little angry and frustrated but more determined. I will take any advice on how everyone is keeping their ships moving forward.