Babysitting in Covid Times

As I sit down to the laptop to write about Covid-19 days, I think a lot about the true life figures/people on our family trees who saw and lived through times just like these, but many years ago. They watched people close to them die, and struggled with physical symptoms. They dealt with the trauma of loss and experienced the dislocation brought on by illness. One of the real-life figures on my own family tree who succumbed to the Spanish Flu was my Great Uncle, my Grampa’s Uncle John ‘Jack’ Haddow. A wrangler, working on Forster’s ranch outside of the town of Drumheller, he saw countless inhabitants of the region succumb.

I ended up on a two-hour-long search of old Calgary Herald newspapers at this point and came upon some mentions of Great Uncle Jack and so never did return to this post until 6:30 next morning. I’ll try to get back on track, but it’s amazing to note that the item about the Country Dance of Berry Creek was published in October of 1906 and the marriage announcement appeared on April 17, 1916. Five years later, Jack would be dead as the result of influenza, this one, known as the Spanish Flu.

As I write, I also think about our indigenous peoples, the world over, who suffered trauma at the impact of disease through trade and colonization. This is not the first time the world has seen these life events unfold. All the conspiracy theorists aside and all of my readers who deny the seriousness of these events, I feel differently, and I will remember this as a global pandemic that caused the death and illness of many the world over. It is like living in a science fiction movie. Each person has to find their way through these events in a way that works for them, with respect for the medical people who are making educated assessments along the way. We must never take people who are working in the front lines for granted.

And now…for the subject of this post. Through history, whether it be in the days of the Spanish Flu or in the families of our indigenous peoples, disease has had an impact on children. I am exploring this because adults have a way of processing what is going on, but what are the children feeling through all of this?

When it came down to our family’s journey, my grandson, Steven, very swiftly found himself without his daycare friends and teachers and couldn’t attend Wee Wild Ones SE. His parents, similarly, found themselves with changing work situations. Mommy, immediately, had no choice but to stay home. My grandson is almost three. When this all began, we were reeling and I stepped in to help at the very outset, but really had no intention of spending a pandemic as a child care provider. My son-in-law was still working out in the world, as a part of essential services, and so, at a point, when restrictions were becoming more clear and as we discovered that the severity of the illness seemed to be hitting seniors more than anyone, I became scared for my own health. I stopped providing babysitting and that was a very difficult decision.

I geared up for a number of different projects including the writing of a historical fiction, creating a paper barn owl and painting in the studio.

When I left my two week stint, babysitting, I agreed that I could return on the condition that my son-in-law was able to pull himself out of the ‘real-world’ workforce and remain home for fourteen days. Dr. Deena Hinshaw had already introduced the idea of adopting a cohort family for children to have at-home playmates, and so I applied the same concept to child care.

There are so many grandmas who wanted to do the same for their grandchildren, but who were keeping themselves isolated from their families, that I felt guilty at times or felt as though I was doing something wrong. I also experienced a lot of push back from some individuals as a result of my decision. But, as mentioned before, I made a decision that I felt would be okay for me and as long as everyone in our circle could respect that parameters of our cohort unit, I would do alright to take Steven under my wing.

Long-story-short, I have been babysitting Steven ever since. Is it easy? Nope. There are lots of days when my back and knees are sore. There are days I’d like to sleep a little longer and get home a little earlier. My border collie, Max, who is also aging is spending a lot of time alone. So, there are those things. But, I have to look at this time as being really very special, as well, and I work, daily, at creating magic for Steven as we have one another exclusively for all of this time.

I try to be child-like most of the time because Steven and all of his little peers are missing the natural socialization that comes with Library programs, swimming lessons, play groups and day care. Acting three years old all day can really create exhaustion and I find that when I get home, I’m mostly unproductive. Just recently, I’ve surrendered to the need to be an adult some of the time and I’ve given myself the time to ‘take breaks’ from play and exploration. I’ve done it so well that now Steven will sometimes be found sitting on the rocking chair. I’ll turn to him and ask, “What are you doing?” and he will reply, “I’m taking a break.”

I’m pouring over the photographs I’ve snapped through these months and it’s really difficult to narrow down and post just a few that represent what we’ve done together. We read a lot. We play outdoors A LOT. I’m trying to teach Steven as much as I can about the places that I love. I’m helping him to notice aspects of nature that are important to me. I’ve been leaning on the lessons my Paternal Grandfather taught me about respect for nature and understanding the gifts as well as the dangers that are a part of that respect. He has learned about ice shelves and has been learning to read the river….shallow water looks lighter….fast water can look murky and/or dark….”Let’s throw a stick into the river and see what happens to it. A stone?”

I am putting limits on how long I can sustain this, but I will look back on this time as being a bit of a gift of sorts to our beautiful boy. He is so very important to all of us. To all of my readers who have made other choices out of concerns for the safety of your circle, you are giving a tremendous sacrifice, as are those who have decided to take care of your grand babies through these most trying times. I have your backs…all of you.

Gratitude, also to Wee Wild Ones SE who have provided weekly FLOW events/colouring sheets/creative links and recipes for goo and mixtures, music videos and zoom meet ups…while we can’t do all of it, we are glad for the connection and send our love to all of the hard workers! I have continued respect and love for you!

Thank you to Miss Carlie for your wonderful music classes!

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Yoga with Ms. Chloe sometimes gleaned amazing participation and sometimes just brought the sillies out. And Steven loved seeing his little friends on Zoom calls, but Gramma mostly missed the appointments for her outside wanderings with her little boy. When the weather is nice in Calgary, a person just has to take advantage!

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Steven has been learning a lot about balance and loves to practice on logs.

Steven has been learning a lot about predators and prey. He has been learning that animals are food for one another out in nature. Here, he is pretending to be a sneaky coyote. He has observed only one coyote at the river, but knows from Gramma that there are more and that when they have their pups, they are super cranky. He’s learned to shout SHOO and to wave his arms.

He is allowed to take as many breaks as he wants. He knows that Gramma will not lift him because he’s a toddler now and can toddle. I’m happy to explore places when he takes his breaks, with my eyes, nose and ears. I tell him to let me know when he’s ready. On this day we were looking for an owls nest on the west side of the river and into Fish Creek Park.

Throwing sand at the sand beach.

North Glenmore Park and picking up plants at Wendy’s home in Lakeview.


Two Little Dickie Birds

Watching Decorah Live Eagle Cam during afternoon snack time, especially fun on wintry or bad-weather days.

Gramma Visits the Pet Store

There are little opportunities for magic in an ordinary day.  Never take for granted a simple trip to the store where you might select a ripe cold piece of watermelon, or a trip to a pet store where you might pick up your own pet cat a four-dollar toy.  There are amazing things that happen in the blink of an eye!

Today, my grandson, shouted out (well, in his sweet voice) “Cement Truck!” and “Excavator!” when other children could only look on to a construction site, in awe…their hands lined up against the fence and their eyes, bugging out of their heads.

Today, my grandson learned Spruce Tree, Poplar Tree and Pine Tree.  He also learned that it’s much more fun throwing pine cones than heaping them up into piles.

Today, my grandson learned that it’s easier for Gramma to go down one of those super wide slides than one of those twirly ones…

It was when I heard my grandson talking to his Mommy about his trips to the zoo…saying Hippo and Maquaq and Panda and bamboo and cougar and YiYON! and Penguin and more…I thought to take him to a pet store.  This kid is amazing!

“Man man man man!”

“Awe!  Awe!  Awe!  Bunny!”

Not sure, at all, about ferrets!  Hmmmm….even baby ferrets!  They are just so busy…crawling under their blankies, hanging sideways, moving their food.  “Oh, they’re not so bad”, this enthusiastic gentleman tried to point out!  (Still not convinced)

What about that kitty over there, Gramma??  “Never mind,” this fella meowed!  “What’s wrong with me??”

“Kitty!  Kitty!  MEOW!”

Awe!!!  AWE!!!  AWE!!!  Bunny-washing!

This is the point where the Grandson started eyeing the hamster homes on the aisle…true attractions of the pet store visit!

“Hamster!”

“Amster!  Amster. RUN RUN RUN!”

Awe!

Birdie.

“Guinea Pig!”

“Piggy!  Piggy!”

EEEEE! EEEEE!

One last….AWEEEE!

I Am Still a Mother

This post is dedicated to my mother…often misunderstood…whose opinions sometimes went unaccepted (by me)…but pretty much, my best friend ever. I’m remembering all of those times when I thought I didn’t do things as well as she did…and THAT, tonight, seems like foolishness. I love you, Mom, and I get you now.

At the age of 63, sometimes it’s easy for other people to forget that I am still a mother. All of those feelings I had when my children were just little babies…the insecurities, the fears, the awe and the weariness, the love and celebration…those feelings, I supposed, would just, one day, go away. But, they haven’t. They prickle on the surface of everything that remains…of me.

I saw my three children through their toddler and day-care years, all the while, dealing with the enormities of my own life and career(s). Did I ever have a good reason not to polish their little shoes white? Did I stop, for a moment, being a mother? At night, for all those years, there was my best-ever enthusiastic-reader-voice during every last-of-the-day book. There were the trips to the Emergency Room. There were goofy costumes. There were snowmen. Did I ever stop seeing them through countless agonizing nights of stomach flu or horrendous congestive explosions? All three? No.

Even when they were big Junior High sort-of-kids? No. Did I feel an intense responsibility to check their eyesight? get their teeth cleaned? attend to their vaccinations? Provide clothing around the seasons? Well, of course I did. Were they sometimes asleep when they should have been awake? Awake when they should have been asleep? YES!

I wondered if my night sweats would go away when my children were in High School. No. Was there some way I could possibly figure out how to get each of them on that tour? Was there a way that I could give my children everything that other children had? “I can do this”, I said to myself. Oh. But, then I started to notice the pulling-away…I started, then, to feel a nudge of what would be, according to the laws of everything in the universe, the separation. Would these laws of nature and life mean that I would stop being a mother?

No.

Surely, I could be a little less vigilant when they were accepted into University. No. The drives home…all hours. The push. The pull. That rage against the night. That anger that shrouded every single inkling of fear…that excruciating not-knowing-most-of-the-time-anguish. That incredible fear. A thing of invention? Perhaps. “I can do this,” I thought. I could manage my way through this utterly new and amazing puzzle…this huge labyrinth called life (of that time). Right? My children still valued me. They needed me, right?

What if there were miles that separated us? Rome? Nice? Spain? London? Was there a place on the planet that would take my child so far away that I would stop being a mother?

I wondered, with every new rite of passage, would I be absolved from motherhood when finally, I witnessed one child walk down the aisle? She was out of my arms and into the arms of someone who would love, cherish and create…a new life…a separate life… Was that the moment?

When something shattered in my child’s day, I was shattered. Every time I witnessed the tears of my son or daughter, I cried with them. When they laughed…when they experienced a success…when they were contented…I felt them and every part of them within me. As I sit here writing tonight, I remember their special outfits and Christmas concerts, the drumming strumming, flag-tossing explorations….I remember the music.

At one time, I thought that their growing was somehow connected to what I was doing and the choices I was making. But, no…they were growing despite me…despite my advice…my good intentions…or even my prayers.

They were making their choices and making their way and I have to shrug it all off some nights. I have to pinch myself with gratitude that I did what I could, to protect them. I have to let go with a sigh. I ponder about the present tense. At this time of my life, I still want to be valued. I want to move on through the years that remain, knowing that I still have something to contribute. Tonight I am wondering, ‘What did it all mean?’ And, ‘Who am I now?’

You say something and I roll my eyes, laughing.

I say something and you roll your eyes.

It’s the story of every generation before us…and will be…every generation after us. I am still a mother.

Nesting

The past three days, we have been pulled out of the deep freeze and into a melt.  I can not walk through the tall woods at the river, without hearing the constant mating thrums of Northern Flickers and without seeing the wild flurry as males, out of urge and instinct, chase the females, dodging in and out of branches. I can hear the echoing drum of the Pileated Woodpecker on the opposite side of the river and thrill to see my Alberta Birders’ archives of the splendid colour, later, on my computer at home.  It is as though everything has come to life, suddenly.  For so long, the world slept.

It all began with the Magpies.  My neighbourhood, even as snow mounted on our quiet circle, was abuzz with the squawking gathering of dead branches that were tightly woven into the growing bulb of nests, peppering the remaining Elms.

Evenings, I stood in contemplation while the adult Bald Eagles, flew west and east and west and east, gathering up lining materials and tall grasses, returning again and again to the nest that was clearly visible all winter long.  The juveniles have mostly disappeared, leaving the two regal raptors to forge out a life for the new.  It has been an intimate and powerful encounter to watch these families throughout such a harsh winter.

While these aren’t the best of shots, I have a wee archive of the interesting approach to gathering.  I can only imagine living in one of the ‘big’ houses along the ridge and having access, every day, to such wonder, just outside my windows.

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I celebrate, every day, the access I have to such wonder.  I really can only equate it all to an experience of grace.  My friend, Michael, is someone who knows and understands what I mean by that.  A person just wants to sing, at the top of their lungs…”HOLY!  HOLY!”

Whether one enjoys the nesting behaviours of an eagle, or the simplicity of sparrows that nest in a stove vent…it is all so amazing.

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Mr. & Mrs. 2018

As my children have become adults, I have experienced a sense of loss.  Some days my heart feels empty.  But, then I step out into nature and I observe what surrounds and once again, my heart sings.  I am reminded that God made all of this for me.  I am reminded that I need to take responsibility for such astounding beauty.  Sometimes it can all be very brutal, but at other times, it is pure fragility and tenderness.

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Fiddler’s Green
One, two, three, four, one, two
September seventeen
For a girl I know it’s Mother’s Day
Her son has gone alee
And that’s where he will stay
Wind on the weathervane
Tearing blue eyes sailor-mean
As Falstaff sings a sorrowful refrain
For a boy in Fiddler’s Green
His tiny knotted heart
Well, I guess it never worked too good
The timber tore apart
And the water gorged the wood
You can hear her whispered prayer
For men at masts that always lean
The same wind that moves her hair
Moves a boy through Fiddler’s Green
Oh nothing’s changed anyway
Oh nothing’s changed anyway
Oh anytime today
He doesn’t know a soul
There’s nowhere that he’s really been
But he won’t travel long alone
No, not in Fiddler’s Green
Balloons all filled with rain
As children’s eyes turn sleepy-mean
And Falstaff sings a sorrowful refrain
For a boy in Fiddler’s Green

Digging Through Archives

My daughter (now, a teacher) and I were sitting together while she was still cozy in her kitty jammies this morning…me, at the dining table, she, on the stairs…she was telling me about a very inspiring Convention session that she attended on Thursday of this past week.  It turns out that the presenter was Ron Wigglesworth.  As soon as I started exploring his posts on the internet, I realized how his contributions to education and to students has been exceptional.  Anyone who has encouraged a connection between drawing and biology is great in my eyes…in fact, I’d have to say that he has done a lot of connecting between diverse disciplines.

I got thinking about archives of various projects and things that my students have explored in the past and I just thought I’d write a post that featured those.  I had fun teaching and in retrospect, I’m pretty sure that I saw the students’ hands, hearts and minds as extensions of my own.  I’m grateful for their hard work, their talents and their commitment.  For me, it was never about the marks.  A sampling…digital…there’s a load of stuff in my photo albums.  And, today, I’m celebrating it all.

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Cleaning Up the Desk Top Computer

I think I was looking for my photograph archives from a trip I took with my son, the summer of 2009, when I came upon some images from the end of the teaching year and celebrations with my students; specifically, my grade nine art students, our life sized sculpture exhibit and my grade seven home room.

It was that year that I invited my students to bring in a special object for our prayer table…so, every Monday, it would be the next person’s turn.  It started with me…and a stone. Jarrett Alley, a former student of mine, had passed away in 1997 at the age of 13. His place in the classroom was two rows back, but directly across from the framed article that remained, for all of my teaching years, a tribute to his life.

I think I always intended to copy and pass on a photo to each student at the end of that year, but evidently that never happened!

I’m going to loop the photographs here.  My students, of over thirty years of teaching, remain in my heart.

For the most part, I am out of touch with these students, so if my readers know any of them, please share.

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Room by Emma Donoghue

Spoiler Alert, I suppose, especially if you read the review link below.

Room

This is a single-night (maybe you can stretch it to two nights) read.  I haven’t seen the movie, but thought that I would read this, for the purpose of sharing a teachers’ book club night.  Now, it turns out that the evening set aside for the book club recently, was already booked on my calendar.  Such are the busy lives that we all carefully negotiate. I thought I’d jot a few notes on my thoughts on the book.

It takes about four pages to get a sense of ‘the voice’ of the book.  Intimate conversation is shared by the protagonists, Jack and Ma, victims of the violent and isolating experience of being held captive in a room.  Jack has been born into this captivity, as a result of the horrible and redundant rape of his mother, at the hands of her kidnapper.  One would think, by this description, that the book would be an extremely sad piece of work, but what I found intriguing were the many sorts of activities and pretend games that the mother created for her son and how they, indeed, survived this bleak situation.

I felt empathy for Ma throughout.  Given even ideal circumstances, I know that I ache for my own children when they confront conflict or struggle, so I can’t imagine the obstacles that would be mine emotionally in such a crisis.  The reader sees the internal struggle of both mother and son, and also sees their vulnerability, but at the same time, can not help but experience amazement at their strength of character and gut.

I raise up a prayer for all of those victims of traumatic experiences such as this one. I pray for ‘the missing’ and for those family members who know this story intimately.

I recommend this one, but don’t know that I will go out to see the movie.  This might be a ‘wait until Netflix’ title.

A Thorough Review

 

May 8, 2015

…my 60th birthday!

Whoot!  It was a wonderful day!  And, yes, I taught the full day.  But then I had the pleasure of sharing a late afternoon walk with my daughter, Erin and pooch, Max. We did our bird, coyote and muskrat watching and enjoyed the warmth.  The afternoon with my students, was spent needle felting with Leah C. Donald, visionary for Art Felt Studio.  With our previous experience painting spring flowers, this was an amazing extension and a great opportunity to create a more-than-special Mother’s Day gift.  I enjoyed connecting with Leah and learning that one of her favourite spots is the Custom Woolen Mill near Carstairs, Alberta.  I told her that I had grown up with the smell of raw wool and we gave each other a big hug.  Thanks to my gang of grade three friends who made the arrangement for this magical activity!

Some people might be fearful of age, aging and the changes that passing years bring.  For me, being 60 means a freedom to be and I stand firm in my gratitude for that.

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Cell May 8, 2015 Franks, Needle Felting, Birthday 009

A Family That Lays Down Track is a Happy Family

DSC_2734I’m feeling elated.  A 6:30 a.m. drive, delivering my son to work…sleepy-head chatting…setting the digital clock in the car…making observations of Deerfoot Trail at this time of day.  A nice way to experience daylight savings time!  Max and I stopped on the way home and stepped into the center of a huge field of crispy dry grass.  As he bounded to and fro, I had time with the sky, the stars, bright studs in the darkness, revealing themselves more clearly, the longer I was present.  I am so graced by morning.

Seated in the sixth row pew each Sunday, I have the chance to connect with my friend, Johanne. I seem to have a little home in that row, having always shared it with people like Carol and Adam and for years, Johanne, when she travels from Sudbury to make time for her Calgary children. Another beautiful homily was delivered by Father Cristino-Bouvette at Mass and such grace received in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

So many reasons today, to feel grateful…

I think that some of the joy I feel today is a result of the evening spent with my children.  Family dinner was changed to Saturday and my daughter and her husband hosted.  On the menu, a wonderful Jamie Oliver light caesar salad minus the anchovies.  It is an excellent recipe!  Try it!!  We then put together our own home made pizzas on Cobs pizza bases.  Topped with a lovely sauce, mozzarella cheese, mushroom, roasted bell peppers and artichoke, these were amazing.  Yummers!

We followed good eats with a game of Ticket to Ride and all seemed well with the world!  I knew I was returning home to a nice smelling dog, given the earlier Saturday afternoon shampooing at the Car-Dog Wash.  A weekend doesn’t get much better than this!

 

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May 8, 2014

I’ve looked forward to every birthday…feeling so blessed for every year, even when those years weren’t so easy.  I am just so filled with gratitude for the mix of experiences.  God has woven his heart in and out of mine and I have never felt alone.  Yesterday was a beautiful day.  The sunshine was lighting up a brilliant blue sky.  I got up early to a birthday phone call from my friend Bob on the west coast and then many messages of love throughout the day.  Happy birthday…sung with my Dad on morning Skype…and later, Bonne Fete sung by my Fiset family in Ottawa over the phone.

Breakfast was shared with Kate at Cora’s…always eggs benedict, coffee and great conversation.

P1160470 P1160472My first crocus of spring on the ridge above the city…exercise, deep breath, time with my pooch.

P1160474 P1160477 P1160478 P1160485New old E.O Brody Co. Cleveland OH short vase for $2.00 at the Women in Need shop.  I didn’t have this one.

BrodyConversation with a neighbour-friend about shrubs that grow well on the north side of houses.  A wander around a green house, after a long bitterly cold winter…enjoying the smells and sights of so much green!

Dragon Pearl dinner with my children and so grateful that everyone could make it.

Dragon PearlFloral arrangement brought over to my home by another neighbour…gift from Dad for my special day.  Conversation about flowers and flower beds as we stood out in the warm evening air.

P1160486Happy birthday cupcake delivered by my daughter as I read over Facebook birthday messages…again, we sang Happy Birthday!  May 8, 2014 was quite a day!

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