We have been planning an outing for several weeks now to Parc Omega on the Quebec side, near Montebello, about an hour from Ottawa. We postponed it one week when the weather wasn’t cooperating, another time when we weren’t feeling well. And generally had delayed committing to it for most of the summer while we waited for some of the COVID protocols to iron themselves out.
I saw some friends on FB had gone in the interim, and it seemed like everything was working. So we went for 10:00 a.m. this morning, and although we had a lot of trouble getting Jacob going this morning (he is complaining a lot recently of not feeling well in the morning, sigh), we made it in time for our pre-booked slot. We had also stocked up on carrots from the local supermarket so that we wouldn’t have to go through any lines while we were there, but since they only had organic carrots at the store, we probably didn’t save anything on the pre-purchase.
When you enter the park, you’re immediately held up by large deer and elk demanding several carrots as our entry fee (the humans took us for a lot more than that earlier in the line). We weren’t allowed to feed any of the deer family with antlers this time around, but that’s not a problem to avoid, there are LOTS of others looking for food.
Jacob got to feed some medium-sized does to start, as did Andrea.
We progressed through the park, driving around lots of other members of the deer family, boar with piglets, Arctic Fox, some mountain goats, lots of geese, and some bison. At the half-way point, we stopped for washrooms, a bit of retail therapy (J got a stuffed deer, really cute, now named Delta), and a visit to the wolf observatory. Just in time for their lunch.
And we finished off with black bears.
Jacob got some really good pictures of the wolves, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else he and Andrea got with their phones when we “merge” all the photos together for a combined backup.
We were all tired out afterwards, so back home, some take out for dinner (there might have been some napping in there), and American Ninja Warrior qualifiers to watch on TV. A very good day.
If you’ve been reading this blog, you probably already know that Jacob was not really enjoying school that much last winter. French immersion, social isolation, a split class with a bunch of Grade 6 kids, winter…he wasn’t feeling it. So he was resisting big time in January and February, on top of the strikes that were going on.
The shutdown was like a dream come true for him. No commuting, less work, a new laptop to do everything on, no need to argue about recess activities, better lunch options. His teachers adapted and coped with what they had to work with, but there wasn’t a lot of support out there for them. The end of the year was a “thank god it’s over”-type moment.
Normally we celebrate first day of school and last day of school milestones. For the first day, Andrea takes pictures either at the bus stop or the front of the house; for the last day, we always leave early from work, go do something and then out for dinner wherever he wants.
For his first day back today, we were keeping it a bit low-key for a virtual return. Everybody else who is doing in-person is already back to school like his cousins and a bunch of his friends. Today was his first day.
As I said, I was initially trying to downplay the “bigness” of it and we told him in advance that it would be a big adjustment from going with relatively light structure and no work to suddenly 6.5h of class time, 9:00-3:30 essentially, although there are breaks in there of course. And a real full setup with the teacher actually “teaching” for a full day, as opposed to his spring options which were about 30 minutes per week of live feed and the rest by email.
My mind totally futzed on the french immersion side of things, namely that he had been doing hardly any french since March except for schoolwork, and even then, very little “active listening”. Today was a wall of full french immersion with a new teacher who talks fast.
For anyone who has learned French as an adult, or English, we know what that’s like when you haven’t spoken it in a while and suddenly WHAM, you’re back in. When I was on french training, and we had a vacation or break, it was like coming back and starting from scratch almost.
As soon as I realized he was hitting that wall, I also realized we had underplayed his return for the wrong parts. Or rather we had tried to reduce his stress levels while totally forgetting to extra-celebrate his start of Grade 6. We had already made sure to take the pictures this morning, with his commute simply being our stairs (!), but by 9:30, he had hit that linguistic wall. We rearranged our dinner plans a bit for tonight (mostly reviewing what we had already thawing in the fridge) to let him pick anywhere he wanted to go for dinner to do an “extra” celebration of his new school, new virtual life, new grade, etc. Plus we “stopped by” his desk multiple times during the day to see how he was doing.
I’ve reached out to introduce ourselves to the teachers, do a little of the dance with them on social inclusion (seeing basically if we can lay some markers for him for specific people he can do group work with), and Jacob was thrilled today to see who was in his class. He knows 8 other people from Knoxdale, and I would say at least 4 of them are people he actually likes (not always a guarantee). So he’s part of the Knoxdale Nine (my nickname for them) in this new virtual school, and he hung out with some of them after school today in the Google Meets. He REALLY enjoyed that part. Plus the English and Math which were in English.
For dinner, we celebrated his first day — and his survival! — with Lone Star as his choice. Like me, we love their fajitas. We know they HAVE more things on their menu, we’ve just never ordered many of them.
Then a game of cards, and it was crash-y time for a tired little boy. A good day and I’m glad we recovered in time to celebrate the whole day, not just the start of the day. Hard to remember normal stuff in a COVID world, but we did.
That doesn’t sound like a very exciting topic, does it? So I played a game? So what? How is that a decision that warrants a blog post about making choices?
It seems weak, to be candid, even to me. But here’s the thing. Andrea and I worked all day, and Jacob was pretty much on his own for most of it. I was even tied up over lunch, so mostly ate snack stuff. To be honest, I ate like crap today. But I digress.
Anyway, after supper, we were looking down the barrel of about 2 hours before the cub would head to bed, and we are in the middle of watching Eco-Challenge Fiji with Bear Grylls (we had watched the first two episodes so far). And we watched American Ninja Warrior last night.
Which is something we tend to do. We watch a show together…when I was J’s age, I was watching TV shows probably every night with my brother or parents. I read a lot, but we didn’t break out games very often, more on weekends or holidays. Or I’d be out with friends. Remember that? Going out to play? Sigh.
But the only one who really watches anything on his own is me. I watch a lot of shows in the basement, including a lot of current TV. It’s my thing, to watch and review every September when the premieres start, which ain’t really happening much this year, btw.
Yet Andrea rarely watches anything on her own and Jacob never does, unless it is YouTube videos about gaming. I’ve been trying to hook him on some TV series, but nothing has really grabbed his interest yet. Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Fraggle Rock, The Flash, Star Trek: The Next Generation, etc. A bunch of different types of shows. I still have A-Team, Macgyver, Airwolf, Night Rider, The Six Million Dollar Man, Charlie’s Angels, etc. He likes mysteries so I’m trying to see if he would like some of the old stuff that was cleaner / more censored and had a weekly mystery, all wrapped up in 44 minutes. Murder She Wrote, The Murdoch Mysteries, a few others are possibilities too.
Of course, though, I feel a little silly pushing him towards the boob tube, but it’s better than isolating himself in YouTube videos.
So we could have just watched a couple episodes of the Eco-Challenge. He loves American Ninja Warrior, Titan Games, Amazing Race Canada, etc. But I also don’t want him binging that one out and being “done”.
And tonight I thought, “Okay, maybe one episode, but perhaps we can start with playing a game as the three of us first.”
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t that unusual. We have games sitting on our kitchen table at one end because we play regularly throughout the week. Moonshot Euchre has been in our rotation for quite a few months now, partly because it is a game all three of us can play almost equally. Jacob takes more risks, Andrea plays more conservatively at times, I take stupid risks. 🙂 But we all generally win at different times. Andrea hasn’t won many lately, just luck of the draw, but it averages out over time. Sometimes we have other games sitting there too.
But tonight I thought we should make an effort to play a game before heading to watch a show. Just more interactive, more talking, more “us” than vegging. Andrea and Jacob had already been interacting earlier, before supper, it isn’t his only social thing, but it was about the only socializing I did with him. We’re struggling, or at least I am, to balance my work schedule with taking breaks during the day to spend time with him. And his previous routine of having at least one class a day with OutSchool dropped off because he was supposed to be back at school and we didn’t schedule anything new. Now it looks like the 18th before he’ll be back at school, depending on what happens with some labour-related lawsuits by teachers.
Tonight I choose to play a game with my family before sitting down to watch TV together as a family.
Well, the second great migration of the year is underway. Migration #1 was me moving my desks from the office on the second floor to the basement. Yes, I said desks. I’ll post pictures when everything is done (sorry Matt, you’ll have to wait), but basically I have a desk for my personal computer, monitor, scanner, label printer, etc. It’s a pretty full space, unfortunately. More on that later.
In addition, I have a second desk that has all my work stuff on it — tablet from work, two monitors from work, keyboard, mouse, etc. Plus a bunch of dead space with miscellaneous crap on it.
But it’s in a good L, and it’s not like the desk surface is small — both are old Ikea desks that are 30″x60″-ish. I say “old Ikea” because I knocked them apart long ago and replaced the heavy wooden and non-adjustable height sides and cross beams with simple adjustable height legs.
So it’s a decent amount of space. The L shape isn’t really working well for me, it’s just what I had available in the space I designed. But a casual conversation with Andrea a week or two ago led to some interesting thoughts bouncing around my head in the “What if … ” category. Like, for instance, “What if I put my desk right in that far corner where all that other stuff is? Where would it go? How could I go back to maximizing floor space while finding room for my desks?”.
The solution in part is to take a bunch of Jacob’s toys (mostly Lego), and move them into storage space along the wall in the old office and bring another desk down. Yeah, you heard me. Another old Ikea desk with the same size top. Two sides down, everything cannibalized, and in theory, I might actually have the space for my dream setup. A giant U with desk all the way around the end of my basement. Space for printers and scanners, space for my computers, space for storage underneath, and most important of all? Simple space to spread out a project, work on it, and not have to pick it all back up when I’m done for the day. A workspace to do things like a Lego build. Or taking apart a set of binoculars. Or even just sorting a whack of magazines (if it wasn’t already done) or books.
I could, in theory, end up with desk space the equivalent of 30″ deep by 15′ long. I think my nipples just got hard. Could just be the cold in the basement. Andrea’s flexibility with the office is making a bunch of it happen, as the toys needed to go somewhere at least until Jacob might decide he no longer wants to keep them.
Three pieces of other furniture left the basement today too — two white tables that Jacob used for a while for his train sets (very large coffee tables, that I did think about cannibalizing for the tops hehehe). And if they don’t sell, I may still cannibalize them for something in the garage I want to do at some point.
And the old TV stand we had in the basement, recently replaced with something taller.
In short, we moved a lot of stuff around today. I have a small snag that I’m working on, which is the legs I mentioned earlier. One desk has four legs on it, simple adjustable ones from Ikea. Easy to find, easy to install, easy-ish to adjust. But, for the U, I would prefer not to have legs in the middle of a long desk. I just end up whacking my knees on them. Instead, I would love a set of legs like I have on the other desk.
It has a wide base, and then only one leg coming up each end of the desk. More like an inverted T, it appeared. There was NOTHING like it on the Ikea website. But when I looked at the desk again tonight, I realized it is way more elaborate than I remember. It actually has cross beams running underneath for added support. That is a MUCH different design than I remember, and now I can’t even remember if this one ever HAD full sides. Maybe it didn’t. Maybe this is the support it always had. Well, pooh. Cuz I would LOVE two more. 🙂
I’m also trying to figure out what the space actually looks like when I put the desks in. I might, and this is just crazy talk, have a bit of room for corner squares to make a really complete U, leaving the desks almost as connectors. Or almost like getting another 5′ of space for things like scanners and printers to sit out of the way. Kind of like the angled corners you see for TV stands, ideally, or simply just blocking off the corner with a square 30″x30″. Which of course would require separate legs. If I can FIND the right ones that will work. I really don’t want the simple legs from Ikea.
Well, off to search. And to cross my fingers that my longer Ethernet cable arrives tomorrow. The new location is about 15′ farther than my current setup, and I’m going to need a bigger cable. But I’m optimistic everything will fit where it is supposed to in the end.
Today I choose to rearrange our office space to give me a potentially dream office layout. Yes, it is in the basement. Yes, it might be somewhat cold down here. But a shot at my dream functional space? That just might be worth it.
Since I broke my TIC series chain at 12 yesterday, I start series D today. And today’s is about taking the day off to spend time with Jacob and Andrea. Our original intent was Parc Omega as the main plan, and we didn’t plan it very well earlier. You need to buy timed entry tickets, and by the time we realized that, the only openings were for lunch or afterwards. I would have preferred to be there earlier in the day, eat lunch afterwards or during, and then stop somewhere like Petrie Island on the way back. But no worries, we bought for 2:00 and planned to go mini-golfing in the morning after basic errands like groceries.
Except by the time we were ready for mini-golf, it looked like it was about to rain. And the forecast for the afternoon for both here and Montebello showed a high probability of showers. Would the animals be equally “out and about” if it was raining? Was it worth the trip? In the end, we rescheduled both activities and stayed home.
For the morning, we went with playing board games, namely Centrix (which we bought through a kickstarter campaign). Plus a few games of Squarrels (like “squirrels” but you are having quarrels over acorns, hence the name). Then we had a brain wave…what about Lone Star for lunch? We had been talking about it for dinner sometime soon-ish, at Jacob’s request but with no objection from Andrea or I, and we substituted in lunch. While it wasn’t “fast” for prep, it was really good, as always.
By the time we were done, it was time for a chess class for Jacob that we had expected to have to skip but he could do since our vacation day was now a staycation day. When we finished that, Andrea and I were ready to play Dice Forge, the big board game we play when we have extra time for setup and play. But Jacob wasn’t up to it, and instead wanted to play video games.
Generally, that doesn’t work well for three of us with a big split screen, and the first attempt — regular Minecraft — was a bust for screen size. But we could play Minecraft Dungeons together, and Andrea didn’t mind it. It’s a bit mindless running around stabbing and shooting things with arrows, but as a cooperative game play, it’s highly functional. It worked well, and we played together for 90 minutes or so. Jacob was happy. 🙂
In other news, while Jacob was doing his chess class, I wrote a blog entry for my big astro reading project, Astro Echoes. And it turned out okay, even with 2500 words to cover the year 1941. Some really interesting stuff, and I think the project will be really fun and enlightening as I go. I even edited it slightly and sent it off as a draft submission for our local astronomy club’s monthly newsletter.
I feel good about the variety of choices made today for family, for my blog, for fun in general.
Today I choose to take the day off to spend time with family.